The hidden wonders of Iva valley
The hills rolled undulating in the background. I paused for a minute to simmer in the beauty of nature. But I was roused from my daydream by the shouts of the keke drivers.
“Iva valley!” Several of them called out. I dragged my guide toward the nearest keke driver. After some minutes of describing my destination to him, we hopped in with other passengers carrying chickens and eggs. The chickens clucked and flapped noisily at the back of the vehicle but it did not stop me for enquiring about the coal mine from the driver. From his response, it was apparent that he has no idea of where we were going to. He dropped us at the last bus stop and left us to our fate.
I asked a laundry man at the junction for direction. He pointed uphill. We slowly ascended the hill while the residents peered queerly at us. I noticed that all the buildings were the same architectural style of broken stone murals. A huge metal underground pipe caught our attention. A teenager and his toddler brother walked past us. I approached him and asked what the pipe was for. He explained that it transport water from downhill. We asked him for direction, he pointed to a gully-stricken road adjacent to us.
We climbed the hill skipping over huge stones and depression. The path led us to someone’s backyard and several pair of eyes greeted us with suspicion.
“What do you want?” they called out. After minutes of awkward conversation, we were shown a tiny path glazed with multi colour stones. I picked one and dropped it in my bag. The path led us to settlement called “ukwu pick” camp one. Once again, the murals of the houses were of the same style with the ones we saw downhill. The red broken stone looked as if it was splashed carefully on the walls.
Once again people cast uncertain gazes at us. We approached a lady plaiting her daughter’s hair. She smiled as she answered us.
“There are no coals here”. She said. “But it was dumped here in the past, and this place used to be the settlement of the miners. The coal mine is located in camp 2. what we have here is the water reservoir.” She said pointing to north.
We decided to see the reservoir first before the coal mine. We mount the steep hill carefully avoiding stones and depression. Then we spotted the reservoir far away with it gigantic splendour. The hike towards it got longer and we decided to cut it off and proceed to the coal mine.
Standing on top of the hill, we could see the other imposing hills that surrounded the city.
The steep edges rolled into jagged valley that thrived with different trees and shrubs. Houses of all kinds and colours looked like a painting from far. I felt like an artist but all I could do was to snap.
My tired guide smiled. The view was simply breath taking; I mentally constructed a verse for Enugu. For the first time, I noticed my guide wasn’t dressed for hiking. While descending, we saw a golden stretched waterway that snaked itself through the valley.
We hurried downhill and asked some children playing along the dusty road for directions. Immediately their parents shot out like a snake waiting for it prey.
“What do you want?” They stressed in Igbo. My guide explained, and we were directed to the river. From their faces I could see that they thought we were weird for roaming aimlessly and wanting to go to the river. The kids followed us from a distance while they sang obscene songs.
An ancient building caught my eyes, it was a catholic church that looked abandoned, and the architectural style was simple yet magnificent in its own queer way. The children ran inside to continue with their hide and seek. There, they wave us good bye. We walked downhill running into people’s backyards, apologizing for our intrusion and finally we were led to camp 2 highway.
Words cannot describe how we felt when we got to the highway. The heat of the sun was maddening and our backs were badly scorched. We waved to the construction guys and asked our way through. Once again the beautiful yellow river down the valley beckoned to us. We saw children and adults bathing downstream and I urged my guide to let us see it.
We deviated from the road, and walked towards the river. We got to a steep precipice and we were forced to wait. Soon, some children came by, and skillfully they manoeuvred their way down. I called them back to assist us and like a wind they were up leading us downhill.
We saw a man in a deep pool of muddy water digging out pebbles. We paused for a moment and watched him work. Then he turned and saw us. We greeted him; he nodded in reply and asked us what we wanted. Above him a gigantic tunnel had broken off, and some part of it hanged precariously above his head. We asked him to tell us what the tunnel meant. He smiled and rested for a while.
|looks like Eyo masquerade|
“This tunnel was built to transport coal mine by the white”. He said. “It used to link to the other side. But it collapsed in 1980.” He scratched his head to recall more information. “This is also a clay site.” He continued.
The river ran as if it was being pursued. It ripples crashed hastily on the rock churning out a deep gorge from it. There were some points where the river was wide and flowed sluggishly. The river is called Mmiri Ocha meaning yellow river. I stood at the adjoining rock where currents collided with rocks to form a mini water fall. Then I cupped my hands into it to fetch the golden water. I noticed that all the plants that grew around it glow in lushness despite having their root inside the hard rock. The locals took advantage of the river and grew their crop along it.
I saw a coal bed and picked something that looks like coal. My guide insisted it was not coal. But I disagreed. The man came down and asked us what our mission there was. We said we were researchers. I showed him what I found and he laughed.
“That’s not coal”. He exclaimed. “It’s the shit.” He spoke in pidgin. We wonder what “shit” meant so I asked for clarification. “It the chaff: the by-product of coal”. He went on. “Wait let me see if I can find one to show you”. He said as he waded in the river. “The river is a bit shallow because it in the dry season, come back in the rainy season to see the beauty of this river.”
|coal residue that i found|
We watched him from the other side as he picked up something from the mud. Then he saw something and strode towards us. “Here is the real coal”. He said with pride.
I noticed it was darker in color and harder than what I found earlier. We sat at the river bed and watch Mmiri Ocha flow. I wonder where it flowed from and where it flowing to. This river is indeed a blessing to these people as their life centered on it. It must have been their drinking source in the past before they had tap water. It rippling sound was symphony to my ears. I wonder if there was a goddess somewhere in the shallow waters. But the river flowed on with it glistening golden hue unaware of my thoughts. I dipped my hands in the water and I noticed we almost had the same shade. Oh the children have been calling me Nwanyi ocha meaning fair lady. What a perfect fit! “When Nwanyi Ocha meets Mmiri Ocha”. It will make a perfect title! Then I remembered that we were supposed to see the coal mine. I woke my guide from his reverie, then we hiked the hills and walked back to camp 2 road.
It was getting late already. We saw snatches of the yellow river from thickets of bushes down the valley. We passed a bridge where the river tumbled with force and moved towards the coal mine. This road was sandy and dusty as the Sahara .My guide looked at his carefully black polished shoe which has now turned brown and sighed. There was no vehicle leading to our direction so we had to walk.
We got to a forest, and branched to a path we thought led to the coal mine. My guide stood at a far distance, but I went on. Then I saw it! I saw Mmiri Ocha with all of it splendour splashing down from a boulder. Words cannot explain what I felt! Then like a magnet I was pulled to get closer and closer. Groves of trees hid the rest of this lovely river. I got closer to take shots but I realised I was the only one there. Alas! My guide has left me! For a moment I froze, and different scary thoughts crept on me.
I ran back as fast as my legs could carry me. Then I saw him throwing stones at the trees. I was angry for a moment until something caught my attention. It was a chunk of coal on the ground. I quickly grabbed my treasure and we walked down the road. We saw a woman who was gathering firewood. She dissuaded us for going.
“It late, biko , come back next time, it a lonely forest and there might be bad things around”. She said in Igbo. My face felled but I knew we had to leave because it was already past six pm. I sighed in sadness and promised to come back to see Mmiri Ocha and the coal mine.