Ado Rock

On The Road in Nigeria

I met both Ed and Simon up a the bar over some beers.  I immediately had something in common with Ed because we had both lived in Colombia and enjoyed it very much. Simon was just fun.

We were living on a fenced-in agricultural research compound in Nigeria, West Africa.  In order to break the monotony we started going on Sunday expeditions out into the countryside.  I met Francis on our fist expedition.  That Sunday we didn’t get back on site until midnight.  By that time my mom and Francis’ wife were worried and were starting to get a search party together.  This was mainly because Nigerian roads were deadly anyway and at night they were even worse.  To give you an idea of what a Nigerian driver is like, a friend of mine, Tim,  who was 18 at the time, went in to get his driver’s license and he told me about his test:

Officer:  Tell me five times when you should not pass

Tim:  On a round about, on a hill, at a corner,

Officer:  Do you know where I could get a dog?

Tim:  Well, at the moment I don’t know of any, no

Officer:  Okay, drive straight on until I tell you otherwise

Tim drives

Officer:  STOP!

Tim stops

Ofice:  Back up to where we started

Tim backs up

Officer:  Okay, you passed

Now you can imagine what kind of drivers you would find on the road if that is all they had to go through to get a license.

So my mother imagined me sprawled out dead on the road someplace. The day we were going to climb Ado Rock, she told me I had better be home before dark!  Naturally this created a scene since I was 20 years old and resented being told to get home by dark for such a ridiculous reason.  Nothing was going to happen. I wandered over to Ed’s place and knocked on the door.  Simon was already there.

“Good morning, we were just going over to pick up Francis.”

As we were walking to the car I said, “I’ve got to be home before dark.”


“I don’t know! Pretty idiotic!”

We got into Ed’s car and rode over to Francis’ house where his wife let us in not looking too happy to see us.  The three half-dressed children were sprawled around the table eating breakfast.  Francis had been out until three a.m. carousing so he was still in bed.  Ed and I sank into the couch, mumbling to ourselves.  Simon fixed himself some tea.  Ed wanted some coffee and couldn’t believe it when he found there wasn’t any.  I think it was a cultural thing, him being American and the others being British.

Simon sat down at the table and had a second breakfast.  After a while Ed said, “Are we just going to sit around here and wait until Francis feels like getting up, or what?”  He was getting impatient and annoyed with the whole situation so, as I had discovered I had forgotten my camera, I asked him to take me home so I could get it.  That killed a little time and soon after we got back, Francis showed up popping pills and looking for something to eat.  Francis was a pale, thin person and this morning he looked more pale and fragile than usual but he stood up amazingly well throughout the expedition.

We were on our way to climb Ado Rock and none of us knew how to get there so we asked people on the way.

“Which way to Ado Rock?”


“It is this way?”


“We be for going Ado Rock. You know it dis way or dis way?”

“Oh no!  You mean Ado Rock?”

“Yes, Ado Rock”

“You go dis way for small small and den up dis way, eh heh!”

They were all pointing in different directions.  Francis was getting irate, “Oh, forget it!  I think I can find the way”  So with Francis’ ingenious naviational abilities we finally made our way out of town in the right direction.

Related Posts:  Ado Rock,  Travel

Ado Rock

I spent the summer of 1976 in Ibadan, Nigeria.  I made a few friends and we went on day trips exploring the surrounding countryside.  I lived on an agricultural research farm so the guys I went exploring with were mostly scientists.  On our trip to Ado Rock there was me, Simon who was a British summer intern in the farming systems section, Francis, also British, who had three children and loved to collect orchids, and Ed, an American scientist who loved to party.

The day we went to Ado we stopped for some fruit along the way and pulled up to some stalls by the side of the road.  Ed and I stayed in the car in the back seat.  I was smoking a cigarette and a group Nigerian women gathered around my window and started pointing and laughing.  Ed and I were feeling a little paranoid at this point, and we could not figure out what was so intriguing about us.  By the time Francis and Simon returned, we had seen some of the women mimicking me and we had figured out that it must be a rarity to see a woman smoking.  Of course, once we figured it out, we started giggling and could not stop.

We had heard of this village not too far from Ibadan that had a huge rock sticking out of the plains and once you had climbed up it, you could see for miles and miles.  We decided it would be a good day’s outing.  Of course we didn’t have a map and only had sketchy directions, so we kind of had to feel our way there, stopping to ask people who invariably had no idea what we were talking about and made up whatever they thought we wanted to hear.  But we did finally did find Ado village and right next to it was Ado Rock.  It must have lodged there when the glacier receded, because landscape-wise it was very out of place.  The village was on just one side of the road and not very big.  We walked through it and watched women weaving cloth and saw a group of children studying the Koran. As we got closer to the rock, we started to look for a path up.  By this time all the children of the village had latched on to us, and started following us around.  We asked them the way up but they didn’t speak English and would just point in different directions.  Finally, they led us to the Chief’s hut and we figured out that we had to ask permission to climb the rock.  The Chief was building a new house and would welcome any contribution that we could give him since he was generous enough to allow us to climb his rock.  We told him that we were just poor students and could only afford five Naira (he wanted 20).  He said that was not enough so we turned and started to leave at which point, of course, he accepted the money. After some more discussion, he agreed to let us go alone without the children in tow.  They showed us the path and left us to it.

View of Ado Village, Nigeria

The rock was flat on top but slanted up at one end.  We climbed up at the lower end and worked our way to the higher side. It was about a mile from one end of the rock to the other and about two thirds of the way down, here was a small gully where trees and long grass grew.  We could see vultures circling above this area and we were a little leery of crossing it.  We also thought there might be snakes in the grass so Ed went first making a lot of noise and clapping and I was last in line listening to Ed shout back at me “It’s usually the last person in line who gets bit, you know, Kathy”.  Very funny, Ed.

As we came up the other side, we saw a small cave with animal droppings in it.  But it wasn’t until we got to the highest part that we realized what lived there.  We just caught a glimpse of a hyrax jumping from the rock onto the ground.  The hyrax is a distant relative of the elephant that is about as big as a large rodent.  They make a shrill screeching noise.

The view from the top of the rock was really spectacular.  You could see miles of green trees, bush and flat land.  It was so quiet and peaceful up there, I wanted to stay forever.  We sat in silence and admired the view for a long time.

Two years later Ed and I returned to Ado.  I couldn’t believe how much it had changed.  The village had doubled in size and was now on both sides of the road.  The Chief had a big new house on the other side of town and the going rate for climbing the rock was 40 Naira – non-negotiable.  We climbed up and had a picnic but didn’t go all the way to the other end.  Ed told me that he had taken a girl we knew up there not too long after we had gone up the first time because she wanted to do some hang-gliding.  He said she almost got killed.  She fell and fell before she caught any wind and there wasn’t that far to fall.  After that, she took her glider to Mount Cameroon, and jumped off of there.  She landed in some small village, and all the people thought she was an angel, fallen from the sky.  They practically worshipped her for days.

When we came down from the rock, we had to go across a stream and through some bushes before coming out into the village.  I was first in line and as I was going through the bushes I came upon a child alone on the path who must have been about two years old.  When the child saw me she started to scream – it was as if she had seen the scariest site possible; she was terrified.  Her mother came running up from the stream and picked up the child and started to laugh.  Ed came up behind me and was laughing.  I was confused.  Finally Ed caught his breath and said “you are the first white person she has ever seen”.  And I realized he was right; she probably thought I was a ghost.

Years later, I was traveling with my two year old on an airplane from Moscow to the USA.  We lived a pretty “Russian” life in Moscow, not coming across many foreigners and virtually no Africans.  My son and I came out of the toilet and a beautiful African American woman was standing in the aisle.  All of a sudden my son exploded into screams of terror.  I immediately thought of that day in Nigeria.