The Audacity of Courage; Conquering the Ngokur, Benue’s Second Highest Peak – Part 2
The negotiations with the Potters took a form of zero some game. But then we reached a bargain. By this time it was well after 8 Pm. After the roll call, Shirtless arranged us into platoons, there were 9 platoons, each had a leader. He was assisted by the Wing Commander, and Casi. We went over the safety protocols again briefly.
The local guides led the trail, with our headlamps on, torches in our hands, whistles around our necks and back packs on our back, we set out from the base station. We walked awhile before the actual climb began about half a kilometer.
I was with the last platoon, so I had the benefits of watching everyone go before me. Thirty minutes into the climb, all I could see was light from the headlamps and torches, gradually ascending. From where I stood, the trail of light went up straight and blended with the stars. The view was breath taking!
45 minutes into the climb hikers started dropping behind. As the keeper, you cannot leave anyone behind unless there is a more trusted and experienced hand behind you, who is equally competent to handle anything that comes. It means what is happening in front is also enough for you hike there. It could mean hiking up and down the trail severally. The position of the Keeper on the trail only means, you are working while others are having fun.
Uba Ter Protus dropped and gave me the needed support and motivation. The last people on the trail were myself, Vanessa Aii Doo , Akula Dooshima and Aker-Kurugh Jeffrey Bem . It was more of a strategy that we hiked that way and I will explain in a moment.
My PACER App began to count steps and distance. It also Highlighted altitude. I also used altimeter to keep taps on the elevation and geopolitical spaces. The weather began to change at about 1400 Meters ASL. It became colder. And behind us, lights from the villages began to appear. This meant we were gaining altitude. The rest points were supposed to be at the interval of every one hour. By this time, the trail was divided into 3 parts. Terna Ade , Terungwa Iorja , Rose Suurshater Zege , Gina Peta-akombo and others were about 1 hour ahead already, the second group was Millicent Ngufan Tsegba , Unena Sophie Ikpah , Joseph Bede , Mfa Ackaa , Judith Ngohile Nenge , Shirtless, Crazy Boots King, Bar Atu, Jenni, Icighan Kwase Honouryn Ashibi-AgberTessie Mdoom Ronald , Bridget Biddy ShimaFlorence LouiSa Mnenga Uncle Ibu GodwinCharlie ErukaaAyua Sesughter , and others were in the second group while the people I mentioned earlier were in the last group. We had a distance of about 30-35 minutes between us.
VAD at some point joined the second group. I sensed they were becoming impatient waiting for the last group so I strided and bridged the gap leaving Protus to anchor.
But I became really apprehensive 1:45 minutes into the climb. I saw lights at a distance. Of course there were plenty lights in the valley below but 5 of them caught my attention. The majority of lights Below were stationary or fast, it means they were from either houses or moving vehicles. But these other 5 lights headed towards the trail. I lost the other lights, but one of the lights after awhile I concluded was heading towards us. It was moving very fast and closing in rapidly. The other 2 behind the first were still headed towards us but on a slower pace.
There was periodic checks by the trail commandant. He radioed frequently to ask if we were ok. I also radioed for them to provide updates on their position. Their altitude would make us know how much further they were from us.
I didn’t want to raise any false alarms with my observations, but I was very uncomfortable, Protus noticed too. We kept the discussion between us. The mountain is a known despute point between the Shangev people and Uge community of Cross River. I remember during the 2019 Search, we were delayed because the trail passed through Cross River and they wanted to know what the whole Hike thing was about. So on my mind was, let not some misguided youths from either communities have ideas. Though we had done thorough advocacy, you don’t know with these young people of nowadays.
As I suspected, the light closed in on us. Using Bem Kurugh and my sister as bait, I quietly retreated into a nearby bush as the lights closed in. From where I sat, i saw, it was a man, he was about 4 feet, not well built, he had a bag strapped across his shoulder and a torchlight in his hand. I allowed him pass, he was focused on the hikers in front of him, so he didn’t pay more attention to my approach from his blind side. I sprang up behind, and in stern voice asked him to identify himself. He was startled. That was my plan. Before he would get himself I gained positional advantage over him. I looked into his eye, he would be in his 50s I guessed. He said, from the village he saw the lights on the mountain, though he knew of the activity, he was not home when we arrived so he wanted to come with us. I radioed to find out his identity from the local guards ahead. Once his identity was affirmative, I integrated him into the group.
At a point where the second group waited, the remaining two lights closed in on us too. I looked behind, it was coach Andy!!!! Our member and someone From the community. We had left him in Makurdi but he followed us, and hiked that distance to meet us. He was drenched in sweat. I hugged him. The group was glad and happy to have him. He didn’t even rest, he continued to meet the first group. This guy got energy!!!
20 minutes to the crash site, all the groups converged, the first second and third group. It was about 11:55 pm when we finally arrived the location where the donnier 228 military aircraft crashed wasting the lives of 12 men of the Nigerian Army.
They only remaining part of the aircraft from the crash was a propeller shaft and an engine. Every other thing was vandalized. It was like the plane disappeared from the earth. Somehow we were dissatisfied and disappointed that the aircraft was not there. The locals told us stories about the vandalism. Personally I was pained because this memorable site would disappear if we don’t move to preserve the memory, even though sad ones!
We took turns getting shots with what was left of the aircraft and setting camp. It was well after midnight when we finally got the camp up and running. By 2 am. The Ngokur night club came alive. Participants danced to old school music, others were playing games, others roasting chicken. I took a walk away from all these activities and watched from a distance. The locals also formed an mban u jaar over a burnfire. They were singing their lungs out, native songs. It was satisfying to realize how much happiness we created that night…
Why would any normal person be up here at this time of the day? Just why? I remained grateful to the vision of Benue Hike Group I was thankful that we were there at that point in time. Through the telescope, I viewed the moon and tried to catch Obudu cattle ranch. But it was too dark. I retired to my tent that DoL and Goddess of light had converted into their store house.
From my tent before I drifted to sleep, I heard conversations, appreciation from people who never knew I was listening. I felt blessed and satisfied. Their happiness meant a lot to me. Earlier that night I had a talk with uncle Ibu. I told him my mission on this mountain and vision. He encouraged me and also gave me words of wisdom about the whole Benue Hike Group .
But the point where we camped was not Ngokur’s highest point. That would be the feat for later that morning. We had two briefs, get to the crash site and place the signpost at the highest point of the mountain! This we had to do!
I drifted into sleep knowing fully well I had fufiled my long term desire for a night hike. I was crazy to do it with friends who had the same mental disorder like mine!