So, where does Ghana’s energy come from anyway? And why are the lights always off…?

This past weekend, a few friends and I decided to go check out the dam where all of the electricity in Southern Ghana comes from.  We thought it’d be a good getaway and would be a cool opportunity to learn something new.  We decided to meet at the central station in Accra (Tudu Station) at 10am on Saturday to catch a trotro.  I was the first one there at around 10:15, and by 10:30 there were 4 of us: Maarten, Christo, Horia and myself.  Britt was nowhere to be seen, and we soon found out she was stuck in traffic for hours (she lives in a different part of town that’s quite far away) – so we decided to go on ahead and she would meet us there the next day. The journey only took us a couple hours, and by mid-day, we were by the water!

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We stayed at the Aylos Bay Lodge, and it was really reasonable.  We got the dorm room which had about 6 bunk beds, and were joined by another group of four young people who we ended hanging out with.  We ate lunch, swam around, napped on the deck, and read our books.  The boys decided to wear their life jackets like diapers so they could float around upright in the water… it actually worked surprisingly well, even though they looked totally ridiculous! We had dinner, chilled with drinks, and went to bed early… such a relaxing day!

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On Sunday morning we woke up to the most annoying rooster, I think we all wanted to chop him up and eat him for dinner after he decided to stare at the cabin and crow until we all got out of bed.  We showered up, ordered some breakfast (the boys may have ordered 2-3 meals each), and packed up our bags to leave in the storage room.  We changed and paid our bills, and walked up to the street to see if we could go see the dam.  We thought it might be difficult to get a vehicle to take all of us, but we were wrong.  As soon as we got to the road, a trotro going the opposite direction stopped, kicked out 2 passengers, and turned around to take us anywhere we wanted to go.  I hate when they do that, but there’s not much you can do about it, since they’ll insist they were just a friend, and that they live nearby and were getting off anyway.  He only charged us 1 cedi each (about 30 cents).

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Britt was already waiting for us at the dam, but told us we would need a vehicle and a guide to get in.  We stopped at the information centre (which isn’t labelled, is behind some other buildings, and isn’t really very close to the dam) and asked around.  Eventually, after a lot of negotiating, they agreed to get the guide (10 cedi each – 3 dollars) and the trotro would take us there, wait, and drive us back (30 cedi for the car total – 10 dollars).  When we arrived at the Akosombo Dam it was very hot.  We anticipated an indoor tour but nope, we just walked around on top of it in the heat.  In retrospect, we really should have brought hats, sunscreen and water.

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The guide wasn’t very informative, and kept talking about the boxes where the water goes through and creates power and giving us numbers but with no units.  We would have had better luck reading from Wikipedia, but since you can’t go up there without a guide, you will be forced to get one if you want to see it. The dam is run by the Volta River Authority and supplies electricity to the Electric Company of Ghana (who everyone hates because the power is constantly going out).

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We did find out a few things. The dam was made in the 1960’s, and originally powered much of the country, with additional energy being sold to neighbouring countries for extra money. However, over the years the demand for energy grew while the amount of energy stayed roughly the same.  Out of the 6 openings in the dam, only 3 were currently being used due to the low level of the water (even though it’s the end of the rainy season, which means the water level is at its highest and won’t increase again until next spring).  This does not bode well for the lighting situation in Ghana over the next few months.  It’s crazy that most of Ghana’s electricity supply runs through just a few wires that you can see in the picture (above right).  We took a few pictures, wandered around, and then got back in the trotro, which wouldn’t start. The boys got out to push and jumped in while it was moving – commando style – of course, they all thought they were very cool!  We made it back to the hotel in one piece.

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After we got back we all changed into our bathing suits and hopped in the lake, which was super refreshing after a hot morning.  Everyone decided to float down towards the bridge, and asked the boys in the canoes to meet them there.  The bridge used to connect this part of the country with the other side (Volta Region), but due to some small repairs that should only take a couple months to fix, it is currently “spoiled” and has been for the past 5 years.  Since I had a cold, I wasn’t feeling it, and decided to stay at the lodge and read my book, which was super relaxing!  I took a few pictures of a lizard passing by, I just think they’re so cool, and I love their colour.  You can check out how they move in the video below.

Some of the people decided to swim back, and others hopped in the canoe, but they were all tired out upon their return.  I had taken some cold drugs and was feeling a bit better, sipping on some milo (like hot chocolate).  We ordered lunch, hung out for a bit and chatted with our new friends, who had really interesting stories about work.  A few of them work with an anti child trafficking organization, which in Ghana can often mean the fishing communities, so that was pretty sad but very interesting.  After lunch we paid our bill, changed back into clothes and caught a trotro headed in the right direction.  We got off in a small town and found the station, where we caught another trotro headed back to Accra.  We had a nice chat along the way, said our goodbyes to our new friends, and got off at different stations along the way into the heart of the city.

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I love getting away from the city, it’s great to relax, read your book, and it’s not even expensive to travel (it cost less then 8 dollars in transportation for the entire weekend). However, sometimes it makes it tricky to find time to do laundry, buy groceries, or even get a chance to sleep in.  But I’m trying to make the most of my time here… only one more weekend left and then I’ll be back in Canada! Plus, who doesn’t love hanging out with old friends and making new ones?

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About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
This entry was posted in Ghana (2014) - Professional Fellow Placement (EWB), Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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