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Chaz Powell - What next for The Wildest Journey?

After many years of travelling and after pursuing many different life changing adventures, I soon realised I needed more and soon realised I needed ‘The Wildest Journey’ and something that would stretch me far out of my normal comfort zone.

I knew I wanted to discover wild lands that were little known to others, lands where people daren’t venture due to tales of danger, mystery and the unknown. Something that would take me to a whole new level of exploration and be my ultimate adventure.

So, in 2016 and 2017 I spent a combined duration of 137 days walking for over 3000km from source to sea along the mighty Zambezi river. An expedition that for me was the ultimate test – To walk the length of Africa’s wildest river….

Photo credit: Frazer Waller

Walking the Zambezi

The expedition had taken two years of strict planning and during those 2 years, I’d managed to find myself a local guide, who had also seemed passionate about walking the length of the Zambezi river and tackling this wildest journey by foot.

But after reaching the river's source and coming face to face with the reality of walking through remote lands for the next 5 months. He quickly changed his mind and succumbed to his fears, saying that this was a crazy idea and it can’t be done! He then turned back in the direction we had come and left me alone to walk the length of the Zambezi river, I never saw him again.

Photo credit: Alex Frood

After the shock of being left alone in these strange lands, I soon got my head together and started walking. Remembering why it was I had taken on this challenge and knowing I needed to try and embrace every second of this great journey.

From then on, I spent time in the remotest of settlements with the humblest of people. People who had absolutely nothing in their lives but seemed to give absolutely everything. I came to rely on these people not only to help guide the way, but also for the incredible hospitality I received on a near daily basis. But this wasn’t without hesitation, as I was often mistaken for being a demon, a witch, a diamond smuggler and even a reincarnation of the great David Livingstone. I was the first white person many had ever met, so it came as quite a shock to see me walking through their remote lands.

Photo credit: Alex Frood

During my great journey, I faced many a challenging obstacle along the mighty river. From crossing the 400-mile long swampy Barotse floodplains, near-death experiences in the Zambezi gorges, and being held hostage in a small remote village in Mozambique. All of these challenges moulded me and saw me overcome all the fears that I’d built up before tackling this mighty quest. I’d reached the Indian ocean and my end goal knowing that I wanted to continue to take on more wildest journeys and to raise awareness for the devastating loss of wildlife and wild lands across the continent of Africa and throughout the world. I knew it was my passion to explore and discover and I’d now continue to do so to fight for the voiceless.

Footsteps on the Gambia

My next adventure was to be a world’s first source to sea trek along the Gambia river. An epic journey to follow the West African river by foot through Guinea-Conakry, Senegal and The Gambia for 1120km.

Photo credit: Tim Roberts

After a long 2-day journey we eventually reached the source of the Gambia river. The river itself starts in the remote highlands of the Fouta Djallon in Guinea-Conakry, and is a wild, rugged landscape consisting of steep hills and remote settlements. Paths along the river’s banks were minimal and we were often forced into climbing the steep tracks away from the river itself! This was the beginning of what would turn out to be an incredible yet wildest journey, where we found ourselves tackling this challenging environment, but were treated like kings in this land of warmth and kindness. Leaving us feeling overwhelmed and fascinated by the amazing cultures and the hospitality we received from the most humble of people.

Photo credit: Tim Roberts

Soon the river started to widen and consisted of numerous twists and turns. Its presence left us feeling overwhelmed and in a fascinating state of isolation along its wild banks. We came to rely on it not just for the water it gave us to drink and cook with, but for the sense of freedom it bestowed upon us with its beauty and grace. It was home to not only the good people who accommodated and fed us whilst we hiked its waters edge. But also to the wildest of animals and the most magnificent of ever changing wild landscapes.

Photo credit: Tim Roberts

During my journeys I relied on drinking straight from the rivers with my trusty Water-to-Go bottles. There was several sections of river where the water was just too contaminated. So whilst using my bottle it gave me both the confidence and tools I needed to survive in the most remotest of regions.

Chaz Powell

One of the most incredible parts of our journey was walking through the Niokolo Koba National Park. After nearly being denied access into the park, but by some miracle managing to secure a last-minute permit. We hiked and skirted along the river’s edge until reaching the parks gates. On arrival we were accompanied by two game rangers and started by far the wildest section of our trek. Unfortunately, during those 4 days I felt at my lowest. My appetite had disappeared and the heat/lack of food was seriously draining my energy supplies. But these guys got me through and made it by far one of the most memorable moments of our source to sea journey.

Photo credit: Tim Roberts

When times became difficult, it was often the good people we met along the way that would lift our spirits and inspire us to keep pushing forward with our journey. People who had very little in the way of possessions but would often open their doors and hearts to us to make us feel welcomed. This kindness of strangers is what motivated us through the difficult times, and the good people of Guinea-Conakry, Senegal and The Gambia made this expedition one of greatest journeys I’ve ever made.

Photo credit: Tim Roberts

On reaching the Atlantic Ocean and the end of our 1120km, 47-day source to sea journey by foot. We were left feeling a huge sense of satisfaction, elation and overwhelming joy. We had become the first known people to take on and complete this mammoth task, and we knew that this difficult, yet humbling challenge had all been worthwhile.

Photo credit: Tim Roberts

We had hiked through some of the wildest regions in Western Africa and been welcomed by all that we had met on our path. This was an adventure that will stay with me forever and one that will be difficult to compare with any of my future ‘the wildest journey’ expeditions.

Photo credit: Tim Roberts

What next for The Wildest Journey?

In September 2019 myself and (potentially) a small team will be setting out in an attempt to walk not only the width of Madagascar, but also source to sea along the country's longest river – The Mangoky.

Starting on the East Coast of Madagascar we will walk to the source of The Mangoky River and then follow its 564-kilometer (350 mi) length all the way to the Mozambique Chanel on the country's Western Coast. We will be heading out on this epic adventure to not only take on an incredible journey. But also to raise awareness and funds for the loss of wildlife and wild lands throughout the region...

So there is a lot to look forward to. Keep up to date with all of my adventures and expeditions on Instagram and Facebook.

Photo credit: Alex Frood
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