The Ogbunike Cave is dark, eerie and not a place for the faint-hearted. In this piece, Michael Alvin says the cave is a destination to tick off on a bucket list for the adventurous traveller. Find out more about his experience inside the Ogbunike cave as he continues to explore Eastern Nigeria with FTAN.
My guide was still speaking when our car stopped; here we are at Ogbunike Cave! The entire site is within ranges of undulating hills and valleys tucked in a tropical rainforest behind the ‘Ogba’ hills.
The walkway into the cave is made of about 317 steps at the end of which is an open space used as a reception point. Here, visitors are by tradition expected to remove their shoes.
Before going into the cave, my guide, Ekene, re-echoed what the Igwe already told me, “the cave is not for the faint-hearted.” He also gave me other simple instructions, some of which I had read on the signpost. Then we descended into the cave, with each step reminding me of “Igbodo” a popular Nollywood film.
The main cave has a big open chamber of about 5m high, 10m wide and 30m long at the entrance. As we entered, I could see water dripping from the top. My guide told me “the water is therapeutic, that’s why people come to get it”. And that during the raining season, it doesn’t drip frequently like that.
With our touch beaming light into the tunnels, we began to explore the cave. There are ten tunnels in the main chamber leading to different directions.
Navigating these tunnels is quite adventurous and challenging because some of them are so low we had to almost crawl through. The caves are occupied by a large colony of bats of various sizes and the chambers are in fact named as either the bat’s living room or bedroom.
As we went further into the cave, we came across streams and body of water at various places. On our way out, we saw a stream flow out from one of the tunnels into a flowing river (River Nkissa) and my guide told me that that particular water is clean and very therapeutic. He said the water could even perform miracles. I took a while to watch as my teammates squatted to have a scoop of it.
Then we came to an open space where we each engraved our names on the walls of the cave.
If I had thought that Anambra state is called ‘Home To All’ for nothing, this trip has absolutely changed my perspective. I had only arrived here a few hours ago and I have learnt a lot about the people’s hospitality, history and culture. And just when I thought I was leaving, one of my team members requested that we spare a moment to visit his old friend whom he had called just a few minutes after we left the palace for the cave.
This old friend turned out to be Mr Ifeanyi Mbanefo, a retiree who is not tired. Mr Mbanefo should get a trophy for being so hospitable! He was only informed about our visit less than two hours ago but he surprised us enough with an amazing time. He is a well-respected man in his community and his gallery tells of the richness of his human and social relationships.
Each moment with Mr Mbanefo is a wonderful experience. He’s versed in storytelling and with him, I was taken back to the days of tales by the moonlight. The Igbos have a rich tradition of storytelling and I would have missed that had I missed meeting Mr Mbanefo.
So he told me a story. Many years, he said, a white man was killed in the community. The villagers were told to produce the killer or else all of them will go for it. Out of fear, the villagers started investigating. The investigation did not yield any positive result and time was running out. So they devised a solution. The villagers wrote a letter and gave it to one of them to deliver to the white men’s office. The letter bearer, on his way to the office, stopped by to see a friend who is a student in a school. During the visit, his friend offered to read the letter to him, and he agreed reluctantly.
After reading the content, the friend told the bearer to take the letter to the sender and tell him to send his own son. Your guess is as good as mine; because the bearer could not read nor write, he was sent to bear the burden for the murder. Upon realizing this, Mr Mbanefo said the bearer swore that everyone in his family must be educated. This, he said, encouraged the spread of western education in the East.
To book a post-Covid-19 tour of Anambra State, contact Afro Tourism on +2348090663389 or search for a travel deal here on AfroDeals