If trekking the length of the River Nile, some 4,258 miles, wasn’t enough adventure for one lifetime, Levison Wood managed to go one better in his follow-up Uncle Traveling Matt outing, Walking The Himalayas. You can probably guess from the title that it isn’t anything like the jaunts in the hills that you might have read in Bill Bryson’s The Road To Little Dribbling, and while it isn’t quite as funny, it is a little higher up in the excitement stakes.
To give us all a glimpse into the mammoth hike, Levison Wood has wrapped it all up with some expedition string and a few cantaloupe knots in both a book release and Channel 4 series of the same name, much like his previous travelogue. The book had a hardback release date of the 14th of January 2016, so it just missed out on being the quintessential man present for Christmas 2015, but it did coincide with the air date for the Channel 4 series, which went out in early 2016. The paperback release arrived on the 5th January 2017.
To put things into context, the Himalaya hike is a paltry 1700 miles, less than a third of the Nile exploration, but obviously the altitude side of the equation did a lot to balance up the effort stakes, if not tip it in the direction of the massive mountain range. The journey started out in Afghanistan, where Lev served during his time in the army, before pushing on through Pakistan, India and finally Nepal to complete the trek as he travels the full length of the Himalayan mountain range.
Perhaps the most significant obstacle along the way was all the inconveniently placed massive rock formations that he needed to scale and descend, providing him with altitudes of more than 5000m to deal with on a regular basis. He also made his way through some of the most isolated and difficult terrain in the world with a significant difference in temperatures and conditions.
If all of that wasn’t daunting enough, he also needed to take into account the complexities of the sociopolitical situation within the region, not least of all his starting location in Afghanistan. This was followed by the border between Pakistan and India to cross, as well as the stunning, but contested territory of Kashmir. Finally, he closes out the journey in Nepal, which is rebuilding itself following the terrible earthquake it suffered in April 2015. As with Walking The Nile, Lev will try to present the people and politics of the region as much as the landscape and tough terrain in an incredible journey for us to ride along with in the book and the Channel 4 show.
Along the way he meets up with a stream of people in a bid to find out what makes the Himalayas tick. He’s joined by locals throughout the journey and stops to spend time with them to experience their unique way of life. This sees him getting to grips with yak herding, trying his hand at the bizarre Afghan sport of Buzkashi, which is essentially dragging a goat or calf carcass towards a goal; tasting the delicacy that is sheep eyes and meeting a shaman, separatist fighters and people that survived one of the year’s biggest natural disasters.
The book is now available on hardback, paperback and digital download, and the TV series will be an opportunity to see it all in as much detail as you’re going to get short of heading out on your own copycat expedition. It was far from easy though as Levison Wood suffered an injury in the final section in Nepal following a serious car accident that left him with a badly broken leg.
It’s a massive exploration of the life, landscape and politics of the very top of the world that has gone into the making of Walking The Himalayas. Though he followed somewhat in the footsteps of Michael Palin, who published his own book on his six month trek in Himalaya, this was a whole different kind of journey.