– Exploring Blantyre –
With Adam D Short
Adam and I are both passionate explorers and have kept in touch over the past few years, following each others adventures and helping inspire each other through our many wildest journeys.
After my own journey walking the length of the mighty Zambezi river, I became fascinated by previous explorers of Africa’s wild places. But it’s the life and adventures of the legendary Dr David Livingstone that has helped to fuel my passion for the great continent.
With Adam’s next mission to find the source of the Nile and become the first person in history to Paddleboard the world’s longest river, his imminent adventure and my own trek of the Zambezi echo some of the historical quests of the great Dr Livingstone himself. So where better a place for us to take on an adventure interview than to explore the explorers hometown, Blantyre in Scotland….
Well, I’m old enough to know better for a start, a systems analyst / software engineer by trade but I traded my desk for a pair of hiking boots and a back-pack back in 2007. Using my laptop to generate an income in the U.K. I travelled from country to country on one-way tickets, no plan, just find places with ineternet cafes or WiFi and see what was out there. I did that for a year and got as far as Australia before heading home. It was a life changing experience and one that I wish I had done much earlier in life.
I then settled back in to normal life for another couple of year, still pursuient of adventure I’d often pack my backpack and head out in to the wild somewhere, climbing, kayaking, it didn’t matter what. In 2010 I made plans for my next big adventure. I bought an old Landrover Discovery, pimped it out and set off to drive round the world. That adventure didn’t end well, and I was later diagnosed with clinical depression, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Something most would associate with a soldiers life. It took a couple of years to then, again, find myself.
The ordeal hadn’t put me off my travels though. In 2012 I decided to attempt the Camino de Santiago, 800km pilgrimage across the northern parts of Spain. It changed my life, it was the hardest adventure I had even considered at the time. I felt like I had been hit by a train after the first day and continued with seized body parts for five weeks. It was worth it.
Having hiked across Spain my next ridiculous plan was to see if I could find the longest possible way around Britain, quite literally following the coastline, the shore literally inches away at all times. The British coastline is about 6,600 miles long which when you estimate it out is about 14 million footsteps. It took me 17 months to complete one full circumnavigation of mainland Britain, for the most part, “wild-camping”.
My most recent recent adventure has seen me hitch-hike the Sahara desert, having made my way overland from Coventry on my way to Paddleboard the Nile. Along the way I had several mini-adventures, camping in the Alps, tasting beer sausages in Belgium, leading an expedition of six young Sudanese Muslims on a 120km hike from Khartoum to Saboluka (the 6th cataract), a historic moment for young women in the Sudan. That was fun, even though we had all the right permission slips we still had to evade Sudanese Intelligence services in order to achieve our goal.
What inspired you to get out and start living a more adventurous lifestyle?
Nothing inspired me, I have always been the curious type. When I was younger I joined the cubs and scouts, from there I continued my love of camping. The big change was in 2007 though when I grabbed my laptop to travel the world and leave my old life behind.
I learned to kayak, scuba dive, rock climb, paddleboard, wilderness survival techniques (watched lots of Ray Mears documentaries), my time suddenly became full with the pursuit of doing things differently, living life more simply, having more fun and achieving greater goals. I’ve seen the world for what it is, the people, the good and the bad and I try to help whenever and wherever I can. I’ll never get rich doing what I do, but if I make just a small difference then that means a huge amount to me.
What’s the funniest moment you have experienced whilst on an expedition?
Tough one! There have been so many fantastic times and when you look back on some of the scenarios you’ve found yourself in which at the time didn’t seem funny in the slightest, on reflection are quite classic and unbelievable in their own right. For example, Egypt, arrested for being mistaken as a spy, hit by a car and mugged at gun point all within 5 days of landing, not funny at the time, hilarious to recall. Or the surreal moment I surfed my pack raft, fully loaded, on to a beach only to be greated by a giant egg with legs running along the shoreline, it must have been nearly 6 feet tall. You simply couldn’t make these stories up.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up on a journey? and if so what motivated you to keep going?
[laughs] yes, there was a time, you get times when you are alone, wet, cold, hungry, desperate, tired, sick, when you ask yourself “what the hell am I doing?”. It happens. I just laugh, too be honest. I’d walked thousands of miles, spent over a year in my tent, hiking 20 miles almost everyday. I had experienced pretty much the entire British coastline and was on my last 200 miles (2 weeks hike). I was approaching my home town of Bournemouth having left Southampton, my destination the year previous. It was the South West Coastal Path, they say hiking the South West Coastal Path is like ascending and descending Mount Everest four times. Every 5 minutes I was either ascending steep muddy or stone steps, usually nuddy, or descending stepp muddy steps preparing myself for my next ascent. I’d probably completed at least 600 miles of the path, so close to the finish line, the final chapter of my adventure, I just wanted to give up and catch the nearest train. It was depression, but I don’t think it was due to my physical strength, mental health or even the arduous hike along this section of the coast. I now believe it was brought on knowing that I would soon finish my epic journey, the realisation that I would soon have to confirm along with everyone else. Get a job, get a car, get a house
If you could join any expedition past or present, which one would it be?
Good question! If I could go on any expedition past or present it would have to have been alongside Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on the Apollo 11 lunar landing. I mean, come on, talk about going somewhere noone else has been! Can you imagine the feeling of stepping off the lander and seeing the earth where the Moon was supposed to be. Gazing up and pondering. Deciding the next adventure, where would I go next? [pauses] Probably spelunking on Mars! I don’t know if that’s possible :/ Hold on, there’s a Tesla Roadster on it’s way there now, I think I have a plan.
What would be your ultimate wildest journey other than racing a Tesla Roadster across Mars?
The ultimate journey would have to be to Paddleboard the Nile, the worlds longest river. Six countries and countless cultures. Beautiful wildlife and stunnning scenery. You couldn’t ask for more. I was a mere 4 days travel by road from the furthest recorded source earlier this year, but for medical reasons and an extremely long story attaced to it I have been flown back to the U.K. for medical treatment and to recover. I’m gutted to be honest but situations arose that nobody could have predicted and ultimately the expedition has suffered, but it’s just a temporary glitch. I’m getting stronger each day and still very much focussed on achieving my goal or at the very least, giving it a go.
What’s your advice for someone looking to plan their own adventure, but may be lacking the confidence to do so?
It can seem daunting, planning an “adventure”, but to be honest you don’t “plan” an adventure, adventures just happen. All you need to do, is set yourself a goal, it could something as simple as having your first paddleboard lesson on the Thames, caving at Cheddar Gorge or rafting the Grand Canyon. Start small, because small steps lead to the Wildest Journeys. 🙂
If you have family, then get the kids into camping. Tents are cheap [£30], find a remote farm somewhere that allows camping in their field, go for a weekend, and while you are there go for a short hike to the nearest pub. An adventure with a nice cold pint sized reward at the end.