There is something about curious people; they tend never to be satisfied with the norm or stagnancy of any kind. Constant movement is what enriches them, as well as change and experimentation.
Marie Curie said: “Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.”
Levison Wood has lots of ideas; he had a thought to walk the length of the river Nile once, and by Jove he did it. The Army captain, writer, and photographer has since made a career out of curiosity. For awhile now he’s been hitting the pavements, trails, and grasslands of our planet.
Though he’s probably best known for walking expeditions, which have taken him to the far reaches of the world and into regions that many dare not go. From 2013 – 2014 he took that first idea and ran with it, starting at the source of the Nile and finishing where it ended.
It took 4000 miles, four months, one death, a few angry crocodiles and a trek through jungles and desert terrain for Wood to hit the shoreline of the Mediterranean.
He writes in his book, ‘Walking The Nile” of the moment he reached the wave break.
“There was only one memory left for me now: the thought of the magical Nile, the river that had ultimately defeated me like it had so many others. Perhaps, I thought, the river just doesn’t want to be conquered. Perhaps it never will.”
Not satisfied with such a feat, he took on the Himalayas, the Asian mountain range that houses the tallest peaks in the world. Size seems to matter to ‘ole Lev. Nevertheless, he did it, not without adversity of course. It just wouldn’t be an adventure if sh*t didn’t go down at some point.
He survived a serious car crash in Nepal and close calls while walking through Taliban territory. It all made for thrilling television and an even better accompanying book.
What Wood does best through his explorations is to challenge perceptions about the worlds outside our own – of which there are many. With the political vitriol and xenophobia enveloping global society lately, we have a feeling Levison has his work cut out for him.
loaded was lucky enough to catch Lev before he ships out again, to talk about his latest exploit in the jungles of Central America. He’s walked that too. We feel like a pile of lazy bastards right now.
loaded: First off, you seem to be fascinated by Howler Monkeys.
Levison: I am. They make such an incredible noise; I quite like them.
— Channel 4 (@Channel4) January 8, 2017
loaded: Did you know their skull is specifically formed to make that noise.
Levison: laughs. I did not know that.
loaded: What books or media did you turn to to prepare for this trip in particular?
Levison: Well for this particular trip, I didn’t know much about Central America. I traveled to Belize and Mexico before, when I was in the army, we did our jungle training in Belize. In terms of reading, I read a bit about the history of the ancient Mayan civilisation and the Garifuna communities. I’m interested in the history particularly so that was what I was reading up on.
loaded: Speaking of Mayan Civilisations, you dove into an ancient sinkhole in the Yucatan Peninsula full of skeletons. Are you superstitious?
Levison: No, I don’t think so. I’ve traveled all around the world and been to lots of different places. I’m not superstitious, though it’s obviously a bit weird diving down into a sinkhole where people have been sacrificed. Quite a strange thing to get your head around.
loaded: Indiana Jones is scared of snakes, what irks you?
Levison: I don’t like spiders very much.
loaded: What about that cave you went into full of giant spiders?
Levison: I know yeah. I wasn’t expecting to see them, I don’t mind bats. But the spiders freaked me out a little bit.
— Channel 4 (@Channel4) January 29, 2017
loaded: Are you an explorer who writes or a writer who explores?
Levison: A writer who explores. I think it’s difficult to be an explorer in this day and age. It’s changed its meaning for me; it’s not like the olden days where people are putting flags on a map. It’s more about a journey of rediscovery and documenting a moment in time while showing the people back home what the world is all about. A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to travel the way that I do. It’s good to share that experience through writing, through film, through speaking.
loaded: Is it less pure of an experience for you because you’re doing it for everyone else?
Levison: I don’t think so. I get to go to amazing places and have my own experiences. Its work in a way but it doesn’t feel like it to me.
So it turns out his name is Roger and not a girl. He's still not a pet but just loves coming back to this guys house and drinking beer… pic.twitter.com/rK49Hevehw
— Levison Wood (@Levisonwood) October 5, 2016
loaded: Many explorers have come from the military, like you. What is it about that life that leads to careers like yours?
Levison: I suppose when you’ve spent several years doing that job you get a taste for the adventure and the lifestyle. It’s quite difficult to transition from that to do a normal job. I have to find a way to fulfill that urge to have adventures, to travel. I do have a bit of creative streak, so by writing and by doing photography, it was a natural progression for me.
— Levison Wood (@Levisonwood) September 24, 2016
loaded: You did your army jungle training in Belize, why didn’t you start with Central America before the Nile?
Levison: The river Nile is this iconic river, and I love traveling in Africa. That was the first place I traveled when I was eighteen, was all around Southern Africa. When I left the army in 2010, I spent three years doing lots of other expeditions – that weren’t televised. I was behind the scenes and the camera as a photographer and a guide traveling all around the world. So when I got the opportunity to do something on TV, I needed something iconic, and there’s something about the Nile that captures people’s imaginations. That opened a lot of doors and enabled me to pick and choose what I wanted to do next.
loaded: Do you get culture shock?
Levison: I don’t get culture shock very often these days because I’ve been traveling all of my adult life, so not a lot shocks me. Having said that occasionally you do come across something that makes you think, wow that’s crazy. In India, I met a cannibal monk who ate dead bodies. Sometimes you do get the weird and wonderful stories that surprise you.
loaded: What’s one moment from “Walking the America’s” you would relive.
Levison: I had a great time. Climbing that mountain in Costa Rica was amazing, the sights there were brilliant. I had a lot of fun in Central America.
— Levison Wood (@Levisonwood) September 27, 2016
loaded: How many boots do you go through on a walk?
Levison: Only one pair. I’ve got some good boots, and they generally last for the whole expedition.
loaded: Whoa. So is hiking in England very boring now?
Levison: No, I enjoy having a little adventure anywhere really. I sometimes go away for the odd weekend in the UK, and it’s fine.
loaded: Do you see yourself doing this until you’re 80?
Levison: laughs. I’ll keep going until my legs give up.
Well, Levison, we can’t wait to see where you end up next. Happy trails!
Look out for Lev’s book Walking The America’s soon, and catch up on the Channel 4 show online.
Thanks for chatting with loaded!