With just three weeks to go before the 32-year-old former paratrooper completes his mammoth journey to walk the 4,250 miles of the River Nile, from its source in Rwanda to the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt, Captain Levison Wood is now heading towards the capital city of Cairo. The following extracts are from his personal diary. . .
Day 240, Wednesday, July 31 – Luxor and heading north.
ALTHOUGH Luxor is a modern city, you do not have to travel very far before you enter a scene that could have been taken straight from The Bible.
Often referred to as the world's largest open-air museum, the remains of the ancient temple of Karnak can be found located within the bustle of the city centre. With the Valley of the Kings just across the river, there is enough to satisfy even the most ardent Egyptologist.
With only a brief window to see the sights that still lie half buried in the desert, I did not have the time to do them justice on this occasion, so vow one day to return and take in their glorious splendour at a more leisurely pace.
Sadly for me, my schedule has been set by the authorities who decree that I cannot linger too long in any location and I am thus forced to continue my journey accompanied by my increasing entourage of minders.
Preferring to journey alone but with no alternative but to press on, I hit the dusty road that runs parallel to the river.
Passing through numerous villages, I am welcomed by each local 'mayor' with an invite to tea and an interview with the press.
Being welcomed and greeted as though I am a representative from the British Government rather than some itinerant wanderer, the incongruous scene of a suited and booted politician presenting a gift to this bearded and bedraggled adventurer is a regular feature on the local TV.
I now have a collection of plaques and medallions announcing the name of several villages, which makes me to consider how will I get these back to the Forsbrook.
Day 243, Sunday, August 3 – Nag Hammadi
I have covered the 75 miles quickly and my feet and boots are holding up well to the constant pounding along the road surface. It seems a lifetime ago that I was in the depths of the rainforest in Rwanda and hacking through the jungle undergrowth – what a contrast!
Nag Hammadi is the sacred home to Egypt's ten million Coptic Christians.
The sight of a cross next to the crescent of a mosque is quite usual in this small town in the upper Nile.
Although this place has seen ethnic violence in recent years, my arrival is subdued and thankfully quiet.
I take most of the following day browsing around the town and discovering the delights of the monastery that dominates the landscape.
Here, I am introduced to a brother who provides me with a brief summary and history of this Eastern Orthodox religion.
Being the oldest form of Christianity, established by St Mark, only a few years after the crucifixion of Jesus, this was where the persecuted fled to during the 1st Century.
The monk's passionate description of how the church developed filled most of the afternoon before I took my leave and wandered through the maze of alleyways back to my hotel.
Day 248, Friday, August 8 – Assyiut
WITH time and distance rapidly diminishing, it's as if I can smell the sea already – but that can only be an illusion as there is still another 300-plus miles yet to go. On arriving in the city I am invited to another formal interview and presentation, only this time accompanied by the crew from October Films who are making the TV series covering the walk for Channel 4.
For the next few days, my time is not my own as I am at the discretion of the director.
From early morning until late in the evening, we are constantly filming and refilming until he is satisfied there is enough to cut and paste into the final show.
Amongst many other snippets of interest, we are fortunate to stumble across the colourful and noisy procession of Coptic pilgrims who ascend daily to the rock where the Holy Family reputedly stayed immediately following the nativity in Bethlehem.
The sights, the sounds, the smell of this wonderful place has etched upon my mind yet another indelible mark.
Every step is a delight, each location is a memory.