THERE'S a reason even the most adventurous expeditioners don’t usually attempt walk the length of the world’s longest river – in fact, there are multiple reasons, all exceedingly sound, as army-officer-turned-explorer Levison Wood knew when he fixed his sights on doing just that.
In December 2013 Wood (a veteran of service with a British parachute regiment in Afghanistan) set out to become the first person to follow the Nile entirely on foot from its burbling headwaters in the highlands of Rwanda to the silty Egyptian delta on the Mediterranean coast.
Wood’s journey – to be filmed in part for a television documentary series – would see him traverse six of Africa’s most challenging countries, beginning with Rwanda and including Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan and Sudan.
The 6839-kilometre slog would pass through some of the least pleasant hiking terrain imaginable – slippery rainforests, crocodile-ridden marshlands, enervatingly humid savannah, parched sand dunes – all the while in an atmosphere that ranged from barely contained intertribal ethnic unrest to outright civil war. Into the bargain, the timing of his journey was such that he would need to cross a portion of the Sahara Desert at the height of summer – a feat rarely attempted by the most hardened nomadic camel herders, let alone Brits already weary and undernourished after months on the move. His only support would be occasional porters enlisted along the way.
In Walking the Nile, Wood’s experiences are documented in his own words and photographs, carrying readers with him and his minuscule party as they push ever northwards. He details the raw emotional extremes of his exploits: the anxiety borne of the likelihood that men whose hands he shakes have murdered their neighbours, the joys of adopting an abandoned baby monkey, the devastation of losing a travelling companion to heatstroke and the mateship cemented by trudging for weeks at a time in semi-silence.