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!
Get yourself Outdoors this week with National Map Reading Week and Walking Month
This 27th May – 2nd June 2019 is the UK’s National Map Reading week, helping to inspire people to get active and experience the great outdoors. This week aims to inspire those of all ages and interests to get outside, explore, find adventure and make memories.
In addition to this, May is the UK’s National Walking Month, so with it being the final weekend of the month, there’s no better time to get out and explore the great outdoors.
Ordnance Survey and #GetOutside
Starting as simply the producer of world-famous paper maps, our partners, Ordnance Survey now use data to produce digital maps across the UK. The OS maps aim to provide a comprehensive map of the ever-changing British landscape, doing so in extraordinary detail. OS has also created a great ‘Explore Near Me’ section on their website, where you can find fantastic ways to get outdoors near your location.
As part of the GetOutside campaign, OS are celebrating National Map Reading week, getting people active and exploring the outdoors. The simple art of reading a map can open up the landscape, take us off well-worn paths and keep us safe.
Don’t Forget your Water-to-Go Filter Bottle
We have partnered with Ordnance Survey, providing specially made branded Water-to-Go filter bottles. To mark their latest brand launch, they are now selling special edition Ordnance Survey filter bottles both in the 50cl and 75cl sizes.
Our filter bottles will eliminate 99.9% of all microbiological contaminants including viruses, bacterias as well as heavy metals and chemicals from any non-saltwater source. This means you’ll be able to stay hydrated from any river, lake or stream you come across whilst you’re exploring the great outdoors.
The Best Ways to Get Outdoors
In celebration of national walking month, Water-to-Go Retail Partners, Blacks, have created a list of the best walks across the UK. This is a great way to get active and experience the best of the British countryside. The list includes walks from all parts of the UK including:
Stackpole Circular, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Prawle Point, Devon
Tobermory Circuit, Isle of Mull, Scotland
London’s South Bank
Get Outdoors at a Festival
If you don’t fancy a walk, another great way to get outdoors is to start enjoying the UK’s festival season, and hopefully some great weather. Don’t forget to stay hydrated with your Water-to-Go bottle, so you can fill up from anywhere around the venue, whilst also avoiding single-use plastic bottles. For this summer only, you can get 19% off any Water-to-Go filter bottle when you use the code FESTIVAL19 at the checkout.
Clean Safe Drinking Water on Ash Dykes’ Three World First Expeditions
British adventurer Ash Dykes has achieved some incredible feats, from hiking solo through the scorching Gobi desert to surviving sub-zero temperatures in China’s mountains. In this time Ash has achieved two awe-inspiring world first records. In 2014, he became the first person ever recorded to walk across Mongolia completely solo and unsupported, covering an astonishing distance of over 1,500 miles in 78 days. He trekked over the Altai Mountains, through the Gobi Desert and the Mongolian Steppe, all whilst pulling a wheeled trailer weighing 120kg, carrying everything needed to survive.
He then later became the first person in history to walk the entire length of Madagascar’s interior, whilst summiting the island’s eight highest Mountains in the process. Ash is now hoping to become the first person to walk the length of the Yangtze River this year which is set to be an enormous 4,000-mile trek.
However, travelling to remote locations like these means Ash is constantly facing the life-threatening problem of how he can get access to essential clean safe drinking water. In these dangerous conditions drinking dirty water can have disastrous and potentially fatal consequences. Drinking contaminated dirty water can lead to many serious diseases such as Cholera, Typhoid and Dysentery. Additionally, as Ash is in some of the world’s most remote areas, lack of access to medical facilities means these diseases could lead to serious consequences. This is a genuinely life-threatening challenge that Ash is forced to face on every one of his challenges.
Thankfully, Ash has been accompanied by his ‘number one item’, his Water-to-Go filter bottle, on each of his amazing world first missions. Ash has been able to drink from any and every non-salt water source he has come across during his expeditions: ‘Through all of this, I’ve never had to worry about water, as long as there is a water source nearby, 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’. This means Ash has been able to safely and effectively stay hydrated on his astounding challenges, which in places with high temperatures like the Gobi desert and Madagascar has been critical to his world firsts.
Ash is continuing to make great progress on his current mission to trek the entire length of China’s Yangtze River. He has already passed the half-way mark and is encountering a new side of the Yangtze as he goes from very rural to more urban parts of this amazing river. Whilst the many changes in scenery, people and food; there is one thing that remains the same on his expedition – his Water-to-Go bottle.
UK adventurer and Water-to-Go ambassador, Ash Dykes, has reached the halfway point of his massive mission to trek the entire length of China’s Yangtze River. Despite everything that has been thrown at him, Ash has continued to make excellent progress and has already completed half of his third world-first and biggest mission to date.
Ash has walked 2000 miles along the river to reach this huge milestone, and along the way has faced all kinds of life-threatening dangers (landslides, bears and being tracked by a pack of wolves) as well as being held up 5 times by police/government officials.
Death-defying extreme athlete Ash Dykes reached safety at the halfway point of his mammoth world first expedition 9th January 2019, having faced immense threats to his safety whilst attempting to walk the entire length of China’s Yangtze River in just a year.
Having set off on 26th August 2018, Ash has battled the elements and overcome many obstacles to get to where he is now. There have been several times where Ash has feared for his life but has relied on his intense training regimes and wild instincts to get him through a tough first half of the expedition. Despite many tough moments, he has always had the confidence and reassurance to trust his to deliver clean, safe drinking water to keep him hydrated through his mission.
Attempting to complete this expedition and even getting to where he is now is no mean is no mean feat. The Yangtze is the longest river to flow through a single nation and stretches almost 4000 miles from west to east China, through eleven provinces, diverse ecosystems and multiple major cities including Chongqing and Shanghai.
It has taken Ash 136 days and 2000 miles of intense trekking across some of the world’s most dangerous and remote provinces to reach the halfway point in the small Chinese city of Panzhihua, having set off from the Yangtze River’s true, scientific source in the Tibetan Plateau on 26th August last year.
In one of the few remaining ‘firsts’ to be attempted by man, Ash and his team have faced huge challenges on this first half of the expedition, with eight out of nine of Ash’s teammates dropping out mid-mission due to injury, illness or fears for their safety.
The mission got off to a difficult start when Ash’s Tibetan guide suffered the serious effects of altitude sickness on the way to the source of the river and required urgent medical attention, delaying the expedition’s start date. Since then, bears travelling down the mountain to find food before hibernation have posed the greatest threat to Ash’s life; closely followed by wolves. Ash was tracked by a pack of wolves for two days straight not long after the trek began, and has faced the very real threat of aggressive wild yaks, cobras, and giant hornets along the way.
Other natural elements have also made this challenge particularly immense, with temperatures as low as -20 degrees celsius, snow blizzards, glacial river crossings, and landslides pushing Ash to his limit and, at times, forcing him to detour and lose precious days.
Although the most remote, dangerous and uncertain leg of the expedition is now behind Ash, the remainder of the trek will pose threats of different kinds. Rather than bears, wolves and wilderness, Ash will encounter heavily populated cities and some of the most polluted areas of any river in the world. The hot, rainy season means the river is more likely to flood, and as the river widens so do its tributaries, meaning crossings will be more difficult and could lead to further detours and delays.
Despite this, Ash remains positive. He said:
“Without a doubt, Mission Yangtze has been the biggest challenge I’ve undertaken to date. Physically I was as prepared as I could be, but mentally it’s hard to get ready for the harsh and remote landscapes, sub zero temperatures, and the difficulties these bring. I have trekked through some of the most breathtaking and unspoilt parts of the world, but I’ve never felt so vulnerable to the elements and predators as I have done over the past few months.”
“China is an unbelievably diverse country, with each province I’ve crossed bringing unique terrains, climates, wildlife and challenges. I was actually stopped on five occasions by the police, as government officials worried for my security and safety. Despite having to retrace 40 miles worth of the trek after being detained, we managed to push on with the backing of the Qinghai Government and CBCGDF, and really appreciate their concern.”
“Despite the challenges, I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the kindness and hospitality shown by the people I’ve encountered so far. I always say that the locals make or break an adventure, and so far the Chinese have been amazing. It’s been hugely rewarding living and integrating with locals, meeting schools and families, and learning about their lives and traditions.”
“The Yangtze has also been incredibly clean so far, as the Tibetan people will not so much as fish out of the river, let alone throw rubbish in it. I know the second half will be far more polluted, but it’s a common misconception that the entire Yangtze River is being destroyed by the effects of industrialisation. I’m really interested to see how China’s wild west compares with its more industrial and densely populated eastern region.”
“The expedition hasn’t been straightforward but it’s been an incredible experience so far, and I’m really looking forward to seeing and learning even more about this amazing country as I enter into the second half of the mission. Bring it on!”
We are delighted to hear that Ash has already completed half of his most ambitious expedition to date and is continuing to make excellent progress. We can’t wait to hear what happens on the rest of his mission and look forward to providing updates throughout. Make sure you keep up to date from Ash himself on his social media channels and pinpoint where he is along the Yangtze on his live tracker.
10 Terrific Pieces of Adventure Travel Kit used by our Ambassadors
Over the past few years, Water-to-Go has worked closely with a wide range of travellers, explorers, travel bloggers, volunteer workers, etc., travelling with them around the globe.
As a result of their travels, we’ve been able to find some brilliant pieces of travel gear used by ambassadors such as Ash Dykes, Chaz Powell, Emily Luxton and many more. This guide will help you decide on the best items to choose when travelling and which items are right for your destination.
Adventure Travel Tent
Having a reliable, convenient place to sleep is essential for any adventurer, and for those travelling off the beaten track having a high-quality tent is extremely important.
Vango’s tents are a great travel item for anyone that will need to camp during their travels. Vango produces a wide range of tents from family tents, with some designed to fit up to 8 people per tent, to solo one man tents for the lone adventurer.
Originating in the Highlands of Scotland, Vango has a history when it comes to producing adventure tents. The tents are designed to be easy to set up and take down so that you can spend more time trekking, mountain biking, cycling or doing whatever it is you have planned.
With such a range of tents, Vango is ideal for anyone who is in need of a tent from large parties of adventurers to solo trekkers.
Lightweight Portable Charger
Being able to have your phone or camera with you is a great way to capture the memories of your adventure. So, it’s important to make sure you’re able to keep these devices charged by using a portable charger.
The power traveller is a lightweight portable charger that’s powered using solar energy. The device is a great way to make sure your phone, camera, tablet, etc. are able to capture the best moments of your travel experience. After all, you’ll only need sunlight to keep your devices fully charged.
The use of solar energy also means you can help reduce your carbon footprint when travelling by avoiding non-renewable sources of electricity.
Whilst perhaps better suited to holidays off the beaten track where access to electricity is limited, the power traveller is also a great little device for those more environmentally conscious travellers.
Water-to-Go Personal Filtration System
Has bad tap water ever made you ill and ruined your experience? Well, the Water-to-Go filter bottle is able to filter out 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, chemicals and pesticides from any non-salt water source. This means it can provide safe, clean drinking water from any river, lake, mountain stream or even bad tap water.
The bottle is also a great way to reduce your plastic footprint. Instead of buying more and more single-use plastic water bottles, the reusable Water-to-Go bottle can be used to replace them without having to worry about getting ill from a bad water source.
Additionally, with each filter being able to process 130 or 200 litres of water (dependent on filter size) the bottle will only cost you around 5p per litre. So you can also save yourself some extra money to spend on your travels.
Coming in both an everyday use 50cl bottle and a larger 75cl bottle, there is a bottle for both the casual day-tripper or the hardcore adventurer.
Now that your drinking water is sorted, you’ll need to think about the food you’re going to eat along your journey. A great way for adventurers to prepare their meals is through Firepot’s food parcels.
Firepot provide healthy, dehydrated food that comes in lightweight meal pouches. Firepot say their goal is to create a healthy hearty meal that won’t weigh you down on your adventures. Their recipes have been developed to maximise nutrition within each parcel as well as providing great tasting meals. Therefore, Firepot is great for anyone who will be spending extended periods of time off the beaten track away from other food sources.
Specialised Travel Backpack
With all your travel equipment you’ll need a means of transporting all these important items. A great specialised product for this purpose is an Osprey Travel Backpack.
Originating in California, Osprey has been designing backpacks for adventurers since beginning in 1974. The innovative and high-quality backpacks offer any adventurer a fantastic way to travel with all of their gear. Osprey also design their backpacks for long life, meaning you will be able to use it again and again as opposed to having to constantly repair or replace the product.
Additionally, Osprey design backpacks specifically for different types of adventure travel. These include backpacks for snowsports, climbing, hiking and biking.
The high-quality and long-lasting nature of these backpacks means it will be for you if you are serious about adventure travel and are ideal if you are in need of carrying big loads of equipment.
Outdoor Durable Phone
Having a phone that can cope with your terrain can be an incredibly useful tool, especially when travelling across more extreme areas.
Land Rover’s ‘Outdoor Phone’ is possibly the toughest phone out there. The phone is extremely durable having been tested in temperatures from -30C to +60C. You also won’t have to worry about dropping your phone in puddles, rivers or even the sea as the phone is waterproof even in salt water.
With an extra-long battery life, the phone will suit anyone who is away from a power source for an extended period of time. A range of specialist apps also makes this a great companion for any explorer.
An ideal product for those that are out and about in rough terrain with a high chance of their phone getting bashed about. Or it could be good if you are just clumsy when it comes to your phone!
Cold Weather Clothing
Your clothing can be a vitally important part of your travels, particularly when travelling to colder regions where it’s important to wrap up warm.
When it comes to sub-zero weather clothing Rab is brilliant at keeping the cold out. Rab produces high-quilty specialist outdoor clothing with a focus on mountaineering. Their clothing is made up from high-quality materials and fabrics specially designed to be the best at insulation and keeping you warm.
Some great kit for those travelling to colder destinations, such as ski holidays, and will particularly suit mountain adventurers.
Alternative Adventure Travel Clothing
If you’re looking for something perhaps slightly cheaper than Rab’s range, then Craghoppers is a great alternative. Whilst slightly cheaper than Rab’s range, Craghoppers still produce high-quality clothing specialising in the outdoors.
Craghoppers say they aim to make their clothing as practical and comfortable as possible, enabling travellers to stay outside for as long as possible. Whilst Craghoppers focus on outdoor clothing designed to keep you warm, they also produce lightweight warm weather clothing with a range of trousers specifically designed to deter insect bites.
Excellent product range for those spending time travelling outdoors, with clothing ranges for both cold and warm weather conditions.
Appropriate Travel Footwear
Just as important as clothing, you will need footwear appropriate to the environment you are travelling in.
Keen are a footwear company that offer a range of footwear types to choose from. They specialise in footwear for different types of travel, from urban casual trainers to specialised hiking boots.
Keen’s variety of footwear means you should be able to find whatever you’re looking for on your next adventure.
Digital Mapping System
Whilst technically not a physical item, there is an excellent range of digital maps provided by Ordnance Survey (OS). These maps are an excellent way to travel in the more remote locations of the UK.
Starting as simply the producer of world-famous paper maps, Ordnance Survey now use data to produce digital maps across the UK. The OS maps aim to provide a comprehensive map of the ever-changing British landscape, doing so in extraordinary detail.
As well as their maps, OS produce online route planning, sharing services and mobile apps to aid in your travel experience.
Sadly for those travelling abroad this service is only available within the UK. However, it is a brilliant tool for those wanting to explore the more remote areas of the UK.
In April 2017, Olie Hunter Smart set off on a solo journey to walk the length of India to uncover untold stories of Independence and Partition that took place in 1947.He’s just returned to the UK and shares his story with us.You can read about the background to his journey here.
As I stared out of the aeroplane window on my way up to Ladakh, I thought I’d bitten off more than I could chew.Not only did the plains of India look hot, dry and particularly arid, but the Himalayas looked huge and the snowy conditions were not something I was experienced with.
However, I soon became distracted by the beauty of the mountain landscape; deep purple mountains capped in white snow; huge sunny skies and crisp fresh air; and the gentle sound of prayer wheels spinning as people went about their daily routines.It was magical.I was excited about the long journey that lay ahead.
After a few days of acclimatisation, I set off with a guide essential to navigating the mountain trails that would take us off the roads, following valleys and climbing high mountain passes that blocked the route south.We carried food with us so as not to be a burden on the remote communities we passed through, increasing my already heavy bag to around 28 kilos.Thankfully, the Water-to-Go bottles saved us valuable weight as we filled up from icy cold snow melt streams.It was so thirst quenching!
As we emerged from the mountain trails some 5 weeks later, I waved goodbye to the guide and set off for the dusty plains of northern India.Temperatures soared to a staggering 48 degrees so it was critical that I kept cool and remained hydrated.I discovered this area was heavily impacted by Partition that took place following Independence in 1947.Millions of people fled, escaping violence and persecution as Hindu ruled East Punjab and Muslim ruled West Punjab were divided.
Most nights I stayed with families which gave me the opportunity to hear elders recounting their experience of that traumatic period of history; I found myself wincing at their accounts of the brutality, the stories of families fleeing their homes never to return, or of fathers giving their children daggers to use on themselves to avoid being subjected to violence and abuse.I was very moved by their descriptions, something I had not anticipated hearing, but that was reality for them.
I followed the railway line south, it being more direct as well as keeping me off the roads and away from the dangerous traffic and pollution.I passed through Delhi and onto Rajasthan where I continued to hear similarly tragic stories about Partition, but on occasion was pleasantly surprised to come across a few positive stories from people who had been able to change their financial situation having set up successful businesses.Food flavours were now changing every 100 kilometres or so as the agriculture influenced the dishes I was eating.By now I’d been on the road for almost 4 months but I was loving rural India.
I’d been looking forward to the Salt March, the inspiration for my journey, since the start.Today the route has become somewhat a heritage route making it far easier to navigate, yet the difficulty came in each village when trying to find various plaques or statues commemorating Gandhi’s walk in 1930.Fortunately, the locals knew it well and took great pleasure in showing me around their community, regaling historical stories to boot.I reached Dandi where Gandhi broke the salt law, realising that I was now over half way through my journey.It was an emotional moment.
Back on the road I worked my way down to the busting city of Mumbai.India is well set up for constant refills of your own bottle in the hot climate, whether it be a hand pump or well in a village, a tap on a railway platform or from the increasing number of reverse osmosis stations set up in villages to provide clean water to the communities. My Water-to-Go bottle provided me with consistently good quality and safe water from whatever source I found.
By now I was beginning to get increasingly frustrated with life on the road – the hooting, incessant demands for selfies and that spicy food.Couldn’t I just have cereal for breakfast?!I’d been walking for 6 months, but it was only when I worked my way uphill to Pune that I realised I had spent the best part of three months in the flat plains of India.There had been no texture in the landscape, nothing on the horizon to aim for.I’d been missing the hills, so I made it my mission to find a place to camp next to a lake, and soon enough I found the perfect spot!
I continued south, meeting some freedom fighters that had fought alongside Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle for freedom, many of whom were over 90 years old.As I neared Mysore I was confident with my progress until one day someone asked me how I would avoid being attacked by a tiger.Tigers?!They’d not even crossed my mind this far south.I carried on, getting increasingly worried as I went, trying to figure out alternative routes.I spent half a day with all senses on edge as I walked steadily through a tiger reserve, completely petrified.
That night I resolved to find a driver who could shadow me for the next stretch of forest.The following morning, he arrived and I set off, safe in the knowledge that there was an extra pair of eyes on the lookout.Relief ran through my veins as I reached the end of the forest and the safety of a temple that night.
Kanyakumari was in my sights, but there was one final obstacle I had to overcome – Cyclone Ockhi with her devastating wind and rain.Having already walked through monsoon rains I was determined not to be put off by some adverse weather and ploughed on, reaching the very southern tip of India on 6th December.After seven and a half months on foot, I’d made it!What an incredible way to experience real India!
Olie is currently working on a documentary of his journey.