Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Walking the Nile - Story of Dreamer adventure

As the first person to walk the entire length of the Nile River. Levison, driven by fascination of Africa, passed through Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, and Sudan before crossing the borders into Egypt in July.

Since he began his hike in November 2013, he also encountered some safety issues while “passing through places like South Sudan with civil wars and tribal fighting along with bureaucracy, politics involved. But, finally, I am fine and happy to have made it to Cairo.

Levison Wood and his walking the Nile adventure in Egypt

Day 227 - Egypt: Abu Simbel

With a fistful of official permissions in hand I travelled 300k south from Aswan back to the Sudanese border to begin my walk.

By dusk I’d reached the first town on the Egyptian leg of my journey- the fabled Abu Simbel. Ramesses the Great built this imposing temple as a monument to himself and his wife Queen Nefertari. The ancient Egyptian power couple used the temple and their giant looming faces to intimidate unruly Nubians.

Visiting the temple was amazing and I was fascinated to learn that in a stunning feat of modern engineering the whole structure was carved into 10,000 blocks, dismantled and reassembled 65 metres higher elsewhere. This was to prevent it being submerged during the construction of the Aswan Dam in the late 50s. Chuffed to have the place to myself as well.

Day 229 - Egypt: Lake Aswan

Lake Nasser is a damn mammoth mission to walk and it’s an honour to be the first man granted permission to do so! Beginning in Sudan and stretching far north into Egypt, it is one of the largest manmade lake in the world.

Just north of the border between Egypt and Sudan is the Aswan High Dam, built over a couple of decades to control Egypt’s unpredictable floods. Hydroelectricity from the dam generates about a third of Egypt’s energy. The area around the lake is barren. Aside from spotting the odd relocated temple, I've had a few rather close calls with a viper, and this morning a scorpion crawled out of my shirt just as I was putting it on!

Day 232 - Egypt: Aswan

Leaving behind the endless rocks and boulders of the desert I’ve finally reached Aswan.
The city is quieter than expected this is probably due to the heat and Ramadan. Breaking tradition I’ve decided to experience some Victorian grandeur and put my feet up at the Old Cataract Hotel, so called because of its location at the first cataract of the Nile.

Since the late 1800s the hotel has accommodated travellers, and even royalty - Tsar Nicholas II, Sir Winston Churchill and King Farouk. It also was the location for Agatha Christie’s ‘Death on the Nile’.

The production crew will be with me for the coming week, filming the first Egyptian leg of my journey so I anticipate a busy few days! It'll be Nice to have a break from the solidarity of only walking.

Day 239 - Egypt: Luxor's Antiquities

Luxor is a city of contrast; while the centre is a bustling hubbub, swarming with tradesmen and traffic jams, you don’t have to travel far before you are transported back to the majestic tranquillity of the pharaonic era.

Nestled in the city centre we visited the remains of the ancient temple of Karnak and also managed to see the Avenue of Sphinxes. It is not hard to see why people call this world's largest open-air museum; they are magnificent. Sadly I didn't explore this mesmerising place in its entirety but have vowed to return one day to do so.

Day 247 - Egypt: Nag Hammadi

Nag Hammadi is the sacred home to millions of Egypt's 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.

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.

My feet are holding up well against the constant pounding along the road’s dry surface, it seems like a lifetime ago that I was in the depths of the rainforest in Rwanda - hacking through the jungle undergrowth – what a contrast.

Day 250 - Egypt: Pilgrims in Asyut

Asyut, one of the larger settlements in Upper Egypt, was once a great city historically rich in agricultural and trade; set at the end of a great caravan route linking the Eastern and Western deserts. Modern Asyut is an emerging city with various high-rise buildings and urban decline but suburbia seems to return to Egyptian rural landscape.

My feet are sore and blistering, walking these past few days has been difficult. In centre I met an old soldier who told me applying henna to feet could help with the pain, after the first treatment I think I can feel a difference – not sure yet – but I am optimistic!

Today I travelled to the city’s outskirts – it felt like walking backwards through time. I was fortunate enough to attend a colourful procession of Coptic pilgrims who ascend a rock, every single day, to where the Holy Family apparently stayed following the nativity in Bethlehem. It was a remarkable experience to be a part of. I think I can smell the sea already but I know there is still 300+ miles to go. 

Day 262 - Egypt: Cairo

My arrival into Cairo was exhilarating! Walking into the largest city in the Middle East and the second largest in Africa I was struck by the hustle and bustle of Egypt's vibrant Capital.

Waiting for me on the Qasr al-Nil Bridge bridge were several TV crews and journalists eager to talk about the expedition. After a couple of interviews I bid them farewell and started off again, eager to see what the city had to offer. The film crew will be with me until I reach the finish line in Rosetta and we've got a lot planned.

My first glimpse inside the pyramids of Giza was breath taking then it was straight off to the Nileometer, once ancient Egypt's way of measuring the Nile's water levels. Today we visited a Cairene fisherman called Hamed, who lives and works with his wife and 3 daughters on a tiny rowing boat on the Nile.

The boat couldn’t have been more than 20 foot long, and yet the family ate, slept, cooked and even watched TV in this tiny space, on the Nile right in the middle of Cairo; it was surreal to see.
The finish line…..... MADE IT!

Over 5000km, 6 countries, 9 months and about 7 million steps.

This has been the biggest adventure of my life, bigger than I could ever have imagined. I’ve achieved a lifelong dream to discover modern Africa. There were times when I wondered what I had let myself in for but I have discovered so much about this incredible continent. The people that live along the Nile are a true inspiration and I feel very privileged to have been able to undertake this expedition.

I’d like to take a moment to remember journalist Matt Power, who was accompanying on an assignment for Men's Journal Magazine when he tragically passed away. In my 3 days with Matt I knew him to be an enthusiastic and dedicated man, I am truly saddened by his passing. My thoughts remain with family, friends and loved ones.

Days on the road have often been very hard, so I would like thank my wise and invaluable guides – Boston, Moez and Mahmoud “Turbo”. I couldn’t have made it without your expertise and guidance; you're truly incredible people. I’d also like to thank all the porters – from Rwanda to South Sudan – who helped me carry my heavy gear, your company and strength during the difficult terrain was always appreciated.

I'd like to thank the production team at October Films – Adam, Jamie, Neil, Tom, Adam, Martin, Aidan, Didi and Maegan - who were integral to the success of the mission.

I’d also like to thank Tom at Secret Compass, my commercial sponsors and my chosen charities (who I urge you to donate to) The Ameca Trust, Tusk Trust, Space for Giants and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity. Lastly to the countless people who have given me support, advice, beer and brews along the way – thank you for your kindness and generosity.

Now… Time to rest my weary feet! I’ll keep you posted on Facebook and Twitter (@WalkingtheNile) about the Channel 4 series, which will hopefully broadcast early next year………………Thanks everyone!

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