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TALKING TRAVEL

Pushing the boundaries

Sir Ranulph Fiennes The legendary explorer talks to Angela Sara West about lessons learned from his record-breaking travels and how he now hopes to voyage to the bottom of the sea

H

e has survived near-death experiences, lost fingertips to frostbite and once ran seven marathons in seven days on all seven continents – the first 7x7x7 – just four months after a major heart attack, double bypass operation and three-day coma. Rightly so, Sir Ranulph Fiennes has been heralded ‘The World’s Greatest Living Explorer’ by The Guinness Book Of World Records. Truly testing the limits of human physical and psychological patience, stamina and endurance, his exhaustive endeavours over the last five decades have taken him to every corner of the globe, all in the name of charity. This pioneer of exploration was the first person to reach both Poles by surface means, to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported and to circumnavigate the world along its polar axis. At 71, the veteran adventurer also become the oldest Briton to complete the gruelling Marathon des Sables, a six-day ultra-marathon in the Moroccan Sahara Desert in temperatures topping 50C. Inspirational Fiennes tells me he caught the bug for travel and adventure at a young age due to his unusual upbringing in South Africa. “After my father was killed, we moved to Constantia, Cape Town, when I was one, returning to the UK when I was 12. I’d been to four schools and was unsettled. I think that’s where it stemmed from.” His escapades often entail years of complex communications and meticulous planning. The most memorable? “Probably looking for the lost city of Ubar on the 48

Yemeni border. It took so long... eight Land Rover expeditions in the sand dunes before we eventually found it in 1992. We started looking for it in 1968.” At 65, following two previous attempts, he finally conquered Mount Everest, becoming the oldest Briton (at the time) to summit. But he says scaling the dizzying heights of the Eiger's North Face in the Bernese Alps felt like a greater achievement due to his, albeit temporary, victory over vertigo. It's a condition he still has, he says, “even just climbing a ladder.”

I had an audition with Cubby Broccoli to play James Bond. I got down to the last six, but the role went to Sir Roger Moore” As a force of nature, Fiennes successfully combines willpower and creative thinking with physical fitness to push boundaries. How does he do it? “At 74, with more difficulty than at 64! You need to take your running shoes wherever you go and run for a minimum of one hour every day. It used to be running, then it became jogging, and now it’s shuffling... so, an hour a day of whatever you can. And when you get to 65, spend 25 minutes every morning before breakfast stretching, doing press-ups and breathing deeply,” he advises. When not in a tent, Fiennes favours two hotels. “When we were looking for the Lost City, we stayed at Al Falaj in Muscat in

Oman, just outside the desert. The Al Bustan Palace next door is even better.” He also sings the praises of British Airways. “It was the only airline that could accommodate us when Dr Mike Stroud and I did the first ever 7x7x7, in Patagonia, the Falkland Islands, Sydney, Singapore, London, Cairo and New York. American Airlines took two years to say they couldn’t do it and United took 18 months to tell me the same, so I got on to BA and within a month they’d worked it out.” Fiennes is a fan of early arrivals. “I always make sure I arrive at airports very early and sit and have a coffee,” he says. And he never boards a plane without a good read. “I always take a copy of The Week, which sends me to sleep after I’ve read it.” Along with proud memories, he has a few souvenirs from his extensive travels: “Inuit soapstone figures from Northern Canada and old weapons from Arabia.” His action-man lifestyle once landed him a 007 audition with Cubby Broccoli – and saw him pipped at the post to play James Bond. “I made the final six and later learned the role went to Sir Roger Moore,” he laments. Next up? “Probably deep underwater somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, but that’s dependent on sponsorship. Very few people get the chance to go on the machines that go down there,” says Fiennes. From the top of the world to the bottom of the ocean, Fiennes will soon have just about everywhere covered, whether by foot, boat, man-hauled sledge or skidoo... so is there anywhere still on his bucket list? “The Mongolian desert,” comes the response.

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5/25/18 12:13 PM

The Business Travel Magazine June/July 2018  

The multi-award-winning publication written and produced for bookers, buyers, arrangers and managers of business travel and meetings. This i...

The Business Travel Magazine June/July 2018  

The multi-award-winning publication written and produced for bookers, buyers, arrangers and managers of business travel and meetings. This i...