Anyone my age who is interested in adventure, exploration and travel will undoubtedly and fondly remember the original airing of Michael Palin’s “Around the World in 80 Days”.
The series was a ground breaking new style of documentary which was so well received various other series featuring the delightful Mr Palin followed. All the series produced gave a new style of insight into travel and adventure through the eyes of one of Britain’s, now much-loved, travel presenters.
Fast forward twenty odd years to the Christmas period of 2014/15 when we were watching “Only Fools and Horses” for the umpteenth time that festive season; don’t get me wrong Only Fools is always great, and the jokes never get old… but I had a longing for some adventure and travel.
Flicking through the TV guide we saw “Walking the Nile” with Levison Wood; my husband who loves anything Egypt said it looked interesting. I said I recalled the name (how many Levison’s can there be out there for a start? And I’m sure there’s only one who was walking the Nile!). I quickly announced I remember reading about this guy online and in the papers, so we made a pact to get the kids up to bed (1 and 2 ½ years old at the time) in the hope of a rare hour of uninterrupted viewing time before bed.
The format of the programme was unlike most travel documentaries I had seen before, here was Levison and his travel companion, Boston, filming themselves (occasionally with a back-up camera man) along the trek of the Nile from source to sea, through their utterly honest and gruelling point of view.
The first episode was raw and hard hitting, explaining about the epic enormity of the challenge ahead and combining it with the geography, history, exploration and the political agendas of each area travelled through. The sheer scale and severity of the challenge hit very early on in the first episode when two journalists joined Levison and Boston along part of their trek; one of them being the American Journalist, Matthew Power. Whilst crossing a Reserve, Matthew Power became suddenly and unexpectedly ill with severe heatstroke; cut to the next scene and Levison sadly announced he had passed away – I can clearly recall myself saying “Oh my gosh!” out loud at the shock and the realisation of the enormity of the whole trek.
“Walking the Nile” was like sugar to a child, it was absolutely addictive. Levison and Boston made a great team and Levison had a natural charm about himself; he was confident in front of the camera and his knowledge and passion for exploration spilled out from the TV screen and into your living room. We were hooked!
On the back of the series and having read the accompanying book by Levison, it spurred me onto get there a bit more and start doing what I enjoy doing – being outside and exploring!
The spring of that year I created a spin on “Walking the Nile” by organising a fundraiser for one of the children at my son and daughter’s, then nursery. A child who attended the nursery had Cerebral Palsy and desperately needed an eye gaze technology to help him communicate so I organised an event where a few of us would walk the entire length of our local river – okay so it’s not quite the Nile, but it’s a good starting point. We successfully managed to “Walk the Ivel” in the torrential rain and raised a good chunk towards those much-needed funds.
The following series “Walking the Himalayas” featured Levison and his guide Binod trekking the length of the Himalayas. The series was just as captivating and entertaining as the first and had some monumental moments which had your heart in your mouth – it was apparent not even a horrific car crash was going to stop this intrepid explorer reaching his goal – even if the completion date was a few weeks later than originally planned due to being repatriated home for emergency surgery.
The third of the “Walking” series featured Levison and the absolutely endearing and lovable Mexican, Alberto Caceres as they took on “Walking the Americas”. Alberto and Levison had a fantastic rapport with one another; Alberto often humourising a situation with his natural wit and charm.
Not long after the “Americas” was aired Levison went on tour and I was lucky enough to meet him at Cambridge after the evening’s event. Once in a while you listen and meet someone who can totally put your life into perspective and make you realise that there is more to life than a 9-5 job (okay, so in my case a 9-3.30 job).
Listening to Levison’s adventures and events he has carried out for charities such as AMECA has had a massive impact on me as a person and one which I feel has helped me grow and change as an individual. I also realised I shouldn’t waste my artistic talent and therefore used it to write and illustrate a book for a charity of which he is the Patron of, AMECA.org.uk.
“The Little Elephant Who Could” is dedicated to Levison and Alberto for their inspirational journey through Central America and the work they have both put into the charity itself through challenges. I feel privileged that Levison has kindly provided the foreword for it too.
So… thank you to Lev, who has made me realise that if I want something I should go out there and do it, because anything is possible. If ever there was an ambassador for the youngsters of today, this is the man. Thank you also to Alberto for making me realise my camera is also a fantastic piece of kit which shouldn’t be wasted and I should embrace any crisis or down time in my life with a smile, positivity and a touch of humour – if everyone was like you the world would be an amazing place!
If you haven’t had a chance to watch any of Lev’s adventures I highly recommend them all. You will be totally enthralled and captivated.
Watch out Mr Palin, there is a new kid on the block 😊