Walking the Nile is a trek adventurer Bear Grylls described as the "Holy Grail of an expedition."
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, said to be the greatest living explorer, described the challenge of walking the Nile as "one of the last world firsts, demonstrating a very British determination and fortitude that has marked many of the great expeditions in Africa."
So who is this determined and courageous Brit who is on a quest to become the first person to walk the entire length of the Nile, the longest river in the world?
Meet Levison Wood, an adventurer and explorer who spent three years planning this expedition that will cover 4,250 miles along the iconic river that winds through six countries.
The source-to-sea walk of the Nile has taken Wood from Rwanda, through Tanzania, Uganda, parts of South Sudan (update: he skipped a 400-mile stretch of war zone), and Sudan—where he is currently–and will take him on into Egypt and to the Mediterranean Sea, the end of the Nile.
Wood, 31, is more than halfway through the expedition, one he figures will take a year to complete. Tuesday he posted about being at the foot of the mountain Jebel Barkal in Sudan, a day after checking out ancient Egyptian rock carvings on the way to the archaeological site of Kerma.
Last week, Wood posted a Facebook video of him walking through a haboob (a.k.a. a sandstorm) in Sudan. It's among the many hardships he has encountered thus far.
Some of the more grueling aspects of the expedition were also shared recently on Facebook:
Lev has been walking for over half a year now. On average he’s walked between 20-25 miles a day, sometimes up to 30. He has a day "off" once or twice a fortnight, in which he has to catch up on writing, filming and emails. He sleeps where he can–usually just camping at the side of the river and eats whatever he can find. If he’s lucky there is a village to buy food, if not he will make do on a smoked fish or a piece of bread or two a day, maybe with a mango or an orange. He’s used to river water for drinking now and doesn’t need to purify. The temperature has varied from sub zero in the mountains of Rwanda to over 60 [140 Fahrenheit] in the Sahara.
Wood, a writer, photographer and co-founder of Secret Compass, an exploration and adventure travel company, has worked in more than 80 countries and has led teams across every kind of terrain and environment.
So what led him to walking the Nile?
"I wanted to do something big," Wood told High Life magazine. "I always loved the stories of great explorers who underwent privations to discover new things. Many world firsts today are contrivances: pogo-sticking or paddle-boarding an arbitrary distance. Men were made to walk, and plodding forces interaction: It’s the people, culture and history you encounter that matter — not the story of the person doing it."
Reading about missionary David Livingstone, and explorers Sir Henry Morton Stanley and Sir Samuel Baker, all of whom explored Africa and exhibited a never-give-up attitude, Wood was struck with inspiration.
"One morning, in December 2011, I woke up and the idea was just there — to walk the entire length of the Nile," he recalled to High Life magazine. "I did some research and realized it had never been done. There was no going back. Other than going to Mars, it was the biggest expedition I could think of. I had to do it."
On December 1, Wood and his first guide Boston Ndoole entered the Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda where the Nile and Congo basins meet. The next day they began a two-day trek to find the source of the Nyabaronga River, which is considered the most distant source of the Nile. The river forms the main tributary of the Kagera River, which flows into Lake Victoria.
Once the pair reached the furthest source, they began walking the Nile.
Wood has experienced close calls with crocodiles, elephants and buffalo; traveled into a country in the midst of a civil war (South Sudan); and faced the tragic death of American adventure journalist Matt Power, who was walking part of the way with Wood and died from heat exhaustion on March 10.
Power's family gave Wood their blessing to continue after he considered abandoning the walk.
"It is one of those things that really brings home the reality that this is not an easy thing to do," Wood told Associated Press in April. "It’s incredibly difficult and dangerous in parts and all I can do is be as prepared as I can be and hope the same doesn’t happen to me."
Today, Wood is well on his way to becoming the first person to walk the Nile, raising money for charity, raising awareness of poaching, and documenting every step along the way.
His expedition is being filmed for a four-part documentary for Channel 4 in the U.K. and Discovery Channel's "Animal Planet."
"This is a critical time in Africa’s history," Wood told High Life magazine. "And I’ve had a lifelong passion for the continent and its people. I want to experience that in its rawest incarnation and share it. We only hear about African famine or war—I want to tell the good news stories, too. The simple stories of daily lives and unexpected experiences."
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