I was long due for a holiday.
But while Europe and America seemed to lure my attention, ‘Motherland Beckons,’ an initiative founded by Otunba Wanle Akinboboye ‘the builder’ came to mind.
Being a true African, it dawned on me that, when Motherland beckons, I am somewhat compelled, to Heed the Call.
So, I heeded Motherland Beckons call for a weekend holiday in Ondo. My chosen holiday spot being La Campagne Tropicana Forest, Hills And Caves Resort.
I was determined to locate it. As I was in need of a holiday with a difference, a holiday different from the ordinary. A holiday with an expedition.
I packed my bag and hurried out of Lagos.
Excitement overwhelmed me as the vehicle passed through Ondo City gate, welcoming me to Ondo State, the land of enormous Cocoa production, the land of mountains, forests, hills and caves.
Behold, immediately after the city gate, an imposing mountain welcomed me to Ondo, lifting my spirit and confirming that I was where I wanted to be.
Arrival at La Campagne Tropicana Forest, Hills And Caves Resort, Ondo, started at Ekaabo, the rotunda reception with its African themed environment. E kaabo meaning welcome.
Here, I confirmed my weekend holiday booking and was schooled in the art and style of greeting in the African way. Thereafter, I was attached tour guides whose duty would be to show me around the vast La Campagne Tropicana Forest, Hills And Caves Resort, all of 1950 acres of land which stretched all the way from Ita Nla, Ondo City, to Ile Oluji.
The resort itself located 2 miles drive away from the Palace of the Osemawe of Ondo Kingdom, the paramount Yoruba King of the Southwestern state.
Was I ready for the tour, or needed rest for some hours? Of course I was all ready for the tour, as excitement overwhelmed me.
First point of call was Eebio Restaurant, the food place under huge rocks, strategically located immediately after the entrance to the resort. Eebio meaning hunger.
My tour guide tells me that it is expected that guests are likely to be hungry when they arrive the resort, so Eebio Restaurant meets their needs with a variety of African cuisines before going further into the resort with a filled stomach. The much needed energy to climb up the mountainous hills winding upwards through caves, amidst the forest.
This particular afternoon, Eebio, the Cave restaurant had a sizeable number of guests enjoying its African delicacies joyfully, in an African village setting right under and beside rocks whose history dates back hundreds of years.
“No one seems to know the age of these rocks,” said my tour guide, but just like the rest of the entire resort, history has it that these entire forest along with the adjoining hills and caves was once inhabited thousands of years ago by Spiritual Giants.
“In more recent years, the indigenes noticed some spiritual connotations and blessings they received each time they were at the forest, hills and caves. As the testimonies spread across the State, the now developed tourism site, attracted regular visitations. The site was thus named Mount Olivet so its not surprising that today, churches have sprang up in close proximity to La Campagne Tropicana Forest, Hills And Caves Resort in order to tap from the Spiritual benefits of the Forest, Hills And Caves,” said the tour guide.
But enough of ancient folklores and stories. I just wanted to enjoy the lovely view of the swimming pool below me as we have climbed the first set of steps up the hills and I was enthralled by the view beneath me. The beautifully laid restaurant by the swimming pool, which is shaped like the map of Africa, ideal for pool parties with its lovely ambience along with the view of the city below us.
But that was just the beginning as the tour guide told me that we have just done the first 20 steps up the Forest, Hills And Caves. That we had about 80 more steps to go.
My tour guide tells me the secret of climbing the hills, at this luxury resort. “Going up is through steps, carved out for climbing ease. At La Campagne Tropicana Forest, Hills And Caves Resort, there are 100 steps that takes one to the peak of the mountain. Guests are encouraged to climb according to their age and health status.
But where are the homes, the chalets, the rooms where I will be staying and sleeping? The tour guide gave me a rich smile of assurance. “Except for the Ileriota chalet, the luxury 3 bedroom chalet built right on a rock, which is on the bend of the only road that leads into the resort, other homes are located around the hills and caves. And only accessible when you climb! The more you climb, the more homes you see, the more fun and the better the view of the city.
There are also tents built all around La Campagne Tropicana Forest Hills And Caves Resort, strategically located, to give guests a bird’s eye view of the city at different sides of the mountainous forest, hills and caves.
At every 20 steps up the hill, is a rest place and a celebration! And each resting place is fitted all over, with its unique features and laced with different kinds of luxury.
Isimi the resting place, is saturated with different games, such as lawn tennis court, table tennis, snooker bar, hockey games spot, the first suspended mountain top volley ball, basketball courts and all other kinds of games.
Available here are also smaller chalets for daily guests.
We climbed further the next set of 20 stairs where we arrived at another resting spot and yet another entertainment area, known as, Prof. Ola Rotimi stage.
A huge stage up on a hill for musical bands, theatre performances and so on with a sitting area to host about 1000 persons.
My tour guide tells me that this space usually hosts the famous Destination Ondo Asun festival and other such huge events of which royals and other dignitaries across the globe attends.
Here also is the Ulota, the 3 bedroom en-suite luxury chalet that sits on a hill with the view of the entire city at your feet. Fully fitted with air-conditioners which guests don’t really need because of the cool atmosphere of the hill.
Also a VVIP luxury home for guests who needs exclusivity when they holiday at La Campagne Tropicana Forest, Hills And Caves Resort with private swimming pool ensuite.
The trees were swaying in frenzy, as if in a welcome dance for me, at the same time dropping some of their riped fruits on the forest ground. Berries, mangoes, fresh fruits which we picked to eat later.
We went further up the hill, another 20 steps, as I had really not made up my mind which parts of the hill I wanted to lay my head for the night and the rest of the weekend.
The steps took a twisted turn as we ascended the hill to the third resting place. We ventured forth into a realm of distinctive allure, a place that beckoned with its individuality. This particular locale boasted a drinking establishment, ensconced in a setting that exuded an unmistakable charm. It awakened my memory, of the traditional watering holes of our village roots but with a luxurious twist. While tradition was reverently upheld, this bar was a sumptuous affair, adorned with exquisitely patterned calabashes brimming with freshly tapped palmwine. The very essence of freshly tapped palmwine wafted through the air, and I knew that my stay at this oasis would be protracted, dedicated to relishing my favored libation.
While I savored my palmwine, served elegantly in a calabash cup, the rest of the tour train continued its expedition. A pang of concern tickled my thoughts, for I fretted about missing out on the tour’s unfolding wonders. Yet, my apprehension found solace in the knowledge that I could seamlessly join the next group trailing behind, ensuring I’d miss none of the spectacle. As I polished off my chilled, fresh palmwine, the next group arrived, and I effortlessly merged into their company, ready to forge ahead. Some chose to linger, ensnared by the magnetic allure of the bar and its captivating ambiance.
Our expedition resumed, and my anticipation soared, eager to unveil the unique facets that each resting area concealed. From the games that enlivened the first enclave to the entertainment that enthralled the second, and now, the traditional drinks bar in the third, each stop delivered a distinct charm.
As we continued our journey, I discerned that we had ascended a considerable distance up the mountain. Yet, it felt as though I had not embarked on an arduous climb, for the temperate climate, frequent respites, rejuvenating refreshments, and ongoing entertainment eased the strain. My attention had been so ensnared by the enchanting presence of the mountain bar that I had failed to notice the next wondrous sight on our itinerary – a spa.
At this juncture, I stood in awe of the resort’s boundless marvels. A spa nestled on this lofty peak? I yearned to linger longer, but the spa had already reached full capacity. Pressing on towards the top, we encountered other luxurious chalets with names like Amosan, Laba, and Kodi.
My tour guide informed me that these chalets were faithful replicas of those found in other La Campagne Tropicana sites, such as Ikegun in Lagos and Korton Kafi. These abodes surpassed all expectations, offering panoramic vistas of the entire city. I realized that I had found my sanctuary on the mountain, a stone’s throw from both the spa and the bar. Here, my tour guide pointed to the chalet where I would be staying for the weekend, and my heart glowed in full excitement. The view was enthralling. Indeed, the world at my feet!
After settling into the luxury of the chalet, I challenged myself to continue on the journey to the peak of La Campagne Tropicana Forest, Hills and Caves Resort, before retiring to an early dinner.
The trail leading to the pinnacle brimmed with diversions and features that transformed each step into a joyous adventure. From testing one’s aim at the basket to engaging in catapulting contests and marveling at tree and stone artistry, every moment was a celebration of creativity.
“And we have an exclusive VVIP chalets here, reserved for Presidents of different countries and world leaders,” my tour guide confided in me.
Finally, we ascended to the mountain’s zenith, where inviting sitting areas awaited, providing respite. Ice-cold refreshments and delectable snacks like freshly roasted corn, yam, plantain, coconuts, and cocoa pods beckoned, all while we savored the breathtaking panorama of the sprawling cityscape below.
Suddenly, I felt lonely. My thoughts went on a riot. I realized that this wonder, this journey, this beauty, this adventure and expedition shouldn’t be savoured all alone by me! I should have come here with my loved one.
So I put a call to her, shared the joy of my trip with her and promised her that next time I will be at La Campagne Tropicana Forest Hills And Caves Resort, she will be in my arms at the top of the mountain. And her excitement on the phone, gave me a thrilling joy.
– With additional information by Fidel Echelide