If you had a boat weighing in at 4.5 tonnes built in Accra and needed to get it to the confluence of the Black and White Voltas for an expedition, the riverine port at Buipe is where you’d have to get your boat to. The logistical conundrums of moving a solar-powered boat up from Tema to the Savannah Region is a feat that requires a lot of motivation, and if that motivation was not-for-profit, then it needed to be environmental. After all, who else can do crazier stuff than environmentalists, expeditionists and adventurers? Who else would be that concerned about the health of this country’s riverine systems to haul a boat called The Woman Who Does Not Fear across 5 of Ghana’s 16 Regions and have a trailer back its load right into the Black Volta and roll the boat off its back with makeshift rollers and hollers?

Yvette swims the Black Volta with the boat and a crew kayaker for back-up

About a half-year before this early March day in Buipe, I received a call from a customer. She wanted to know if I was open to the idea to guiding and supporting a friend of hers that wanted to swim all of River Volta. And I mean, jump into the point where the White Volta met inseparably with the Black Volta, and swim the entire 450km until the point at the Maranatha Beach resort where the Volta gave up its identity to merge with the Gulf of Guinea at Ada.

I agreed to the meeting. If a person really wanted to do this, I needed to meet them and do a mental assessment.

You see, as a person who has since 1999 been exploring every nook and cranny of this country’s natural environment on expeditions and adventures, I was in the unique position to assess and differentiate between what is a great adventure idea, and what is a mad personal ambition that would get everyone killed. As it stands, all my friends think I am crazy. What was the point, outside of my mad cow disease, to prove them right?

So I met Yvette Tetteh and concluded that she was probably the sanest woman I had ever met, barring the usual, few loose screws, and was surprised that she actually meant to swim the entire darn River.

“I haven’t explored all of the River in a long while,” I informed her. “If I’m going to do this, we need to do a full risk assessment. We need to get a boat to move that length from Buipe to Akosombo especially, and when I’m persuaded that things are exactly what I remember them to be, then I might help you pull this off.”

With the full support of the Or Foundation, the Swimmer, myself and an assistant from BraveHearts Expeditions teamed up with scientists and two photographers and set off on a 2-week assessment of the Buipe-Akosombo stretch. I later supported an intern to do the Akuse-Ada stretch. Once I was persuaded that we were definitely going to die before the expedition ended, I indicated a readiness to help write history.

The Woman Who Does Not Fear, showing her flags and solar panels at the Buipe port just before the swim.

And here we were, hollering at a lowbed driver to drive his truck all the way into the Black Volta at the Buipe Port so we could roll our boat into the River. The boat had on a stand-by LPG generator to charge our solar batteries if we didn’t get much juice from the panels, but to date, the boat has refused to use fossil fuels. I have captained many boats and expeditions, but this is the one maritime expedition that I am proud to say I am most proud of. There isn’t a teaspoon of hydrocarbons on board, and all the boat’s energy comes from the renewable source of the sun. So many possibilities for water transportation in Ghana as a result of this sub-regional solar achievement, but that is a discussion for another day.

We didn’t have to wait to get to the confluence of the Black and White Voltas to swim, though. The swimming started right at the Buipe port, and we have been navigating South-East since then. It took us some 3 days and 15km swims a day to get to the confluence’s rough and unpredictable waves and current, but we are soldiering on on this journey to write history by swimming all of River Volta.

Do wish us well. I assure you, we need it.

And you can follow our journey real time on the Living Water Swim website.


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