We speak to Adrian Hayes, who camel-trekked across the Empty Quarter in just 44 days
Tell us about the movie, Footsteps of Thesiger. It’s a re-enactment the great British explorer Thesiger’s first 1940s crossing of the Empty Quarter (Rub’ al Khali), where he went by camel and on foot from Oman to Abu Dhabi.
What attracted you to this challenge? I live here, I speak Arabic and I’m an adventurer. It’s the biggest expanse of sand in the world – bigger than the Sahara.
What was the hardest bit? Day one. We had set out when the camels freaked out and started bucking. I was thrown, knocked out and hospitalised after just 10km. Everything you plan for two years suddenly in complete jeopardy. I had 13 stitches and a huge gash in the back of my head. I don’t know why the camels freaked out – people say there are bad spirits in the mountains.
Weren’t you tempted to call it a day there and then? Calling it off was not in the equation. You’ve got a big problem; you’ve got to solve it.
When did you start calling yourself an adventurer? I’ve done it since I was a kid. Being in the British Army gave me most of it, I’ve done it all my life. When I started to take on these huge projects I went into it full time.
You’ve walked to the North Pole, South Pole and climbed Mount Everest in the shortest time ever – one year, 217 days. What was the scariest moment along the way? When I got to the top of Everest, my oxygen broke – I had to descend from 8,850 metres back to 8,000 metres with no air. I had to dig deeper than I ever had before. I was in tears. And at The North Pole the temperature went down to minus 59°C; it was the hardest task on the planet.
So why do you put yourself through all this? I actually like doing it. The sense of achievement, pitting mind and body against the elements. Because I love it, I’m good at it, and I can do it.
What’s the greatest challenge we can try in the UAE? There’s a whole range of unspoilt mountains between the UAE and Oman where you can hike and rock climb.
What advice do you have as an inspirational speaker? You can never do enough inner work. You’ve got to go deep inside and find out what makes you tick, what drives you and what enthuses you. We’re all on a journey and it’s going to end at some stage – your mission is to make the most of it. Life’s for learning.
Do you have low points? You open Pandora’s Box with all these massive achievements and then you come back down with a big bump – and you’ve got to face that. You’ve to keep setting goals. The premiere of Footsteps of Thesiger takes place at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel on Wednesday May 9; Dhs250 (includes dinner and drinks). See www.bbgdxb.com