IYAKE LAKE: ONE OF THE TWO SUSPENDED LAKES IN THE WORLD

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Iyake lake in Ado Awaye, Oke-Ogun region of Oyo State is one of the two recognized suspended lakes in the world. A suspended lake is described as a lake found on top of a mountain. Iyake lake is the only recognized suspended/hanging lake in Africa – one of the only two in the world after the Hanging Lake in Colorado, United States of America.

Many won’t believe we have such a rare and astonishing tourist site in Nigeria, least of all Oyo state. An hanging lake is an almost impossible site which is why we only have two of such in the whole wide world. It is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Nigeria. According to my tour guide, the lake is bottomless and have swallowed those who have dared to measure its depth. It was said that a group of white men visited the lake once and one of them was curious enough to plunge into the lake in search for its depth. The doubting Thomas never came back and neither was his body discovered till date.

About seven feet from Iyake lake is another restricted mysterious site called: “Agbe omo fun Iyake / Agbomofunyake” (collect child and give to Iyake). A very shallow pit usually filled to the brim with water. It is believed that whenever the lake is filled with water, whoever touches or puts his/her leg on the surface of the Agbomofunyake gets drag to the bottom never to reappear again. My tour guide, Wasiu Owoiya emphasised that there is another world that exists beneath the Iyake lake; a place which he called: “Ile-nla”. The aborigines of Ado-Awaye believe that beneath the lake exists another world that looks like the earth, and whoever transits into that world by diving into the lake will never be able to return to our own world again.

According to Atabo, another adventurer who visited Ado-Awaye to learn about its history, the town was formed in 1500 AD. The Alaafin of Oyo’s crown prince, Koyi, who was supposed to become the Alaafin was denied and his younger brother, Onigbogi, took over. In anger, he left Oyo with one of his father’s crowns and decided to go and settle in Otta, his mother’s town. However, he went through plain grounds until he got foot of the Ado Hill, where he saw a smoke. He climbed the mountain and there, he met some escapees from the Dahomey war. Having agreed and discussed with them, they decided to make him King of Ado. Iyake Lake was discovered around this 1500 AD by the Dahomey refugees who are now head of the kingmakers for Alado of Ado Awaye chieftaincy. One of the myths surrounding Iyake lake is that Iyake Lake was a barren woman who turned into water.

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Hiking up to the peak of Ado-Awaye mountain is no easy task. The climb begins with about 363 steps built into the rock to assist tourists. After the 363 crudely built steps, the journey continues through bush paths and steep rocks.

I really enjoyed this hike because there was a good mix of geographical features, a very soothing presence of natural and cultural significance on the mountain.

Asides Iyake lake, lots of other intriguing tourist sites are on the Ado-Awaye mountain peak that make Ado-Awaye a fascinating destination and significant cultural heritage:

  • Ishage Rock (Oke Ishage)
  • A gbe omo fun Iyake / Agbomofunyake” (collect child and give to Iyake)
  • Elephant Tree
  • Iya Alaro lake (Odo Iya Alaro)
  • Ancient Palace
  • Ese Awon Agba (Footprints of the elders)
  • Ese kan Aye, Ese kan Orun (A wide and deep chasm on the mountain)

ISHAGE ROCK (OKE ISHAGE)

Climbing through the first 363 steps to the peak of Ado Mountain (Oke Ado), Ishage rock is the first spectacular tourist site to see. a large elongated boulder of rock, balanced and standing upright on one of its small edges. The fact that this boulder has not fallen off the steep mountain side on which it rests remains a mystery to the Ado-Awaye people and tourists visiting the mountain.

Oke Ishage (Ishage Rock)

Ishage Rock is believed to be the bringer of rain for the Ado-Awaye people. Whenever it doesn’t rain and rain is needed, the chief priest goes to the rock, covers the “waist” of the rock with a white cloth, then rain falls for 3-4 days straight. People go to the mountain to worship the Ishage Deity and as a form of appreciation for answered requests, they buy the Deity white cloth.
“The Deity usually request for clothe occasionally, whenever the white cloth used in covering the Ishage rock falls off the rock, it’s requesting for a new cloth doesn’t want the cloth given to him again. At that moment, another new white cloth must be given to the deity” Wasiu said.
A pile of used clothes could be seen few steps from Ishage rock.

AGBOMOFUNYAKE (COLLECT CHILD AND GIVE IYAKE)

About seven feet from Iyake lake is another restricted mysterious site called: “A gbe omo fun Iyake / Agbomofunyake” (collect child and give to Iyake). A very shallow pit usually filled to the brim with water. It is believed that whenever the lake is filled with water, whoever touches or puts his/her leg on the surface of the Agbomofunyake gets drag to the bottom never to reappear again. My tour guide, Wasiu Owoiya emphasised that there is another world that exists beneath the Iyake lake which he called “Ile-nla”. The aborigines of Ado-Awaye believe that beneath the lake exists another world that looks like the earth, and whoever transits into that world by diving into the lake will never be able to return to our own world again.

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A gbe omo fun Iyake / Agbomofunyake” (collect child and give to Iyake)
A gbe omo fun Iyake / Agbomofunyake” (collect child and give to Iyake)

ELEPHANT TREE

Also on the Ado Awaye Mountain, there’s another almost impossible site know as Elephant tree. This is composed of the tangled trunk or root of a fallen tree which dramatically takes the form of the head and trunk of an elephant at first glance. The eyes of the elephant are also well represented on the formation. Another interesting feature on the tree is a small “tree-formed hand” resting on the tree, with the five fingers indisputably humanlike. Hikers on the mountain are often tempted to climb the formation and sit on the ‘elephant’s head’ while posing for photos, which is exactly what I did!

The Elephant Tree
Climbing the Elephant Tree
On the Elephant Tree

IYA ALARO LAKE (ODO IYA ALARO)

The lake was named after an old woman in the Ado-Awaye village, who specializes in dying of clothes. Iya Alaro was popular and influential in her days, it is said that the old woman, known as “Iya Alaro”, worships the lakes and sacrifices to it at specific times during the year. The woman used to get some materials from the surface of the colourful lake which she used to apply in making her dye. The lake is characterized by a gloomy depth which underscores its association with Iya Alaro and its surface and surrounding is bedecked with a lush overgrowth of colourful vegetation.

Iya Alaro Lake (Odo Iya Alaro)

ESE AWON AGBA (FOOTPRINTS OF THE ELDERS)

Esè àwon Àgbà translates to “the footprint of the elders”. It is a cluster of large “footprints” found all over the mountain. It is believed that the gods once walked over the mountain to protect the locals during the time the locals stayed up the mountain.

Ese Awon Agba (Footprints of the elders)
Ese Awon Agba (Footprints of the elders)
Ese Awon Agba (Footprints of the elders)

ESE KAN AYE, ESE KAN ORUN

This is a wide and deep chasm on the mountain which separates one part of the mountain from the other part which hosts the peak of the mountain. Only brave mountain climbers dare cross this valley as the rock slopes steeply along the valley walls. Only a narrow, very steep and slippery path across the valley, links the two parts of the mountain.

A view of Ado-Awaye from Ado Hill

The ancestors of the Ado people believe that the lake is so powerful that whatever prayer is made with its water will yield supernatural results. It is also said that there are sixteen (16) deities on the Oke-Ado Mountain. These deities are embodied in specific natural landmarks on the mountain. Each of these landmarks constitute tourist attractions on the mountain, lined up along the path which leads up the mountain. While the Ado people lived on the mountain, they worshiped the mountain and revered the various unique natural formations they found on the mountain. It was said that barren women among the people at the time were able to give birth due to their devotion to the worship of the mountain. The tranquil Iyake Lake is one of the most revered attractions on the mountain.

Just like some other sites on Ado Mountain (Oke Ado), natives of Ado-Awaye believe Iyake Lake is a deity, the main god of fertility of the Mountain. Once a year, inhabitants of Ado-Awaye climb the Ado mountain (Oke Ado) to worship the Iyake deity with a cow. According to my tour guide, Wasiu Owoiya: “lots of people also visit the Iyake lake not for tourism or to appreciate nature but just for miracles, they stand beside the lake and pray.” He continues by saying, “some travel from far away places just to fetch the water from the lake and use it on diseased and ailing family or friends.”

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Written by Johnson Okunade

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