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Walking the Nile with Captain Levison Wood - Sea of Sand

By Cheadle Post and Times  |  Posted: July 02, 2014

  • The endless Sudanese desert - lifeless, waterless, burning hot and potentially deadly.

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With the problems of South Sudan now well behind him, Captain Levison Wood, aged 32 of Cheadle Road, Forsbrook, is back on track to complete his 4250 mile epic journey to walk the length of the River Nile in Africa.

Travelling forever north, not only has the landscape changed dramatically but so has the weather.

The damp, humid, energy sapping conditions which Levison has become so familiar with since the start of the journey have now altered to being even hotter yet much drier as he enters the desert wastelands of Sudan.

With mid day temperatures in excess of 40c, the daily trek is broken into two halves. Beginning at sunup Levison and his co walker, guide and translator Moez commence their journey until around 10am and again late in the afternoon till sundown.

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Access to drinking water is essential for the expedition to succeed and the need to carry in excess of 12 litres per person for each day has forced Levison to enlist a variety of modes of transport in the form of donkeys and camels to carry their supplies.

The two intrepid explorers think nothing of covering 30k each day, while filming their progress for a forthcoming Channel 4 series to be shown later this year.

Levison has sent to this newspaper the following extracts taken from his expedition diary for readers to enjoy his recent exploits. Day 151 – Sudan: Groundhog Day

"Today marks five months on the road and I am now over halfway through the expedition having covered almost 2500 miles.

"The weeks on the road are starting to merge together into a sort of continual blur, where faces appear to be the same and so do some of the places.

"The journey which still remains amazing has already taken on so many different dimensions that the new challenges we will face in the Sudan no longer appear that daunting.

"The threat of rain has finally passed and the most annoying issue at the moment are rogue scorpions which find their way into my boots with some regularity.

"Checking my rapidly wearing footwear for stinging hitchhikers is becoming a frequent morning routine.

"The biggest challenges we are due to face are now most definitely physical.

"Exertion in the extreme heat and the mental drain of passing through an unchanging, lifeless landscape is a mind numbing experience which can cause you to fall asleep even whilst walking.

"Taking your eyes from a safe route through the desert can lead the unsuspecting traveller into pools of hidden quicksand which tragically can be fatal. It is wise to stay alert.

"Tonight as usual, Moez and I are camped out under the stars, but this particular evening we have found a bed in the forecourt of a petrol station.

"The early part of the evening is spent resting our aching limbs on a string bed whiler listening to the gentle symphony produced by the humming sound of diesel generators somewhere in the distant darkness.

"He tells me over mint tea that things will become more interesting north of Khartoum and promises dinosaur fossils, prehistoric rock art as well as gold mines.

"Being a Nubian and proud of his culture our conversation turns to the building of dams on the Nile, which he believes will destroy his country and its people.

"On a more mundane note our latest donkey, James Augustus Grant, appears to be holding out reasonably well, but less so than the cart he pulls which managed to get two flat tyres today. "This meant a long, endless, heavy haul for five miles to nearest repair shop where we take this welcome break." Day 153: Sudanese Birthday

"As we arrive in yet another unpronounceable Sudanese village, I spot what looks like an internet café, so taking the opportunity to phone my family back in Forsbrook I find with joy an immediate connection and someone at home.

"The familiar and welcome voices of my mother and father wish me a 'Happy Birthday' over the crackling line.

"Telling me that it's raining back home, my thoughts turn to the green fields that line Cheadle Road and the distant hills that surround Dilhorne.

"With their recently arrived present of some new walking socks my day is almost complete, for this is the driest birthday I've had since I was at school at Painsley High and I'm not just referring to the landscape.

"Sudan's Sharia Law means that there's no alcohol over here, so my unforgettable 32nd birthday party involved some sweet chai, a donkey and the (very long) Sudanese version of Happy Birthday played on a drum by my trusty guide, Moez. Eid milad sa'aid to me." Day 158 – Sudan: Sandstorms & Camels

"We finally arrived into Khartoum after 12 days walking from the border, and were greeted by a blinding sandstorm that blasts through your clothes.

"My dream of encountering the confluence of the Blue and White Nile came and went with some disappointment, as I have to say there's not much difference in colour.

"Khartoum is the largest Sudanese city with an estimated population of over five million people.

"It is actually three cities built into one, with the sub city of "Omdurman placed where the two rivers meet.

"The city is very busy, litter strewn and although the opportunity to rest for two days is welcome I shall be glad to head back on the road and into the desert.

"With our donkey Grant obviously feeling the effects of daily walking, we decide to sell him at the market and replace him for the more familiar ship of the desert.

"The transaction becomes a wallet wounding experience, for he has been replaced by not one, but 3 camels.

"We have appropriately named them Burton, Speke and Gordon.

"The camel market was a chaotic maelstrom of shouting, screaming and back slapping with insults being traded more frequently than animals.

It took ages to negotiate a price, but we ended up with a fair deal, or so I am assured and with the assistance of the head of the camel market we gain yet another invaluable member of the team.

"His name is Bala and he will be a great asset to us as he knows the next part of the route very well and where to find water away from the Nile as well as how to look after the camels." Day 164 – Sudan: The 6th Cataract

"The camels are surprisingly quick, especially under the command of our two new recently recruited assistant camel wranglers, Awad and Ahmad.

"In similar manner to the wild west cowboys of old, they constantly soothe the animals wild temperament by singing catchy Arabic desert songs.

"The ever changing menu of songs provide a welcome diversion to the daily toil and I find myself humming along with them.

"As we approach the 4000 kilometres marker, the first signs of the burningly hot Sahara Desert lie ahead, stretching before us towards the endless red horizon.

"A featureless vision of nothing but sand and rock, waterless and devoid of life is upon us for the next few weeks ahead. How different from back home.

"Looking like a biblical caravan from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam our rapidly expanding group plod onwards into this limitless sea of sand.

"The river Nile in this part of Sudan runs through some narrow gorges called cataracts where the river boils into white water before slowing into a calm tranquil shallow.

"With six of these obstacles to encounter before we reach Egypt, they pose an obstruction but will enable us to measure our location and distance covered on a map bereft of familiar features and landmarks. The walking continues." Readers may wish to follow Captain Levison Wood's adventures through the desert on Walking the Nile @ Channel 4 or on Facebook/ Twitter

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