Get back in the car. Duh.
The website for the Afi Mountain Drill Ranch, home to "Africa's most endangered primate," says it's only 55 km from the turn- off to Obudu Mountain Resort. And we had a map. Drawn by the concierge at the resort. He told Joey, "You will see a monkey (pause) holding a banana. (Knowingly,) It is not real. (Pause) It is art. After the monkey, turn right."
It took us three hours. To get there. Which means it took us three more hours to get back.
|Lest you think I'm prone to hyperbole.|
These roads made the ride from Abuja to Obudu look smooth. These roads truly put our massive SUV to the test. At least once every five minutes we all held our breath as Joey gunned through some giant mud pothole (I use that term loosely. Hell, I use the term, "road," loosely in this context). But the longer we sat in the car and the farther we got from the resort, the more determined we were to find this monkey ranch literally in the middle of nowhere. That dip in the road looks like it might take out the car? Everybody pray!
|Surveying our options to get through the muck.|
I should clarify. The longer we sat in the car and the more machete-wielding eight-year-olds we passed, four of us were all the more determined to find the monkeys. My friend, L., and I were enjoying a grand adventure. She and I couldn't wait to see those monkeys. Joey and O. could have cared less about the monkeys. They cared more about the repercussions of not taking their wives to see the monkeys. The other two, our poor friends who'd only been in Nigeria barely over a month, were not so determined. I'm pretty they thought we were going to drop them in the middle of the bush and leave them to fend for themselves against the locals. They sat in the back of the car, holding each other's white knuckles and every so often trying to convince us to turn around.
But we finally passed the monkey art and spotted a small sign for the Drill Ranch. We turned onto the road, excited to get out of the car and see some monkeys, only to be confronted with a narrowing and harrowing dirt road (Ha. Ha....). Half an hour past thousands of cocoa trees and a tiny village of bona fide round mut huts with thatched roofs and a carpet of drying cocoa nibs on white sheets spread over the ground, we finally arrived at the Drill Ranch.
|It is not real. It is art.|
A pair of Oregon conservationists founded the ranch almost 30 years ago to resuscitate the near-extinct population of drill monkeys in Africa. Drills are only found three places in the world: southeast Nigeria, southwest Cameroon, and on Bioko Island of Equatorial Guinea (ref). The Drill Ranch is also home to some chimpanzees, who we got to watch during feeding time. Listening to them clamor for bananas was an awesome experience. Judging from some of our conversations with the locals, it seems like the conservationists have successfully educated the public that primates are better left uneaten.
|"Hey, Bob. Ya gonna eat all that banana?"|
Collectively, over 500 primate photos, several bug bites, four muddy feet, two disturbing bush toilet experiences, one large rash, and one slight electrocution later, the six of us piled back in the car for the long drive back to the resort. We arrived at the base of the mountain just as the sun was setting. It was a magnificent ending to a fantastic day.