x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Adventurer Hayes starts Mubarak bin London's epic trek

40 years of the UAE: Adrian Hayes and two Emirati army officers have set out on a 1,500-kilometre, camel-back trek from Salalah to Abu Dhabi to celebrate the UAE's 40th anniversary.

Adventurer Adrian Hayes drinks Arabic coffee before starting a re-enactment of Sir Wilfred Thesiger's trek from Oman to the UAE with Emirati army officers Saeed Al Masafri and Ghalfan Al Jabri.
Adventurer Adrian Hayes drinks Arabic coffee before starting a re-enactment of Sir Wilfred Thesiger's trek from Oman to the UAE with Emirati army officers Saeed Al Masafri and Ghalfan Al Jabri.

The toothbrush was packed, along with a well-worn copy of Arabian Sands, as the adventurer Adrian Hayes set off in the footsteps of the author and explorer Mubarak bin London - otherwise known as Sir Wilfred Thesiger.

Hayes, who has trekked to both poles, across Greenland and to the summit of Mount Everest, left for the Empty Quarter yesterday on a 1,500-kilometre re-creation of Thesiger's desert crossings to coincide with the UAE's 40th National Day.

Assisting him are Saeed Al Masafri and Ghalfan Al Jabri, army officers and Bedu camel herders.

Mr Al Masafri, 26, and Mr Al Jabri, 27, were selected from a group of 20 officers for their camel expertise.

The trip has been more than a year in the planning, as Mr Hayes is well used to dealing with last-minute hiccups before departing from his home in Abu Dhabi.

"There is not much to take - a few dishdashas, shawls and the medical kit," the former British army officer said on Thursday.

Before any adventure, Mr Hayes lays out on the floor everything he will take.

"You always cut it down 50 per cent. I'll be gone until mid-December, so I was trying to tie up all the loose ends," including his telephone and electricity bills, he said.

On his camel Sadam, Mr Hayes will spend more than a week trekking from yesterday's starting point in Salalah through rough, lush terrain before reaching what he calls the moonscape.

It will be just as Thesiger travelled between 1945 and 1950 when he trekked across Oman and what is now the UAE.

And just as Thesiger did, the team will rely on basic provisions, nature and Bedouin hospitality to survive.

They will wear what he wore: kanduras, khanjars and sandals. They will live on dates and rice and whatever people give them along the way.

In the first three days, the trio are walking through the ancient ruins of Al Balid before they reach the Dhofar mountains.

"It is basically walking and pulling the camels along narrow, steep-sided gorges," Mr Hayes said.

"It will be green, lush jungle before we cross into the moonscape terrain. We don't hit the sands for seven days."

Before they reach the dunes of the Arabian desert, they will follow deep wadis similar to those found in the Hajar mountains between the UAE and Oman.

They will pass through Wadi Uyun, then trek through Wadi Ghadun and the lost city of Ubar, more famously known as the Atlantis of the Sands, found in 1992 by an international expedition that included Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Thesiger used a well in that area in the spring of 1946.

Two weeks into the trip and four days after reaching the desert village of Mugshin, Mr Hayes's team expects to hit the dunes.

"We will travel early morning and late afternoon," Mr Hayes said. "We are not going back to the Stone Age. I have an old map of the desert and a compass.

"We are not so sure about Mugshin but we will take a bearing and we'll see where that takes us. We will need a good bearing and measuring the amount we travel is the key.

"There will be a lot of lefts and rights around the sand dunes and onto salt plains. The people who have been doing this for years will not walk over high dunes."

Mr Hayes's only luxuries will be his notebook and his copy of Thesiger's Arabian Sands. He has been bulking up to compensate for the weight he expects to lose.

"We'll walk, go hungry and get thirsty. There will never be enough food," he said.

The three expect to reach Liwa on National Day, December 2, and then continue to the capital where they hope to arrive by the middle of December.

They will be shadowed by a two-man film crew from UK-based Twofour Productions.

If all goes to plan, a film of the expedition will air next year.

eharnan@thenational.ae