Two weeks ago, quite spontaneously, I decided to go visit the Iyake lake which I had heard was suspended on the top of the Oke Ado mountain in Ado Awaye, Oyo State. This trip was special for me in a lot of ways: it was my first planned trip to a not-so-common tourist site in Nigeria and I wasn’t sure what to expect; it was to an area of the country I had never visited (Iseyin corridor); and two of my more courageous friends took the trip with me (thanks guys!).
Needless to say, it was an adventure, one I was glad to have undertaken.
Ado Awaye town is sleepy and tranquil surrounded by quite a few mountains. According to our tour guide, the people of Ado Awaye hid from their enemies during the Dahomey war on the Oke Ado mountain. The people of the town revere the mountain and there is wide-spread belief that it is a sacred place. In fact, many people with varying religious affiliations pay pilgrimage to the mountain to tap into some of its perceived spiritual powers. One common belief is that women who are unable to have children will become pregnant if they drink water from the Iyake lake (the suspended lake). Apparently once every year, during a popular festival (I forget the name), barren women from far and wide descend on Ado Awaye to climb the mountain for its purported power to grant the fruit of the womb 🙂
It takes about an hour of steep climbing/hiking to get to the top of the mountain. I have to say that I don’t know how people did it before the 300 steps were built to aid accessibility. To get to the top of the mountain, one must first hike through 300 man-made steps which will take you about three-quarters of the way up the mountain. The remaining climb up the mountain is a lot easier from the 300th step.
The first landmark we got to was the Ishage rock, a giant boulder that appears to be free-standing without support. According to legend, this rock had never fallen off the steep side of the mountain where it rests. Many people believe the Ishage to have spiritual powers and many worship at the foot of the rock. Our guide also mentions that people with certain wishes will send a white cloth to be tied around the rock after which their wishes are granted.
This is the lake suspended on top of the Oke Ado mountain and the real reason to visit Ado Awaye town! 🙂 The lake is believed to have significance particularly for those with fertility issues. Local legend has it that the lake has never dried up and it is a taboo to swim or bath in the lake. It is believed that who ever swims in the lake will never be found again! There was a story about a certain white man who came to the mountain and attempted to swim in defiance of the local warnings. He reportedly disappeared into the depths of the lake never to be seen again. I don’t know if this actually happened or not, but it is part of the lore surrounding the Iyake lake.
My take is that the lake may actually be a crater lake that is fed through a spring in the mountain. I suspect that there might be a spring in or around the mountain because of the lush greenery surrounding the mountain, which I believe indicates some water supply nearby.
One funny sign of the times, the tour guide warned us not to touch the lake because of the latest Ebola epidemic – to discourage people to come there for healing and prevent the virus from being transferred into the lake! 🙂
The Elephant Tree
This was another attraction at the top of the mountain, a little distance from the Iyake lake. The “elephant” tree is a tree that fell and somehow its truck got mangled in such a way that it resembles an elephant trunk at first glance. It is really difficult to describe, but a delight to see nonetheless! I was dared by one of the tour guides to climb to the top of the elephant head and I gamely took him up on the challenge to his surprise!
Ese awon Agba (Footprints of the Ancients)
These were mysterious indentations on the surface of the mountain which resembled footprints. Local legend has it that these were the footprints of the ancients or elders. It was very fascinating to see and they appeared clustered in just one area of the mountain.
The landscape surrounding the Oke Ado mountain was very beautiful and breath-taking. We visited on a somewhat cloudy day and despite that, the surrounding landscape was majestic. Next time I visit the mountain, I will pack a picnic to enjoy with that view.
Overall, the trip was amazing!!! What do you think? Share your thoughts and comments with me 🙂