WITH one month completed of his epic journey of over 4,250 miles to become the first ever person to walk the entire length of the White River Nile, Captain Levison Wood, aged 31, of Cheadle Road, Forsbrook, has taken time to reflect and recount on the first few weeks of his latest adventure.
While raising money for four of his favourite charities the former paratrooper and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society said to the Post and Times: "The highlands of Rwanda seem a long way off since we commenced this journey just over four weeks ago.
"We have made excellent progress and managed to stay on schedule covering an average of 100 plus miles each week. Apart from some minor niggling calf strain injuries and some awful wet weather the going has progressed according to plan."
Accompanied only by a local interpreter and guide 'Boston', a self confessed ex-Congolese rebel, plus during the first few days of the walk a Channel 4 film crew, Levison will be 'alone' for large parts of the of the time in Africa.
Captain Wood added: "Although I have been to Africa many times before, there are parts of this country that are still recovering from the awful genocide that struck the population in 1994 when over half a million people were murdered in less than three months. "Consequently people are still rightly suspicious of strangers and having Boston explain what we are doing helps tremendously.
"The legacy of those awful times still persists so it is only correct to respect the wishes of the local people to make certain we do not wander into 'the killing fields' that surround most villages.
"As we arrive in the latest village we become something of a curiosity and the sight of several dozen smiling faces outside my tent each morning has become routine.
"Even doing the most mundane tasks, such as washing, attracts a great deal of attention.
"Rwanda is an amazingly peaceful and beautiful country and the wildlife is spectacular.
"Watching the chimpanzee troop in the mountain forest and the bird life around the river has been a true privilege.
"Unfortunately the rains have continued unabated throughout December and lasted much longer than usual causing the river to rise and flood the surrounding fields.
"We knew something was wrong when at 2.00 in the morning I saw my bags floating out of my tent. So feeling rather soggy we struggled to rescue our kit and raced to higher ground where we spent a rather damp night being bitten by millions of mosquitoes.
"Nevertheless we got to the capital in Kigali on time to attend a reception at the National Museum where we were shown an amazing exhibit of a 16ft stuffed crocodile which also included a pair of boots that had been found inside its stomach; not perhaps the most tactful thing to show two people who are living alongside "the river Nile for the next twelve months."
In geographical terms the river snakes its way across Rwanda becoming increasingly wider and deeper providing power resources for most of the country.
The latest venture being undertaken by the Rwandan Government is the Nyaborongo hydro electric dam that Captain Wood was asked to traverse before it opens in two years time.
Still under construction and wet with cement and building materials a tunnel over 1.2 kilometres in length burrows its way beneath the dam through which the river will be channelled next year. Making this route inaccessible thereafter Levison took the opportunity to 'christen' the tunnel and in so doing becoming the first person to really walk this part of the Nile.
He said: "I am used to assault courses in the army but nothing like this; it was a real Indiana Jones moment when I finally emerged from the gloom back into daylight, and glad of it.
"Naturally being away from home at Christmas time is difficult. I spent the morning fishing for dinner to accompany a goat we had purchased from our last stop before we entered Tanzania.
"Tasty but not the same as having lunch with my family back home. "Opening a small present my parents gave me of an antique silver match box lifted my spirits and the only thing missing was a pint of beer from the Huntsman in Cheadle.
"And so we enter Tanzania for the next six weeks at least as we head for Lake Victoria.
"The county is far more desolate, wild and rugged with few villages. This will make the going far more difficult as we will have to catch or carry everything we need.
"Wild animals will be our biggest challenge and we will have to build a brush barrier around our campsite each night to keep them out."
Lions and jackals apart, Captain Wood was also pleased to hear that 'Animal Planet' has signed a deal with Channel 4 to beam his progress along the Nile into 94 million homes across the USA in 2015.
You can find daily updates from Captain Wood on 'Walking the Nile - Channel 4' or on Facebook and Twitter or over the next twelve months watch out for his progress in his monthly report in this newspaper.