Just so you know, I have fear of many things: number 3 on that list is fear of heights. As for number 1 and 2, they are too terrifying to even name them.
Somewhere on that list is definitely a fear of large water bodies, yes I can do a swimming pool because they are usually small in size. So when I signed my family up for the Bravehearts Expedition’s trip to Survival Island this past Easter, I knew I would be coming face-to-face with at least two of my top fears. I first read about the expedition on Humans of New York (HONY), and then when a dear friend shared her experience with me, I knew I HAD to go on this trip! Where I found the vim, I do not know.
Long before we went, I did a lot of reading, browsed through pictures and watched videos all in a bid to have an idea of what to expect. You see, I am the sort of person who would want to know how a story ends before I start reading or watching a movie. No, I don’t like surprises.
We set off on the morning of Easter Friday, all excited and looking forward to an experience of a lifetime. At our starting point, Accra Mall, we got to meet the other people coming along; our lovely and helpful rangers, two sisters, a group of friends, a group of co-workers a Rastaman, and a single man. We were bussed from Accra Mall, stopped at Afienya for a quick breakfast and then continued the 3-hour journey to Anum in the Eastern Region. I thought I knew monkeys until I saw the monkeys along the Eastern corridor. Gosh were they huge! We stopped to cross the Adomi bridge on foot, a first for my kids and so it was lovely. As for me, I was a bit nervous as usual but I tried not to let it show.
In Anum, we had a few icebreakers to help us be more comfortable to work in teams. Then the expedition began with a hike to Discovery Rock. We were grouped into 2, given a compass and told ‘go south to find Discovery Rock’ with some instructions. Of course, my group got lost in the forest and after watching us go in circles, our ranger finally showed us the correct way. After about 90 minutes of hiking, my eyes beheld the majestic gorge of the Volta Lake underneath the Discovery Rock. Oh and I also got to finally meet Nana Adjoa Darkoah Darko, West Africa’s first female Expedition Guide!
I took a look at the kayaks and canoe down on the lake and thought ‘dear Lord’!
At that moment, I thought about my friend who had first shared her abseil experience, I looked at the demonstration by JayJay Segbefia our lead Expedition Guide as he kept saying ‘trust us’ and knew I could do this. After all, Jesus was with me, right? And frankly, there was no turning back anyway. I was pleasantly surprised when my 10-year old daughter offered to be the first to abseil. I was so proud of her bravery, especially because she looked down to see how steep the slope was and how far down the lake was but still made it down alone. After the first round of 8 people abseiled, I got my gear ready to start. There were various ropes, one strapped to my waist. I had on a helmet, gloves and all these straps to keep me safe. Now all I had to do was to keep my feet apart, lean back and walk backwards while gently releasing the rope so gravity would just pull me downwards. My body was literally perpendicular to the rock which overlooked the lake. No, I did not look back. I just kept looking up while walking down and backwards. Knowing myself, one look down would have given me a huge fright and then I would have chickened out. You see, I was so determined to #JustDoIt.
With the encouraging words of JayJay and his team, I managed to abseil the Discovery Rock successfully unto the waiting canoe on the lake. However, I knew deep down that abseiling was the least of my worries. Seeing the vast lake and knowing we had to kayak in pairs across it to the island was way more unsettling. Have I mentioned that I am terrified of large water bodies? My nerves would not sit still even on the canoe because it kept swaying and I was so scared of falling off.
Eish! Well, we finally got into our kayaks, my partner was my daughter and we were given an illustration of how to kayak. Now being shown how to kayak is one thing but actually kayaking 7km across a not-so-calm lake is another thing. My daughter and I had to really communicate and be in sync and boy did we struggle! We just kept going round in circles no matter how had we tried. All the other teams were way ahead of us and we were just going in circles.
Yes, I was frustrated! I looked at the distance to cover and my heart just sank. However, I was convinced that we had no other choice than to keep moving so we just kept doing what we could to move. Until JayJay said to us that it was getting late so they would put us on the boat in order to save time. My daughter was disappointed but as for me, I was like ‘Hallelujah!’ Haha. It was not until I got on the canoe and was being ‘chauffeured’ that I realized ‘wait a minute! What happened to my fear of the water?!’ I was really surprised to realize that I had been so focused on moving forward to our destination that I had not even cared about the waves or the swaying of our kayak! Wow!
Anyway, so we finally got to Survival Island- so peaceful and beautiful. Since the others were far behind, my daughter and I decided to get back into our kayak and ride around for fun. That was hands down the most beautiful experience I had that day. I enjoyed sitting at the back while she did all the hard work. Again, I was surprised to realize I was actually enjoying being on the water and not afraid. I was looking around at the beauty of the mountains surrounding us and just marvelling at God’s creations. Apparently, we were not the only ones who had to be ‘chauffeured’ by the canoe. When I saw a couple of other teams coming on the canoe, ah I felt so good! Haha.
Once everyone arrived on the island, we got assigned our tents and settled in fast so we could start cooking our dinner: boiled yam and kontomire stew. Again, we maintained our hiking groups and I am proud to say my group finished first. Yes, the food was very delicious! What did you think? That evening, my son had to do number 2 and nothing prepared me for the climb up to the bathroom. The hill was so steep and I was terrified that I would roll back down. In fact, midway through the climb I stopped and looked around for a safe spot for him to do his business. But I believe the spirit of God was with me because I found the courage to keep going until we finally got to the WC. Actually, I had fully expected and was prepared to use the ‘bush bathroom’, so the WC was a pleasant surprise.
Soon, darkness engulfed the entire island but for a solar bulb that was on duty. This made it easier for me to ‘shower’ naked at the lakefront (Hey, stop judging OK?) We were all too tired to have more fun that night so most of us retired into our tents on the campsite. It was a windy night and I silently prayed against any rains; He heard me. Early the next morning, I woke up to a truly glorious view. Oh my goodness! The lake was so calm, its gentle wave being determined by soothing winds. The mountains surrounding the lake looked green and calm; just as life should be, I thought. I just sat on the lake front and soaked in the view. I wished for this kind of view, even if not every day, I would love to periodically retreat to such an environment.
Oh and guess what I had forgotten to pack; our toothbrushes! Long story, please do not ask me. We had to just make do with toothpaste and water that day. Soon more campers awoke and it was time to cook breakfast: spaghetti and egg stew. After breakfast, we had three activities.
First was the spider web which was a great exercise to build trust among teams, I made a mental note to try that the next time I facilitate outdoor training. And then a few of us tried a climbing activity; The Wall, which had just been installed. It was a very steep wooden board with a hanging rope. Our objective was to get all team members up the board. I momentarily thought about cheerleaders who always carry and haul each other around and knew this was child’s play.
And so I climbed without looking down of course. Halfway up The Wall, while hanging on to the rope, I got so tired and couldn’t push myself over. But for the wisdom of my team members who found a way to roll over my bootylicious-African-treasure of a body, I would have still been hanging on that rope!
Next, we had a capsizing drill. In pairs, we kayaked to another part of the lake and were taught how to capsize our kayaks, be rescued and then rescue another capsized kayak. First, each team had to intentionally capsize their kayaks and then another team would come and rescue them. Ordinarily, I would have been terrified but no, not after my experience from Day 1. We just had so much fun my daughter-partner went for a second capsize!
Later we just lazed about swimming, kayaking, playing cards and doing whatever tickled our fancy. As for me, I got chauffeured by my husband as I just rested behind him on the kayak. We had pineapples and watermelons for lunch. Dinner that evening was Jollof! Need I say, it was heavenly? Now tell me, what do a group of campers do on their last night of an island expedition? Bonfire! Oh we danced, karaoked, laughed and had too much fun. The next morning, while soaking in the view, I saw the ‘Rastaman’ brushing his teeth with a chewing stick and that was how my husband and I brushed our teeth with a chewing stick from a Neem tree! The much-talked-about yam chips and grilled tilapia was our final breakfast and boy those tilapias were ginormous! What?! After one round, I was too full to move.
Leaving Survival Island was a bit sad. The bond we had shared was beautiful. It was as if we had known each other forever. Everyone was willing to share, look out for others and help in spite of the differences in our skin colour, gender, religion, etc. And our hosts and hostesses were just lovely and fun to be with. When I was asked to describe my experience, I said it was ‘orgasmic’ because it was deeply beautiful, a unique experience which I would love to have on very special occasions. You see, Survival Island is not your typical resort with the fine things people are used to. Campers are challenged to survive, to push their limits and do things outside of their comfort zone. Trust me, I have been on a few other expeditions in Ghana and other parts of the world, but this was different. Every little detail was intentionally planned to give campers a unique kind of experience. That for me is priceless!
For some time now I have been on a journey to work very hard and spend a part of that money on special one-of-a-kind treats. I am so happy that it will not be long before I return because I am actually hosting our 2019 Strategy Retreat with Yawa Hansen-Quao there.
I believe the greatest insight for me was how two of my deepest fears - height and large water bodies - did not matter at all in the face of other challenges.
In fact, this question kept playing in my mind over and over: what will you do if you know you can’t fail? Somehow, I trusted that all will be well, God was with us, all the equipment will work perfectly and nothing will go wrong. All that was left for me was to #JustDoIt. Now as I sit in this car typing this while on our way back to Kumasi, I cannot help but wonder about this next level of my business that I am currently pursuing in addition to all the events we have planned for the rest of the year: honest to God, I am unsure. However, I have a feeling, a surety actually, that all will really be well and I should #JustDoIt!
Now you tell me, ‘what will you do if you know you will not fail?’