My diary of Chappal Waddi - Nigeria's highest mountain (Part 2).
Read the final part of my Chappal Waddi diary, learn how to be part of the preservation of our highest mountain and download free guides at mountnigeria.com.
This is the final part of the diary I wrote when I climbed Chappal Waddi - the highest mountain in Nigeria and West Africa. The previous stories of the climb are here. You can also get ALL the free information about the mountain at - mountnigeria.com. One more thing…we need you. All the guides and info we share are free of charge and help thousands learn about the geography, tourism and conservation work that happens at Chappal Waddi. Your support and contributions will enable us bring more substance to everyone who cares. Donate safely here.
Let’s go to the diary, shall we?
It is a lovely morning. On days like this, I appreciate being an early bird. Partly because last night’s sleep was quite uncomfortable, partly because I woke up in time to see the Sun begin its journey West. I marveled at how unspoiled the village looked under the morning Sun. I walked away from our campsite so that I could sing and pray as I had done every other morning. This morning was special because the mountains that surrounded our campsite were an awesome wonder and there’s a different kind of song you sing when you’re in awe.
Toyeke had started fixing breakfast for us all. She remixed the leftover stew from last night into a geisha sauce and boiled yams. It was quite fun to shoot this morning as Rosie loved the morning light. While breakfast was in the works, I freshened up and shot an interview by the stream for the documentary. It was a re-do from the day before, just in case. Then we ate. Breakfast was quite eventful; Kola (Naija Trainer) seems to have a playlist for everything. Maybe because he is a fitness expert and personal trainer to the stars so he has music to get every bit of your body working. We danced to Fela, Lagbaja, Shina Peters and Ayefele as we ate and as I should have expected, this segued into a fitness session led by Kola. After our exercise, the community brought us food. Gosh, their hospitality is so heartwarming. We gave the messenger girl a few Ribenas to say ‘thank you’ and burst out laughing when she returned with 10 of her friends. Lol. They all got their own Ribenas.
It was a long morning. We spent hours gathering the porter troops, some of whom came from a nearby village. The negotiations went on and on because every time a new person joined the group, they would disagree with the agreed price. Bethel was very helpful here and so were our rangers - Officer Idris and ARO. Finally, we got a team of 18 porters and agreed on a price. Oops, not so fast. Some of them were so young, we were concerned about hiring them to carry heavy things up the mountain. The community leaders reassured us that these boys herald herds of cattle up the mountain and they also carry heavy things to the summit all the time. When they saw that we truly wanted only adults, they got upset and increased their prices further. It was such a long process and quite the lesson in cross-cultural dialogue. Eventually, we settled for a compromise: any young chap with a moustache or beard could carry the normal weight and anyone without could carry much lighter weights, except they were obviously adults in which case they could carry whatever they wanted. Phew!
Climbing Chappal Waddi for 6 hours was breathtaking. Forest, streams (with fresh water), grasslands, plains, hills, herders grazing their cattle and horses…wow. Sometimes we would take short breaks and wait for other groups to catch up with us and other times, we would leave tree branches at junctions so that others could find which way we had gone. I had prayed for rain to clear out the Harmattan haze and even though we did not get it, we got some clear skies and so our drone was a useful tool. The documentary crew kept shooting as we were climbing and we kept chanting call and responses (NYSC style) to boost morale. “Where are we going?” “Chappal Waddi”. As we climbed, we went back and forth between Nigeria and Cameroon, taking lots and lots of photos and making border jokes.
About 10 minutes to the summit, I pulled out the green and white flag and perched it on my shoulder to finish the climb. It was such a triumphant shot! It was such a triumphant feeling when we eventually made it to the summit (of course, far behind the porters who had basically skipped their way up there). Kola, as if on cue, turned up his speakers and the song was ‘Waving Flag by K’naan’. Some of our GPS equipment said that we were 2,420m above sea level and others said 2,419m so we settled for the safer option - 2,419m! As we took turns to take photos at the summit with the Nigerian flag, others started hammering the signpost into place. I am not quite the carpenter I thought I would be, but we all managed to get the nails in and stand the signpost on the rock, fortified by rocks.
Currently, there is a signpost marking the summit of the highest mountain in Nigeria and West Africa, created and designed by Yours Truly, and donated by TVP Adventures. When you visit Chappal Waddi and you see this landmark, please tell the story that Funmi and her friends did that. Surreal!
We spent quite some time at the summit. It may have been two or more hours. Eventually, at sunset, we descended back to the river bed about 200m from the summit, pitched out tents for the nights, warmed our hands by the fire and went to bed. The night was cold cold cold and I was knackered by the end of it all.
There was no rush on this morning, just a lot of joy. I had lofty plans of catching the sunrise but man proposes and God disposes. I stayed in the tent chatting with Ibinabo and Rosie about any and everything. I even used my charming voice from inside the tent to sweet talk Kingsley into bringing me a hot cup of Milo. I was tired jo, and it was cold. Eventually, as the morning became warmer, I changed into some of the glamorous outfits I had brought for the mountain photoshoot. This was a lot of fun; with the camera capturing every twirl. These photos taken by Dotun are spectacular. The rangers made us a most delightful breakfast of rice, beans and stew and then we gathered up our things, burned our trash and cleared out camp.
We had one more short trip to the summit because we had some photos we could not take at sunset the night before. And then we began the descent to the foot of the mountain. It was quite seamless. The view of a mountain while descending is arguably more breathtaking than it is during the ascent. We made stops at fresh water streams, rested a bit, took lots of photos and kept going. By the time we made it to the foot of the mountain, our bike men were waiting for us to take us on the 3 hour ride to Njawai. They welcomed us with a roaring laugh (they were mostly teasing us), we gave a gratitude gift to the community for hosting us, got on the bikes and headed to Njawai. At the ranger’s camp Njawai, with tired bodies, Rosie and I managed to get some suya for the group. The suya was…well, it was the best we could get, so let’s leave it at that. We showered at the ranger’s camp with hot water (yay), some people did some handwashing (God bless Kola who was so kind to me even though we were all tired at this point), and we slept.
I almost strangled myself today. I had to go back to the hills because the documentary crew wanted some interviews with only hills in the background. With my blanket, I hopped on a bike and headed back towards the interview spot. As the blanket dangled from my neck and the bike sped along, I had no idea when I screamed! The blanket that was dangling had caught inside the spoke of the okada and I was getting strangled in real time. He stopped as soon as he heard me scream, I managed to get from under the blanket and I was quiet for a moment. It all happened so quickly and I was thankful that it was not worse, even though my blanket was beyond repair. Officer Abdulkarim had to dissemble parts of his bike just to get the blanket out and keep the bike running. I did the interview, quite solemnly, and made it back to Njawai. Eventually, after much delay due to my interview, we made it on to the tortuous rugged landrover, along that dusty road, and back to Nguroje.
At Nguroje, our bus driver was waiting for us and we were so thrilled to have cell service again. Most people slept until we got to Serti and we bantered a bit, caught up with our friends and family, and even ate much better suya which we had gotten from Nguroje. We made it in good time to Young JP Hotel in Serti, ate lunch, showered, and slept.
The next day was supposed to be a day trip to see the Emir and to visit Tunde Morakinyo at his station inside Gashaka Gumti National Park. That plan was changed at the last minute because of some logistical challenges and we rested instead.
We left Serti early, in convoy with the CP of the park, and made it in 5 hours to Jalingo airport for our flight to Abuja. In Abuja, we welcomed ourselves back with banga from Niger Delta kitchen, before the Lagosians among us caught our flight back home.
Since I got back, I have developed much content from the experience for you so that your climb can be a lot smoother and more informed. It was a dream come true for me and one day, when I get my travel show with National Geographic and Netflix, I will look back on this trip as a reminder that I can do anything that I dream, no matter how wild and difficult. I did this trip for Nigeria; as difficult as our relationship is sometimes. Last week, I also visited the Overland Airways office in Lagos to share this gift of appreciation with them.
So, that’s the story folks! So, please tell me:
Would you be gracious enough to donate to our preservation and storytelling efforts ongoing for Chappal Waddi?
Will you watch my travel show if I get my dream? What should we call it? What should it focus on?
Before you go, please share this newsletter with other curious minds. There’s something pretty cool to discover every week!