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'Northern Hemisphere at last!'

By Cheadle Post and Times  |  Posted: February 28, 2014

  • Levison Wood in his wedding suit.

  • The six metre Python dragged from the waters by villagers where Levison was swimming.

  • Levison at the Equator in Uganda.

  • Levison's cavalcade into the Kampala.

  • Boston and Levison and Ugandan NTV interview on the road.

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IN the latest installment of Captain Levison Wood's journey across the River Nile, just two weeks into the New Year Captain Wood, aged 31, of Cheadle Road, Forsbrook, found himself crossing the Tanzanian /Ugandan border well in advance of his planned arrival.

HOPING to become the first ever recorded person to walk the entire 4250 mile length of the river Nile, the former paratrooper explained that his progress had been much quicker than anticipated and the 600 plus miles he had already covered from the start in Rwanda in early December far exceeded his expectations.

Detailing his intentions and providing information from his diary to the Post & Times he said: "My journey is much more than just becoming the first person ever to complete the expedition.

"Rather I want to show people another picture of Africa, one which portrays positive images rather than the constant tale of famine, civil strife and problems being faced by these most resilient people.

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"Yes it's true they have to contend with making a living under the most trying circumstances, yet somehow they manage and remain the most generous and warm hearted people you could ever wish to meet."

Levison is walking with his local interpreter Boston during this initial stage of his journey through central Africa.

Originating from the Congo Boston, who now resides with his family in Uganda, is a self confessed rebel fighter who was forced to flee from his homeland. He is also a man Lev has come to rely upon.

Unable to continue beyond these borders because of tribal reasons, this quietly spoken young man has been a constant companion over the last few weeks, ever present to advise and able to ward off dangers from local threats.

He will be sadly missed when the Ugandan leg of the journey is completed.

Captain Wood continues in his diary: "My first experience of Uganda is one of great warmth and welcome.

"Thanks to a very positive article in the national newspaper 'The Monitor' we have been greeted by a huge crowd lining the road into the village of Kasanero, which could be called a fishing village, but that phrase has connotations of a small, traditional community with a long-established way of life. Around the shores of Lake Victoria settlements like this are more often known as 'landing sites'.

"The fish that are landed here are Nile Perch, although they are named for the river they are not native species.

"Their introduction to the lake is widely regarded as disastrous, both in human and environmental terms."

"Lake Victoria is a vast lake, almost a freshwater inland sea about half the size of England; over aeons it had developed a unique ecology.

"However, as East Africa developed in the colonial and post-colonial era, some saw it as an under-used, or under-exploited, resource.

"Thus in the 1950s it was hoped that the introduction of the Nile Perch would create a new fishing industry.

"Growing to almost two metres long, the Nile Perch are brutal-looking predators.

"Their appearance reflects their nature, and their arrival in Lake Victoria was catastrophic for the indigenous species of fish.

"With no natural controls on their numbers they colonised the lake with astonishing speed.

"They ate everything, destroying species after species (many of their victims had been unique to the lake and for them, eradication meant extinction).

"But the introduction of the perch was still seen as a success by many.

"The hoped-for fishing industry proved a reality and grew quickly.

"'Landing sites' such as Kasansero sprung up around the lake, boomtowns for a business that offered great rewards; people flocked to share in the comparative affluence made possible by catching the Nile Perch.

"These predominately male settlements became an opportunity for prostitution, which flourished.

"Thirty years ago, people started falling ill in Kasansero and nobody knew the cause.

"The people here called the disease "slim" because of the shocking weight loss most sufferers experienced before dying. "The world had not heard of HIV/AIDS, but in Kasansero its effects became more apparent every day; hundreds died.

"Today, infection rates remain extremely high, and the settlement is saddled with the reputation of being the site from where AIDS originated in Uganda."

While in the village Levison was invited to attend a local wedding and not having appropriate attire he took himself off to the local market place and bedecked himself out in the latest fashion which would challenge the style gurus for 'the modern explorer look'.

Looking extremely dapper he quipped: "I've never had a suit before that was shinier than my shoes."

He added: "We had a great evening and an amazing experience which I will fondly recall for the rest of my life."

Following a pleasant break from their daily routine of marching, the pair found themselves back on the trail once morel.

Heading at last northward along the lake side, they passed through huge mangrove swamps and energy sapping soft sandy mudflats.

Just a few days short of the capital city of Kampala, and taking the opportunity to swim and soak his aching feet and associated blisters in the cool waters offered next to his campsite, he was surprised to see local villagers frantically waving their arms and trying to attract his attention.

Responding to their calls of alarm he saw them struggling with a 6 metre (19ft) long python snake they had just dragged from the waters close to where he had been swimming. Thankfully he said; "That particular day the walk had taken longer than usual so it seemed as though St Christopher had been smiling down on them both."

With their goal of Kampala almost in sight they crossed the significant milestone of the equator and entered the northern hemisphere, where in traditional manner they made a wish and sank a few bottles, knowing that everything from hereon was technically downhill.

They were also joined by a local news crew from Ugandan NTV who undertook a live interview which brought out the crowds once again as they entered the suburbs.

Levison said: "I was overwhelmed by the large number of people who turned up simply to shake our hands.

"A group of local bikers even rode beside us and gave us a cavalcade right into the heart of the city."

Several TV interviews have since followed including a visit to meet with a local witch doctor to treat their aches and pains. With a break of several days in the planning but a heavy schedule of filming with Channel 4 still to undertake, Levison will not have time to put his feet up before he is on the road once more.

With a list that includes a bout of boxing with the Ugandan National Champion, river rafting and a meeting with a King, the next few days will be a whirlwind.

For Boston, he can take some time out to meet with his wife and children prior to meeting up for his final leg of the venture in Uganda.

The journey continues…… but to find out what happens next you can follow Captain Wood's journey along the Nile and relive his exploits by logging onto @Walking the Nile Channel 4 or on Facebook and Twitter.

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