Put on your adventure capes this season and take a tour to Enugu state, south eastern Nigeria. See nature’s last bastion in this increasingly choky planet, get away from the concrete forests and bask in the freshness of clean mountain air. If you are gutsy hearted why not tour the caves and waterfalls amongst the Hills of Enugu.
The Hills are part of the greater Udi hills which stretches from Udi Local Government Area of the state into Abia and Imo states where her foothills pierces through Okigwe and Umuneochi local government areas of both states.
In Enugu, the Hill plays a prominent role as it appears to hold the coal city in the crock of its arm, shielding her western and northern approaches.
The Hill’s northern headland caresses the university town of Nsuka where it has inspired countless writers across generations from Okigbo to Ohaeto and welcomes the northern visitor to ancestral home of the Igbo.
For the best view of Enugu one need to visit the ancient town of Enugwu Ngwo, located on the Hill above Enugu. Enugwu Ngwo is assessable through the decades old Hill road that cuts perilously through Milken Hill or modern the expressway that reduced much of the Hill’s influence on the city that it gifted a name. From here, most of the Coal City spreads out like wallpaper. Enugwu Ngwo (roughly translated to mean Ngwo on-the-hill) hosts a small nature reserve, the Ngwo Pine Forest. Here rows of pine trees form a natural canopy ideal for picnickers; the natural carpet of pine leaves makes this more interesting as it can serve as natural blanket. Also, if you enjoy hiking, you can hike down to the valley below where a waterfall within a natural cave makes for a good feast for the eyes.
There are countless river beaches where white sands washed down from the hills around Enugu form large expanse of sandbanks ideal for frolicking.
The Nike Lake resort is a noted tourist hotel that caters for international guests.
If you like history, then there are the old coal mines and coal workers camp which are still open for tourists. But the real attraction of the hills lies further away from Enugu itself, in the hinterland, deep inside the hills, where ancestral villages cradle the crest of hills.
Here on account of terrain, most towns are usually visible to each other and in clear weather; one can see the gas flares of the refinery in Port Harcourt to the south and the city lights of Enugu to the north. This is more noticeable around the Mmaku axis in Awgu Local Government Area where several villages are visible from the hill adjacent to the catholic center. The natural beauty it made this place a natural choice as host for 2008 edition of the Gulder ultimate search reality show that was held in Enugu state.
Around the fringe villages on the hills like; Nkwe, Ezere, Awgunta, Newenta etc, height gives advantage to sight making the border towns of Imo, Anambra and Abia states always visible.
There are numerous stone hedges and terraced farmlands dating back hundreds of years, preserved by the natives. Then there are the osu caves in Ezere, said to have sheltered the natives in the ancient days.
Also preserved by traditions are species of wildlife, totems here. The most common is the rhesus monkey that inhabits the forests and several species of fish. Killing them used to be taboo, but several centuries of harmonious relation that gave them little fear for man – they can be bold enough at times to steal food right from your table – is now being eroded by the activities of new breed Christian missionaries, who preach that they are evil incarnates of evil ancestors. Most of these wildlife, plentiful ten years ago are surely in danger of extinction.
One can’t describe the feeling of bliss as fading sun lays play a symphony on the zinc roof in hamlets below, or the wonder of the setting sun’s kaleidoscope upon the distant hills as dusk eats up day light.
Culturally, the natives are still well attuned, especially in the hinterlands, where masquerades and cultural dances abound.
Suitable activities here range from hiking, bird watching, mountain biking and wild life viewing.
Apart from the advantages of proximity to two major highways, the Enugu-Port Harcourt and the Onitsha-Enugu express ways – both of which cross her turf – the Udi Hills are a less than one hour away from the airport in Enugu, three from the Port Harcourt international Airport and one hour thirty minutes from the Owerri airport.
Though the mysteries of the Hills are vast the unraveling is for the strong. Climb to the top of the South East and breathe the air of freedom.