MY LIFE IN TRAVEL: Sir Ranulph Fiennes
`I spent time in Oman, and found it to be the loveliest place on earth'
Saturday 05 February 2005
Going to Hermanus in South Africa when I was about five years old. All my sisters were deemed old enough to be taken to the Kruger National Park, but I was too young. It sticks in my mind because I saw someone drowning.
I have just had a six-day holiday with my fiancee in Morocco. We had a guide and a donkey and we walked into the mountains south of Marrakech. It was beautiful but cold.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
The islands off the west of Scotland. When my late wife Ginny and I were first married we had a rubber boat that we'd strap on to the roof of our Mini and drive up to Scotland. We'd take the boat out with some food and explore.
What have you learnt from your travels?
I wrote a book called Beyond the Limits a few years ago and at the end of each chapter, I give the lessons I have learned from my travels. There are well over 400, so it's hard to choose.
Ideal travelling companion?
It would have been Ginny. If I'm travelling to remote places it would be Dr Mike Stroud, who comes with me on my expeditions.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
If it's an expedition rather than a holiday I like physical or geographical challenges, but if I'm with children I don't want to take risks. I would like to be a culture vulture but I'm certainly not.
It's quite nice to read in your tent at the end of the day. During my last holiday I read Richard Adams' Shardik and Mervyn Peake's The Gormenghast Novels.
Where has seduced you?
Oman. I went out there in the 1960s with the army of the Sultan of Oman. I spent two-and-a-half years in Dhofar and it was utterly unspoilt. There were also people who hadn't seen non-Dhofarians before. I found the area to be the loveliest place on earth. I have been back eight times on archaeological digs, and on one occasion we uncovered the lost city of Yuba.
Better to travel or arrive?
If you're constantly looking forward to arriving you never enjoy the present. The temptation to always look forward is a real shame.
Worst travel experience?
I once spent a month in the Soviet Union. I was staying at a military base in Shredny on the north coast of Siberia. I can't even begin to describe the lavatories, nor the food.
A hotel in Alaska near Nome. It was used by dog-sledders during the winter and it only had one floor, which was for the dogs. The men slept outside in tents. I had been booked into a room inside, which was swarming with mosquitoes and stank of dog poo. It was awful.
From the capital of Jordan down to Aqaba, trying not to be killed by passing lorries.
Best meal abroad?
A restaurant that I can't remember the name of in Cape Town. I ate there with Ginny and Charlie Burton the night before our ship left for Antarctica, where we were due to be for 18 months. It was our last supper and was utterly delicious. We ate fantastic fresh fish, beautiful beef and drank the best South African wine.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
If it's a hotel, I've got a habit of checking fire exits. If not I check to make sure that I can open the windows because I'm a fresh-air fiend.
I would fly to Muscat, catch an internal flight to Salalah and rent a 4x4. I'd then take at least a two-week self-drive tour of south Oman.
London. If I'm given holiday time I like to spend some of it in London because I know the ins and outs of it better than anywhere else.
Tibet, for the Jagged Globe Everest expedition.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes is climbing Mount Everest with Jagged Globe (0845 345 8848; www.jagged-globe.co.uk) in March, in aid of the British Heart Foundation's Healthy Hearts Appeal (020-7935 0185; www.bhf.org.uk)
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