Bear Grylls knows a thing or two about danger - it is his day job. He tells Time Out about his adventures in the Middle East
This is the first interview after your accident. What happened exactly? I was leading an expedition down in Antarctica to try and climb this remote, unclimbed peak down there. We were using these kite skis, flying along at about 50 kilometres per hour, and it was in a very, very strong wind. I was in the front and I went straight off this edge. I landed on my head, smashed the helmet to bits, and landed on my shoulders as well. Luckily, there’s not much inside my head, but the shoulder got a massive kind of break on it. It’s kind of been a bit of a mission the last few months trying to get better, but I’m getting there.
How do you manage to control your fears while you’re on some of your more complicated adventures? I think the reality is that I do spend a lot of time scared, and I’ve had this all through my life whether it was my job in the Special Forces or from big climbing expeditions or whether it’s filming Born Survivor [Ultimate Survival]. I think I’ve just learned over the years to treat it as an emotion that is there to sharpen you for what you need to do. I’m genuinely nervous of a lot of the stuff we’re doing on the show, whether it’s dealing with lethal snakes or trying to jump on top of big crocodiles or doing a lot of the climbs with no ropes.
What sort of experiences have you had in the Middle East? We were filming on the Iraqi border with Turkey at this last season, which was amazing. It turned into a very hard show, actually, in the end. I got quite bad heatstroke and it just makes everything a nightmare. Looking back on it all, though, it was a show I’m really proud of. We ended up having these great adventures down these big cave systems. We are also planning for this season and we’re going out to Saudi Arabia to film, which will be exciting.
Do you think that this region makes a good destination for an adventure holiday? Yes, completely. I’ve done a lot of climbing out in Oman and I love the whole region. People often think it’s just kind of desert. There are some of the most extraordinary wadis and jebel systems all around there. It really is a world on its own and there’s so much you can do there – that’s why it was the Garden of Eden. We heard you’ve been in Transylvania and you met a bear and also had to feed yourself with bear excrement. Please explain. I was just trying to show that they have very fast digestion systems and if you had nothing else to eat, you can actually eat the bits of fruit that has passed through its body. It wasn’t a highlight of my life, but it is something that could save your life if you had nothing else to eat there.
You were in the UK Special Forces for three years – what does that teach you about yourself? I think the lesson that comes out of that is that they’re looking for people who are self-disciplined and self-motivated. I remember that whole process starting off with 180 recruits and there only being four of us left at the end. It was actually just four normal people, but normal people who can look after themselves when the times are difficult. It’s a time in my life that I’m very proud of, but I kind of don’t really talk about much of it beyond that. The strongest thing it left me with is being part of a small, tight-knit, strong family.
Which skill has proven to be the most useful in getting you out of trouble? Cheerfulness under adversity – that’s it in a nutshell. One of my favourite quotes is from Winston Churchill, who said, ‘When you’re going through hell, keep walking.’ Gryll’s Ultimate Survival 3 begins March 30 at 11pm on Orbit as part of Discovery Channel adventure month