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Levison Wood recounts terrifying moment he got caught in South Sudan rebel uprising

Sudan for over a century has experienced a tumultuous political and military discourse. In 1881 the country revolted against the Ottoman-Egyptian administration, only to fall into the hands of British-Egyptian rule and a harsh period under the Empire. In 1956 the country gained its independence.

From this point on, an internal power struggle over the country’s governance ensued.

The second Sudanese Civil War spanned 21 years from 1983 to 2005 and led to much bloodshed.

Although the war had officially ended, skirmishes and minor battles have persisted ever since.

It was during one of these mini-uprisings, in 2013, that Levison Wood, the adventurer, found himself caught in while filming his Channel 4 series, Walking the Nile.

Levison Wood: The adventurer and his team got caught between the cross fire of an uprising

Levison Wood: The adventurer and his team got caught between the cross fire of an uprising (Image: GETTY)

Travel: The veteran has been lucky to make a career out of adventure

Travel: The veteran has been lucky to make a career out of adventure (Image: Channel 4)

The Dinka are one of two of South Sudan’s main ethnic groups, often at loggerheads with the Nuer.

Last week, the UN warned that an increase in fighting between ethnic groups had been observed and, added to the coronavirus crisis, could prove fatal for the country’s peace and stability.

There was little Levison could do when Levison got caught up in the uprising’s crossfire.

He recounted the chilling experience to Express.co.uk and said: “We were in the town of Bor and a group of Dinka rebels stormed the area.

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Walking the Nile: Levison pictured during a sandstorm in the Sahara desert

Walking the Nile: Levison pictured during a sandstorm in the Sahara desert (Image: Discovery UK)

“We’d gotten ourselves on this hotel roof that had been completely bombed out, and there was this battle going on below us.

“We were just sitting there: it was the most bizarre experience, watching the tracer fire zooming over our heads.

“You could see either side fighting each other.

“We couldn’t go anywhere, there wasn’t anywhere to escape to, so we just sat and watched the whole thing unfold like some sort of weird Hollywood action film.

“We should have had a bag of popcorn.”

Coming into contact with battle, terrorists and conflict was a common occurrence while walking the Nile.

Several countries that span the mammoth river are perpetually on the brink of war.

At one point, Levison was forced to abandon a 450-mile strip in South Sudan due to intense fighting.

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Walking with Elephants: Levison’s Walking with Elephants show recently aired on Channel 4 (Image: Channel 4)

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He has had similar experiences all over the world during his travels.

His job before carving a career out of adventure was centred on war and conflict, his being captain of the Parachute Regiment in the British army.

One time, during a standard patrol of an Afghanistan town, Levison and his team were ambushed by the Taliban.

He explained: “I was walking down this very narrow street – in Afghanistan, you get these high clay mud walls.

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Africa latest: Walking the Nile meant encountering animals such as crocodiles and hippos (Image: Channel 4)

“The alleyway had on both sides irrigation ditches filled with water and, going down this road, I saw some guy climbing over a wall not more than 10metres ahead.

“I saw an arm with an AK-47 point straight at me and the whole patrol, and he let out a burst of straight gunfire at us all.

“We all jumped for cover into the irrigation ditch, there were about ten of us that all jumped in.

“I looked straight between my legs, and there was a landmine between my feet.

Victorian traveller: Levison took on the air of a Victorian traveller trekking through the Sahara

Victorian traveller: Levison took on the air of a Victorian traveller trekking through the Sahara (Image: Discovery UK)

“Everyone looked down and they were all in the same position – we were surrounded by landmines.

“He’d obviously done it as a trap to get us to jump onto these bombs.

“By some magic, nobody got hurt, but that sort of stuff was happening on a daily basis.”

His time spent there was part of the UK’s participation in the war in Afghanistan that lasted from 2002 to 2014, codenamed Operation Herrick.



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