I’ve been working closely with Canon for a good few years now yet still, it was an immense privilege to be the first photographer in the Middle East to get to play with the EOS 1Dx, Canon’s new flagship camera. No sooner than the question was raised, I replied in great haste with a resounding ‘YES!’
It arrived brand spanking new, untouched and with zero clicks to its name. Two weeks later, I had managed to click a total of 8,820 frames. Not bad for a fortnights work … and even though it shoots at a speed of twelve frames per second, luckily I managed to play with it for a lot more than the 12 minutes that this could have equated too. Damn, this machine is fast! I was thrilled to see that the speedy clicks go hand in hand with a fast Read the full post >>
Fresh mountain air stimulates creativity … my justification for getting up early and hitting the Hajar Mountains for some much needed vision and reflection. In the perfect world, I would love to do this one day per month but in reality it happens just a few priceless days a year. I tend to hit different valleys and discover new mountain roads so a sign like this one inevitably drew me in.
Roads like these always lead to interesting places. High up in these mountains is a peaceful valley where in the past I’ve done some trail running and adventure racing but that was long before this new road replaced Read the full post >>
Now here’s a man with an extended working title … Gillette Local Hero. Being named so was a great acknowledgment to an awesome running gig never mind the pleasure of sharing the same hero status as past polar explorers, Everest conquerors and Iron man fanatics.
And then me with my humble 250k run! Life is bliss yet it passes us by at a pace we can hardly keep up with. Great things happen yet they’re fast stored at the back of our minds and are soon after forgotten. I recently did a quick Google search with my name and my Gobi race just to remind myself what a great experience it was. I continue to feel blessed with the support of Karin at Audi and the PR team at Greyling Momemtum in generating such extensive exposure for my chosen charity in Uganda. With feature spreads in Men’s Fitness, Four Man, Sports 360, various regional news papers and live on air, the PR value alone exceeds $US 40,000. And … thanks to my friend Anne’s consistent push, Read the full post >>
On Tuesday 13th December, the boys rolled into town. As they entered Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, they could see the skyscrapers rise from the horizon as they made their steady 6km per hour camel-backed approach. Under police escort, they crossed the busy Maqta bridge towards the corniche, where the 44 day, 1,600km-long expedition finally drew to a close.
It has been an awesome journey that will remain forever etched on their memories. They have successfully relived Thesiger’s original adventure … same routes, same experiences, original companions, similar challenges … Read the full post >>
Some shoots come together. Other do not. I‘ve just returned from what was intended to be a unique caving expedition, shooting new content for the next Petzl catalogue. They’ve just launched a series of new head torches and I was keen to use them as light sources inside the cave, shooting ‘available’ light as an alternative to flash heads. In theory it’s easier to focus and build the shot as you move head torches around, creating great shadows as you go. The seventh hole is part of the Selma Cave Plateau, which also includes Majlis al Jins, the world’s second biggest cave and one that could accommodate 50 jumbo jets. Seventh hole is as special as it is unique.
Access alone is tricky, starting with an amazing 200 metre abseil through a crack into a huge chamber followed by Read the full post >>
The boys are getting closer to home. Al Ain, the garden city, from Dubai, is just a little over a 1½ hour drive. In his book, Thesiger referred to as Jebel Hafeet as a dominant mountain rock in the midst of the dunes.
A formal gathering was organised at the Jahili Fort involving two former companions of Thesiger himself, their names Salim bin Ghabaish and Salim bin Kabina.
Read the full post >>
Home for less than a week and some much-needed family time, a positive 20-week scan of my unborn, catching up on office admin and my bumper caving trip (see previous post) ensued. As always, too much to do, too little time and before I knew it, I was back on the road again.
The boys have passed Umm Zamool and now tread firmly in the United Arab Emirates, home turf for Ghafan and Saeed. I know they were all looking forward to returning to home soil. Read the full post >>
It’s been a week and a half since I left the boys somewhere between Ayuun and Sisir. In my absence, the expedition family has grown considerably. The once small flock of three camels has now become seven, in addition to a group of Omani army special forces guys who bring with them, their own flock. And despite the incredible hospitality shown near the start, the goat dinner and festive campfire parties with late night dancing and camel meat, it too has continued to grow. The local Omani Sheikhs and Bedu’s have taken it upon themselves to ensure the expedition team receive the best possible exposure. I guess news travels fast in these remote desert climes. During my visit, I was invited to a party by the main Sheikh from Hauyma. Despite being 200km from any civilization, great food and entertainment was enjoyed by all.
I met the boys at an oil station in the midst of the Rub al Khali desert, still within Omani territory although not far from the Saudi border. Read the full post >>
I love shooting this kind of expedition work. Some parts, I follow by car but most of it is on foot. Hauling all my kit, constantly seeking fresh perspectives, sprinting ahead for head on clean shots or up the banks for an unmissable panoramic view. I just love it.
This expedition has been particularly special for cultural reasons. I’ve been based in the Middle East for 10 years, or longer if you count my childhood in Saudi yet encountering Arabic hospitality and tradition, at such close range is an absolute rarity. Cultural shows and hotel service, this is not, but rather true, authentic Arabic tradition.
Read the full post >>
Another day, another adventure, which certainly proved easier for the media crew as most of journey was on gravel roads so we could travel by car. The team, reunited with their camels, was clearly relieved to get rid of the heavy loads.
The landscape changed dramatically, with lush fields and green trees being replaced by dry, hot and barren terrain as we moved away from the ocean. Read the full post >>
There is never a dull moment in the life of Adrian Hayes as we finally pushed forward with the ‘Footsteps of Thesiger’ expedition. We had certainly had our fill of Salalah and the Hamdam Plaza Hotel. We picked up the story from where Adrian and the gang came off the camels … a symbolic spot! The proof, his blood, had all but washed away and it was clear that Adrian’s recollection of events were scant at best. Thanks to the bad weather and our past history with the camels, the first leg commenced on foot.
This also meant no Omani guides so the boys themselves carried all the basics for around 40km, up the wadi towards the first camp. It was a long push and, according to a local herder, the first of it’s kind in over 40 years. Little did we know that he might have been right!
Read the full post >>
‘Bukra’ has become the magic word that determines the continuation of this expedition. Translated from Arabic it means tomorrow, as in tomorrow we still start, weather depending albeit.
Our daily ritual now set in stone, we wake every morning at dawn, hit the roof of the hotel and gaze at the hills. Too often, they’re covered in patchy clouds and dense mist. We then call our weather man at Salalah airport and visit the weather sites. Shall we go? Yes or no? It’s been a no-go for four days in a row now. I wonder how much one can sleep, eat, drink coffee and wait. Read the full post >>
Six am on Monday morning saw the expedition commence, with the backdrop of a gorgeous sunrise and from the exact spot on the Indian Ocean where Wilfred Thesiger started his explorations across the great sands.
The early start was intended to beat the traffic heading towards the mountains and indeed all seemed to be running smoothly. Adrian, Ghafan and Saeed sat content on their camels, singing Arabic songs as they marched through town. Spectators were plenty, as were beeping cars.
Read the full post >>
Eight years ago, I remember doing a presentation to the Land Rover PR and advertising agencies about an expedition covering the footsteps of the explorer, Sir Wilfred Thesinger. In the mid 1900′s, Thesinger twice walked the Empty Quarter, one of the largest deserts in the world encompassing Oman, Saudi Arabia and what is now the UAE. With a small caravan of camels and for months on end, he covered 1,500km of desert wilderness on foot, immersing himself with the locals throughout the journey.
Sir Wilfred sadly passed away nine years ago but he left with us a great source of inspiration and lot’s of nice books; the very same books and old maps that inspired me to pitch the idea for an overland trip in the Liwa Oasis.
Read the full post >>
My fourth and as it transpires, the last Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge souvenir book is fresh of the press and ready to conjure up memories for all who played a part. Printed in limited edition, with a print run of only 300, the book is an up close and personal collage of memories for all those who battled the six-day multi-discipline course.
Read the full post >>
Crossing the finish arch felt like heaven on earth. Awesome. Such a spectacular setting for a finish, in a Buddhist village with a strong Silk Route history. The whole last 14k trail run run through the Flamming Mountains was done on endorphins, feeling on a high and realizing how incredibly privileged I am to be doing this race. Yes, the last day felt soooo good. At the same time glad it’s over, happy to kick my running shoes in the corner for a while and can’t wait to go home and see my little boy Koen (and Kiki if it wasn’t that she’s in Paris for work…). In physical terms, how do I feel? Can describe it best as a Wiener Schnitzel….feel like cooked meat in a crust of sand, red dust and salt. Some might have had a wash-up from their drinking water supply during yesterday’s rest day but last night’s crazy sandstorm evened everyone out again. During the morning briefing everyone looked absolutely wrecked; red eyes, covered in red dust, exhausted. Can’t wait for my long warm shower and crisp bed linnen at the Yin Du hotel in Urumqi.
Read the full post >>
That was a long long long 15 hours and I was so happy when I crossed the finish! Second last stage is done with only 13km to the final Gobi March Finish! For sure one of the toughest things I’ve done. Extremely hard work. Little lost on writing this blog. Where to start. Enough to say but the words are not coming out. Tired, yes exhausted, fell asleep with my head torch still on. Says enough.
What made it so hard? To start, we entered the 80 km with already 150km under your belt, rough camp life and minimal food. Pacing yourself is so important, especially considering the heat, believe we reached the 50c. Managing the heat is crucial. You have to look after yourself, taking in the bars/gels/powers and the warm water at cp’s. It tastes disgusting but crucial to keep going. Another hard part is to keep the pace. From the start I set in a fast speed walk and pretty kept this for the first 35km; at times I was just as fast as some slow runners. Together with Paul we kept a great peace towards the end, hard but it worked.
Read the full post >>
Had a rubbish night and think I slept more on the 3 hour bus ride than at Peach Village. Today is classified as difficult throughout. What the route book had to say ‘Starts with some righteous sand dunes coming into dunnettes (small dunes), then continuing along through scrub bush type terrain to Camp 5′. Total of 37,3km
It’s amazing how quick your body can recover. Had really stiff legs after all the downhill running from yesterday. We could put our feet in a little stream at the village. Just walking down to the stream was really comical, hobbling and walking around like old man. Everyone doing the same act… Was really worried how my legs would recover but this morning they felt good again, must be the magical Arnika Gel.
We were gifted with overcast skies on the first 10km of high dunes, with even a little drizzle. We’ve had such weird weather in the Gobi. The fast boys gunned into the high dunes with the others to follow in their footsteps. I felt very rough Read the full post >>
Day three started with a wild run down the Daheyan Canyon. “No overtaking for the first part” was the message so tried to keep up with the fast boys to avoid being stuck behind the slow down hillers. Once down in the river bed the heroes took off.
Breakfast discussion was all about shoes on or shoes off. Between start and the first CP their were a few river crossings, so wearing shoes was a strategic decision; take shoes off and keep dry feet to avoid foot problems or save time and gush through the water Read the full post >>
I so much love my new Mountain Hardware Phantom 45 sleeping bag. Stayed in it till 11.30am today… We had an overnight weather change with night temperatures dropping to 5c and complete white out conditions in the morning. Visited the little boys room at 5am and nearly couldn’t find our tent in the thick mist. Race organizers kept on delaying the start in the hope that the mountain course would clear up to start day two. Outside was shivering cold so we all stayed in our tents and sleeping bags waiting for the new race start time. What I said, my bag was so cosy warm (and lightweight)!
Had an OK sleep, lots of noise in a camp of 200 people so woke up a few times. My legs feel better than expected. Can recall recovering from a training run up and down Wadi Bih with my legs killing the next day. Thanks to Lisa’s great advice I Read the full post >>
The stage 2 camp was not able to have satellite connection today. Therefore race results are not yet available and are we waiting for Wouter’s update. Stay tuned!
Wow what a start. “Find your own pace from the start” is a valuable lesson learned from shooting at previous races. No one wins a race on day 1. A very good call as I overtook so many racers who struggled by starting too fast from the beginning, keen to join the leading pack. Then really struggling between checkpoint 3 and camp, the last 10k a hilly home stretch. Final results have not been posted yet but came in at a shocking 23rd place, waaaaayyy better than anticipated. Granted some of the quick boys got lost so please manage expectation for the following days. There is still so much to go…214km.
The course started ok on a dirt track leading us parallel to the Tian Shan mountains, beautiful snow capped peaks at 5,400 plus meters. Very inviting to summit. Running slowly uphill towards checkpoint 2, from there the course took off skywards. Read the full post >>
FriendsJust gone through race briefing, gear check and collected race notes. When she looked at my food to check if I was carrying my mandatory 14,000 calories she shook her head. Judging from the big pile she didn’t have to calculate….
Will go through race notes in the next 3 hour bus ride to camp but quickly noted lots of hills. 8am start tomorrow! So excited. Read the full post >>
Thanks so much for all the great advice, tips & encouraging notes. Yes, I will be looking after myself. No I’m not going to do anything stupid. Off course I’m gonna drinks lots of water… Honestly! There is lots of greatness in the pipeline to come home for in 1 piece and enjoy.
As always the days before a big trip are hectic. Up early for the last few training runs. Low intensity & low mileage. Crazy to go fast anyway at the current Dubai temperatures. It’s high 30′s and steamingly hot by 8am. Mentally at least the Gobi temperatures will seem gentle compared to the oven back home.
Picked up some more work than expected, having to cramp in more in less time. No time to stress out too much about the race. Quick prepping, packing and departing.
Great news: Audi Middle East has come on board and in addition to making a serious donation towards the Uganda project they are bringing in the PR crew to make lot’s of noise. Read the full post >>