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To Bower and beyond as Chaz is voted Explorer of the Year


By David G Scott

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A Bower man has been awarded with the honorary title of Explorer of the Year 2021 after after 17 years of remote travel and exploration.

Chaz Powell, 41, originally of Newport in Shropshire, was awarded with the title by the Scientific Exploration Society and its annual honorary award scheme.

"I believe the award to be the pinnacle of recognition in regards to the life I've led through exploration," he told the paper. "It's hands down the biggest honour and most overwhelming shock I've ever received. I truly am very happy."

Chaz Powell with his award.
Chaz Powell with his award.

Chaz has built his explorer credentials over the last 17 years, from the early days of backpacking on a shoestring budget around the world, to self-supported Arctic camping in Norway to photograph the Northern Lights and to more ambitious technical crossings of the volcanic sweeping peaks of La Palma. "It really was one of the most stunning environments I've certainly ever walked across before. The island is essentially a giant volcano and runs along a fault line.

Chaz says his thoughts are with the people of La Palma at the moment as volcanic eruptions bring chaos and destruction to the Canary island. "I know it's a dangerous place to live," he added.

In 2016-17, he graduated to a more ambitious project. Chaz spent 137 days walking over 3000km from source to sea along Africa’s wildest river, the Zambezi. "I think all my expeditions have had an element of danger to them. But the Zambezi was by far the most dangerous," he says.

"On one occasion during that expedition I ran out of water and got lost in the bush. It was the hottest time of year and temperatures were reaching 50°C.

Chaz almost died while travelling along the Zambezi and was forced to drink his own urine. Picture: Alex Frood
Chaz almost died while travelling along the Zambezi and was forced to drink his own urine. Picture: Alex Frood

"After running out of water and getting sick from the heat. I was forced to take shelter in a patchy shaded area under trees. Realising I was in trouble and my condition was worsening, I was forced to activate the SOS on my satellite device. After back and forth conversations with rescue teams, they told me that they couldn't get a helicopter to me until later that day. By this point, I'd already started drinking my own urine and was in a bad state of dehydration and heat stroke.

"I didn't think I'd survive long enough for the helicopter team to arrive. So I got up and got moving again. In a weakened state, I eventually managed to relocate the river and save myself. But that day was by far closest I feel I came to death."

The Bower man aims to walk the length of classic African rivers by foot to raise awareness and funding for wildlife conservation.
The Bower man aims to walk the length of classic African rivers by foot to raise awareness and funding for wildlife conservation.

From this journey, he developed his ongoing project called "The Wildest Journey" – the aim of which is to walk the length of classic rivers by foot, to raise awareness and also funding for wildlife conservation and anti-poaching.

In 2019, he completed his Footsteps of the Gambia – over three months (January to March 2019), Chaz and friend Tim Roberts walked from source to sea along the Gambia River in Western Africa. For 47 days they covered around 1200km by foot whilst walking through Guinea Conakry, Senegal and The Gambia, becoming the first people in known history to do so.

In the same year, he completed a second crossing, this time in Madagascar. He led a small team that walked for 29 days and 800km from east to west across Madagascar, from the source to sea along the

country’s longest river, the Mangoky – another world's first trek.

Chaz Powell now chooses to live off-grid on a plot of land in Bower.
Chaz Powell now chooses to live off-grid on a plot of land in Bower.

Chaz also runs expeditions, taking groups on treks along the length of the UK’s longest rivers and National Parks. His UK expeditions focus on expedition and survival skills in mountain, river and forest-based environments.

Whilst not out on his various adventures, Chaz lives on a remote plot of land in Caithness and chooses to live off the land in as wild and sustainable way as possible. "I moved to Bower earlier this year after having lived in a van and out of a backpack most of my adult life. I chose Bower because I wanted to be able to live on a big plot of land and start living a wholesome off-grid life here. It really does tick all the boxes for me."

For more information on Chaz and his expeditions, please check out his website: www.thewildestjourney.com


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