My name is Oscar Scafidi and I am a History teacher, travel writer and political risk consultant for Lusophone Africa. I currently live and work in Antananarivo, Madagascar, but between 2009 and 2014 I lived in Luanda, Angola.
In July 2016, together with my expedition partner Alfy Weston, we kayaked the length of Angola’s Kwanza River, from source to sea.
We used a 40-year-old foldable wooden kayak (called a Klepper) that we paddled and carried along the 1,300km journey. This trip retraced some of the steps of sixteenth-century English explorer Andrew Battel and recorded information on wildlife and human activity along the remote stretches of the river. So far we have raised over USD 25,000 for The HALO Trust, an organization specializing in the removal of the debris of war, such as landmines. Our journey is currently being reviewed by Guinness World Records.
The journey was all Alfy’s idea. He had kayaked a shorter section of the lower Kwanza River a few years prior with two of his brothers. We decided that if we were going to tackle the whole thing, it was important to raise money for a worthwhile cause. Having lived in Angola for years, both of us knew the terrible toll landmines and unexploded ordnance have on rural Angolan communities. Angola was the scene of a brutal civil war between 1975 and 2002, and it will take organisations like The HALO Trust and MAG years to clean up all the remaining minefields.
We spent nine months planning the route, collecting gear and training for the expedition. Alfy got to do his training in Angola, as he was still there for work, whereas as I had to make do with training on the River Thames in London!
It was not an easy journey. We had to drag the Klepper and all of our gear (over 110kg) around 55km from the source of the river to a point deep enough for us to start paddling. For the next month, we faced various obstacles including aggressive hippos, rapids and some very obstructive security officials who arrested us for spying! Packing up all our gear into a load that we could both carry (and fit into the kayak) was difficult. It was clear from the planning stages that we were not going to be able to carry much water, and that we needed to rely on a purification system.
We used Water-to-Go bottles to drink directly from the river. We also filled up confidently at a few random fishing villages during hiking sections of the expedition. We found the Water-to-Go bottles much more reliable than the other water filtration systems we had with us, and had no gastrointestinal issues for the whole 33 day expedition. Staying healthy and hydrated was crucial when trying to kayak 70km+ per day. We are thankful to the Water-to-Go team for such a useful invention. The bottles helped us to successfully complete the expedition, raising USD 25,000 for The HALO Trust’s vital mine clearance work in Angola.
25% of the profits from sales will be donated to help continue The HALO Trust’s vital de-mining work in Angola.
Guest blog post by Oscar Scafidi
Water-to-Go is pleased to have helped Oscar and Alfy stay healthy and hydrated every step of the way on their journey along the Kwanza River. Their book is a symbol of their hard work and dedication to this project. They can now finally tell everyone about their awesome adventure and we would definitely recommend purchasing the book, not only to support the boys but also to support the Halo Trust.
We can’t wait to see what is next in store for the boys so watch this space!
The project began in early 2016 with the idea to travel around the world as cheaply as possible through overlanding. The group; Max, Becca, Joel and Rich, created the concept of attempting to complete a full loop of the globe with no planning and with a tiny budget. We knew this would entail many challenging situations that would require serious team work. Shortly after sharing this idea on Facebook a number of people got involved and the team began to grow. We looked for the cheapest cars available on Gumtree, the first being a Skoda Felica for £75 and the second being a Nissan Micra for just £150. After purchasing these and getting more people involved this created a solid team for the convoy. We then started approaching sponsors asking for help through donating kit or support us and as a result, Water-to-Go were one of first product sponsors.
Then we set off East. Travelling across 4 continents and a total of 46 countries, we found ourselves in all sorts of situations both good and bad. Being an optimistic and a slightly crazy team from the start, we were ready to face all challenges ahead of us and only hope for the best of situations. Our first continent, Europe showed us the possibilities of collecting hitchhikers and at one point we had a total of 5 cars with 26 people. We were lucky enough to have our Water-to-Go bottles for the entire journey but even within Europe, we found ourselves cutting our costs by filling up from waterfalls, lakes and rivers.
Entering Russia and Central Asia on the other hand, was another story. Things became a lot more serious and challenging. Due to the roads in this part of the world being in some cases ‘non-existent’ we had some of our biggest breakdowns on the trip. The first, being in Kazakhstan, when we hit the oil sump on the diesel Skoda and were stranded in the desert. A twelve hour journey turned into 3 days, but we were rescued by the amazing workers at a nearby oil refinery. During this time as we weren’t prepared to be stranded in the desert, Water-to-Go was literally a life saver. We were given water from a passer-by and we didn’t even question using our bottles as we knew that although we had no idea where the water had come from we could drink without having to worry about illness or dehydration.
After our final sprint to Vladivostok just in time for our visas expiring, we flew to Japan. This was the first time the Convoy as a whole were without the cars and to embrace Japans hospitality and quirky culture we decided to hitchhike our way to Korea where we would later fly on to Canada to collect the cars. Japan gave us some of the most in-depth cultural experiences from to drifting down Mountain ranges near Mount Fuji and Samurai sword making, but this was our first experience backpacking with Water-to-Go. It allowed us to carry all our gear and not have to worry about lugging around litres of water. This convenience allowed us to focus our time on absorbing the culture rather than worrying about when we would next find drinking water.
Canada was the first of our shipping nightmares! We were faced with a month-long delay but on the positive side this allowed us to venture out into British Columbia and explore the beautiful nature that Canada has to offer. We were lucky enough to experience the beautiful landscapes of North America by visiting an array of national parks, including Yosemite. As hikers we used our bottles frequently in Yosemite, filling up from some of the most famous waterfalls! Being able to drink such untreated water and not getting sick felt literally so refreshing.
As we headed south through both Central and South America we continued to be accepted into communities across Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. This part of the world was very much new territory for the majority of us and we found ourselves captivated by its temples and Mayan history. Unfortunately, some of these areas are heavily covered in rubbish. We were horrified to see piles burning on roadsides continuously through Central and South America and beaches swamped with plastic. It was saddening to see beaches in Utilla, Honduras covered in plastic that had washed up from other places, destroying the environment. For the team it was a time of realisation that Water-to-Go bottles help prevent this. We calculated that if the team were to drink an average of 2 litres of water a day, for the duration of the trip, we would have used around 2,760, 1 litre plastic bottles.
We wanted to create a project where everyone and anyone could be involved and we would work with what people had to offer. Not only were we optimistic for ourselves, but by creating a project for all to be involved, created optimism in others and gave opportunities to likeminded people. The project specifically demonstrates how little equipment or modification to your car you need in order to survive. At times we wished we were more prepared but our teamwork and optimism got us through the journey and from this we have created some strong friendships with people all over the world. Sponsors like Water-to-Go really helped us achieve this goal and have been hugely influential on our journey and survival. Upon our return we have been taking our Water-to-Go bottle with us across Europe to an array of Outdoor and Adventure shows where we were able to share this amazing product.
Becca has also featured Water-to-Go in her top 10 Essentials to Travelling. These include the things that she has taken with her everywhere around the world.
Water-to-Go is delighted to announce that Chaz Powell has become a new ambassador for the brand. This a fantastic opportunity for the business and for Chaz so we are excited to see what the future holds.
We caught up with our new ambassador – “It is a huge honour to announce that I have now been made an ambassador for the life-saving water filtration system Water-to-Go.
Water-to-Go is a product that has breathed new life into my expeditions over the past few years and is now one of the most crucial pieces of kit that I carry whilst out on my many remote and wild journeys.
It has changed the way I look at adventure, allowing me to venture further into more and more inaccessible regions, but yet still obtain safe clean drinking water without the worry of becoming sick or seriously dehydrated. With my plans for more wild African based trekking adventures in motion, I look forward to continuing to be supported and using such an incredible piece of equipment.”
Chaz recently completed his Zambezi Hike – walking the length of the Zambezi River and eventually reaching the Indian Ocean completely unaided. It was an incredible achievement which lasted 137 days, 3000km & 4 million steps! We were pleased that Water-to-Go was an important part of this expedition and that Chaz wants to continue his journey in partnership with Water-to-Go.
It is great to see that our values align as Chaz is also an advocate of sustainable and responsible travel. Using the Water-to-Go bottles is a great way of reducing your carbon footprint and plastic waste when travelling. It is the perfect alternative to single-use plastic bottles and is the solution to the huge plastic pollution problem in our oceans. Chaz will be helping us to spread the word so it is great to have someone onboard who is going to be amplifying these values to the wider public.
Chaz is always looking for his next challenge and we want to make sure that Water-to-Go is with him every step of the way. He is currently looking to do a couple of big treks over the next couple of months. He is also planning some bigger expeditions which we can’t wait to tell everyone about. You can be sure that Chaz has a lot in store in the next few years and we are looking forward to what we can achieve together.
Keep up with our journey on social media and on our website