Where Fresh Air is a Luxury

Erin IJesha, Osun State

You can hardly have a peaceful inhale and an accompanying exhale in Nigeria’s most populated city, Lagos. The relief of every exhale seems to be cut short by the town’s suffocating air. An air carrying more than it can bear, from car exhaust smoke, to dust, to decaying humus on its sea and land. The air here would scream if it could. But even in the absence of its screaming, we can hear it, the way it burns our eyes during the day and how it makes us tear at night, the way it cuts short our breath, the way it makes us gasps for more, all in a show of some dangerous passive aggression.

Photo Credit: @Kabenny_
Photo Credit: @Kabenny_

This was why I started falling in love with the beach when I moved here. I love the air at the beach, free from the city’s burden, fresh and refreshing in itself. So at every opportunity to visit the beach, I never pass. I started out my beach exploring with the unnecessarily crowded and popular Elegushi beach, to Eleko, to Oniru, to Atican… I checked off almost every beach in Lagos, all but one — Tarkwa Bay.

Now the thing about this beach was that it locked itself away from land and hid itself behind the Atlantic. Visiting it meant hopping on a boat and enduring a 20 minutes ride to the beach shore. This was something I found completely terrifying. I had never been on a boat before and even though I can swim, I’ve never had to meddle into the Atlantic. Speaking with some friends about a possibility of visiting the Bay, an unexpected excitement took over the conversation more than I had hoped or planned “Boat ride? Let’s totally do it!” “Wait! We ride for 20 minutes? Awesome! I’m in”, these words scared me even more. A week later, a WhatsApp group was setup (God bless WhatsApp really), logistics plans began and in a week we found ourselves Under Bonny Camp Bridge Hopping a Boat.

I must confess that there’s nothing as intimidating as the ocean in its mighty glory, but if only it was just its vastness, if only, then it wouldn’t be much a big deal. Wrapping its vastness are waves and storms, completely commanding and intimidating.

Halfway into the ride, the “captain” saw a coming wave and thought “Oh, what could be better than this right now? Let me give these guys a welcoming treat” and in 3, 2, 1… “Oh my God! Jesus Christ! Mother of God” filled the air, all passengers were caught holding each other and pressing tight to each other’s hand. We made it safe to the beach and in no time we settled in. I swam for hours in the slightly waveless part of the ocean. We ate, drank, danced and played games. But that was just the beginning of it all.

Photo Credit: @Kabenny_
Photo Credit: @Kabenny_

On the WhatsApp group everyone confessed how much fun they had and how “we should totally do this again”, “of course” I thought (But definitely not Tarkwa Bay, at least not anytime soon). Weeks passed and we found ourselves suffocating in Lagos’ air; burdened with work, traffic and the city’s endless rainy days. We knew it was time, so we decided to pack our bags and run away, somewhere far, but not so far, somewhere with some fresh air, with trees, with no traffic, with wildlife, where inhale and exhale were satisfying. We listed possible locations to visit and choose two out of the many. Logistics plans were made, a minimum spending budget was drafted and in two weeks we found ourselves riding to Ikogosi Warm Spring, Ekiti State. Lagos was so angry we were leaving, especially mad at me, that it sent its agents to pick up my wallet at the bus park. My wallet had my budgeted spending (in cash), my ATM Cards, and my ID Cards. But hey, what is money to some fresh air? Of course you can’t compare both so I kept my face straight and went ahead to journey with my friends. 3 hours they said, but they lied, 5 hours! 5 whole long hours. My back was broken in the long ride, I had slept and woken a thousand times before we got to our destination. Though there was a bright side to this, right there through the long ride, I finally found time to finish a book I had struggled with for weeks. Ekiti State in itself was just like every other Southern Nigerian State; red sand, greenness, and fresh air. The weather was amazing, it had rained before our arrival so the air was clear, fresh and refreshing.

The Travel Gang

Ikogosi was a small village with really friendly and welcoming people, the community people were more than just nice. From our first stop into the village to the wide gates of the warm water spring resort, everyone was warm. At the resort, we got our tickets for N500 each and a tour guide was assigned to us. The whole area seemed well managed, the grasses were trimmed, bushes were taken care of, there was no single sight of garbage of any sort littered around, we were grateful. Down at the main wonder of the site, we saw the calm flowing spring(s), both meeting at a point, a warm water and the cold water spring, in holy matrimony. Amazing stuff.

Ikogosi Warm Spring

Our tour guide took us through the historical and mythological stories surrounding the spring. We took our time at the site, danced in the waters, drank of the spring, and took some bottles of it home because we were told it had healing minerals. Who were we not to believe? We left the spring later that evening, completely healed! We took a little walk around the resort then found our ways back into our rooms. Games followed music, music, dance then came some intoxication and before we knew it morning came.

Racing to catch our cab outside the resort, we took out time to take some cool shots. At Osun State, an unannounced heavy rain welcomed us, we waited for 3–4 hours but the rain would not let us climb up the hill, into the rock where water fell profusely. After a 4 hours wait, we decided to go up against the will of the rain, the plan was to have a quick climb then run back to the Lagos on the same day. The universe smiled on us and the rain subsided a bit.

I won’t take you through the details of climbing up and down the hill, we had fun, bathed under the angry waterfall and raced back to Lagos on same day later than we planned. Did we have fun? Hell yes! Was it worth it? Ah! Are you kidding me? Anyways, we plan next to explore the North, someone said the Air over there has a certain type of freshness Nigeria does not deserve.

“Travel brings power and love back into your life.”
Jalaluddin Rumi