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[Nigeria]Nigerian glossary

New Year in Opobo and back to Abuja

Written by kevin

After one last day of relaxing in Limbe Pete, Mary, Charles, Kay, Indar and I headed back to Nigeria. This time we took a speedboat instead of the ferry (the ferry didn’t sail on the right day), spending several hours hanging around the harbour waiting for the speedboat guys to bring their price down to something we could afford. We set off at about 1pm and had a mostly smooth ride, it was surprising how busy it was out at sea, even out of view of the coast. There were lots of tiny fishing boats and the occasional oil platform dotted around.

Three and a half hours later we arrived at Ibaka, a port on the opposite side of the river from Calabar. Pete dealt with immigration while the rest of us chartered a car for Ikot Abasi and stood around being stared at by the locals. By the time we got to Utaiwo, where the boats for Opobo leave from, it was dark but we managed to meet up with the group coming from Lagos anyway (Kim, Tammie, Tanya, Kate, Aine and Simon).

Due to our late arrival we had missed the boat regatta, so we sorted out who was staying where (girls at Pete & Mary’s, boys at Charles’s) and dropped off our stuff before going to Lady B’s restaurant for dinner. We moved to another bar for midnight, we had a chorus of “Auld Lang Syne”. The locals didn’t seem to notice midnight, they had been setting off firecrackers and guns all night anyway.

We had heard that nothing much would happen on the first, because it was a Sunday. Instead we went to greet Mr Bell-Gam and then Henry the boatman took us across the river to Ekereborokiri (I’d been before). This time the tide was out so we had to wade through the river mud to get to the village, where we were greeted once more by Steven Jaja.
Crowd of children posing for the camera A boatload of people climb out into deep mud A small group of people meet a local man dressed in s shining white outfit

We had a pleasant walk through the forest and then took hand-pulled canoes back across the river to Opobo Town. After a relaxing afternoon we spent the evening at Kate’s bar and bought suya from the street vendors who had come specially for New Year.

The second of January was the big day for festivities, we could hear the masquerade groups getting ready early in the morning. Getting ready involved dressing up and then drumming, singing, dancing and drinking brandy practicising for the main event later. As we wandered around town we met a few of the masquerade groups, some wanted donations but most just seemed to want to coat us in pink paint. We made our way to the King’s compound, where most of the activity would be happening and were told to come back at 3pm to be introduced to the King.

We had lunch and beers at Lady B’s then made our way back to the compund for our introduction to His Majesty Dandeson Douglas Jaja, King of Opobo. He didn’t keep us waiting for long and briefly explained how they are keen to make Opobo a tourist destination. After that we took our seats down in the compound. The various masquerade groups came into the compound and danced around, some of them getting a bit rowdy and causing problems for the security staff (including Henry).
Group sitting in plastic chairs under an awning Group in pink outfits dancing Chaotic crowd with Henry trying to keep people in order Group of dancers in blue and yellow entering through a gateway Boy wearing comedy glasses (with a big pink plastic nose) in a masquerade group Bare-torsoed group dancing, one with an effigy on his head Two members of a masquerade group carrying an effigy, one looking directly into the camera Member of bare-torsoed group beating a gong Group of dancers, some clutching bottles and cans

As part of the masquerade the “spirit of Opobo” appeared, dancing and running around scaring people and struggling with its “keeper”. Later the spirit danced on the roof of one of the compound houses.
Grass-skirted man in costume with wooden head perched on top of his own, tied to another man Spirit of Opobo in distance on the roof of a building

After the festivities we were invited back up to the King’s palace and given drinks and food before a final audience with him.

The next morning Kate, Simon, Indar, Aine and I started on our trip back to Abuja, taking the boat to Kono waterside, a car to Port Harcourt, staying overnight at the Luna hotel and then the ABC coach.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 4th, 2006 at 18:30 and is filed under friends, travel, VSO.

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