Top 10 Expeditions of 2019: #10: Chaz Powell Crosses Madagascar

Over the last 12 months, ExplorersWeb has documented incredible adventures in climbing, cycling, running, walking, skiing and anything involving force of will and dedication to a dream in the outdoors. As this year comes to a close, we present our countdown of the Top 10 Expeditions of 2019.

Fresh off source-to-sea treks of the Zambezi and Gambia Rivers, Chaz Powell moved on to the Mangoky, Madagascar’s longest river. Together with ecologist Emilie Gorse and filmmaker Justin True, Powell opted to incorporate the Mangoky into a complete east-to-west crossing of the country.

For the first week, the team slogged 170km along a disused jungle railway line into the central highlands. The exact source of the 564km river is the subject of some debate. The river is born out of a mess of tributaries, and local information about the source was contradictory. On the balance of probabilities, they elected to hike to the start of what appeared to be the largest tributary, the Matsiatra.

From the Matsiatra’s headwaters, they began their long trek towards the west coast. On route, they walked through the remote communities of Madagascar’s “zone-rouge,” an area effectively outside of government control and infamous for banditry. They had to hire armed guards for some of the way but escaped with only one scary run-in with bandits. As luck would have it, the criminal group they encountered had already served prison time for targeting tourists and seemed unwilling to take the risk again.

Powell and his companions averaged 27km per day and covered 780km during their journey. The group suffered “mentally and physically, especially with tiredness, hunger and injuries,” but pushed through to complete their unique expedition. In an era when many adventurers simply re-do familiar routes in search of “speed records” or semantic firsts, Powell reminded us that original projects still exist.