Background My name is Olubusuyi Asaolu, I am from Igbole Ekiti, I grew up in Ado. I attended Christ School, Ado Ekiti. I am a project manager, with a bias for Structural Engineering, but I developed a lot of IT work until I got into consulting management and consulting mega projects. I have done a lot of a couple of megaprojects across the world: I’ve led one of the biggest projects in South Africa, transformation project. I hiked as a hobby, while I am an adventurer. I do crazy things!
Why hiking? I had been a long-distance athlete while I was in school at the Federal Polytechnic, Ado Ekiti. I know I have a natural ability to endure things for a long time, and endurance according to my understanding, is not physical ability, but a mental ability to continue to do a stressful thing over and over again. So, I understand it could be, not because I am stronger than other people, but because I’ve made up my mind that if you do five sets of lifting or go around the field five times, I would try and do it six times. It’s not because I have super strength!
So, hiking came into my mind when I started thinking about how does one really push to the limit. This led me to read about altitude. What really ignited my interest in hiking was a strange world. I went to Cape Town in South Africa, Table Mountain. I actually went on, not very high then, the cloud was low in Cape Town and then I had a feeling of the cloud; I felt so good walking through the cloud and from then I really want to walk up and pass through the cloud, so, everywhere I travelled to I look for the highest point in that country and I always desire to torch the cloud.
Is there anything special in the cloud? Just a feeling, its an addiction just the cloud breezing on you, the cold, the feelings, the shivering, and everything. I just love it anytime I see cloud I always feel I should just walk up and walk through the cloud.
So anybody can decide to pick interest in hiking? Yeah, anybody with determination can do it. Doing any endurance things is 80 per cent mental and 20 per cent physical. It is just your ability to continue to push over and over again beyond what you think you can achieve, you could die, but just for your mental strength to say I am going to try again. For me, I have done crazy things: I have swamped the Congo river; I have crossed the Tijuana border, which is considered the most dangerous border in the world, to go and see why is it the most dangerous place, hence I woke up one day, boarded a train to Samarium, saw all those drug addict and drug pushes, I had bathroom slippers and I slept two days there, then I returned to the US and picked my bag and came back to South Africa.
What propelled your interest in doing crazy things? The need to confirm claims about things. For instance, when they say a place is the most dangerous place I would want to go and confirm.
Kilimanjaro. The experience of Olubusuyi Asaolu This issue of pushing your body to the limit propelled me and enhanced my determination. I have read about Kilimanjaro and I leant that a lot of people have climbed it, so, I asked myself what can I do differently on Kilimanjaro. Then, I said to myself, I would count my steps all the way, and that time nobody had ever counted how many steps it takes to get to the peak. There are different routes to the mountain. I decided to climb it at a very difficult time, at the peak of the raining season, when the ice cap was visible. It was a six-day package, by the middle of the second day we’ve already walked through the cloud, the base camp, which was about 4800 meters high above sea level, getting up to the base camp needs a lot of o concentration, demanding on the body because you are walking continuously. You wake up in the morning and you continue to walk with your luggage. Though one trains with all those things, one cannot know how one’s body would react to the high altitude, where there is no oxygen, during the training. You can train with heavy loads on you, with your hiking boots and gear, even in rugged places any time of the day, in the rain and others, pushing your body to the limit, but you would not be able to simulate high altitude. That is the only concern. Getting to the base camp is already a high place, nothing really survives, so as you go up there are camps where you get to and people do shift, the management of the camp allows you to stay for some hours but at people don’t stay at the base camp because it is dangerous, very very deserted place, a lot of people don’t get there, it was the most lonely camp along the route then. The time you can spend there is also limited, maximum of 10 minutes because the place is full of hazard. So, all the training and preparations are for the moment whether you will get to the top or not because when you start the hike at 10pm you have to continue to hike to the following morning. You cant sleep on that ice.
Why climbing Kilimanjaro is one of the dangerous things you can do is because of the ice cap. Mount Everest is gradual when you are climbing, Kilimanjaro is stip, so you are hiking a high altitude in a rapid manner and you have to give your body to adapt to it because there is no oxygen. This makes it very difficult for your body, you take one step at a time, while there are times whee you actually take one step per seconds because you want to give your body the time and you do that for hours in the dark. It is when you are hiking during the days that you see people, talking to people, appreciating the scenario, seeing beautiful nature, but while hiking at time, all you see is the ice and you walk through continuously in the dark, while you have to battle with whatever way your body reacts to the altitude. It’s gonna be extremely cold it’s – 23 in a day! It is windy but those things are actually small compared to the uneasiness that lack of oxygen brings to you because you are really struggling with life. At a point, you may ask yourself why am I doing this? You feel like escaping from your body, at that time. The guides, who are already trained in the first aid, determine whether you can continue. They check your body system, your tongue, eyes and other parts, and if you decided not to go forward, you can return.
There is a place called Stella Point. If you get to the point you get a bronze certificate. Most people returned at that point. Stella Point to Uhuru is like a two and a half hour journey. You are already on the surface of Kilimanjaro, you can even see the peak. But people still stop there because you still get the certificate that you have done it. I didn’t understand why most people returned from there until when I got there. Because by that time you’ve been given everything you want and you conclude that you get your certificate and return but you can actually see the Uhuru peak right from that place and if you are determined you can still go and get to the Uhuru Peak, which is the highest, while the second highest is Mawenzi. It is a volcanic eruption, that part where you have to hike through all the night till the following morning but remember, you are not stopping there. You are still coming back to the base camp at about 11pm in the morning when you have continuously hiked on the ice for twelve hours.
Apart from Kilimanjaro, which other mountains have you hiked? I have done Magegenge, the highest mountain in Congo. It is not very high, it is just for me to feel another highest point in Congo. I have done the Cascades, in the border of the United State and Canada, which is also an icy place. Those are the significant ones that I have done. I have also hiked the Drakensberg in South Africa, which is claimed to be the longest mountain range in the world. I have done Olofin here in Ado, among many others.
With your experience and understanding about mountains over time, and do you think we have mountains in Nigeria or they are mere hills? We have mountains in Nigeria, many of which are volcanic eruptions. We also have rocks. But I haven’t seen a concentration of rock formation like we have in the whole of Ekiti anywhere else. We actually have a lot of rock formations around us.
Of what economic benefit do you think the formation will be for Ekiti State? Everywhere in the world, there is something that is unique and peculiar about communities. What matters is the packaging depending. What we have done is that we have identified them, but we have not packaged what we have properly. We need to have a way to sell what we have to the rest of the world. The motivation to participate in the first edition of Hike Ekiti Mountain was just because it’s my place, there was nothing anybody can say to convince anybody outside Ekiti to come and hike here. We need to define the mountains. To do this, we need to interrogate our history and investigate these rocks. We should investigate why we have these rocks. Could it be that we have the highest concentrations of mountains in this place in the whole world? If that is the story, people would want to come and see that, and that is our selling point. Or could it be that we have the oldest rock formation or volcanic eruption in the world? There must be something that would make it appealing to the rest of the world. People have rocks behind their houses why did that happen. There must be a reason for hiking Ekiti mountains here. I cannot just take my bag and want to hike Olofin? Why would I do that? What would I see?
Are you willing to partner with the government in that regard? Yes. I believe we need to get our stories right. I often use the example of the cradle of mankind in South Africa, when they come out to say, “humanity start from here”. Really, how do they come about that? Because they found a fossil; they built a story around that, and gave it a name. They claimed that the place exists before whatever they found before. The story alone sounds interesting, as a result, people go there to either experience it or disprove it. Before it became an international discussion, people had gone to interrogate it. If you make a claim on the international scene today about something, scientists will travel from all over the world to interrogate it. This interrogation will automatically draw attention to tourism. Though the scientists may note that our claims are not the first, by that time the claims is already on big international news that they make some claims in Ekiti State. The claim could be an indigenous plant or some kinds of animals that do not exist anywhere in the world live on the rock. We must discover something. Tourism is not an accidental thing, it is well-planned and calculated. You see the way they do it in Dubai: they planned it. It is not something that somebody just has an interest because of one claim like folklore. This won’t attract any visitor from anywhere. But if you come up with scientific data, which would come from geologist, multicultural, animal, plant scientists, people would come around. It should come from the terrain, which dictates the kind of plants and animals that can survive there. If our terrain is unique, most likely our terrain would have some unique creatures, which could be extinct. There could be just a few of them left in the whole world and we would say we are creating a preservation centre. Those are the things that sell. We can build a resort around a single feature that the world has tried to disclaim that we don’t have but we claim that it only exists in Ekiti State, Nigeria. This will attract people, they would want to see it. For instance, people travel to Kilimanjaro just to see the Glaze, which is just standing there. No matter what is happening, that things are just standing there. It has been there for hundreds of years. That is the main motivation for many people to hike the mountain. Therefore, we need to have our selling point and showcase it. This will encourage people to come. This starts right from the moment people want to challenge our claims. As we speak now, people are still travelling to that Cradle of Mankind in South Africa. They still challenge its Genuity.