Walking the Zambezi Interview with Chaz Powell

From November 2015 to April 2016 Chaz Powell will attempt to walk the entire length of the Zambezi River. This is going to be an ambitious expedition during which Chaz will have to contend with extreme weather and a myriad of wild animals, as well as the threat of contracting malaria. Update: In order to avoid the worst of the rainy season, Chaz will now start the walk in July 2016.

In our introduction we have put together some information about the terrain, climate and previous expeditions to the Zambezi to give you an idea of what Chaz Powell will be up against. Then, in our interview, Chaz tells us about his motivation for adventure and for Walking the Zambezi in particular, as well as his passion for wildlife.

Adventurer Chaz Powell walking in the forest
Adventurer Chaz Powell preparing for his expedition to Walk the Zambezi

Zambezi Terrain

The Zambezi River is an impressive 1,599 miles long. Located in central and east Africa, its source is in Zambai. It flows through Angola, back into Zambai, along Zambia’s border with Namibia, Botswana and Zimbawe, before flowing into Mozambique and finally discharging into the Indian Ocean.

The upper part of the Zambezi flows across a large plateau where there are dry forests and grasslands. Further donwstream, during the wet season high volumes of rain water can extend across the flood plain creating areas of swamps. There are many rapids along the course of the Zambezi and waterfalls such as the famous Victoria Falls located near Livingstone.

A map showing the route of the Zambezi river through central and eastern Africa.
The source of the Zambezi river is in Zambia. It flows into Angola, back into Zambia, then along Zambia’s borders with Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe before flowing through Mozambique and into the India Ocean

The middle section of Zambezi flows through steep sided gorges before entering Lake Kariba and then Lake Cahora Bassa. Both of these lakes are man made, created for large scale hydro-electric power generation.

With the exception of the Lupata Gorge, the lower Zambezi is wide and shallow. The width in some places being as much as 8 km during the wet season. Finally the Zambezi splits into a muddy delta before flowing ino the Indian Ocean.

Zambezi Climate

When Chaz Powell will be on his expedition, during the months of December to April, the climate in Zambia and Mozmabique is warm and wet, with rain on as many as seven to eight out of every ten days. In the valley of the Zambezi it can be hot and humid. Along the coast of Mozambique, including the Zambezi river delta, there can cyclones during the wet season.

The Zambezi River at Mosi Oa Tunya National Park
The Zambezi flows through Mosi Oa Tunya National Park near Victoria Falls. Source: Flickr by amanderson2

Exploring the Zambezi

The most famous explorer to mount expeditions along the Zambezi was missionary David Livingstone. In the 1850s he begun looking for commercial trade routes along the river, but found that boats could not navigate many stretches due to rapids. However his team did bring back a wealth of botanic, ecological, geological and ethnographic material.

More recently, in 2014, David Lemon became the first person to walk the length of the Zambezi. He covered 1988 miles in a cumulative total of 292 days during which time he caught malaria no less than 3 times.

Walking The Zambezi Interview

Walking the Zambezi is clearly a tough adventure. So we wanted to find out more about Chaz Powell and why he is going to take on this challenge.

CheapTents: What inspired you to become an adventurer?

Chaz Powell: Since I can remember all I’ve ever wanted to do is explore the world and have adventures, I guess the passion has grown stronger with, and the adventures have become more extreme.

CheapTents: What has been your biggest expedition so far?

Chaz Powell: That’s a difficult one, I’ve travelled all over the world, from campervaning Australia to overlanding through Africa. I’ve walked several long distance trails in the UK, but never anything as off the beaten track as the Zambezi will be.

CheapTents: What is you biggest weakness?

Chaz Powell: Not too sure, maybe I’ll find out on the Zambezi.

CheapTents: Why are you going to walk the length of the Zambezi river?

Chaz Powell: My hunger for adventure in wild places, a unique but close to my home challenge, my son lives in Livinstone Zambia, so I’ve spent a lot of time out there. Also I wan’t to raise money and awareness for wildlife conservation and highlight the wildlife crimes that are happening thoughout Africa.

Chaz Powell with his son
Chaz Powell with his son, who lives in Livingstone

CheapTents: What things have you had to consider/organise whilst arranging this expedition?

Chaz Powell: When I first thought about doing the walk, I was thikning of doing it alone, but now I’m in the process of hiring a guide and having a support vehicle in place. It’s a very dangerous and I’m likely to come across many hazardous situations. I’ve also had to try and get sponsors and support in place. So far Craghoppers have sponsored me and I’m in talks with a couple of other companies. Also I need to keep getting out there walking long distances and keeping my fitness level up.


Video of Chaz Powell training in Snowdonia

CheapTents: What do you think are going to be your biggest challenges during the expedition?

Chaz Powell: The terrain will be testing, the heat will be a big factor, the wildlife and mosquitoes will be trying to eat me, border crossings might be tricky. To be honest there is quite a lot that could go wrong. Guess that makes it all the more exciting and challenging for me.

CheapTents: Which animals are you likely to encounter whilst walking the Zambezi?

Chaz Powell: Lions, elephants, hippos, rhinos, buffalo, crocs, snakes, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs and a fair few more.

CheapTents: Why is raising awareness about wildlife crime important to you?

Chaz Powell: I’ve always had a huge passion for wildlife. I’ve worked at elephant sanctuaries and understand the suffering these animals go through. Seeing all the pictures online of people shooting wild animals sickens me and I want it all to stop.

Chaz Powell looked after elephants at a sanctuary
Chaz Powell has worked at elephant sanctuaries

CheapTents: Is there anything that people back at home can do to help stop wildlife crime?

Chaz Powell: Support me and help me raise awareness 🙂

CheapTents: What are your favourite bits of outdoor gear, and why?

Chaz Powell: My tents are pretty good, Terra Nova Zepheros 1 lite. Packs down really small and weighs about a kilo. Can pack all my wild camping kit in a 35 litre pack. Makes my long distance treks more comfortable and enjoyable.

CheapTents: Any people or sponsors that you’d like thank?

Chaz Powell: I’d like to thank Craghoppers and to thank all the friends I have met over the years who have inspired me to lead an adventurous life.

CheapTents: Anything else you would like to say?

Chaz Powell: Watch this space.

CheapTents: Thank you, Chaz, for talking to us about Walking The Zambezi and we wish you every success with your expedition!

If you would you like to follow Chaz on his Zambezi adventure take a look at Walking the Zambezi on Facebook and Twitter. If you would like to sponsor Chaz click through to Walking the Zambezi on Go Fund Me.

Update: Find out more about the practical aspect of the adventure in Chaz’s interview with David Lemon.

Wildlife Crime

Poaching of wild animals has become a major international crisis. Animals, including endangered species, are brutally slaughtered for their body parts in what is fast becoming a criminal money making scheme on a scale equivalent to drug dealing, illegal arms trading and counterfeit goods. Conservation organisations are working hard to introduce anti-poaching measures and reduce demand through education. You can find out more about tackling wildlife crime on the websites of organisations such as the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and the WWF.

Adventurer Interviews

If you enjoyed this interview, why not read some of our interviews with other adventurers?


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