Walking the Nile by Levison Wood

Walking the Nile by Levison Wood

Atlantic Monthly Press

January 12, 2016

352 Pages

A few weeks ago a friend and I went to hear a speaker at the Dallas Museum of Art named Levison Wood talk about his adventures in walking from the source of the Nile to the Mediterranean Sea. Knowing little about this man from Great Britain except for what I quickly looked up on the internet, I purchased a ticket and was excited about the event–almost all the author talks I go to at the museum are worth going to regardless of whether I have read the book. As I did a little more research and the date of the talk drew near, I was compelled to buy another ticket and convince my friend to go, too. Just seeing the cover of the book convinced me that this was a special event and needed to be shared.

Well, the talk was more than enjoyable and since this 34-year-old young man was just so easy on the eyes, I wanted to meet him by buying a book for him to sign. I really didn’t intend to read the book, I honestly just wanted to see what he was like. Hell, I really didn’t intend to buy the book but could not resist. I have no place to store books anymore and buy most of them via Kindle or check them out at the library. As any book signing goes, you have a few seconds and it’s over quickly. What a pleasant young man Levison Wood is. So, the book languished on my counter for a few weeks. I already had plenty of books to read and review. Well, I finally started reading the book and finished in a few days. Since I learned at the talk that Mr. Wood, or “Lev,” as most people call him, had filmed a series about his walk as well. (He doesn’t really mention that in the book–no talk of film crews, etc.) I gathered that this crew met him at certain points on the journey and filmed briefly at different spots. So by the time I got around to reading Lev’s book, I was watching the 3-episode show as I read. I read about a third of the book, then watched Episode 1 and then read another third of the book, and so on. What a completely enjoyable adventure that Lev took me on. I am so ready to read and watch his next adventure!

–Levison Wood after a haboob or dust storm in the African Desert (Portrait: Ash Bhardwaj via The Evening Standard)

I learned so much from reading the book and watching the show. The good thing about each is that certain things Lev shares in the book are not in the television series and vice versa. I felt I was getting double the adventure! Of course, many things that occurred in the book are shown in the series. So cut up in thirds, I saw the characters I met in the book on film shortly afterwards. Meeting Boston, Lev’s first guide was great in the show because I felt I already knew him from the book. Seeing the characters met along the way on film after reading about them was really special.

As a Hemingway aficionado, I knew Africa was one of Hemingway’s favorite places. Lev first mentions Hemingway on page 118. He makes a few other Hemingway references as well. Lev’s journey started in Rwanda and then went from there to Uganda, through Tanzania, the war-torn South Sudan, Sudan, and finally Egypt. I had taken one course in my academic career on Egyptian art, so I was curious to see some of the famous places through Lev’s eyes. He was as awestruck as any tourist seeing these sites would be and Lev had already traveled far and wide before this adventure. I enjoyed Moez, the Coptic Christian guide Lev hired in Nubia (now Sudan), and I also wanted more of Turbo, Lev’s last guide in Egypt, especially in the TV series. Turbo was a red-haired Egyptian Muslim that helped Lev with supplies, logistics, government interference, and the like in Egypt (no easy and no inexpensive task). Knowing very little about the current state of any of these countries was enlightening. Learning about some of the flora and fauna was also worth reading and seeing.

I will only mention that there was an extremely heart-breaking and terrible event in the first episode and that in the book Lev tells how he was near a deadly skirmish in South Sudan. I learned about the governments and politics of the areas (mainly due to the guides informing Lev). I learned much about who the Victorian and present day British explorers are–Speke, Burton, Stanley, Livingstone, Baker, Asher, Fiennes) I also learned about a kind-hearted and empathetic and all around wonderful person–Levison Wood.

–Levison Wood at the end of the journey (via Animal Planet)

Since this book and series were made, Lev has written and filmed two more adventures: Walking the Himalayas and Walking the Americas. From social media, I gather that his fourth adventure has begun.

Thanks Dallas Museum of Art for continuing to bring me enlightenment and adventure via your wonderful Arts and Letters Live events.