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Adventurer Ash Dykes to set Madagascar walking record to help lemurs

Ash Dykes plans historic Madagascar hike
Ash Dykes scouting Madagascar in hopes of bringing attention to the deforestation of the world’s fourth-largest island. Photo: Ash Dykes
Tomorrow morning, 24-year-old Welsch adventurer Ash Dykes will set off from his house in North Wales before the crack of dawn and get on an airplane to Madagascar.

He will spend the next four months walking to become the first person to ever trek the entirety of the island from South to North, hiking 1,800 miles over mountain peaks and through rain forests. And along the way he’ll be bringing attention to a crisis seldom talked about on a global scale: the deforestation of Madagascar.

“When I first came up with the plan to walk the length Madagascar, I thought it would be fun because I really knew nothing about the island,” Dykes told GrindTV. “I knew that about 80 percent of the plant and animal life found on Madagascar are found nowhere else in the world, and I thought that was unique. But, it wasn’t until I realized those species were in danger that I realized I had to do something.”

Dykes drew international attention when, over the course of 78 days in 2014, he became the first person to walk the 1,500 mile length of Mongolia alone and unassisted. His effort caught the eye of local countrymen and non-profits, which named him the 2015 Welsh Explorer of the Year.

“I was contacted by the Lemur Conservation Network when they heard I was planning on trekking Madagascar to ask if I could help spread awareness about the threat faced by lemurs,” said Dykes. “At the time all I knew about lemurs was from that movie [2005 DreamWorks film Madagascar], but they told me that due to deforestation in Madagascar, many lemur species could go completely extinct within the next 25 years.”

Ash Dykes plans historic Madagascar hike
Like all lemurs, this ring-tailed variety of the species is found only on Madagascar, and could face extinction in the next 25 years from deforestation. Photo: its_jacobsmith/Twenty20

So, to bring attention to the cause, Dykes will be stopping along his journey to meet with key conservationists on the island to help spread their story. He hopes that message will inspire others to not only take action to help save the lemurs, but to live more simply.

“The one thing that I’ve noticed through all my travels that amazes me is just how basic people live in certain areas, and yet how happy they are,” said Dykes. “When I trekked through Mongolia, it was always crazy to come upon a yurt [a round tent used by nomads in Mongolia] in the middle of absolutely nowhere and see families getting by. They were living, smiling, having a laugh and being completely free. Sure, their daily routine revolved around livestock but they were working together to get by. That was inspirational.”

Dykes says he caught the adventurous bug after embarking on an impromptu, unplanned 1,100-mile bike ride through Cambodia and Vietnam while on a trip through southeast Asia in 2012.

That trip showed him how much cultures could change between communities over a 1,000 mile journey, and hopes that will be the biggest message conveyed through his trek of Madagascar — all the different ways people around the world try to get by.

Ash Dykes plans historic Madagascar hike
Throughout his four month hike, Dykes will encounter every landscape from jagged mountains to thick lowland forests. Photo: Flikcr user Martin Justicia

“I’ve heard locals are completely different throughout Madagascar,” Dykes said of the world’s fourth-largest island. “There are African communities on the coast and Asian communities in the mountains and at least a dozen different dialects throughout the country.

“And each community has differences in how they farm, how they interact with each other, what they depend on,” Dykes continued. “I want to live with them and share all of it with my followers so they can see all the amazing intricacies of these cultures.”

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