Spotlessness dissolves into elusiveness as the stainless plunge of a river is swallowed in the belly of a stygian cave, hidden away in the pocket of a deep gorge incised on the slopes of Miliken Hill, located in the ancient coal city of Enugu, Enugu State.
The sun is high in the skies, its rays lighten the winding pathway that leads down to the valley floor. Awe-inspiring views envelope my sight, daunting slopes fight my descent and chilly gusts of wind cheer me on.
The trek to the Ngwo Cave is taking forever, but my three Ngwo guides keep raising my hopes, describing the beauty and aura that await me me down slope. After navigating our way through the large cluster of trees at the Ngwo Pine Forest, we begin to hurry through the gentle and sharp twists and turns along the stone-paved track, as the route slants downward.
After about twenty minutes, we hit the valley floor, tiled by a gently flowing stream of limpid spring waters. We take off our shoes and begin to trek barefooted upstream in the water.
The nippy sensation embracing our feet seems to quench our thirsts, but is not enough to sate the deep longing in my heart for the hidden Ngwo Cave I had heard so much about.
The stretch of the stream leads into a dark cleft at the end of the valley. A narrow but high opening leads into the crevice and the loud splashing of the waters by our hasty tramping announces our arrival.
Heavy downpour of raging crystal clear waters greets us as we make our way into the darkness. The Ngwo Cave have been naturally sculpted in limestone rocks and is bedecked by an enchanting waterfall dropping down from a small opening at the roof of the cave. The fall forms a shallow pool at the cave floor and flows out as a small stream.
Just behind the big mass of rock in which the cave is emplaced, we find more caves carefully tucked into the rock, some within reach and others needing a good climb to access.
The thick forest enshrouding the rocks prevent us from further cave-scouting. The climb upslope was more daunting than its descent, yet immeasurably rewarding.
Milliken Hill is a famous tourist attraction in the beautiful coal city of Enugu, Enugu State, Eastern Nigeria. History has it that in 1908, a British expedition on its way to the middle belt from Awka, sighted the hill at Enugu ngwo and reported back to Lagos. Interest in the mineral potential of the hill compelled the colonial government to send a team of mining engineers to the place in 1909 to prospect for silver, but the team struck coal instead. The Europeans settled at Ngwo on the top of the hill now called “Hilltop”. The 4.8km long Milliken Hill Road was constructed because of coal discovery on the hill, and it was named after the head engineer who designed the road. The road winds up the hill with several distinct bends along its course.