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Chaz Powell: adventurer and expedition leader

Chaz Powell: adventurer and expedition leader
26 Sep
2016
Chaz Powell is an adventurer and expedition leader who is aiming to be the first person to walk the complete 1,600 miles of the Zambezi River

A long time ago I decided I just wanted to get away and travel. I didn’t know what to do, so I ended up going on a round-the-world trip, and never really stopped. It was aimless in a way; I enjoyed it, that freedom of travelling and not having a care. I went through Southeast Asia, did working holidays in New Zealand and Australia, then an overland trip of Africa. I fell in love with Africa and stayed there for quite a while. Zambia is my second home, and I just got a bit obsessed with the Zambezi.

I came back to the UK because I wanted to become an expedition leader, so I trained and lived in the mountains for a couple of years. After that I had a couple of years working in bushcraft, which is something I never really thought about doing. Now I’m leaning more towards leading and planning remote expeditions.

I always had that passion for starting a career in the outdoors, I did Duke of Edinburgh award at school, but it wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I started to really want to explore. I was interested in long-distance walks; I’ve done that quite a lot in the UK; the West Highland Way, Offa’s Dyke, and the River Severn. I can be a bit of a loner at times. Sometimes I’ll be in a crowd of people and feel I have to get away and just be on my own and do something outdoors.

I’m constantly just trying to think of different and interesting ways to travel. I’ve done a few trips this year already, such as trying to use a £100 budget to get to the northern most point of Europe to film the Northern Lights. In February I decided to walk the length of the steepest island in the world, La Palma in the Canaries.

A lot of people get it, the travel bug, once you start doing something and you try to go back to a normal life and it doesn’t really work. I’ve had to adapt my life to fit with this craving I get for travel. I’ve found that unique mix of having a bit of life at home, but then I can go off and do something for a while, leading expeditions and things, and come back and I’ve fed that craving.

Being the first person to complete the length of the Zambezi River was never something I originally thought of, it’s not the driving force. I’ve met with David Lemon, who did walk the river, but he couldn’t complete certain sections. I still feel like I’m in debt to him, and, in so many ways, he’s the first person who’s done it, but obviously not all of it.

It’s hard not to think about the finishing point. I’m picturing that beach and the ocean and how good it’ll feel

There are certain areas I’m going to pass through that are hopefully going to blow me away. There’s a waterfall just before the Victoria Falls called the Ngonye Falls, which no one really knows about. I’m going to take each section as it comes, each week we’ll sit down and say ‘We need to get from this point to this point, what obstacles are in the way? If it’s flooded, is there a nearby road we can take?’ Each section is going to have to be addressed as we get to it. There’s no set path, I’ll be relying on GPS to find me the best route. If I can’t walk next to the river, which is tricky in parts, I’m going to be passing through nearby villages instead.

I’m looking forward to those cultural encounters. I’ve spent a lot of time in Africa but it’s normally been in cities and towns that are used to people and tourists. But areas where they’re living a simple life next to the river, that’s going to be interesting to see their reaction. I’ll be looking to get involved with interactions with people as much as possible, seeing how they live and documenting their lifestyle along the river.

I’ll be trying to trade with fishermen for food. There’s no support system in place, it’s a case of carrying dry goods like pasta, rice, and oats. We’ll be picking fruits, vegetables and meats up along the river, and drinking water from there too.

I always wanted to raise money for a wildlife sanctuary but I was always a bit sceptical about raising money for big charities. They do amazing work, but I felt I could go for a smaller company. I see so much in the media now about the loss of elephants and rhinos, I just wanted to find a decent charity that was doing something about it, and work for them to raise money and awareness. I did a bit of research and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation seemed like the best option.

It’s hard not to think about the finishing point. I’m picturing that beach and the ocean and how good it’ll feel. I’ve finished long-distance walks that are nowhere near as long, but it’s always felt quite emotional to be at the end of one. Sad and happy at the same time.

 

CV

1979 Born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire

2004 Left the UK for a decade of travelling

2012 Worked at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai in Thailand

2015 Became an official mountain leader; walked the length of the River Severn

2016 Hitchhiked to North Cape in Norway; hiked the length of La Palma

Follow Chaz Powell's expedition along the Zambezi River @WalkTheZambezi

This was published in the October 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

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