Dare Soyebo: Our guest nomads’ hobbies include photography, reading, dancing and watching his favorite team, Manchester united, play. He recently discovered a love for travel and kicked it off on a very high note by exploring one of the Nigeria’s best kept secrets. Sometimes, its exciting being a tourist in your own country. Read all about his road trip with a group of friends to the majestic Kajuru Castle in Kaduna State. Instagram: @soyebo
When the words “group vacations” or “getaways” are used you would typically believe it involves a passport, air travel, jet lag and a selfie in front of a famous foreign landmark with the hash tag #BestVacationever. But when you and your friends, some of who turn out to be the best planners and team members ever, decide to have a weekend getaway in a remote area of North Central Nigeria you never know what to expect.
In order to prepare me for what to expect I was told to Google Kajuru Castle in Kaduna state. You can imagine my surprise when the first picture that popped up was a castle best described as right out of a Disney story or country side Germany. I had also met some people who had spent a weekend at the castle months ago and I couldn’t help catching a bit of their excitement with the way they gushed about the place. Not a chance they were being paid to do all this. What was it about this unbelievable fort in the middle of nowhere that had people going on and on about it? I was very eager to see it in person.
So plans were set in motion from August with a view for a maximum of 20/21 of us to spend the weekend of the 19th & 20th of September in Kajuru. As the day drew closer, my excitement levels became more difficult to contain as I tried to imagine what kind of weekend I was going to have seeing as I was going to be a first time vacationer. In the meantime, a WhatsApp group for those willing to embark on the trip had been created by our lovely head organizer- Laide Oniwan (boy did she really have things planned out). The group chat was to serve a multiple number of purposes; answering pressing questions such as means of travel, creating a sense of familiarity among the travelers who had not met before and to discuss various aspects of the trips such as feeding and entertainment. By the eve of the trip we met up for what we tagged a ‘pre- Kajuru’ drink up/countdown to Laide’s birthday and from the way we all seemed to get along that evening, I could sense there was a lot to look forward to.
The plan was to meet up for 7:00am at Laide’s house so we could all set out by 8:00am with the view of getting to Kajuru by 11:00am but things didn’t go as planned. Owing to a number of factors like late arrivals and the weather, we set out around past 9:00am in 2 hired 14 seater buses and one private sedan car. The competition on the road trip became about which bus was the ‘cool’ bus and each bus at different points in time had an advantage over the other. The group chat was buzzing with one-liners and memes while I lost count of the amount of selfies sent between buses. We were slowed down half way through the trip by a bit of car trouble with the private car but still made it to Kajuru around noon.
Approaching the castle, the first thing you notice at the gate is the interesting lever used to raise the bar blocking the entrance way, then there’s the drive (or is it walk way) up to the actual castle doors. I have never seen a path so steep and the first bus which tried to make it up the path underestimated the required speed and had to slowly go back down. Our bus driver on the other hand seemed as if he drove up such steep paths for fun. To be honest, it felt like a rollercoaster ride. Once we were all gathered at the Castle doors we were welcomed by the manager; Mr. Ben who gave us a brief history about the castle and took us on a tour around the building. Mr Ben told us the castle was built by a German Architect between 1985-1989. He blasted the top of a rock and used the stones from the rock to build the castle. At this point I began to understand why this place was so special considering the breathtaking views we encountered on all sides; clear blues skies with scattered clouds, greenery you could have only dreamed of with rolling hills and rocks stretching as far as the eyes can see.
Kajuru castle is quite adequate for a group getaway and that’s about it. It is made up of five rooms (4 regular rooms made up of king size and twin beds with one master bedroom which I can proudly describe as stately), a living room and dining area, a kitchen which is fully serviced, a sauna, a swimming pool, a grill and detached porch. There is also a rooftop open area for gathering and partying if need be but most interesting for me was the hidden room behind the bookshelf in the living room, that for me was like a castle verification test (why call it a castle if there are no secret rooms?).
The activities we planned out consisted of card games and a funny pyjama party but by the time we had all settled in half the crew was already in the pool or in the kitchen while the grill got fired up (we had brought a large cooler of marinated fish & chicken). Later in the evening the Sauna was fired up and everyone had a go just before the themed pyjama party which lasted well into the night.
In the morning I woke up too late to catch the sunrise. You have to believe it when I say it again; all around the castle the view is totally breathtaking. After breakfast we went hiking up a massive rock that was adjacent the castle, talk about breathtaking once again, we got back soon after and chilled by the pool having drinks while we took a few more pictures. At noon, we started getting set to head back started begrudgingly but we had no choice as we began to pack up and the long faces came out. It was obvious most of us had quickly developed a deep attachment to Kajuru so leaving wasn’t particularly a welcomed idea but clearly we had to get back to the real world.
So here I am now, smiling at my screen as the memories keep on whizzing through my head and I keep on recalling more and more special moments I would have loved to share but have enough will to resist. If you have plans of visiting Kajuru, make sure you go with the right mix of people and make sure you seize the brief moments in between having fun to take in the view, maybe if you’re honest with yourself you’ll take a selfie with blues skies, rolling hills and greenery in the background, #BestVacationEver .
- The castle is three hours away from Abuja
- The castle accommodates a maximum of 12 people for night stays. However, day trips permits an unlimited number.
- No two groups of people can visit the castle at the same time.
- The castle is self catering so take your food along.
- Do not forget to take your hiking shoes if hiking is your thing.
- The place runs on generators and there will be sometimes the generators will be off (not at night though).
- Kajuru is located in the middle of nowhere so do not forget to take EVERYTHING you might need.
- Finally, MTN lied, they are certainly not “Everywhere you go”.
*Naija Nomads Note: Get excited Nomads! Naija Nomads in collaboration with another travel blog, Unravelling Nigeria, is planning a trip to the Kajuru Castle scheduled for 5th-6th December, 2015! Interested participants should kindly shoot us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org and details of the trip will be forwarded to you :).