ExWeb interview with Levison Wood: first attempt to walk the world's longest river

Posted: Mar 25, 2013 11:30 am EDT

(Correne Coetzer) Two Brits, Levison Wood and Simon Clark, fought together in Afghanistan, walked together across Madagascar, climbed in Iraq, and now they plan to explore the full length of the world's longest river together, which has never been done before, they say.

The expedition will start during this year's Northern Hemisphere summer. Currently Lev and Simon are on a final recce trip in Sudan and South Sudan before they start with the expedition.

ExplorersWeb caught up with Lev to talk about their Nile Source-to-Sea plans.

ExplorersWeb: How and when did you two meet and decided to team up?

Levison: We actually met in the army back in 2005. Although we joined separate units we both fought in Afghanistan. Since then we have been leading expeditions together including walking across Madagascar and climbing in Iraq. I introduced the idea of walking the Nile to Simon over a pint at Paddington station, he said yes with no hesitation.

ExplorersWeb: Where did the idea come from to walk the length of the Nile?

Levison: I came up with the idea almost 3 years ago, inspired by studying the history of East African exploration and encouraged by Ed Stafford’s successful expedition to walk the Amazon. There aren’t many true world firsts left to accomplish in this day and age so it will be a real achievement.

ExplorersWeb: Which early explorers are inspiring you?

Levison: Burton, Baker, Livingston and Stanley were all pioneers and their stints in Africa were the stuff of legends.

ExplorersWeb: Where is the Source of the Nile?

Levison: There is still some controversy over this. Most people take Lake Victoria to be the Source but there is a feeder stream called the Kagera River, which in itself splits into two tributaries. The most southerly begins in Burundi, but the longest, by only a few miles is in the Rainforests of western Rwanda.

ExplorersWeb: How will you get there?

Levison: Once we arrive at the source we will walk all the way to the sea, all 4250 miles of it, as close to the river as physically possible.

ExplorersWeb: Which are the 7 countries you will cross?

Levison: Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, The Sudan, and Egypt.

ExplorersWeb: Are there border posts close to the Nile or will you have to make detours?

Levison: There are mostly border posts, and when there is a detour we will return to the river to continue where we left off. We are going to be very strict about this.

ExplorersWeb: What are your previous experiences in Africa?

Levison: I have been in and out of Africa several times over the past ten years. Since setting up my own expedition company I have been going to different parts of the continent three or four times a year to lead treks and rafting journeys. I have spent a lot of time in South Sudan, one of the unstable areas of the route, taking film crews there and looking after their safety. In 2010 I drove down most of the Nile in a landcruiser which was a great opportunity to check out the route and make the relevant contacts.

ExplorersWeb: What preparations are involved?

Levison: Raising money is always the toughest part of an expedition. We need a substantial amount due to the length of the trip and requirement for guides through the several national parks and border lands. Here is a link to our Kickstarter page. And anyone with a company that wishes to sponsor the trip in return for some great TV and Film coverage please do get in touch.

Both Simon and I have undertaken training courses in African bush skills and survival, hunting and fishing. We spent two weeks in Malawi walking along the Shire river in preparation.

ExplorersWeb: What about safety? Will you have local guides helping you with this?

Levison: Safety is our biggest priority. We are very aware of the threat from both wildlife and political instability and take it very seriously. We will have a guide where necessary and obtain all the correct permits before embarking.

ExplorersWeb: What type of terrain will you encounter?

Levison: Everything from mountains in Rwanda, to tropical rainforest in Uganda, Swamps (the world's biggest) in South to Sudan to savannah, bushland and the Sahara desert. Its going to be a mix alright!

ExplorersWeb: Will you be walking in malaria infected areas? How do you take care of that?

Levison: Yes, much of Sub Saharan Africa suffers from Malaria, especially the wetlands of South Sudan where we will have to carry a lot of anti-malarias and wrap ourselves up to protect against insects.

ExplorersWeb: What will you wear?

Levison: It will depend on the terrain (and who sponsors us)…

ExplorersWeb: What about food? Will you carry some with? Eat off the land?

Levison: Both - we will definitely have to carry some food in remote areas such as the Sahara; otherwise we will hunt (responsibly), forage and buy off the locals. We have been brushing up on bushcraft and what kind of plants we can eat.

ExplorersWeb: What are you looking forward to?

Levison: Seeing such a wide variety of different landscapes and meeting the people who live along the river. An opportunity to do a world first expedition and see the real Africa. Getting to the source of the river itself will be incredible and no doubt hitting Rosetta and the Med will be pretty satisfying!

Place of residence: London
Family: status, single
Occupation: Explorer…
Hobbies: photography, writing
Favorite food: Steak
Favo movie: Zulu
Favo book: Anything by Eric Newby or Norman Lewis
Favo quote: Marc Twain..” Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Starting at the source of the great river in the highlands of Rwanda the expedition follows its course through the jungles of Tanzania and Uganda, skirting Lake Victoria before entering the wilds of South Sudan. After navigating the immense wetlands of the Sudd swamp- the biggest in the world- the team will cross into North Sudan and into the realm of Islam. North of Khartoum lies the mysterious Pyramids at Meroe and the start of an epic march across the Sahara desert, around Lake Nasser and into Egypt. The Nile valley will herald a final 1000 mile walk to the delta, Alexandria.

Also the expedition aims to raise awareness about some of the contemporary issues that face Africa in the twenty first century and encourage dialogue between nations. It also aims to inspire more people to set off on their own adventure, continue global exploration and push human boundaries.

Levison Wood, 30, is the expedition leader. Lev is a full time explorer and photo-journalist He has studied East African history and geography for over ten years and led expeditions across the continent. Lev has travelled in over 80 countries and has recently returned from walking across Madagascar. Lev is a former Captain in the British Parachute Regiment where he served in Afghanistan in 2008. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and an accomplished public speaker.

Simon Clarke, 29 is the expedition photographer. Simon is a full time photographer and guide, and spends much of his time on assignment. He has taken images around the world in a number of remote and challenging environments and specializes in conflict and post conflict areas. Simon has traveled widely and has recently returned from walking across Madagascar alongside Lev. He is a former Captain in the British Army where he served in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.


Previous - Julian Monroe Fisher completed route through Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan & Uganda

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Lev: "Burton, Baker, Livingston and Stanley were all pioneers and their stints in Africa were the stuff of legends."
courtesy Walking the Nile, SOURCE
Lev: "I introduced the idea of walking the Nile to Simon over a pint at Paddington station, he said yes with no hesitation."
courtesy Walking the Nile, SOURCE
"Safety is our biggest priority. We are very aware of the threat from both wildlife and political instability and take it very seriously."
courtesy Walking the Nile, SOURCE

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