Benue Hike Group © I am Benue 2023

The Audacity Of Courage; Conquering The Ngokur, Benue’s Second Highest Peak – Part 1.

Sports, Stories 15/03/2023 by Kugia U Kwande

I arrived late at the meeting point which was Pleasure Travels Park Wurukum Makurdi. Vanessa Aii Doo called to find out why I wasn’t at the meeting point. I told her where I was and what kept me. She asked me to hurry up, that we couldn’t wait much longer. From the phone I heard her dishing out instructions, calling people to order etc. Typical Major VAD, she was in command.

When I got to the park, the buses were already loading. I still hard time greeting fellow Hikers before I finally boarded. I got to know later that the code name of the vehicle I boarded was “government house.” Well, I knew why they gave the car that code…

I saw the excitement on the faces of our members, I saw some worried and unsure faces too. There was a rush of emotions. Overall, one could feel and see the love and warmth that was being shared. People at the park watched us. One of the few times were our people are gathering but not for burial but for pure fun. I was satisfied and glad to be part of Benue Hike Group which is changing the narrative little by little, one step at a time!

We left 42 minutes behind schedule.

Ukan Kurugh had distributed whistles to almost every hiker, the Toyota Coaster bus nicknamed “Wadada” which accommodated the majority of the team members, that was where the action seem to be. The whistles were blaring none stop… Joel T. Kross was the greatest culprit. He had four different kinds of whistles on him. Kumator Taku, Bridget Biddy Shima , Florence LouiSa MnengaFaasema Terfa were the greatest noise makers. Judith Ngohile Nenge was all smiles…

While in transit we discovered we had left some items at the park. We made arrangements for them to be brought to us. The journey was smooth. Midway some people started sleeping. Trust my squad, the pictures started flying around on the group chat. People were making jest and joking. I followed the discussion laughing to myself. Scent Lady Gina Peta-akombo started posting poems about her anticipation of the quest on the group. I smiled inwardly. She is one of the strongest female hikers we have. Her energy and resilience can be underated by her frame. I think that is her greatest strength, she is built for the climb.

The stopover at Adikpo turned not as brief as we had anticipated. Though we got to Adikpo after 3 pm and didn’t leave till 6 pm. Our stop over at Adikpo was in front of Uhia’s Shop. We spent over two hours here. Guardian of the Group Mr Kor Cornelius Tyoapine took 5 of us to meet with the DPO Adikpo divisional police headquarters. After negotiations. Two armed policemen were attached to us. Now no one else on the trail knew we had a cover officer amongst the hikers. I usually keep this bit to myself. At BHG we take security very seriously.

We left Adikpo and ended up at St Martin’s Parish Ajio, where Padre Clement Igyeseh and Father Kete received us warmly. They provided light refreshments for us: rice and chicken. Hikers also used the opportunity to change into their hike gear. People dashed in and out at will, I understand some ladies even took over Father Kete’s room, shutting him out. We made the Parish House our home for that moment. We were welcomed. By the way, Father Kete is a member of Benue Hike Group too.

Ajio is the hometown of myself, Terna Ade, Mr Ibu Godwin, Father Igyese, etc. I sighted my grandfather’s house as we passed by, and I saw my mother’s grave. In the town I met my uncles: Sam, Aungwa, and Bro Steph, I also met my auntie Erdoo. It was some kind of reunion.

We were running behind time but safety and security were first and paramount on this hike.

Tersoo Ukeyima took charge of the briefing. It was brief but thorough and concise. He made us military men in a few minutes. He told us all we need to do to be safe and secure. It was beautiful seeing him doing what he knew how to do most. But I saw apprehension and worry on the faces of some team members while the brief was ongoing.

The type you see during the pre-take-off brief on an aircraft. I had to let him tell them we were sufficiently secure for this trip. We had people with paramilitary experience on the trail. There was a Wing Commander, there was Casi and there was Adeta Gbenga .

We left for Mbakunu at roughly 7 pm. We arrived to wait for the arms of the Tyoor and the Or Tar, also the youth and our potters. Our point man Kasman received us warmly too. We had planned to start climbing by 6 pm, however, here we were by 7:30 pm not started out yet.

From the market square, We made our way to the base camp which incidentally is the home of the boy who found the aircraft when it crashed on the 17th of September 2006 Detimbiir. He is now a second lieutenant in the Nigerian Army. There are other potters, and hunters waiting for us there. Darkness had already worn us like a robe. We activated our headlamps, and parked and unpacked our luggage. Terna Ade went about announcing that hikers carry only what they would need.

It was now night, the mountain was not visible to those who have never been there. But I could see it. My mind skipped, I had these strange sensations all around me. My mind travelled wide. What I was about to do at this moment hit me strongly. I was about to put the lives of over 60 people at risk on very difficult terrain. What if something goes wrong? This sense of responsibility becomes overwhelming. I was glad I didn’t share this responsibility alone, I had able hands to give me the needed support. I had Faasema, Pedro Akombo, I had Gbenga, My little sister Akula Dooshima , Padre Igyese, I had my right-hand person Unena Sophie Ikpah, I had Casi, I had shirtless, Terna Ade, Uncle Ibu, I had Joseph Bede, I had Barr Atu. I had Charlie Erukaa, I had Rose Suurshater Zege, I had VAD, Tessie Mdoom Ronald, Icighan Kwase Honouryn Ashibi-Agber and others, people that trusted me to lead them, that believed in my judgement. I also trusted them enough to be guided by their judgement in return. No matter what would happen that night BHG had pushed the limits of hiking in Nigeria! We were not normal, because normal to us is boring if not why would anyone seek to climb up to 800 feet above sea level in pitch darkness?

Read Part 2

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