Tales of Extreme Grooming: Putting Ash on Your Face, Showering From the End of a Cow
Men, please meet: Levison Wood, explorer, photographer, best-selling author, and the first man to walk the entire length of the Nile. His journeys on foot have been chronicled as books and documentaries called Walking the Nile, Walking the Himalayas, and Walking the Americas. He is currently on his most challenging expedition yet: a mission to circumnavigate the Arabian peninsula, war-torn areas and all.
Occupational hazards: I guess the toughest challenge is probably dealing with the environment—the incredible heat, especially in the Sahara desert, where it was sometimes in excess of 50 degrees—and dealing with political problems along the way. In Sudan, I found myself in a war zone getting shot at. In the Himalayas, the altitude. The environment you can prepare for, but it’s the political situations that are sometimes the most unexpected thing. So places like Afghanistan and Sudan, where there’s lot of political problems, they’re the most challenging. I broke my arm and my shoulder in a car crash when the car fell off a cliff that was about 100 feet, so I had to be rescued and have an operation.
What he knows: [Grooming is] important in that, if you don’t look after your skin, then you’re going to look very weathered very quickly (laughs). So it’s important to use sunblock and moisturizer.
Let it grow: When I’m traveling, I usually have a beard, and it’s just a bit easier when you don’t have to shave. I’m quite into my Clinique beard moisturizer at the moment. It’s really good. When I’m traveling, I also find interesting grooming customs. I quite enjoy going to local barbershops in back alleys in various places around the globe, and I remember traveling in India and they gave me a very good Rajasthani mustache.
Don’t wash it: If your hair’s getting a bit out of control, and it’s long and frizzy, and you just washed it, but you don’t have any sort of styling product, then you can just use conditioner. But don’t wash it out—just keep it in, and that’ll keep your hair in place.
Keep it dirty: If you don’t have any sunblock, you can just put some ash or dirt on your skin. To be honest, ash is quite good because it’s widely available, and it stops you from getting sunburned.
Beef up: In South Sudan, the people shower from the back end of a cow. They basically shower in urine because it’s too dangerous to go to the river because of the crocodiles. I did try it, and it was fine. Very unhygienic.
This story originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Esquire Philippines.
Minor edits have been made by the EsquireMag.ph team.