13-Apr-2008 -- 05:30 a.m. It's a quick breakfast again for the Borneo Quartet – a small group of Australian Buddies, Dan Michaelsen, Kel Bendeich, Patrick O'Brien, who several years earlier were doing similar exercises in the jungles of Borneo. Joseph Dadzie has recently trekked the wilds of Borneo and now through professional appointments had all unknowingly regrouped in Ghana – West Africa.
Today they put the final touches to their day's plan to register the confluence point at 7N 1W, in Africa. The team decides it's time to move and quickly exit the building to load up their Toyota 4x4, and after a final brief to Joseph Dadzie, the fourth member of the Borneo Four and driver for the day, we are on our way – clearing security check point at 05:50 a.m. Soon the small towns of Ntrosso, Acherensua, Tepa, and Bechem Nkwenta vanish in the cool morning air as we head on to our first major city and map reference – Kumasi. We turn South, getting more serious with finding our bearings for the day.
The team members are in fine spirit, Kel using a Garmin 60CSx GPS unit is monitoring the distant proximity of our target waypoint, now several kilometres off to our left, at a bushman's reference of bearing 11:00 hrs. Our marksmanship is carefully monitored by Dan in the co-pilot's seat using his Garmin 60CS GPS and benchmarking our navigation.
It isn't long before the mood of the Trio changes as it is discovered that Dan, while deterred by a late evening call, has forgotten to log the turnoff coordinates for the slow overland drive to our 7N 1W rendezvous. In the confusion Kel calls for a mapping protractor and rule. I had a mapping protractor and a small six-inch rule, "Rule Six" exclaimed from the front seat - and the brakes of the car come on in response to the noisy group – Joe doesn't know about "Rule Six". It was all a joke – reminiscent of old Hash Harrier days gone by.
In the confusion, Kel drafts NAV aid lines onto a topographic image he is carrying and it's clear as we check with the GPS confluence coordinate indicators of the Garmins, that we had gone too far south and would have to turn back (our first Check Back for the run) and search for possible options from the last town – Yawkwei.
The small town of Yawkwei was dressed for the occasion – being Sunday morning and nine o'clock, it was church time and the locals congregated outside the houses of prayer. A quick chat to the locals and we soon figured out an optional road that would take us to the village towns of Kyekyebiase – Juansa and finally the township of Agogo. Climbing to the highest ridge in the town gives us a perfect panorama of the local countryside and an opportunity to view track options leading towards our 7N 1W confluence point.
Our second Check Back came with what was to be a short-cut across to a tar sealed road visible in the distance from our vantage point that would hopefully lead us out of town and on closer to our goal – but this was not to be and we turned back looking for an alternative path out of town.
Our third Check Back came just minutes later as yet another route led to a misleading alignment to our GPS tracking and after a brief discussion with the Magisa Village people we turned back again for Agogo.
These check-backs had cost us valuable time in the course of determining the track that finally led us on to a meandering track down off the escarpment littered with giant slabs of rock, and encouragingly registering a closing-in on the final confluence point.
It's 11:15 a.m. – five hours twenty five minutes into the exercise and the track quickly deteriorated to a sandy loam path through several banana plantations, until it was necessary to slow down to a mere walking pace as we waded through several sandy-bottomed puddles, some with no obvious by-pass alternatives. The team is closing in on our goal as the GPS indicates that we are now 9.25 kilometres from our target and we approach the tiny village of Ananikrom.
The skies overhead are heavy with cloud indications that it would surely lead to another local thunderstorm and downpour as being experienced daily at this time of year. This is now a concern as the team realizes that if this was the case we may not get out of this country for a day or two. However we have a challenge and with a careful eye on the weather and our bearings indicating that we were only approximately one hour off our confluence point, we pushed on and soon arrived at an old elevated wooden bridge with approach abutments having been constructed several years previous. This indicated that a surveyed road was gazetted for this area, but construction had fallen by the way with time. Crossing the bridge (6º56'52"N 1º01'57.9"W), the track immediately forked and we peeled right and soon came across a very small village through which we passed unconcerned by the local people.
From this point on the track turned into a dual village walkway and we slowed even more to avoid disturbance to the local farm people busily getting on with communal life. As we drove on meandering through low bush and village farmland, in the distance we could see what appeared to be a plateau of dark green prominent on the horizon. Could this be the plantation visible on the aerial photographs downloaded from the WEB as part of the preparation for this exercise?
We skilfully work our way closer to our goal passing through yet another tiny village, but this time sensing that we were very much in cultured territory – we had lost the friendly welcome smiles and hand wave of previous encounters. The overcast skies are now telling us that we must hurry and complete the exercise, or we may stay for some time. Carefully not to take a wrong village track that would move our closing confluence point, the green plateau (a large teak plantation) in the middle of nowhere is soon upon us as our travel path leads straight to its edge and our track suddenly takes a sharp right-hand turn (6º59'13.6"N 1º00'20.0"W). Kel and Dan pause to recheck the two Garmins and indicate that the Confluence is now rapidly closing.
The teak plantation ends and the track makes a sharp left turn (6º59'32.0"N 1º00'04.6"W) down the north side of the plantation with high elephant grass on our right side. We are running on a parallel as the NAV Aids lead us to a point on the track where we must push on into the high cane grass to find our final FIX. Trekking is slow and finally at 12:30 p.m. both Garmin 60CS's zero in on 7º00'04"N 1º00'00"W and our final coordinates for the day. Our team are nervous with the overcast conditions and our location should it downpour – so Confluence Register photos are taken and with congratulations in order the team turn back towards our vehicle and the slow return back to Yawkwei, Kumasi, and Ahafo Base.
In my mind I had an overwhelming sense of fulfilment and team spirit, as we had succeeded with our confluence venture and I wondered at the probability of it ever happening again – but the imprint left deep in my mind forever was that of the Borneo Quartet reunited again in Ghana – West Africa. Taking only photographs... leaving only footprints.