Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Extreme Travelers: Into the Empty Quarter

{Source & Photo}
Back in December 2013 Yahoo Travel shared their exclusive story about Alastair Humphrey's 45 day trek across the desert. And now I would like to share it with you for my Extreme Travelers series. I haven’t done an Extreme Travelers post in a while so I am excited to start up again and share this crazy story with you!

Alastair got the idea of crossing the Oman desert, the largest desert in the world, after he read Arabian Sands. This part of the world is known as the Empty Quarter.

Why did he do this? He says it best in his own words:

"When I first began dreaming of traveling the world, and doing so in an adventurous and challenging way, one of my holy texts was Wilfred Thesiger’s book, Arabian Sands.

The consummate English gentleman, Thesiger was educated at Eton College and Oxford University. He wore tweed and smart three-piece suits. But he was also a hard man and an epic traveler. He boxed for his university and later fought with British Special Forces - the SAS - in the deserts of North Africa in World War II.

{Source & Photo: Courtesy of Alastair Humphreys}
Arabian Sands describes his exploratory journeys through the Empty Quarter desert, located on the Arabian Peninsula, with a handful of charismatic, knowledgeable, loyal Bedouin guides in the late 1940s. His book beautifully captures the harsh beauty of the desert, the terrible hardships of crossing it by camel, and the wonderful blend of camaraderie, solitude and personal discovery that emerge with all the greatest adventures.

Ever since I first read Arabian Sands I dreamed of one day making a journey of my own into the Empty Quarter. And so, when I set my eyes upon the empty gravel plains for the first time a little over a year ago, I was seeing a place I had thought about for more than a decade. I was thrilled to be somewhere I had never been before. But I was excited also to be looking out at a landscape so familiar to my hero, Thesiger.

My journey was not aiming to replicate Thesiger’s adventures. I could not afford a camel, had no idea how to travel with one and - truth be told - I’m scared of them too. Nor could I roam at will across the desert. Saudi Arabia is off limits to today’s adventurous tourists, so I would be constrained to the desert in Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

{Source & Photo: Courtesy of Alastair Humphreys}
My aim then was to become a human camel, hauling a homemade cart with 660 pounds of supplies for 1,000 miles across the Arabian Peninsula from Salalah in southern Oman to the glitzy madness of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. I would need some help with this madcap plan, so I recruited Leon McCarron, a friend of a friend and a fellow fan of Thesiger. We set a 45-day time limit because Leon promised to be home to see his girlfriend for Christmas.

We looked a strange sight, hauling our ludicrously overloaded cart along the side of the busy motorway out of Salalah. Bemused and amused drivers hooted their horns and waved as they passed. Already this journey was totally different to Thesiger’s experience. But you can never replicate someone else’s journey. It can be an inspiration or a catalyst, but you must seek out the adventures and experiences for yourself."

Alastair Humphreys is a British-born traveler who was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2012. In this exclusive story for Yahoo Travel, he recounts his 45-day desert crossing that is the subject of the 2013 documentary, "Into the Empty Quarter." You can buy his DVD here.

Would you ever do something like this? 

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