Joe's in first team to conquer river

IPSWICH man Joe Mower is today over the moon after being part of a British Army team that completed the first recorded canoe descent of Africa's White Volta River.

IPSWICH man Joe Mower is today over the moon after being part of a British Army team that completed the first recorded canoe descent of Africa's White Volta River.

The 12-strong squad of paddlers from the Preston-based 5 General Support Medical Regiment navigated 1,071km in 32 days.

Even though this was almost 100km more than had been budgeted for, the team still finished a day ahead of schedule.

Former Northgate High School pupil Corporal Mower, 30, of Cowell Street, said: “The best bit was finishing! It was a challenge. The hardest thing was putting up with the heat and the food - we were living off local food.


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“In the army, this kind of expedition is very few and far between, so it was amazing experience.

“I have been in the army for ten years and this is the first thing like this that I have been on.”

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Delighted team leader Captain Mike Tomkins said: “This is a huge achievement. We are all ecstatic - as well as more than a little tired. It was an awesome experience and one we will all remember for many years to come.”

The team started the journey in early November at a remote location deep in jungle in the north of Ghana.

They travelled up to 45km per day in temperatures averaging 38 to 42C.

They navigated 30 rapids, dealt with the dangers of five team members falling into the crocodile-infested waters - including one total capsize - and traversed one of the largest manmade lakes in the world.

The team used purpose-built tandem canoes, in which they also carried their rations, supplies and equipment to set up camp beside the river.

They were supported by a land-based team of three, who were driving a specially-adapted Land Rover.

Capt Tomkins said: “The best maps we could find were nearly 60 years old, with several overlays added since. They were not accurate at all.

“No matter where we stopped, no matter how seemingly isolated or remote the location, you could guarantee that within minutes we would have local people turn up at our camp.

“We would always have to ask permission to stay from the chief of the tribe - and they never said no.”

Are you celebrating a major achievement? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Weblink: www.army.mod.uk

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