The expressway between Kaduna and Zaria is under reconstruction and there are a couple of diversions that sometimes slow down the traffic into a snarl-up in both directions around Birnin Yero. Today, the last Saturday before Eid al-Fitr, there have been reports of a terrible grid-lock. Motorists have been held up for hours.
Just before Marabar Jos, the driver calls a colleague who warns him not to make the mistake of proceeding along the expressway to Zaria. What is the alternative? He will have to take the Amana route. Where the heck is that? The driver takes the ramp towards Kaduna-Jos road. The ramp has been narrowed by trailers parked on both sides. Many other motorists are also passing through the town of Marabar Jos, more properly called Katabu. It is a market day. It takes a while to get out of the roadside town. The driver tells me that the pickpockets here are very clever. And that they include boys and girls, men and women.
Right after the town is Fifth Chukker Polo and Country Club where I once came with the family for horse-riding. A nice place but could be better. Great tourism potential. Not a bad get-away for a weekend.
The ancient-looking road is pothole-ridden and seems abandoned. How do people get to Jos from Kaduna?
At Amana-Kasuwa we turn to a less well-trodden and less potholed road. Roadside communities comprising almost entirely of mud houses. As it has been for centuries. A well-fed tethered hornless bull stands in its green dung and dark brown glistening earth at the entrance of a house. It receives lavish attention from its proud owner. Ah, the simplicity, the filth.
It looks like some forsaken road leading nowhere. Aren’t there bandits or kidnappers lurking around? No kidnappers, I’m assured by the driver.
Then we get to a fork in the road. An experienced civil servant who has worked in many places in Kaduna resumes his occasional commentary and informs us that the road to the right leads towards Soba. We continue straight on the road.
As we pass by a village, I see where a sign painted on a gateway which says ‘Turunku’. Which Turunku? The historical Turunku of Zazzau? Of course, I have always faintly known that a Turunku lies hereabout but…
Almost without warning we come up against a most impressive promontory of igneous rock with a thousand boulders strewn all over it, with trees, shrubs and weeds growing in the soil between the pieces of rock. Gorgeous, scenic, like the backdrop to an epic Hollywood movie. The driver slows down a bit. A sign says ‘Bakwa Turunku’. Can’t read the rest of the stuff. I want to take pictures but my camera, I mean my phone, is in ‘ultra-power saving’ mode, having left Abuja since early morning. What a shame. I must come back to this place. I must bring the kids to see the place. The civil servant comments that this is the origin of Masarautar Zazzau – a term that applies seamlessly in Hausa to the ancient Kingdom of Zazzau as well as the current Zazzau Emirate. Students and other people come here for excursions, continues the voice-over from the back seat. It contains the tomb of Bakwa, the father of the legendary Queen Amina. Her own throne of stone also lies in the vicinity.
Unceremoniously, we proceed beyond the untended piece of national heritage.
I am told a road from somewhere here, ‘built by Balarabe Musa’ leads up to Kofar Gayan in Zaria. But I’m assured its barely motorable now.
Rocks are in abundance in this area. On the right side of the road is a rock-blasting site.
The road gets worse.
After a few kilometres, we connect to the dual carriageway around Farakwai to continue on our way to Zaria.