Africa: The benefits of hiking in Nigeria’s alluring natural mountainous vegetation

hiking

Nanna D. Yakubu is the zonal coordinator of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), North Central Zone, Jos and one of the few hiking enthusiasts in Nigeria.

According to newtelegraphng.com, she shares her experience of the new found love game, which is gradually gaining ground and attracting more followers in the country.

Savouring the bliss of nature
Hiking for me has provided an escape from the hectic routine of daily existence. It is an opportunity to savour fresh, breezy outdoors air, open skies, scenic beauty and nature as well meet people and network.

Through hiking, I have formed a bond with nature, to the point now that if I don’t hike for a few weeks, I start craving for the outdoors; to a layman, hiking might seem like a long stroll through the woods and hills, but hiking is much more than that. To establish a hiking routine, one must have the will power, inner strength and persistence, but the moment one establishes it, the benefits that come with hiking cannot be overemphasised.

On several occasions people will say to me; “I saw your social media pages, why is it that you are always entering bushes saying you are hiking?” I simply laugh it off because while it is obvious that hiking is very healthy, its benefits are still lost on many people. I have always been a lover of nature and five years ago, I joined a hike group called ‘The Way Farers of Jos’.

Hikers often go in groups, giving hiking a social aspect which provides great remedy for contemporary alienation in such a calm, natural environment, making it easy for people to bond as they hike in a less distracted and stressful environment.

Climbing hills, leisure walk through valleys and plains are experiences, I will always treasure. We have hiked as far as over 15 kilometers in a day, sometimes less.

The travels can pass through shallow flowing rivers, valleys and lush green areas to get to the chosen spot, the places we have hiked so far are ranging from waterfalls, historical sites, mountains, hills and plains.

The communities around where we hike are usually involved, the guides are from those communities and are also paid for their services because they are familiar with the terrain and sites; they guide us through the trails to the chosen spots. Having hiked so many trails, I will mention a few that really captivated me. They are the ‘Kudeda Waterfalls, Zongu Mafara Waterfalls and Shere Hills.

Allures of Kudeda Waterfalls
The Kudeda Waterfalls is located in Jos East, an hour-50 minutes away from Jos town, and from the muster point to the waterfalls is about two hours walk. The beautiful water flows between rocks and at the edge of the falls, beach-like sand and beautiful granite stones scattered around.

Inviting Zongu Mafara Waterfalls
The Zongu Mafara Waterfalls located in Bassa, Plateau State is another experience altogether. The community is surrounded by beautiful hills and mountains. The hills have picnic sites right at the top.

Fascinating Shere Hills
Shere Hills are the closest hills from Jos, highest mountain in Central Africa, the hills also host the new famous Mount Saint Vyett, named after Papa Yves Gattepaille, an 84 Frenchman, who has lived in Nigeria for over 30 years and one of the earliest hikers in Plateau State. He still hikes at 84 and I have had the opportunity to hike with his group. Getting to the top of Mount Saint Vyett is one trail that needed one to put some efforts, walking and climbing through rough and thick lush green vegetation.

Reaching the summit and enjoying the panoramic view of mountain ranges, stretching out before you, is worth it. There is this joy you feel when you realise that all the efforts you have put into crossing some rough terrains and difficult paths have paid off and that one has managed to reach the goal. The top of Mount St. Vyett is amazing as you get to see the whole of Jos town spiraled out before you, and right at the top one will feel that with just a leap, you can touch the skies. The enchanting landscape, sights of new vista takes ones breathe away.

Exposed to hidden troves and knowledge
One general aspect of hiking is that you get to see and learn about wild plants and fruits, some edible, the green trees and wild flowers, overwhelming your eyes, while the skies inspiring us all, and our senses being awakened whenever we spend time with nature.

Social benefits
The social aspect of hiking is amazing, we will start as strangers but ends up as friends. Though we were all there for our different reasons but united by a common purpose taking every step at our pace with no pressure on any of us while taking in views and exploring new paths as we pause to take pictures.

Bitter-sweet
Hiking sometimes can be tough, one might end up with little blisters especially when one is not wearing the right hiking boots, the blisters will quickly heal but the good memories and lasting friendship always remain. Hiking is a new dawn in Nigeria and a great way to get a whole new perspective on one’s life, and enjoying it to the fullest.

It is in human nature to always strive to do better, take the road less travelled and establish a sense of fulfillment. Hiking can do wonders by helping us overcome obstacles that may lead to frustration and depression. The legendary Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest, said “it’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”, he summed up the essence of hiking.

Inspires inner peace and satisfaction
Hiking has a way of boosting my mood, lifting my spirit and helping me form a bond with nature, I love the crisp, fresh unpolluted air I breathe while hiking, especially at the summit of a hill or mountain. One thing people do not understand is that anybody can start hiking as it’s suitable for all ages, and also affordable.

The fact that sedentary behaviour leads to an increased risk of several types of cancer I believe is enough for anyone to grab a pair of hiking boots, bag-pack and a hiking pole to hit the trails. Hiking is a pleasant walk while you breathe some fresh air and enjoy beautiful scenery; there are estimates that one can also burn 1,400 calories during a six hour walk.

For those who are interested in hiking, you can start with less hours of walk and hike your way to health. Hiking helps one to be creative. Some of the greatest minds known for creativity were hikers; so why not hike to bring out your creative powers?

Benefits communities
Hiking trails can benefit the communities were trails are found, the trails can help them fulfill their everyday lives with what they love, that not only include trails but to also conserve spaces, places and habitat that surround them. The trail will give the local community something to do, when trails attract visitors from out of town, it brings about economic benefits, which could be hiking gear shops, water activities, restaurants, hotels. Hiking trails have a way of also drawing companies and employees to the area.

More Nigerians are hiking the trails than ever before, our desire is to see how the niche will be properly regulated, bigger trail networks attract tourism and this help to develop domestic tourism in Nigeria. Increasing outdoor recreation destinations while smaller hiking trails can significantly improve the lives of the people, who live there, allowing communities to increase commerce, support and create jobs. Hiking is nature’s therapy, as due to today’s chaotic world is hard to quiet the mind and think, getting into nature offers a way to find some silence and clarity, an important tool to counter our standards of survival in society.

Hiking helps us to regenerate; that is why involving community in planning and development of trails is significant due to its potentials to set a precedent for the level of community empowerment across environmental law. The local people preserve their environment better. Give hiking a try and thank me later.

By ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA

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