Plying its way north on Ghana’s huge, man-made Volta Lake, the Yapei Queen ferry hosts its own ecosystem as crew and passengers trade, eat, sleep, get a haircut and shoot the breeze on the two-day voyage
A queen serene The people who travel and work aboard the Yapei Queen cargo vessel on Ghana’s Volta Lake
Every week the Yapei Queen chugs out into Volta Lake, its crew and a smattering of passengers ready to take the two-day trip to Ghana’s north. With a length of 400km and a surface area of 8,502km2, the Volta is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. In 1961 Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, ambitiously committed to developing a lake from the Volta River. It would serve a hydroelectric dam at Akosombo that would bring electricity to homes across the country and the region. In doing so, however, Nkrumah made a sacrifice that would potentially tarnish his image as man of the people, and literally divide the country. The project meant displacing close to 80,000 people from their homes, their land, their community and their heritage. Branches of long-lost trees poke out of the water, reminding people of the life they lived more than 50 years ago. Though the ship is for cargo, a steady stream of passengers pour in at each of its stops, from the port in Akosombo through to Kete Krachi in the Volta Region and finally Yeji in the Northern Region. Along the way, women from the markets in the south disembark and head inland to buy yam from the farmers ready to greet them. Salomey is one of those women. “This is our weekly work,” she says. Salomey took over the business from her mother who, while she is away, watches over her children. She hopes that her children will continue with their education and follow careers in other fields. Gloria and her daughter take the ferry to avoid the chaos of the road. The trip is a day longer but with views of the surrounding mountains and the stillness of the lake it’s well worth it, she says. The cook and her helpers aboard the Yapei Queen start preparing the morning’s meal. A mini market at the foot of the gangway pops up. The captain and his crew are well known in these parts. An entire economy is built around the ferry and its weekly trips. Wisdom, the ferry’s captain, beams from the bridge with pride. With his crew of 10, he is charged with remembering every – seemingly – minor turn and dip in the lake in the absence of a radar or eco sound, as the glowing lights from the nearby villages provide the only landmarks at night.
TA K E I T S L O W A journey on the Yapei Queen offers some of the most beautiful views of Ghana’s green and fertile Volta Region, with mountain ranges, small islands and islets along the way.