We had planned to visit the strange river on Monday, April 26, 2021.
But Thomas Thomas, the ‘Mungo Park’ of the Green River and my tour guide, was hard to track down on D-day.
A struggling but brilliant journalist, he had choked up his itinerary to the brim on Monday, in his quest to make ends meet. But today, I was too determined to let him off the hook, until he escorted me to the unusual river that he first reported a week ago.
As we meandered through the serene, sandy slope that leads to the river at Ikot Akpa, Ibesikpo, the weather was gloomy and somber. It was clear that sooner or later the windows of heaven would open and showers from above would descend. I was equipped like a pilgrim with tools of an explorer. Temperature was 28 degrees centigrade. Humidity was 89 per cent. Wind gust was approximately 15 kilometers per hour.
But I was not quite prepared for what my eyes would soon encounter. As I savoured the serenity and utter quietude of the village focusing on the right side of the bush path, Thomas tapped suddenly on my shoulder. “Sir, see the green river there.”
What I saw transfixed me. My jaw dropped. I was motionless with horror, wonder and astonishment. Awe-struck, I covered my face with both palms so that the enigmatic river would not stare at me and I would not see it either.
“Park, park, park”, I told Abednego, my driver.
There was a mild confusion as the driver himself was visibly scared of what he saw. Like me, he had never seen a green river before. It took some moments for me to recover from the overwhelming amazement. My driver took a longer time to regain his composure. He refused to come down the slope with the ‘Mungo Park’ and I.
It took a bit of persuasion for him to drive the car down to the riverside. I doubt whether I would have dared to approach that river, if I were alone. It was simply too mystifying for my driver to comprehend. “Sir, I have never seen something like this before,” he said.
The green wonder was flowing peacefully from left to right, or was it from east to west, as far as my eyes could see.
Slowly and reverentially, we approached the river. In no time I had mustered sufficient confidence to pose by the river for photographs. Three villagers were at hand by the river, but some 100 meters away. Initially we ignored them and chose to trek in the opposite direction, I guess for two kilometers.
“Here we are! The sand is white. The river is green. And the wind feels like dew drops,” I said aloud with a poetic flair. At least, that’s what I thought.
We couldn’t get to the end of the river as the thicket of green shrubs and bamboo plants had formed a blockade. I wished aloud there were canoe boys to paddle us down the end of the river and back. Thomas concurred and said money is waiting to be made by the boys when visitors begin to frequent the river.
The only canoe seen had no paddler nor paddles. Maybe the three natives we sighted earlier would canoe us up and down the river, we reasoned. No, they said, when we caught up with them 15 minutes or so later. But they told us some stories about the green river of Ikot Akpa. “I was born to see the green river this way”, Edidiong Archibong, a native, said.
We wanted him to take us upstream, towards the source of the river. He turned down the request.
According to him the green river originates and oozes out from a rocky little hill, overgrown now by thickets of clumping and perennially evergreen bamboo plants. “These days nobody bothers to go there anymore,” another native added.
Archibong said the river is usually greener in dry sunny seasons than what we saw. Rainy season like now, he added, “has tampered” with the crystal green and adorable colour of the river, because rain water usually washed the soil down the hills into the river, as in the last three days.
I was curious to know what the colour of the water would be in a cup or bottle. Green or white? The natives said white. But Thomas, true to his name, was doubtful. He volunteered to go down the slope to fetch and see the water in a bottle himself. He was warned by natives to beware of the depth of the river. “It’s very deep. If you put this tall palm tree inside, the river will swallow it completely” another native said.
Gingerly, Thomas went down to the etch to fetch the water with a plastic bottle. “It is white,” he shouted, before he climbed back up to where we stood. For a while, we sat at the bamboo bench constructed by natives under a bamboo tree, to snack and take pictures.
So why is the river green in the eye and white in the bottle?
Another native said the river is green because it is mirroring the environment of green palm fronds. That is doubtful because nearly all the other rivers in Akwa Ibom are overshadowed and sandwiched by green trees and shrubs. The issue of algae was ruled out completely by these three natives.
What is not ruled out is the hand of God. For sure this site would now attract not just tourists and writers, but hydrologists from nearby universities and government officials from relevant agencies.
That means we have not heard the last yet about the Green River of Akwa Ibom.
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