After 352 days, Ash Dykes is now the first person to walk the length of the Yangtze River in Recorded History
It’s official, Ash Dykes has now completed his greatest challenge to date! Ash’s 4000-mile long trek over 352 days has finally come to its conclusion as Ash reached the Pacific Ocean in Shanghai on 12th August. Mission Yangtze is now complete!
Spreading awareness of Mission Yangtze
Ash is now back in the UK and has been on various news channels and programs for interviews about his amazing achievement. So far, he has been on BBC News, ITV News, The One Show, Sky News and Good Morning Britain with even more to come!
Check out this fantastic interview on Sky News Sunrise where he mentions how using his Water-to-Go bottle helped him save around 1400 single-use plastic bottles (3:18)
Mission Yangtze has thrown up a variety of challenges for Ash Dykes
The Welsh adventurer started his journey just under one year ago in August of 2018. Ash has previously achieved two other world firsts being the first person to walk across Mongolia solo as well as a 1,600-mile trek across Madagascar via its eight highest peaks. However, this 4,000 mile trek is a massive step up from anything he’s done before.
Along the journey, Ash has faced a wide range of challenges and environments along the way. Starting in the Chinese Mountains at the source of the Yangtze, Ash faced an altitude of over 5000 metres. This posed potentially fatal challenges such as altitude sickness, sub-zero temperatures and dangerous mountain paths.
Ash would then have to face threats from China’s rural Wildlife. He would have to navigate his way around bears and wolf packs during the treck, with Ash finding bear footprints just centimetres from his tent on some mornings. He also had to manage a pack of hungry wolves following him for long periods of his journey.
As he came out of rural China, Ash would face a completely new environment as he started to travel through some of China’s biggest cities. Temperatures would be the complete reverse to the sub-zero nights he faced at the beginning of his journey going higher and higher as he progressed. Ash eventually acheived his goal in Shanghai following an incredible almost year-long expedition in which he had to be prepared for anything. During a recent BBC Radio 4 interview, Ash described China as ‘a little bit of every country in one’, following his journey along the Yangtze.
Water-to-Go on Mission Yangtze
One challenge that Ash would face throughout the entirety of his 4000 miles is how he would get access to clean safe drinking water. With the sheer volume of walking a physical activity Ash would be doing, making sure can stay hydrated wherever he is would be crucial to his mission. He would also need to avoid any waterborne illnesses, which alone in China’s rural environments could be potentially fatal.
Thankfully Ash was equipped with his Water-to-Go filter bottle. The Water-to-Go filter bottle is able to filter 99.99% of contaminants from any non-salt water source. This meant that no matter where Ash was he could always rely on water from the Yangtze river or puddles, lakes and even bad tap water to stay hydrated. Ash’s Water-to-Go bottle has now accompanied him on all three of his World firsts.
“Big shout out to Water-to-Go. With their water filtration system built into their water bottles, this gave me access to fresh drinking water, any place, anytime, anywhere and also helped me to protect the environment by stopping me from using around 1,400 single use plastic bottles, which cause harm to the environment, during the 352 days.”
We’d like to give Ash a huge congratulations on his incredible achievement from everyone at Water-to-Go!
UK adventurer and Water-to-Go ambassador, Ash Dykes, is getting ever closer to the end of his latest mission. He is only a few days away from becoming the first person to walk the length of the Yangtze River.
He passed the 3000-mile mark of Mission Yangtze and his continuing his excellent progress along the Yangtze and through China. He is covering around 30 miles a day despite everything that the Yangtze has thrown at him. This part of the mission has been an important time to interact with followers, media outlets and people along the way to raise awareness about what he is set to achieve.
During his whole expedition but more recently, Ash has been making time to interact with people along the way, giving interviews or speeches in order to share all aspects of the journey so far.
He has been presenting to children at a primary school, all full of energy and eager to meet Ash in person after they have heard about his extraordinary journey. Ash loves sharing stories about the mission so far and tries to help with advice whenever he can. Whether that is facing challenges and rising against the struggle, or understanding just how amazing our planet is.
Back in March, Ash was featured on the cover story of China Daily documenting his journey with more and more media gaining interest.
Cecille Elbeleidi, British Consul General in Chongqing, called Dykes “an excellent example of UK’s dynamic and adventurous spirit.” “I’m particularly pleased that, along with his expedition, he has been actively promoting environment conservation, reduced use of plastics and wildlife protection,” she told China Daily.
In April, Ash was invited by the ‘China Adventure Association’ for a live interview as well as Chongqing Radio, Chongqing TV, Youth Daily and Discover Chongqing. Ash loved it and is totally excited about the interactivity of his mission so far.
Ash’s status and popularity has been ever-growing in China as more people hear about his latest and previous missions, as well as interacting with his posts on social media.
He has also been presenting, doing various appearances, book signing events, leading a two day trip up a local mountain for Kailas, doing school talks, attending a charity event for disadvantaged children and taking on many interviews and meetings.
This is a great opportunity for Ash to promote his mission, inspire the next generation and provide knowledge from his other adventures. They have all been very well attended and Ash has been overwhelmed by the support and interest in Mission Yangtze, in China particularly.
Ash got approached by the ‘WUJI’ brand that flew him First Class to Shanghai for a ‘fast’ photo shoot for GQ magazine together with Chinese action movie and martial art star 向佐 Jacky Heung. WUJI is a cobranded clothing range between Adidas and international Movie Star Jet Li. WUJI wanted two social influencers, one from the east and one from the west, to come together and show off the beauty of this martial art.
Ash’s background is mainly Muay Thai, but he is always eager to learn more and put on a show. Jacky, with his 10+ years of experience, guided Ash through some basic Kung-Fu moves and certainly got Ash looking sharp for the photos.
There was a recent Adidas Photo Exhibition in Shanghai, followed by the official launch. With Adidas, GQ, Jacky Heung and Ash Dykes sharing across their social media platforms, this generated a reach of tens of millions across China. You can read more about it here.
This is just one example of how Ash’s reputation is growing in China and how word is quickly spreading about his epic mission.
But it hasn’t all been easy as we explained in our previous blogs on Mission Yangtze. He has come through irrepressible weather, threat of dangerous animals and bouts of illness, but now he is facing the challenge of very difficult terrain.
These pictures capture the terrain that he is now covering and are the reason why by at the end of this mission, he would have done over 4,000 miles. Sometimes it’s not physically possible to follow the river by its bank and often he has been forced to either trek on the nearest mountainous ridge – or within the valley on the opposite side to the ridges.
Being able to adapt and understanding your surroundings, is the key to survival.
Ash has had to draw upon his skills and instinct to adapt to his surroundings. He has had to make decisions right from the very beginning that haven’t been the easiest to make but have ensured that he has reached this point in the expedition to minimise threats the safety, health and wellbeing of himself and his team.
He has had to remain focussed on the job in hand and ensure that he kept up the great progress on the expedition, regardless of the other aspects surrounding Mission Yangtze. It hasn’t been easy by any means but has been able to rely on his strict training regime and intense preparation he made in advance of embarking on this latest challenge.
I’ve always taken my training seriously and actually realised my passion for fitness long before exploration. What keeps me motivated is trying to picture the toughest scenarios I’ll face when out in the wild and often – the toughest has come true, where I’ve relied on my training to survive. Whether that’s crossing the most terrifying landslides, hacking through the densest and most demanding jungles or fighting and hanging on in there during a bout with malaria. Mindset is a whole different ball game but never be mistaken – with how important training and fitness is. I don’t come with a military mind, I come self taught, I’ve learnt from people I’ve met and I’ve learnt through making mistakes, falling and standing back up again with no brotherhood support, just my very own mind and body.
The longer routes, however, have been sort of a blessing in disguise as he has been able to take in more of the spectacular sights and atmosphere of China. If he was to stick to walking everyday, he would miss out on the true adventure, which is integrating and learning from the locals that he meets.
Throughout his journey, the people of China have been incredibly warm, welcoming and actually a huge part of the expedition itself, makes this country feel like a second home for him.
There have been several moments or problems that have threatened the mission, even before Ash had it all planned, it seems:
Many had warned me before, that it was impossible to walk the Yangtze from the source to the sea
Because the first section on the plateau (at an average of over 4,500 meters above sea level) and the barely inhabited mountain areas are very dangerous to cross, it was recommended that he shouldn’t even attempt the mission. But Ash carried on with preparations, regardless, and has got through the hardest part of the mission; even if it did take its toll on his team.
In order to cross the plateau and mountains in good weather, the journey was planned to start in summer, but because of delays in preparations, Dykes arrived in Qinghai in late August as the days were becoming shorter and colder. Unwilling to wait for another year, he decided to press on. He would be the first to say it was difficult but his determination and motivation to succeed helped him through.
Mission Yangtze is not only a human feat and world first, it’s a mission to showcase the true beauty and wonders of China, (and) highlight the environment and positive work being done to protect it
Ash managed to spend a day with the 赠客网Zenker Network, who work with disadvantaged children. He shared stories with the children, showing them the impossible is possible, to stay focussed on your dream, follow your heart and the importance of enjoying yet protecting this planet we live on.
This was followed by litter picking along the Yangtze River bank. It is great to see the young people taking care of the planet and the environment. As Ash states – “it’s the future generation that will really help turn around the destruction we’ve caused to this planet 🌏”
Ash has also sought to make this expedition one of the most interactive. This wasn’t just about social media posts, it has been about making appearances and truly getting involved in the local areas and big cities that he has passed through.
Ash loves sharing stories about the mission so far but also of previous expeditions.
The next step has been allowing people to physically join and share the journey, so he can showcase furthermore, the beauty and diversity of this massive country and highlight all the positive things being done to protect the natural environment.
This is all going to be featured in his documentary series that he is working on with a television production company in China. The country is so vast and here are still so many hidden treasures to discover.
Whilst there have been many changes of many aspects during the mission, one thing that has remained the same and with Ash throughout is his trusted Water-to-Go bottle.
Water-to-Go is my number one item on all expeditions
He recently reflected how Water-to-Go has kept him safe over a number years and helped him to complete his other world-first expedition in Mongolia and Madagascar. He has hiked through the Gobi-Desert solo and unsupported, hacked through dense jungle and survived sub-zero temperatures.
He highlighted – “Through all of this, I’ve never had to worry about water, as long as there is a water source near by, this bottle makes it instantly drinkable.
I’ve even scooped up mud puddle water in Madagascar and was able to drink it straight away due to the 3 in 1 built in water filtration technology.”
It is fantastic to hear that during his two world-first records and currently on his third – Ash has not needed to buy plastic bottles. This sets a great precedent to the people following him and all the people that he has met along the way. We are proud to sponsor him and to be a part of his journey.
It has been a huge mission that many said was not possible, but Ash has overcome everything that he has faced so far and is on the brink of history. As Ash enters the final weeks of his expedition, make sure you read all about it and realize how big an achievement this will be.
A Guide to help you pack the best items on your Safari to South Africa
With over 10 million foreign visitors a year, South Africa has a big appeal to tourists and with the famous Kruger National Park, Safaris play a large part of that tourism. The country has many Safari parks, which together attract millions of visitors every year, with the Kruger National park being the biggest Safari attraction in South Africa.
We’ve worked with safari companies such as Africa Star Tours and Volcano Safaris, and in doing so have gathered some great feedback about what the best items are to bring on your South African Safari trip.
We’ve also partnered with African Wildlife Foundation to help protect Africa’s incredible wildlife and wildlands that you will be experiencing on your Safari. To find out more about our partnership click here.
South Africa’s Kruger National Park
As probably the most popular South African Safari, we’ve provided a few facts about the Kruger National park before you go. With over 1,6 million visitors a year, the Kruger National Park is South Africa’s biggest safari location, having welcomed its first tourists in 1927. The park spans 19,485 km² and is host to a wide range of wildlife including Lions, Leopards, Elephants, buffalo, hippos as well as over 500 species of bird. The Reserve itself has 21 Rest Camps, 2 Private Lodge Concessions And 15 Private Safari Lodges for you to stay at.
A Camera to Capture your Journey
Having some form of camera will be a fantastic item so that you can capture some of the rarest animals on our planet. Using just your phone camera may be fine for some pictures however, it may not be the best option for capturing animals you’re not able to get up close with.
Therefore, getting yourself a good quality camera can help you capture some of the best photos during your Safari. It will help you get some great pictures of both the wildlife and the landscape along your way and is a great way to capture your memories of the trip.
The Best Camera for a Safari
There is a range of high-quality cameras available from brands like Sony, Panasonic and Fuji. Make sure to have a look around and find the best camera for your needs.
One great camera for a Safari is the Canon 80D. Firstly it’s a durable and weatherproof, meaning it will be able to deal with dusty South African Safari conditions. Additionally, it takes an excellent quality of photo so you’ll be able to capture the sights your trip in fantastic detail. However, whilst this camera is excellent for a safari it does come at a significant cost, so if you are looking for a cheaper option this may not be the best camera for you.
For similar reasons to a camera, bringing binoculars will enhance your experience during your Safari as well. You’ll want to make the most of your time out in the wild and that partially means getting the best view of as many animals as you can. Unfortunately binoculars cant change how many animals you see, but if there are animals a long way in the distance the binoculars will help you get the best look you can.
What to consider when buying Safari Binoculars
When choosing your binoculars you’ll want to consider a few different factors before your purchase:
Magnification: Make sure to get binoculars that are able to see a fairly long distance away, otherwise they won’t be much use! You can also get binoculars that have variable zoom which may be a useful feature.
Convenience: Travelling around all day means you won’t want to be carrying any unnecessary weight, so finding yourself a lighter and smaller pair of binoculars can be very beneficial.
Durability: As you’ll be out in the wild all day a pair of binoculars that can cope with the terrain is essential. Make sure to look for binoculars that will be able to withstand dusty South African conditions especially.
Quality of Image: You’ll want binoculars that are able to clearly see a fair amount of detail through the lens. The last thing you want is to be looking at a blurry spot instead of an elephant!
Cost: Whilst all these factors are important you’ll need to balance these against cost. If you’re looking at a lower price range you may have to compromise on some of these features, however you should still be able to find good quality binoculars at a reasonable price.
Sun Cream and a Sun Hat
With South African temperatures regularly hitting over 25ºC, sun cream and a hat will be essential for your Safari. These would be useful items if you were just on holiday but as you will be out in the sun all day on safari they become essential items for you. It’s also important to make sure you bring sun cream with you during the day so you can top up regularly.
As well as using sun cream regularly, a great item to prevent sunburn is a sun hat. This will not only help prevent sunburn on your neck and face but also keep your body temperature cooler throughout the day, reducing the risk of sunstroke.
The benefits of Suncream
There are numerous health benefits towards using sunscreen with the most obvious being you won’t be having to endure the pain of sunburn during your holiday. However, there are also long-term benefits such as reducing the chances of skin cancer, reducing premature skin ageing and preventing blotchy skin.
Safari Specific Clothing
Having already discussed a sun hat, you’ll also want to think about the clothing that you’ll be wearing out in the sun. Out in the heat all day you’ll want to make sure you’re feeling comfortable and not too hot in your clothing.
When thinking about your attire, comfort and ease are two factors that should be essential. In scorching South African heat, having restricting clothing that may even be hard to move in will almost certainly have a negative impact on your safari experience. Another factor that could be considered is bug bites. Companies such as Rohan make insect repellent clothing which can be very useful in any country where you will face the threat of bitey insects.
Also think about Safari Appropriate Footwear
As well as your clothing, you’ll want to think about what sort of footwear you’ll need for your safari. This may depend on how much walking you’ll be doing, however, it’s probably best to look for some specific walking boots so that you won’t be doing any damage to your feet after a long day of walking. After all, you won’t want to be going into day 2 with blisters on your feet.
Reusable Water Filter Bottle
Being outside in the heat all day means you’ll need to find an effective way to stay hydrated throughout the day. The issue of hydration during the day is often solved through single-use plastic bottled water, which of course is very damaging for the environment. However in some places, tap water may not be a safe option and there won’t be many water sources out on your Safari. So what other options do you have?
The most effective way to keep you hydrated throughout the day, without having to contribute to the world’s plastic pollution problem, is through a filter water bottle. The Water-to-Go bottle can filter dirty unsafe water as you drink. This means that you can fill up from any fresh water source with confidence you won’t suffer any illness. You can therefore, fill up from any tap water or even a river or lake during your Safari.
A good tip for your safari may be to take a large over 2-litre bottle of unfiltered water and decant this into your filter bottle. This is because there is a strong chance your filter bottle won’t hold enough for a full day out in the sun. So unless you know you’ll be stopping regularly for water, make sure to carry more than enough for a full day’s safari with you.
Consider your Medication and the Threat of Malaria
As one of the most deadly diseases in human history, Malaria remains a genuine threat to anyone travelling to the African continent. Malaria medication is available in the UK and is likely to be essential for your Safari. Before going on your safari make sure to consult with your GP to ask about any vaccines or medication you may need before travelling.
Insect Repellent to prevent Bug Bites
Travelling anywhere in Africa, bringing insect and specifically mosquito repellent is an important item. The last thing you want during your Safari days is to be constantly itching because of insect bites. The spray will also help you avoid mosquitos and the dangerous diseases they carry.
As previously mentioned, you can also get yourself insect repellent clothing which will be able which is another great way to keep yourself protected. Both methods should work effectively, however to be safe it may be best to still use repellent spray even if you’ve got the clothing as well.
Essential Items for Travel
Slightly less specific for your safari, but make sure to double check you have your usual travel essentials. Make sure to check what you need for your specific journey, but some things these should include are:
From Canada to Mexico with the Grand Canyon in between
Jule Eisendick, founder of the happy choices, has travelled to stunning destinations all over North and Central America. She experienced the breath-taking Canadian wilderness travelling by car. Then beholding one of North America’s most awe-inspiring Landmarks, the Grand Canyon, Arizona. On to Central America, Jule was able to visit some of the beautiful natural sites that Mexico has to offer, including the incredible beaches and wonderful cenotes.
However, each of these three vastly different destinations poses the vital challenge of how to access clean safe drinking water. Firstly in the vast wilderness of Canada, Jule will only be able to access water via rivers, streams and lakes, all of which are extremely unreliable when it comes to safe drinking water. Furthermore, she will have to stay regularly hydrated in the blistering heat of the Grand Canyon. And finally, she will be forced to drink from potentially dangerous tap water in Mexico, another source that can cause serious illness.
Thankfully Jule had her Water-to-Go filter bottle with her on each unique journey. This meant in Canada’s fierce wilderness Jule was able to drink ‘from lakes, waterfalls and rivers. It’s been an awesome feeling to drink wild water, and it was great not to have to carry the heavy water bottles you normally need to carry.’ Furthermore in the Grand Canyon and Mexico Jule could safely and confidently drink from potentially harmful tap water. In fact whilst in Arizona ‘they had bathroom taps with signs and hotel staff saying the tap water is not drinking water’. However, this worrying information didn’t phase them as they ‘safely drank the water with our filter bottle’.
Stop Plastic pollution caused by single-use plastic bottles on National Refill Day
National Refill Day is a public awareness campaign aiming to stop millions of single-use plastic bottles from polluting our streets and oceans. The day is encouraging people to carry a reusable water bottle and refill on the go.
Brought to you by City to Sea as part of the award-winning Refill Campaign, National Refill Day is an awareness campaign to get the UK public to stop bottling it when it comes to our drinking water. Refill want to create a new social norm for refilling on the go – saving us money, keeping us hydrated and preventing millions of single-use plastic bottles at the source.
This is something that we are big advocates for and want to encourage everyone to do. We have all the seen the disastrous effect that plastic pollution is having on our planet and it is imperative that we all do our bit to protect our planet.
On June 19th the Refill campaign will be asking the public if they’ve #GotTheBottle to stop buying single-use plastic bottles and replace them with a reusable bottle instead. If just 1 in 10 Brits Refilled once a week, the country would save around 340 million plastic bottles a year.
💧 An estimated 700,000 plastic bottles are littered every day in the UK
💧 Plastic bottles are the most commonly found single-use item on beaches in Europe
One of our core missions at Water-to-Go is to reduce the environmental devastation caused by single-use plastic bottles. Just one of our 75cl filters will replace 400 single-use plastic bottles. Just think of the difference this could make.
Additionally, the bottle’s unique filtration technology means you can fill up from any non-salt water source, such as rivers, lakes and mountain streams, to access safe drinking water. So no matter the situation you won’t need to revert to single-use plastic bottles for accessing clean drinking water.
Water-to-Go Marking National Refill Day
As part of National Refill Day, we’re showcasing some of our favourite places our customers and ambassadors have refilled their Water-to-Go bottles.
Water-to-Go ambassador, Ash Dykes, has refilled his Water-to-Go bottle from the Yangtze river in China on his world-first #MissionYangtze expedition to walk the whole length of the Yangtze river.
Water-to-Go ambassador, Chaz Powell, fills his Water-to-Go bottle from the Gambia river on his recent expedition to become one of the first to walk the whole length of it.
Water-to-Go bottles making an appearance at Glastonbury Festival. If you are at a festival this year, make sure you stay well hydrated and plastic free with a Water-to-Go bottle.
Have a look at our Summer packing list with all the essentials you will need to keep you single-use plastic free. (To get festival ready with Water-to-Go, use discount code: FESTIVAL19)
Tim Kroeger filled up his bottle from a tap whilst on a trip in a village in West Africa.
Keenan Williams refilling his Water-to-Go bottle from a lake in the Brecon Beacons.
Holly from The Outdoor Guide fills up from the snow mountains whilst on a trip in Switzerland.
Tarran Kent-Hume refilled his Water-to-Go bottle from the Rio Negro whilst on an expedition kayaking the Amazon River.
Jule from The Happy Choices drinking water straight from a waterfall whilst on a walk in the Canadian wilderness.
Our Blue 75cl bottle getting a top-up from a mucky puddle whislt on a hike in South Korea.
This refill of the green bottle is straight from a standpipe whilst on a charity trek in the Pyrenees.
Becky the Traveller fills her pink 50cl bottle from a mountain stream whilst on a hike in the Lake District.
Send us your pictures filling up your Water-to-Go bottle from questionable sources and we will feature them on our social media channels.
My name is Daniel Eggington and I’m a solo traveller
So a bit about me:
After leaving the UK in 2010 and embarking on a backpacking trip to Indonesia, I found my love of exploring. I spent 12 days in the forest with three local guides, travelling through and camping at a new spot each night. This added some life-changing experiences for me as a naive 18-year-old alone in a foreign country, not knowing any part of the local language. When I got back to the UK, I decided that this is the career path I wanted to work towards.
I decided I wanted to work in the travel industry, where my passion in life truly lies. After that trip and immediately planned for other journeys. I decided to explore Latin America where I got I real feel of the indigenous culture. I planned and prepared for a journey to the Darien Gap Panama-Colombia border region which was a fantastic experience. I then began planning my return to head to Guyana where I canoed a river with 2 local guides, travelling for 12 days and covering 288km to be exact.
I knew that my dream job would now be to work as an expedition leader where I could live out my passion for leading in remote and exciting places. I now had an abundance of remote travel experience, the required knowledge and soon the qualifications that it takes to do this. I have now done my ML training so I am working hard to make this a career choice a reality.
So my next trip will begin from Jurado in Colombia, travelling north through the Choco Department of Colombia and into the Darien Gap which leads into Panama. The endpoint will be in Jaque and I will be following the Pacific coast of Colombia. I aim to make it a wholly solo project and document it on a daily basis on my return. I will be providing an educational perspective of a region in a part of the world that is relatively unknown. The trip will be around 50 miles in total which should take around 15 days. I want to push myself to my very limit, of my capabilities as an explorer.
The Darien Gap Project will involve visiting the Colombian Choco Department which is the least explored region of Colombia due to its notorious past. Quibdo is the capital of the chocò region where half of the population are said to live and work. The rest are in small communities scattered throughout the region where a majority are on the coast such as Nuqui and surrounding towns of Quibdo.
I also want to use this expedition as a platform to raise awareness for conservation and indigenous communities rights. I will be travelling, wholly unsupported, over a number of different landscapes from primary rainforest to high valleys and wetlands.
I use Water-to-Go for the simplicity and how effective it is. It helps in a few ways from less weight and not having to carry a few litres of water in 2 or 3 bottles. I have used it from Guyana to Costa Rica.
There are not many detailed maps of the region so it isn’t a journey for the faint-hearted. The journey will be documented via videography and photography and tracked at timed intervals through the Delorme device. As I will be entirely alone in the region, a tracking device will be essential.
The region has many issues from severe poverty to armed conflict between paramilitary and people. The Colombian Chocò department is the least explored region of Colombia due to its notorious past.
I am planning to do this trip as it is something that I have always wanted to do and if successful, would be first of its kind. Where I will be raising awareness for a cause I am passionate about which is conservation and indigenous peoples rights.
The project will be in partnership with Alpaca Raft, Hennessy hammock, Water-to-Go as well as Backcountry Scot.
Keep up to date with everything Daniel is up to on social media.
After many years of travelling and after pursuing many different life changing adventures, I soon realised I needed more and soon realised I needed ‘The Wildest Journey’ and something that would stretch me far out of my normal comfort zone.
I knew I wanted to discover wild lands that were little known to others, lands where people daren’t venture due to tales of danger, mystery and the unknown. Something that would take me to a whole new level of exploration and be my ultimate adventure.
So, in 2016 and 2017 I spent a combined duration of 137 days walking for over 3000km from source to sea along the mighty Zambezi river. An expedition that for me was the ultimate test – To walk the length of Africa’s wildest river….
Walking the Zambezi
The expedition had taken two years of strict planning and during those 2 years, I’d managed to find myself a local guide, who had also seemed passionate about walking the length of the Zambezi river and tackling this wildest journey by foot.
But after reaching the river’s source and coming face to face with the reality of walking through remote lands for the next 5 months. He quickly changed his mind and succumbed to his fears, saying that this was a crazy idea and it can’t be done! He then turned back in the direction we had come and left me alone to walk the length of the Zambezi river, I never saw him again.
After the shock of being left alone in these strange lands, I soon got my head together and started walking. Remembering why it was I had taken on this challenge and knowing I needed to try and embrace every second of this great journey.
From then on, I spent time in the remotest of settlements with the humblest of people. People who had absolutely nothing in their lives but seemed to give absolutely everything. I came to rely on these people not only to help guide the way, but also for the incredible hospitality I received on a near daily basis. But this wasn’t without hesitation, as I was often mistaken for being a demon, a witch, a diamond smuggler and even a reincarnation of the great David Livingstone. I was the first white person many had ever met, so it came as quite a shock to see me walking through their remote lands.
During my great journey, I faced many a challenging obstacle along the mighty river. From crossing the 400-mile long swampy Barotse floodplains, near-death experiences in the Zambezi gorges, and being held hostage in a small remote village in Mozambique. All of these challenges moulded me and saw me overcome all the fears that I’d built up before tackling this mighty quest. I’d reached the Indian ocean and my end goal knowing that I wanted to continue to take on more wildest journeys and to raise awareness for the devastating loss of wildlife and wild lands across the continent of Africa and throughout the world. I knew it was my passion to explore and discover and I’d now continue to do so to fight for the voiceless.
After a long 2-day journey we eventually reached the source of the Gambia river. The river itself starts in the remote highlands of the Fouta Djallon in Guinea-Conakry, and is a wild, rugged landscape consisting of steep hills and remote settlements. Paths along the river’s banks were minimal and we were often forced into climbing the steep tracks away from the river itself! This was the beginning of what would turn out to be an incredible yet wildest journey, where we found ourselves tackling this challenging environment, but were treated like kings in this land of warmth and kindness. Leaving us feeling overwhelmed and fascinated by the amazing cultures and the hospitality we received from the most humble of people.
Soon the river started to widen and consisted of numerous twists and turns. Its presence left us feeling overwhelmed and in a fascinating state of isolation along its wild banks. We came to rely on it not just for the water it gave us to drink and cook with, but for the sense of freedom it bestowed upon us with its beauty and grace. It was home to not only the good people who accommodated and fed us whilst we hiked its waters edge. But also to the wildest of animals and the most magnificent of ever changing wild landscapes.
During my journeys I relied on drinking straight from the rivers with my trusty Water-to-Go bottles. There was several sections of river where the water was just too contaminated. So whilst using my bottle it gave me both the confidence and tools I needed to survive in the most remotest of regions.
One of the most incredible parts of our journey was walking through the Niokolo Koba National Park. After nearly being denied access into the park, but by some miracle managing to secure a last-minute permit. We hiked and skirted along the river’s edge until reaching the parks gates. On arrival we were accompanied by two game rangers and started by far the wildest section of our trek. Unfortunately, during those 4 days I felt at my lowest. My appetite had disappeared and the heat/lack of food was seriously draining my energy supplies. But these guys got me through and made it by far one of the most memorable moments of our source to sea journey.
When times became difficult, it was often the good people we met along the way that would lift our spirits and inspire us to keep pushing forward with our journey. People who had very little in the way of possessions but would often open their doors and hearts to us to make us feel welcomed. This kindness of strangers is what motivated us through the difficult times, and the good people of Guinea-Conakry, Senegal and The Gambia made this expedition one of greatest journeys I’ve ever made.
On reaching the Atlantic Ocean and the end of our 1120km, 47-day source to sea journey by foot. We were left feeling a huge sense of satisfaction, elation and overwhelming joy. We had become the first known people to take on and complete this mammoth task, and we knew that this difficult, yet humbling challenge had all been worthwhile.
We had hiked through some of the wildest regions in Western Africa and been welcomed by all that we had met on our path. This was an adventure that will stay with me forever and one that will be difficult to compare with any of my future ‘the wildest journey’ expeditions.
What next for The Wildest Journey?
In September 2019 myself and (potentially) a small team will be setting out in an attempt to walk not only the width of Madagascar, but also source to sea along the country’s longest river – The Mangoky.
Starting on the East Coast of Madagascar we will walk to the source of The Mangoky River and then follow its 564-kilometer (350 mi) length all the way to the Mozambique Chanel on the country’s Western Coast. We will be heading out on this epic adventure to not only take on an incredible journey. But also to raise awareness and funds for the loss of wildlife and wild lands throughout the region…
So there is a lot to look forward to. Keep up to date with all of my adventures and expeditions on Instagram and Facebook.
We are delighted to announce that Water-to-Go Founder and CEO, Dave Shanks, has been selected by the Department of International Trade as 1 of 25 Export Champions in the East of England who are promoting British export.
To mark the announcement, Dave was invited to attend a launch event at the Moller Centre in Cambridge on Wednesday 1st May. Other Chief Executives, Managers and Directors from a group of East of England exporting businesses were also recognised and invited as Export Champions by the Department for International Trade (DIT) to the event.
I am delighted to announce the expansion of DIT’s export champion programme, with the addition to the network of 25 experienced exporters based in the East of England.
The 25 Export Champions have been selected by DIT for their inspirational approach to growing their businesses through exporting, or for championing exporting in the East of England. As part of the role, champions are also encouraging companies in their region to start exporting, offer practical advice on how to turn exporting ambitions into reality and share their experiences of how DIT helped them break into new markets.
Exporting has been a huge part of our business as we now have distributors selling Water-to-Go bottles in over 50 countries.
The announcement comes as worldwide demand for British goods continues to grow. HMRC figures show that exports from the East of England generated more than £28 billion of income for the UK in 2018, highlighting the opportunity for British businesses to gain greater access to some of the largest and fastest growing markets in the world.
Trade Policy Minister, George Hollingbery visited Cambridge to announce the new Export Champions and to discuss opportunities for businesses to increase their exports. As part of the UK’s future independent trade policy, there will be new opportunities for British businesses to gain greater access to some of the largest and fastest growing markets in the world.
British businesses and exporters will play a major role in helping to forge stronger trading relationships as we leave the European Union and take control of our independent trade policy for the first time in over 40 years.
The Export Champion community, launched in March as part of the Exporting is GREAT campaign, was introduced in response to a desire from businesses to receive peer-to-peer exporting support. There are now 250 Export Champions active across England, and the Department’s ambition is to expand the programme to at least 1,000 Champions by April 2020. We were delighted to be a part of the event and the campaign to promote British export, especially in the East Of England.
Through the programme we will continue to work with local businesses to provide expert support and advice, helping business in the East of England take advantage of the largest and fastest growing global markets, where there is high demand for quality British goods.
We’re pleased to be strengthening the local economy by selling overseas. It’s very exciting to see Water-to-Go bottles being sold and distributed around the world as we look to make a difference.
We are very proud to be part of the Export Champion Community and to be recognised for making Water-to-Go a global business. You can find out more information and join us in the export community at www.great.gov.uk
A Guide featuring the best Travel items to include in your Volunteering Packing List
Are you planning on travelling abroad to volunteer for a charity project? If so you’ll need to make sure you prepare correctly. We’ve created this volunteer packing list to help guide you on some of the best items to take on your trip. We’ve previously worked with volunteers and organisations such as Echo In Africa and African Wildlife Foundation to aid in creating this list of the best items to take with you on your volunteering trip. Whilst we recommend taking these items, researching your destination is important as well so that you can prepare for the specific location of your volunteering trip.
It’s important to be prepared medically for whichever country you are visiting, especially if you are volunteering in countries such as those within Africa where there is the risk of serious diseases such as Malaria.
The medication you’ll need to take on your journey will vary depending on the country you’re travelling to. Make sure to consult your GP or visit a travel health clinic to recommend the medicines/ vaccinations you will need for your travels. Their’s nothing worse than your volunteering experience being ruined because of an avoidable illness.
Sun Hat and Sunscreen
Obviously, this will primarily apply to those volunteering in hot countries where you’ll be in the sun regularly. It’s important to understand the strength of cream you will need and if you’re unsure, it’s better to go with a higher SPF just to be safe. There are numerous health benefits associated with using sunscreen with the most obvious being you won’t be having to endure the pain of sunburn during your holiday. However, there are also long-term benefits such as reducing the chances of skin cancer, reduces premature skin ageing and preventing blotchy skin.
As well as using sun cream regularly, a great item to prevent sunburn is a sun hat. This will not only help prevent sunburn on your neck and face but also keep your body temperature cooler throughout the day, reducing the risk of sunstroke. This will be especially useful if you are volunteering in Africa and are out all day, for example, if you were helping build a school.
Water Filter Bottle
Travelling abroad, in general, it can be difficult to get access to clean safe drinking water, especially if you are volunteering in Africa. Often your only alternative is to buy bottled water in single-use plastic bottles, however, this can be expensive and will contribute towards the world’s extremely damaging plastic pollution problem.
A way to solve all of these issues in one is through the use of a Water-to-Go filter bottle. These portable, lightweight bottles use a 3-in-1 unique filtration system which has been tested and proven to filter out over 99.9% of microbiological contaminants. This means you can fill it up from any non-salt water source around the world and get clean safe drinking water instantly.
In addition to this, these bottles are reusable bottles that only need the filter changed every 2-3 months. This means they will heavily reduce your plastic usage making your trip more environmentally friendly. The bottle also works out at 5p per litre of water so you’ll be able to save yourself some money as well.
Remember Volunteering with a Journal or Scrapbook
Your volunteering experience will likely be something you will look back at with fond memories. A great way to capture this is through taking a scrapbook or journal so you can look back at everything that you achieved.
Keeping this will not only be a great way to one day look back on your experience, but you can also note down any contact info from people you meet along your volunteering journey.
Additionally, if you’re low on packing space or don’t want to pack a physical journal you can record your journey online. ‘Travel Diaries App’ is a great online tool for recording your experiences and uploading pictures almost in a blog format. You can also order a printed book version of your diary on your return.
To go along with your journal/ scrapbook, bringing a camera is another great way of capturing your volunteering experience. Plus you can add some of your pictures into your diary.
If you’re not too fussed about having super high-quality photos, your phone’s camera will do just fine, or you can go out of your way for some great quality pictures with a digital camera. Either way, you’ll definitely want to capture some of your memories in picture form so bringing some form of camera will be a great choice.
Bring Donations (If Appropriate)
This is a great way to give something extra, especially if you’ve got a bit of spare packing space. You may be able to get an idea of what would be best to bring from the organisation you’re going with as they sometimes provide recommendations on extra donation items.
However if not, a great idea is to bring donations that can’t usually be easily purchased in the country you’re volunteering in. Also, try to bring relevant and useful items, for example if you were volunteering at an animal shelter, you may bring squeaky toys or blankets and if you were helping build a school you could bring art supplies, backpacks or stationary.
Your Usual Travel Essentials
Slightly less specific for your volunteering packing list, but make sure to double check you have everything you would usually take for your travels. Make sure to double and triple check what you need for your specific journey, some of these things should include:
We are delighted to announce that through our partnership with UK tour company, Explore Worldwide, we have managed to raise over £2000 for charitable projects.
We started working with Explore on World Water Day 2018 and since then, we have managed to raise over £2000 for charitable projects. Over just a year, £2211 has been raised via bottle sales from their customers who are going on their trips and want to stay safe and single-use plastic free. This is a fantastic sum and we are delighted to be supporting Explore and their charitable projects. Explore support several initiatives and projects such as Toilet Twinning that make a difference to the destinations they travel to.
This money will go towards Explore Leaders’ local communities around the world and the Explore Start-Up Fund. Explore created the Explore Start-Up Fund in 2016 and each year, they award a donation of £1,000 to three sustainable start-ups. The business proposals come from their overseas teams around the world and the only imperative is that the ideas are sustainable, and can continue to grow and flourish without continued financial support. From looms being purchased for women’s’ cooperatives in Morocco, to a vertical garden project in Cambodia, to a bike repair shop with apprentice scheme in Tanzania the scope is wide and the project is very exciting!
Explore Worldwide specialise in small group adventure holidays and travel tours for every kind of customer; offering over 600 trips worldwide in 130 countries. From family trips to holidays for solo travellers; cycling tours to wildlife safaris; trekking mountains or exploring miles of scenic coastline; self-guided holidays or small group trips; there is something for every kind of traveller with Explore.
They believe travel should change us, not the world. That communities and cultures should benefit and flourish and that we should leave nothing but footprints behind. That is why responsible travel is at the core of everything they do from sponsoring projects around the world and offsetting carbon emissions of their flights to supporting local communities and protecting wildlife. Water-to-Go are delighted to be working with them and we look forward to what the future holds as we continue to make a difference in the travel and tourism industry.
At Explore, their priority is their customer’s health, well-being and safety. Ensuring you are drinking enough clean water when trekking in Nepal, taking a long, hot train journey across India or snorkelling in the Med is key to staying well and having an amazing holiday. However, whether it’s on the TV, in the paper or over the radio, the ever-growing plastic problem is unavoidable and they are keen to lead the way in reducing single-use plastic on our trips. Sounds like it should be an easy task but it’s not.
An average group of 16 people, on a two-week tour will use, and throw away, between 800-1000 plastic bottles! We have been trialling a few methods around the world to reduce these numbers but we haven’t found a perfect solution – until now. We’re very happy to partner with Water-to-Go to offer our customers an exclusive discount on their refillable, filtration bottles to ensure you can stay fighting fit and guilt free during your adventure!
In fact, since we started our partnership with Explore this time last year, we are pleased to report that their customers have saved around 105,000 single-use plastic bottles from waste on their trips around the world by using Water-to-Go bottles!
We hope that this is just the start of what is already a very fruitful partnership and we look forward to working further with Explore to help make a difference.
For more information on our partnership with Explore Worldwide, click here.