The very beginning
Most times when I tell people I live in Jos (Jos is the capital of Plateau State in Nigeria, quite famous for insurgency), there are a series of reactions I get. Regardless of who's asking, the response is always so similar. Firstly, their faces usually end up contorted, plastered with shock. After about 20 seconds they regain their composure. What comes next are the questions.
"Oh, are you serious?"
"Lol, yeah. Why? I don't look like I live in Jos?"
"Wow! since when?"
"Ummm, I was given birth to in Jos."
"How do you survive the riots?"
"Well, God always keeps us. He always has."
"Do you speak Hausa?"
This question, I hate a lot. It always leads to very long harangue.
"Does it really snow in Jos?"
"Hahaha. Nope, most people just confuse that for the hailstorms."
"So, do you like Jos?"
"Well, Jos is really a great place to be. I mean the weather is perfect, the people are really down to earth and easy to get along with. But, the only thing about Jos is there are very few places you can hang out."
And the idea?
But I always end up being in Jos for the holidays. And so, I happened to be in Jos for Christmas. As usual, there was nowhere fun to go. The only cinema was fully booked (it has just one viewing room, so, I guess it's easy to understand why). Fortunately, some of my high school friends decided to go hiking. Since there was really nothing else to do, I figured that it could be fun. Last year was quite fun for me, apart from going to the beach, I spent most of my time enclosed by walls sitting at a desk eye glued to my laptop. In fact, most of the new places I had been to were restaurants. A hike would definitely be something more adventurous (not that food isn't. Nothing beats good food). The sun, dirt, trackless hills aren't exactly my favorite things, but where would my adventure spirit be if I couldn't woman up and try something out of the box. I didn't really think I'd have to pack for a hike, I mean, hiking is like taking a walk on a mountain, right? Well, I was wrong, it was more like running up a dusty slanted board in no particular direction.
Where did you go hiking?
Shere hills, that's where we went hiking. It is a beautiful place, and I am still quite sad that I didn't go with my camera. The landscape was surrounded by a number of similar hills made up of rocks. These rocks seemed to obey their own physical laws; firmly yet artistically placed. My hiking partner had me spooked out with stories of a schoolmate who was found dead by the dam about a few miles away from where we were to go hiking. If that was the only story I was told, I don't think I'd have been so scared. Apparently, her story involved some spiritual beings that drowned people who dared to swim in the dam. The great thing is that we weren't going to swim, but we were going to visit a dam surrounded by mountains. After spending three whole hours hiking, I decided I'll do you a favor and create a list of things you need to consider when planning a hike. I even created my very first video (It's nothing serious though. I should have it up in a bit). And it's finally up (sorry I took forever! And yes. I used Snapchat to record it. LOL)
Here's a checklist of things you should consider before you go hiking.
Do you have fitting but comfortable shoes?
If I had to run away perchance something happened, how fast could I run? Because I work in Lagos, most of my shoes are there. So, I had no pair of sneakers in Jos worth hiking with. I had to use my mom's loafers. Big mistake. It wasn't my size. Instead of walking, I spent more time sliding across rocks and holding on to people. Rather than just hold on to my dear life if something happened, I'd also have to hold on to my shoes. Next time, I'll definitely go for something comfy but fitting.
Are you wearing the right clothes?
As important as your shoes are, you'd also need clothes that are snug and comfortable. Please avoid cotton, trust me. You may want to stick with synthetics. Polyester, nylon or silk are great alternatives. Unlike cotton, they are light, dry quick and good at maintaining your natural temperature. During the ember months, Jos is usually very cold, everyone knows that. So, I went hiking with a knitted cardigan. A few minutes after I started exploring, it got way too hot. I began sweating and I got damp because my cotton top did me the favor of absorbing my sweat but did not get dry. The trail was way too dusty because it was harmattan and of course some thorns and dry twigs accompanied me by latching on to my pair of leggings. So, cotton is definitely a no-no
Everyone knows that the sun + physical activities = dehydration. Did I, Miss Comfort, consider taking water to avoid getting dehydrated? I actually did, but instead of grabbing a bottle of water, I took Pepsi. Lol, and I don't even like it! Trust me, I finished the bottle of Pepsi before I even got to the hiking trail. By the time we were to begin our hike, I was already thirsty. It's a good thing I didn't go alone, someone thoughtful had brought enough water for everyone who was going on the hike. So, I survived.
No, I didn't get injured and no one else did (thank God). It's always smart to go along with a medical kit, just in case you have a need for it. I'd rather have one than get stranded on some mountain in need of medical attention. Depending on where you choose to go hiking you might want to consider taking torchlights and a mobile phone with service in case you have to call for help.
Did someone say snacks?
Initially, I thought the hike would be over in say 45 minutes, and my unprepared self didn't bother packing any snacks. We spent about three whole hours and some extra minutes hiking. I was famished by the time we got to the dam. Because your body is actively burning energy, you might consider taking along snacks to replace the energy you lose. The snacks should include mineral salt (to replenish electrolytes lost while sweating), protein and carbohydrate (for the energy you've lost). Nanas (like my cousin says) or bananas (if you like), tuna, granola, nuts, other fruits, and vegetables are great snacks for hikes.
A light backpack
Now, ladies, you're going on a hike; not on a journey to the other side of the planet. You should definitely pack light. Carrying snacks, drinks, and a medical kit without a backpack isn't a wise decision. However, you don't want to carry too many things. So that you don't get weighed down or tired fast.
Map and a sense of direction
We got lost about a thousand times. We literally hiked the mountain in circles because we had no map or sense of direction. If not for some car track, I don't think I'll be writing this today. I do have a point. My point is if you're terrible with directions you might need to get help from someone who's great at finding their way around. Getting lost while on a hike isn't really a great idea.
Snakes, bears, lions, tigers, raccoons, mosquitoes, who knows what you could run into? So grab your bows and arrows and prepare to fight for your lives, if need be. I'm kidding, but do be careful and do your research and make sure the trail you choose to hike is safe! We actually did run into cows, we had to sneak by so that we wouldn't get mauled or eaten by them(haha, I know cows don't eat people. I'm just messing around). Luckily for us, we all made it.
Your hiking buddy
For all my lone rangers, hiking alone may sound fun. But for safety reasons, you might want to hike with someone just this once. No matter how smart or strong you are (and trust I am not disputing that you are) having an extra head or hand or foot isn't such a bad idea.
Hiking on a rainy day is no fun. Neither is hiking on a hot day. So be sure to do your research and pick the perfect date. You might want to consider taking a sunscreen with you. You sure do need to protect yourself from the sun's UV rays.
Getting to the dam was worth it. I mean the serene environment; the tunes the water played; the beautiful backdrop of sky and mountains was worth the hike. I sure hope you find somewhere fun and adventurous to hike.
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope this useful. Have fun and break a leg or don't :). I don't mind, if you want to share your experience with me please don't be shy to do so in the comment.