Akwuke beach: The hidden Oasis of The East
As we alighted from the chartered vehicle we were astonished by the mass of stones heaped together down the valley, some were in brown sack bags while the bigger ones were stacked together. Grooves of aged trees adorned each sides of the road but what struck us were two ancient trees tied with white cloth and sprinkled with red substance. We knew it was a shrine or a sacred tree or so. Some people sat close to it drinking beer and chatting.
The road was scattered with deep wine-coloured stones. We walked down the broad path that seems to have been dug out by erosion. Several persons passed us.
The sloping road led us to the beach and the view was simply breathtaking. Standing up there we saw the beach! It looked more like an oasis in the Sahara desert. Then the undulating hills at the background completed the picture. We felt transported; the transition from the hard gully soil to glittery, and shiny white sand was astounding. I imagined that a playful giant came down through a bean stalk to heap the sands high at each side then let the waters run through it or an angry giant torn his way through the sandy escarpment.
My backpackers’ friends and I was excited that we ran down to feel the glittery white sand of the beach. But a massive concrete that seem to be a relic of a bridge or so caught my attention.
The river hurried here and there as if it on its way to a very important occasion. It dragged along the glittery sand along it bank hence the Sandy colour. But it is joined by it confluence by another hurrying river called Orubo.
The sand towered many feet. I felt I was in the Sahara and as we descended the valley we saw some Fulani children walking towards our direction. Their oblong faces were so beautiful that I had to photograph them. I was surprised that they weren’t camera shy and even posed very well for pictures.
From the other side we saw people playing games on top of the sandy hill. Down the river, some group of persons scrubbed their clothes in the sandy coloured water. Some cattle grazed on the sloping hills, while some persons crouched inside the water, they dug their hands into the water as if they were looking for something in the river bed. Then they brought out stones and dropped them into a wide mesh. I watched curiously wondering at what they were doing. The rumble of the sand trucks afar distracted me. I stopped a man who walked past me and I asked him about the place.
“This river is called Iyama.” He scratched his head. “The river is revered and worship by some group of persons. During the rainy season, it is very mighty and it overflows to where we are standing. The river is a goddess that is swift to anger but kind to it worshippers. The chief priest is not around, he comes and goes, and he and his followers pour libations intermittently to it. The other one over there is called Orubo. There used to be a bridge but it collapsed because of the eroding topography.”
“You see there used to be two rivers that flows to different directions.” He pointed to a gully stricken dried water path that housed some shrubs. “But the activities of the sand dredgers diverted Orubo course and join them together at that bend, together they now flow down south. ” he rambled on
“What are those people doing”? I pointed to the persons in the river.
”They are stone pickers; the river bed contains a lot of stones so they pick, and sieve the stones into bags which are then sold to distributors.” So the mass of stones we saw before was a collective efforts of these people. I marvelled at their tenacity; how they managed to be stay so long in the water!
We asked him if we could see the source of the Iyama stream. He laughed…
‘‘No one has traced the source of the river. Tradition says u have to climbed seven hills to see it beginning. A white man with his power bike came here a long time for that purpose but he gave up the expedition.”
My little Fulani friends played at the foothill exposed by the low tide. They filled and emptied plastic rubbers with the water. I joined them in their play while they giggled shyly. Then my friends reminded me that we had to leave….
We crossed the shallow Iyama to the beach, despite it shallowness the river current was very strong and I almost tripped.
We joined a stone picker called Cynthia who kindly allowed us to help her picked the stones deep inside the river bed. She guided us on which stones to pick. She said she had to fill up nine bags to get one thousand and hundred naira. We felt sorry for her. My friends handed her some snacks then we walked uphill to see the Fulani settlement.
Find out in the next post……
Akwuke beach: a visit to the Fulani settlement