Chaz Powell to Trek the Gambia River

Next month, British adventurer, Chaz Powell, begins his trek down the length of the Gambia River. Powell will leave from the Fouta Djallon Plateau in Guinea and travel 1,120km through Senegal to Banjul, on Gambia’s west coast.

This adventure follows a similar walk down the Zambezi River in 2016-17. “The Zambezi trek took me five months through six countries,” Powell said of that 3,000km journey. “I started in August 2016 in northwestern Zambia and by the end of November, I had walked about 2,500km along the river. I couldn’t go into Mozambique because of the civil war, so I had to wait seven months for the war to end to finish the other 800km.”

His decision to take on the Gambia River evolved from that inaugural experience. “On the Zambezi, I learned that I have determination and strong self-belief,” he said. “I was told by many people that it wasn’t possible, or it was too dangerous. I learnt that I can spend a lot of time in solitude and that I’m good at planning. Most of all, I learned that I wanted to keep doing these walks and that I can probably never stop doing them.”

Powell had first tackled the Zambezi to do something extreme, to push his boundaries and to spend time in the wild. “My son lives in Livingstone, in Zambia, so I’m quite passionate about that area,” he added.

Obstacles included the intense heat, visa issues, wild animals and suspicious locals. “At one point, in a village in Mozambique,  I was kidnapped and locked in a room for a few days. Their process was that I had to go and see the chief and tell him what I was doing.  They didn’t believe me, and I was there for a few days before I managed to escape,” he recalled.

Despite his incarceration, his contact with local tribes highlighted his expedition. “The people in Zambia were welcoming, even though many had never seen a white person before. After they got over their terror, they would invite me to sit down with their family.  Sometimes I stayed with families and they treated me really well,” he added.

The Zambezi trek occurred in the height of the African summer. “Water levels were at their lowest then, but it was the hottest part of the year, at times over 50C. It was a major problem that nearly killed me: I was taking a short cut through the Zambezi Gorges and ended up getting lost. I nearly died of heatstroke, as I was too far from the river to get water, ” Powell said.

Chaz Powell rockhops in the Zambezi Gorges. Photo: Chaz Powell

Powell’s expeditions include raising awareness for wildlife protection. “I’ve always loved animals, and they are being killed at an alarming rate, particularly elephants and rhinos,” he said.

The animals that Powell was trying to help were, ironically, some of his biggest threats. “When I was wading through swamps, there were crocodiles and hippos,” he explained. “I was charged by elephants, and lions were sleeping near my tent. I encountered a lot of dangerous snakes, such as black mambas and puff adders, along the way.”

On his latest trek down the Gambia, which begins in a cooler season, Powell explained, “I wanted an adventure that wasn’t going to take too much time. This should take about two months. I wanted to test myself on another wild journey and, as far as I can find, it has never been walked before. The river itself interests me, as does the wildlife, the culture, the old explorers and the history of the area. I also want to get involved in wildlife projects along the way.”

Further information on Chaz Powell’s adventures appear on his website, http://www.thewildestjourney.com 

About the Author

Peter Winsor

Peter is a journalist, travel writer and photographer based on the Gold Coast, Australia.

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Eddy De Wilde
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Thanks for reporting this Peter, it sounds like Chaz is stepping back in time on an old fashion walk- about in a place that rarely sees any outsiders