Destination Ngwo : The forest where the trees whisper
“In the evening when the breeze gathers, they form a conglomeration and assault the trees, they do this because they love the sound the trees made when they pass through it. It sounds like thousand murmurs trapped together, shaken and then release at once through a small hole. The trees respond as if it been tickled and they fuss and protest as the tickles wax stronger and they hurl their seed in defence. But the cunning gentle wind dodges and the trees get furious. Then in unison, their whispers turn into a strong hum but the wind doesn’t relent but swirls here and there, flapping their leaves, twisting their branches, pinching their trunks, and teasing their roots.” The man’s leathery voice drifted into my ears as he narrated .
Ngwo town is located at the top of a hill and driving through the narrow road on the steep cliff of Milliken hill is suicidal. The engine roared while I clutched the nearest passenger close to me. The woman smiled. “Is this your first time passing through here?.’’ I nodded. My guide who sat at the front seat looked back and grinned.
The twists and turns on the hill sent me nausea chills. I held the battered vehicle door tight as if it will fall of any moment. I prayed that the journey will end soon but the road still went on curving here and there like a snake on pursuit.
I shot a cursory gaze out of the window and shut back my eyes. The valley sloped down like a waterfall without end. At the bottom of the hill the city of Enugu proudly stood irrepressible by the hills. I saw snatches of houses that look like coloured insects from the grooves of trees that dwell on the slopes of Milliken hill.
“What if the vehicle tumbled down the slope”? I said to myself. I drove off the negative thoughts swarming in my head and soon the narrow road gave way to a wider road. And soon, we got to our destination.
We needed no soothsayer to tell us we were at Ngwo forest. The pine trees at the entrance stood tall, proud and gallant. Some palm fronds were twisted to make a gate at the opening. We stood for a while scared to enter has we knew in this part of the world; anything tied with palm fronds are regarded sacred.
Someone walked past us and we followed. Soon a strange black bird with a red stripe at it neck crowed above us. I panicked. It flew past us and settled on one of the trees, then it cast us a blank stare. It eyes were reddish like that of a burning coal. I whispered to my guide that we should go back as it seems we were the only one in the forest but he stood to his ground.
“This bird might be the keeper of the forest.” I said. He burst in to bouts of laughter. To be on the safe side we walked back to the entrance and asked for the keeper of the forest. A chubby man stepped up and walked with us. He explained to us that the keeper (Eche) has gone for his break. He then offered to take us round.
“These trees were planted here by the world bank grant for forestry in the 70s to curb erosion. They were imported from abroad, they are called whispering pines. If you take a good look at them, you will see that the trees are not the same species.’’ He pointed his fingers eastward. “We have three different species of pines here. The old trees are cut down and transported to Ibadan, there they are used for making books.’’ He continued. “Flavour has shot a video here. In fact in the morning religious people come for their prayer meetings while others come for picnics.”
My friend/guide noticed that the forest floor and some back of the trees were scorched. He asked why and the man replied that they had to clear the bushes in preparation for the rainy season. We also saw mounds of pepper and cucumber around.
A yellow and black striped butterfly flitted past. It caught my attention, I drifted with it but like the wind it was too fast for me and my camera. It stopped here and there, took a sip of the delicious nectar of a flower and fluttered by. I stopped and looked back. I was far from my guide and the locals that offered to helped us. I ran back to meet them but stopped on the way to pick beautiful pine nuts that survived the fire.
The locals spoke of a beautiful water fall located down the forest but we will leave to return soon