First expedition to walk along the Nile

British explorers, Wood & Clarke, will trek 4,250 miles along the world’s longest river through seven nations

First expedition to walk along the Nile
FOR all those who say that the world’s possible adventures have all been done by now, and the final frontier of space presents the only remaining arena for ‘first-time’ ventures, here is an expedition that shows it is still possible to find such challenges if you use your wits and imagination. This summer, two British—Levison Wood and Simon Clarke—will walk along the course of the world’s longest river, the Nile. No one has done it before and Wood says he was first inspired three years ago by explorer Ed Stafford’s expedition that walked along the Amazon.

Africa has always been an explorer’s delight and this expedition will find itself beginning in an exciting way—with the initial question of where the source of the Nile lies. Lake Victoria is generally taken to be the source but Wood explains that the small Kagera river feeds the Nile. The Kagera itself has two tributaries, a southerly one beginning in Burundi and a more northerly one in western Rwanda. The expedition will start at the head of this stream, in the rainforests of Rwanda, begin the 4,250-mile trek alongside the Nile to the sea, crossing seven countries—Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt.

As they cross international boundaries, they will have to travel from the riverside to border posts to complete formalities and then return to the planned route. The expedition will use guides as the route trails through national parks, besides borderlands.

To prepare, the duo underwent training in African bush skills and survival as well as hunting and fishing. Apart from the inherent danger present from wild animals in national parks, there is also a threat owing to the extremely volatile political situation in some of the African countries. A third challenge, which will also be one of the most rewarding aspects of the trip, is the varying landscape they will cross—from mountains to rainforests, savannah grassland, bushland and the great Sahara desert. In remote areas, such as the desert, they will carry food but mostly they will attempt to live off the land by using their bushcraft and hunting skills and buying food from villagers.

Apart from being a great adventure, the expedition aims to raise awareness about Africa’s problems and the need for international dialogue.

Wood, who proposed the idea for the expedition to Clarke “over a pint at Paddington station” in London, has done other adventures with his army buddy. Though in separate army units, they met in 2005 while fighting in Afghanistan. After leaving the army, they did some climbing in Iraq and trekked across Madagascar.

The 30-year-old Wood has been interested in east Africa’s history and geography for a decade and has led expeditions in the region. Though the walk across Madagascar was a major expedition, this latest venture eclipses it. The Nile expedition will travel from the mountains in Rwanda to the rainforests in Tanzania and Uganda, past lake Victoria and into the swampland of South Sudan. Then it will be on to north Sudan and Khartoum, beyond the pyramids at Meroe and across the Sahara to lake Nasser and Egypt before ending at the delta in fabled Alexandria.

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