Monday, December 6, 2010

December 6th

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw
Continuing the Expresso ‘All Over Ghana’ flight of Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi; from Tamale to Kpong…

The hotel in Tamale was absolutely splendid.  It seemed far too large for the received image of the city, yet was very fitting, well finished and the staff very welcoming.  We were all positively impressed with the potential and the efforts made in this oft mis-represented city.

Waking early the next morning, we set off across the dusty, flat, but well paved roads towards the airport.  Air Force personnel greeted us, and showed us where we could fuel-up the planes from our support vehicle.  Excitement was, again, high. Sadness was also dawning – this was the last day of the trip.

We watched a Beechcraft land in the morning sunlight, as we added some extra spray-on-grease to reduce the effects of the dry-heat and dust in the air.

The Harmattan air ‘sounds’ so different, enhanced by the acoustics of the large hangar and flat concrete apron, to make every word spoken, sound almost dull.  The Air Traffic Controller, from the previous evening, came onto the apron to say ‘goodbye’, giving us a thank you opportunity for all of his help. We packed our supply vehicle and boarded the aircraft. 

The Beechcraft, now heading back to Accra, taxied ahead of us, and we waited patiently for our turn to use the ample tarmac to set-off home…  The runway is big and we seemed to need far less than one percent of it to get airborne!  Climbing out in the sand tainted air we could immediately see the Northern Town signature buildings and villages – many round houses, perfectly kept, and magnificently ordered, looking like special crystals growing amidst the dusty haze.  Many of these ‘round-mud-home’ villages have a mosque proudly located at their epicentre, the mosque clearly cherished and cared for as much, if not more, than their own homes.

We ventured south, routing towards Buipe.  First we crossed the White Volta, wider than usual due to the heaviness of the rainy season.  Collateral damage was evident, but not as much as we had expected – probably due to the lower population density in such parts. 

The flat lands between the White and Black Volta are like a blank canvas – just waiting to be transformed into a splendid masterpiece by the painters of development.  This could make an outstanding country park – if only there was some way of accessing it, other than by air.

The Black Volta was crossed, with the ‘Buipe Bridge’ visible at about six kilometres to our right.  Here we saw the sad remains of a drowned village, others had been cut off by the rising water.  Tracks were submerged under the muddy gushes of water, having passed through the Bui Dam construction site, which we had flown over the day before.  These same waters would pass south, through the dam at Akosombo and pass our home-field on their way to Ada, and out to sea, a reminder that we are all connected, from North to South and East to West, a reminder that we are one people, one nation, all sharing one dream – that of survival, peace and sustainable development.

With the Black Volta over our shoulders, the landscape was homogenous – if you did not take in the detail below, it could have become monotonous!  However, the occasional home, road-less, track-less, inhabited by a small family, remote, isolated and living a subsistence, yet happy, lifestyle, provided abundant intrigue. 

In the distance, Kintampo littered the horizon.  Happily, we deviated from the straight line to Techiman to have a better look at the fascinating rock formations there.  This is another of Ghana’s wonders – which most have never seen, even those driving past do not know the delights they are missing!  Seeing these formations from the air was really special, adding to the highlights, causing fresh radio chatter between the two planes; each indicating to the other which formation to look at next.  It was decided to increase separation of the aircraft, so that we could each take photos and enjoy, without reducing the safety margins that we hold so dear. 

Suddenly the land drops away like a miniature rift valley.  There, ahead, towers tall, sprawling and with all of its economic importance, is Techiman.   This town, reputedly, hosts the busiest market in West Africa – and it is big, busy and incredibly cosmopolitan.

We route past the Aysitu International School building, home to the most active Aviation Club in Ghana, around the East of the Town, and look for the blue roofs of Ghana Nuts.  Flying straight overhead of the factory we know we are in line for the runway at Techiman. 

The Chiefs had been calling for over a week, telling us how excited they were at our coming.  Time was running short and we had to decide ‘land or just do a touch and go’.  Kumasi had been the planned ‘rest’ stop, but with time running out we needed to make a call – stop in Techiman or stop in Kumasi.  It was really a ‘no-brainer’, Techiman had to be the stop, and Kumasi would only get a touch and go.  Why?  Simple.  Techiman had a group of children at the airstrip, excited to meet Patricia, desperate to see the planes close up, and, the chiefs continued to demonstrate an active interest in growing their aviation potential.  Bravo Techiman!  The real spirit of pioneering is in their hearts, and this was an opportunity to feed that energy and stimulate growth.

The two aircraft approached over cashew trees and landed on the well maintained dirt and grass strip.  Children, Chiefs, Community Leaders and press were neatly lined up at one side.  Few rural airstrips in the world could be so ordered and well mannered.  Both aircraft parked and shut down on the opposite side of the runway – and still everybody stayed on their line.  We crossed the runway to a welcome fit for those of much more worth than four aviators tripping around Ghana.  The ‘Akwaaba’ was outstanding – and orderly, in keeping with the highest standards.  Drinks and snacks were offered, words of thanks, encouragement and support shared.  A group photo was taken and it was time to head on towards Kpong, via Kumasi and Ho.

Kumasi was shrouded in a thin blanket of unseasonably early Harmattan dust; we touched the wheels on the runway and swiftly headed towards the Afram leg of the Lake Volta – a pleasant route towards Ho.  With visibility running at around five kilometres, our tiredness catching up with us, and our scheduled slot at Kotoka looming, we decided to skip Ho and head straight to Kpong. 

The flooded communities below us were many – the lake had truly risen a great deal.  The lakes rise would give us one more outstandingly amazing memory before touching down in Kpong – the sight of the spillway at Akosombo, from the air.  Plumes of white mist were visible many miles before reaching the site.  We descended from Akosombo to the green smooth runway at Kpong, our home base, and smiled at each other as we knew there was only one more leg to go.

Next Week: Kpong – Accra – Kpong :

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS – The Best Flying Experience in West Africa (   e-mail

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