The Akosombo Dam and hydro electric power station are situated both North and East of Ghana's capital Accra; a journey of about two and a half hours. It's located in the Eastern Region, along with such towns as Aburi and Ho; a name that makes me giggle every time. Construction began on the dam in 1961 and was finally completed in 1966; one month before the overthrow of the First Ghanaian President.
There is another dam nearby, in a nearby town called Kpong but without the size and electricity of Akosombo, it will never get the same amount of press.
The rendezvous was a 20000cedi/20 minutes taxiride from Kpong where the tro-tro (which is to say a large van used to hurl 26 passengers around) had gone some other place. Being in an isolated town like Kpong makes haggling with a taxi driver a difficult task; deadlines reek of desperation. The meeting time was 9am sharp and the pickup occurred minutes after the taxi arrived. A strange thing, as punctuality is not the norm here.
The day was planned so that we'd be met by a guy who'd drive us to his house for breakfast and some awkward silences before driving to the dam site.
There is a ferry that operates, possibly privately, possibly even daily, which is called the Dodi Princess which floats north along the Volta lake/river about 30 kilometers to a place known as Dodi island.The boat docks at this place for about 45 minutes, which is long enough to be taken by the hand of some local child and shown around the island long enough for the child to remember to ask for alms.
Once the ferry has been boarded at the dam site, the band starts and pauses only for the Dodi Island stop. That's the only break for 6 hours, making it truly the Party Boat. Shove off time is 10.30am, and at about 3km into the journey, the band leader announces details and the duration of the trip.
The weather was way too hot to be drinking Guiness. Beer was 5000cedis a throw. This means the price in Australian dollars / shells is around $1. And there was enough in cash to keep us in beers the whole day. Fruit/orange juice is an expensive commodity on the boat; if not in all Ghana. 6000cedis for a bottle of Rooibos Lemon Ice Tea was the only juice they'd sell me. The taste can only be described as "foul". Even without the vodka, which caused the whole shebang to blow out to 11,000 cedis, and was certainly an effort to plough through.
Akosombo Dam, some say, is the largest man-made lake in the world. And there's little reason to argue. The horizon disappears into grey; humidity is a very visual thing. The water reflects the grey sky surrounding the boat only in grey and giving an eerie feeling of drifting off into oblivion dancing to reggae.
The pickup met us upon disembarkment to point out interesting things about the hydro-electric station. The kind of behind the scenes glimpse you get when the pickup works in such a place. This diversion did happen to prevent us riding home cost free all the way to Accra with some limeys who just happened to be staying 10 minutes from the Weasel Quarters.
The dam itself has a height difference of 200 yards higher than downstream at it's lowest capacity and 290 at it's highest. The water is drained through gates which lead to 6 pipes. Each pipe has a rotor which turns a turbine which performs some kind of juju in the transformer, thus yielding electricity. All power lines lead to Akosombo; Togo's border near enough to suck energy when required. Only 3 of the 6 pipes were functioning though. 2 were being maintained, and the the other was busted or upgrading or not needed. I'm not too sure.
Inside the power station, the shaft attached to the rotor does not spin anywhere near as fast as expected. And the whole building is a mass of pipes and wires, but i couldn't get any impressive figures out of the guide in regards to litres a year or how many lightbulbs. He'd been mystified by a line of questions about filters to prevent "miscellaneous debris".
"you know...like logs...or trash...or ducks.."
Hearing this, he pointed out the mesh covering that was visible just above the waterline at the gate that stops ducks getting sucked down and turned into electricity.
"But the small fish that can get through...they are just destroyed?"
"Yes" he answered. "Now that you're outside, you can take all the phtotos you wish".
Published on Thursday, 27 February 2003
By Jimmy Weasel
Making meals for the world to enjoy.