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Olumo Rock- pile of boulders, home of caves, residence of ancient shrines

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Many rocks I’ve climbed,
many hills I’ve conquered,
ancient dwellings I have seen,
many caves I’ve entered,
but none like the magnificent rocks of Olumo…
A bastion of massive granite,
soaring high and proud into the ice-blue skies,
smiling and glimmering upon the Ogun River
and the ancient town of Abeokuta, south-western Nigeria.

The climb up the massive boulder piles of Olumo tickled my heart like the taste of sweet mango. The pathway up the rocks begins with a flight of steps up the hill slopes, landing on a fairly leveled extension of the rock. Here, a closed wooden door frames the centre of a mud-walled enclosure in a lateral cleft in the rock. A cluster of chicken feathers had gotten stuck on the door; and beneath the door rests a small sign board with ‘Olumo main shrine.’ From here the tour guide began to narrate the history of Olumo rock, explaining how the people of Egba land hid in the caves in Olumo rock during the times of war in ancient times, and how the rock provided a vantage point to monitor the enemy’s advance which gave them a winning edge during the wars. The Egba people had built mud walls and pillars across the entrance of the dingy caves to form perfect dwelling places. They also built inner rooms with well defined entrance and windows within the caves. A part of the cave floors had well defined circular depressions; the guide explained that the people used the circular depressions as mortars for pounding yam during the days of war. Another path which leads to the upper sections of the rocks was tight and narrow, enclosed by steep and slippery rock-faces and its floor riddled with large boulders. A flight of metal stairs leads through the passages and up the rocks.

I stood upon the heights of Olumo and marveled at the gracious sight that laid before me. Like an endless blanket of rust brown roofs, capping buildings made of thick mud walls and finished with painted cement plasters, the panoramic view of the ancient town of Abeokuta sprawled beneath me. From the top of the hill, the tour guide pointed to a school located in Oke-Gunya area of the town- the Old Baptist High School where a suite of notable Nigerians graduated from; they include Chief M.K.O Abiola, President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dimeji Bankole etc. As a result of this, the school had become highly respected and honored by the people of Abeokuta and beyond. The guide also pointed to the popular Ogun River, flowing gracefully across the landscape; then the Old Central Mosque sitting ostentatiously at the centre of the town, as well as some three green-colored multi-story building within the town which he called the birthplace of M.K.O Abiola. Then he turned to the rear side of the rock and the pointed a church building clad in white and bedecked with a soaring four-cornered tower at its front- this, he called The Old Baptist Cathedral, which is the oldest church in Abeokuta. We descended the hilltop through the stairwell within the elevator tower and accessed the another cave dwelling at the rear part of the hill through Obaluaye Garden. The garden which stretches to the rear part of the hills houses the Obaluaye Shrine as well as the cave dwellings where the Priestesses of the shrines live. We paid homage to the priestesses, received their blessings and took our leave.

The Yorubas often say that ‘people who are aware of where they are coming from, will likely never loose sight of where they are going to’. This saying underscores the great importance of our historical and archeological sites and objects. Olumo Rock stands as one of the numerous sites of important historical significance Nigeria is blessed with- sites which constantly remind us of the battles our ancestors fought and endured in order that future generations of our people might have lasting peace and live in unity.

Olumo Rock is located in Abeokuta, the state capital of Ogun State, south-west Nigeria.

Naijatreks_Olumo2 – The entrance to Olumo Rock Tourist Complex.

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– The beautiful pile of massive boulders at Olumo. At the left hand side of the picture is the elevator that takes tourists up the hill.

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Naijatreks_Olumo5 …a closed wooden door frames the centre of a mud-walled enclosure in a lateral cleft in the rock. A cluster of chicken feathers had gotten stuck on the door; and beneath the door rests a small sign board with ‘Olumo main shrine.’

 

Naijatreks_Olumo9e – A cleft in the rock where water used to gush out a long time ago. It was said that the water suddenly stopped flowing.

 

Naijatreks_Olumo7 …The Egba people had built mud walls and pillars across the entrance of the dingy caves to form perfect dwelling places.

 

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Naijatreks_Olumo9 …the people used the circular depressions as mortars for pounding yam during the days of war.

 

Naijatreks_Olumo6 – Burial place of Chief Sonni Osi-Toko who was the former curator of the cave dwellings. He died at 122 years of age on the 23rd January 1956.

 

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Naijatreks_Olumo9a …They also built inner rooms with well defined entrance and windows within the caves.

 

Naijatreks_Olumo9b – Some remnants of the previous mud structures built within the caves.

 

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Remnants of the previous mud structures built within the caves.

 

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– One of the shrines on the hills.

Naijatreks_Olumo9h… path which leads to the upper sections of the rocks was tight and narrow, enclosed by steep and slippery rock-faces and its floor riddled with large boulders. A flight of metal stairs leads through the passages and up the rocks.

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…I stood upon the heights of Olumo and marveled at the gracious sight that laid before me…

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… Like an endless blanket of rust brown roofs, capping buildings made of thick mud walls and finished with painted cement plasters, the panoramic view of the ancient town of Abeokuta sprawled beneath me.

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The entrance to Abaluaye Garden at the rear foot of Olumo Rock. The garden is also the venue of celebration of festivals of Obaluaye and other deities in the cultural calendar of the resident priestesses.

Naijatreks_Olumo9n – The mysterious Oshe tree at Obaluaye Garden.

 

Naijatreks_Olumo9o – Fruits on Oshe tree at the garden.

 

Naijatreks_Olumo9p – The cave dwellings at Obaluaye Garden. The caves are now used as shrines.

 

Naijatreks_Olumo9q – A mysterious tree at the garden which is of important use during the coronations of Obas in Egba land.

 

Naijatreks_Olumo9r – The shrine of Obaluaye- the Yoruba deity of Karma, also known as ‘Sopona.’ The deity is believed to control small pox.

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This article was written by Folarin Kolawole

Founder of Naijatreks, Nigerian-born Folarin Kolawole is a geologist, travel writer and researcher. When not at work, he travels the length and breadth of Nigeria, exploring, taking photos and writing about her numerous hidden tourist potentials.   'Naijatreks' is a product name registered under the Ntreks brand, which is also duly registered by Nigeria's Federal Corporate Affairs Commission. The contents on this blog are re-usable. However, it must be ensured that it is linked back to this blog, and correctly attributed to Naijatreks or the author. Please do not edit, rewrite or commercialize the original works on this blog without direct and written permission from the Founder (Folarin Kolawole). For inquiries and advert placement on the blog, kindly contact us at info@naijatreks.com or naijatreks@gmail.com.

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