We left the park at Jalingo around 12pm for the 7 hour journey to Gembu. Although we had been told how far the town was, I honestly doubted that somewhere within a single state could be that far. Five hours later, our car broke down in Serti, a town about one hour from the foot of the Mambilla plateau that was to usher us into the final lap of our journey. We spent about one hour in this village fixing the car and we finally resumed the journey around 6.30pm. By that time, I truly believed that this journey was damn far!
One hour later, we were climbing this mountain that led us deeper and deeper into the Mambilla plateau. That was where I started getting scared. The road leading up into the mountains were tiny, rough and winding. In some places, the road was only wide enough for one car to pass at a time and below the road was this deep ravine that was very rough and jagged. At one point I told Obinna,”guy, if our car summersault enter here e don be for us o! even our body dem no go see.”
For a first timer, the Mambilla plateau was both beautiful and scary. The natural environment consisted of beautiful trees, green mountains, valleys and white clouds. If you travel down that mountain in the early hours, you would have to pass through the clouds at some point. It was a beautiful sight to behold.
Around 8pm, we got to Nguroje, a village about one hour from Gembu. That was when the cold hit us with full force. It had been getting gradually colder the deeper we went into the mountains but stopping at Nguroje, we had to open our bags and wear our NYSC khaki tops to ward off some of the biting cold. At Nguroje we had to exchange cars and because we couldn’t understand the language being spoken, we were at the mercy of the drivers. At that point, everyone around us spoke Fulfulde, the indigenous Fulani language.
We were finally put in one small taxi that was ideally meant for four passengers and the driver. Unfortunately for us, they told us they were carrying four at the back. Obinna started to complain about his long legs, coupled with the fact that we had been on the road since 12pm. We quickly shut our mouths when we saw two people get into the front passenger seat and two other people get into the driver’s seat. Yes, a small car meant to carry five passengers ended up carrying eight! Four at the back, two on the front passenger’s seat and one more passenger on the driver’s seat together with the driver!
By then, this was around 9pm on a very cold and dark night on a mountainous road that we had never travelled on before, together with 6 other men who spoke only Fulfulde. To say I was scared was to put it in the mildest possible manner. But I told myself, all die na die. Last last, something must kill a man. Hehe…
We finally got to Gembu in one piece around past 10pm. We had spent almost 10 hours on a trip we were told was only seven hours. Seven hours that I even doubted. This is how judgement day will be for all you doubting atheists. Thank God I’ve repented, Ha!
The taxi man first went to drop Obinna at the hospital he was postedt to and then he took me to the private hospital I was posted to. On getting to the gate, we were not allowed to enter, so I had to call the Medical Director of the hospital at that late hour to talk to the gatemen. We were finally allowed in and he told me to put up with the pharmacist already there for the night.
Interestingly, this guy I was meant to stay in his room for the night wasn’t even aware I was coming but he was gracious enough to let me stay without any qualms. On getting to the room, I coincidentally met Goldie and a friend of hers there too.
You see, Goldie was someone I knew from camp. We were in the same platoon. Although we exchanged just a few words in camp, she was someone I found interesting. Meeting her there that night was a very pleasant surprise, and I dare say, that was the beginning of a very interesting relationship…