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Aluminum Man

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

well dressed canoe passengers

We had the opportunity to see a little bit more of Ghana over the weekend. We headed up to Akosombo, where a couple of Dan’s colleagues organized a mini-triathlon. We were not competing in the triathlon, just manning the bicycle station and supporting the competitors. Since the triathlon was abbreviated to a 2.5-mile run, 500m swim, and 16-mile bike ride, the founders dubbed it “The Aluminum Man” (a reference to the super long and difficult Iron Man triathlon).

Due to the oppressive heat and humidity, the race was scheduled to start early — 6am. Believe it or not, people were actually up at that hour on a Sunday.

Akosombo Bridge

6am on Lake Volta

Nine competitors began the run in a village, going down a paved road lined with lush green trees. Soon they made it to the put-in point of the swim on Lake Volta. The previous day, some people in our group had scoped out the place and used machetes (known here as “cutlasses”) to hack out a path for the triathletes to follow from the road down to the water. It was so steep that someone decided to provide a rope, securely fastened to a roadside post, to hang on to while descending to the lake.

Meanwhile, we were on the opposite side of the lake at the Aylos Bay Resort, waiting with the bikes.

Aylos Bay

Some local kids in canoes were supposed to show up to canoe alongside the swimmers for safety, but they didn’t show up. Dan noticed that our hotel had a canoe and asked to take it. He paddled out and served as the lifeguard. (Some of the participants are experienced swimmers, but those who aren’t were relieved to have some backup close by.)

Dan to the rescue

Not everyone swam. Due to rampant bilharzia in the water, all had been warned that swimming there could cause illness. Two competitors decided not to risk it and ran for the swimming portion. Time was added to their completion time in order to be fair to the swimmers.

Dan and I rode our bikes after the last cyclists rolled out of Aylos Bay. The idea was to help stragglers or people with mechanical problems. Sure enough, we encountered two. Dan switched bikes with someone on a Huffy who was having difficulty. It was such a crummy bike that even Dan had trouble riding it. The short cranks made it impossible to stand up and hard to pedal normally. Later we came across a person with chain problems, which Dan fixed. He’s everyone’s hero.

The two non-swimmers (avid bikers both) finished first, but after adding in the penalty time for not swimming, the race organizer, who did all three events, won. All were done before 9am. We celebrated with a post-race breakfast at Afrikiko Resort.

It was fun to have some part in the triathlon, but also to see another region of Ghana. Lake Volta is the largest man-made lake in the world. The roads around Akosombo are excellent, lined with thick and healthy-looking vegetation, and refreshingly trash-free. It’s pretty.