Interview with Going Solo Adventures

Sunday 5th May 2013

Who is Nabs Al-Busaidi I was born in London, and lived there for most of my life, although I have also lived 14 years in Bahrain, plus time in Oman, UAE and Ireland. I am originally a Zanzibari Omani, but I probably feel more international than any particular nationality. I went to Bath University UK for a math degree and a masters in management. I got university colours for playing football and American football, and I also played rugby for Bahrain and Muscat. In 2001 I went to the British Biathlon Championships and raced 3 years

Q, Can you place your expeditions in order of difficulty.
That is easy! By far the hardest thing I have ever done is row across the Atlantic. Perhaps the best way to try and explain why, is to express it mathematically. The top 3 expeditions were physically tough in ways beyond normal comprehension. But whilst climbing Everest, we would have to trek or climb 3-6 hours a day. Whilst walking to the North Pole, we would have to trek 8-11 hours a day. But whilst going across the Atlantic, it was 12 hours a day, 2 hours on, 2 hours off, every day for 43 days. And that doesn’t even take into account the 5 days of constant vomiting from sea sickness at the start, the cramped living quarters, the inability to sleep…but I did have a great crew, and we kept each others spirit high, and so in some ways, it was also the most fun!
Atlantic Row
Magnetic North Pole
Mt Everest 
Mt Vinson, Antarctica – two exceptionally tough days, one getting up to high camp, and then summit days. Dangerous terrain, terrible conditions and physically tough work.
Mt Kilimanjaro – compared to the others, a gentle stroll for a few days.

Q, Prior to your expedition to the Magnetic North Pole did you have any idea that you would turn your life into an adventure that inspired thousands around the globe?

Nabs Al-Busaidi – Well, one of my aims in walking to the magnetic North Pole, was to try and inspire the youth of the Middle East, and to try and create a positive image of Arabs in the Western media. It is a sad fact that if you tried to use word association, the first words that come to mind when you hear the word “Islamic” is to think the next word will be “terrorist” or “fundamentalist”. I used to joke that I wanted to be the first Arab to famous for not blowing something up! Unfortunately, I don’t think I quite managed to achieve what I set out to do, but I do school visits every month and try and inspire kids through my example.
Q, In 2009 what grabbed your attention to inspire you to walk too the Magnetic North Pole, it’s not something most people would think to do.
Nabs Al-Busaidi – It wasn’t what I initially set my mind upon. In fact, I was thinking about Everest, and spoke to the only person I knew personally who had done major expeditions. He had walked to the magnetic North Pole and rowed across the Atlantic, and he pointed out that nearly 4,000 people had climbed Everest, but only 400 had ever walked to a pole. So not only would it be more unique, I would also be the first Arab. And whilst you can break a record by being the fastest, youngest, oldest, longest etc…tomorrow, someone will come along and beat your record. But when you are first, no one can ever beat that.

Q, Sadly during your attempt to climb Mt Everest at 5500m you had a nasty accident resulting in two severely damaged ankles and a crushed reproductive system, do you have any plans to revisit the highest mountain in the world and beat the beast?

Nabs Al-Busaidi – Crushed reproductive system! hahahaha! I think that suggests a state of permanant damage that I thankfully managed to avoid, although, at the time, I probably felt that way! I was descending from 6,200 metres after summiting Lobuche East when some ice broke under my crampons. I fell only about a meter, but my ankles were twisted, and my full body weight managed to tear, break snap everything inside both joints. I ended hanging upside down, with parts of my reproductive system underneath the harness, which was supporting my body weight. Three years to the day, I am still limping as my right ankle has not healed, so I still dream of getting back to Everest, but at the moment, my biggest dream is just being able to walk again without pain.
Q, And how do you go about dealing with post expedition depression after something like the ending of the Everest trip, I can’t even start to imagine how.
Nabs Al-Busaidi – Unfortunately, I still do not know the answer to that. I dealt with it badly, and it affected everything. Friends, family, work, fiancée. It was probably the worst 2 years of my life, not so much the failure, but the injury, the change in expectations, the change in lifestyle from hyper active to stuck in bed for 2 months, loss of income, sense of purpose etc Each failure fed the others, and it was a vicious circle. Luckily, I did have a few great friends, who were understanding, and supportive, and helped me get back onto my feet.

Q, I have to admit you are the first Arab Adventurer I’ve had the pleasure of researching, have you noticed since you started off life as an adventurer in 2009 there has been a new increase in fellow Arabians exploring more on great adventures and following in your footsteps?

Nabs Al-Busaidi – As we speak, there are 7 Arabs trying to summit Everest this month, and in Oman where my expeditions have been covered daily by the radio and newspapers, there has been a lot of people going to the Alps, Kilimanjaro, etc. I can’t say that they are following in my footsteps, but prior to my trek to the pole, there was virtually no one doing these things, and now it seems fairly common place.
Q, In 2011 when rowing the Atlantic Ocean how did you handle the extremely confined space in which the Britannia III had for housing 14 people?
Nabs Al-Busaidi – I have no idea. Even now, when I try and explain what we did and how, people flat out do not believe me. They insist that we must have had a supporting boat with beds and a kitchen, and that I must be lying about the lack of support or the conditions we faced…and I don’t blame them. It does seem unlikely. I think the only factor in being able to cope with the cramped conditions was that we were so tired. Once our shift was over, we would head into the cabin, find a place to sleep, and be gone within seconds. With the boat rocking and the conditions so cramped, we frequently ended up sleeping intertwined, but we had no energy for arguments or personal space…plus the guys on my shift were some of the best human beings I have met, and we are still the best of friends to this day.

Q, I’m assume most days as sea there wasn’t too much going on around you to distract your mind while rowing, but can you recall back the most amazing thing you had the pleasure of seeing and experiencing as you rowed away?
Nabs Al-Busaidi – I have to say there is one moment that really stuck out for me. I had no interest in fish or views, or nature, or the sharks or the dolphins. But when we were doing our royal yachting association ocean master qualifications, we had to learn a lot about astral navigation. Learning how to use the sun and stars to pin point our position. As a mathematician it was interesting. But on the actual boat we didn’t have the astral tables let alone a sextant. We just used the GPS! But as we rowed each day, the sun would set behind us, and the moon would in front of us. Each day the moon would rise a little earlier as we traveled west, until one evening, they sun set at the same time as the moon rose, and you could see both orbs hanging on the horizon.
Q, If you were to row the Atlantic Ocean again this time on a 4 person vessel and you had the choice of 1 famous Adventurer, 1 celebrity and 1 rugby player – who would you pick for your dream rowing team? 
Nabs Al-Busaidi – What a great question…well, I have to preface my choices by saying that the most important ingredient in keeping me sane during the previous row was my team mates. The experience is enough to send some people over the edge, but we survived unscathed through camaraderie. And so if I had to choose, I would choose people I think would be able to keep each others spirits high. Unfortunately I don’t really know the personalities of the categories you have mentioned, so I am going to guess according to reputation. 

Q, Your Top 5 bits of kit for any adventure?

Nabs Al-Busaidi – Assuming all the most obvious bits of safety equipment and required gear is covered, these are the bits of kit that I found to be the most conducive to comfort and sanity.
1- ipod – through hours of constant trudging through the wilderness with your own thoughts, this was wonderful for keeping me entertained with music and motivational speeches on the row and North Pole…kindle – I do not own one, so I ended up carrying a book, and after hundreds of miles you see the value of a kindle. Light and full of books…iphone – I had one loaded with videos on Everest, and during the long hours of acclimatising, we were able to entertain ourselves whilst conserving our energy…and all of these could be combined into an ipad or smartphone now, hence I have grouped them all together.
2- Hand warmers – I do not think I would have survived the North Pole without the life saving heat these gave my frozen hands
3- Sat phone – I had to call the radio station in Oman every night during the trek to the pole, and those conversations helped keep up my spirits. Text messages from friends, being able to talk to someone. Invaluable.
4- Solar panel and capacitor – With all those electronics, power is a problem, but a solar panel keeps you top up, and the capacitor stores up energy like a battery ready to recharge when you need it.
5- Baby wipes!!!
Q, and finally what wise word would you give to someone who wishes to follow in your footsteps to climb great mountains and row vast oceans?
Nabs Al-Busaidi – My standard answer is don’t do it…it’s not worth it. That might seem odd, but if they get put off by a couple of words, then they will never survive a full expedition, but if they persist, then I give them all the help I can. The best advice I can probably give at that point is have a vision, a clear idea of what you want to do in your head, and why. If you can have several reasons that are bigger than just personal ego, it will help, because when it gets really tough, you question your reasons for doing it, and climbing a mountain or rowing an ocean for your own satisfaction is never enough. You have to do it so you don’t let people down, to prove people wrong about you, to raise money for charity, because people are depending on you. And you should have several reasons why you want to succeed, and several why you must not fail, and use them to motivate you in your darkest hours, when your brain is constantly telling you that no reward is worth the pain your are going through.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Monday 7th January 2013

This is the first of a three-part film adaptation of the 1937 novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, to be followed by “The Desolation of Smaug” and “There and Back Again”, due for theatrical release in 2013 and 2014, respectively. The three films together will act as prequels to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

Just as with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this movie is almost 3 hours long, and the truth is I was so desperate to go to the toilet that I could not concentrate for the last hour of the film.

Of course if I had known it was going to be so long, I would have gone before, or got up during the film. However, the film was so exciting that I did not want to miss a minute of it, and assumed that the movie must be ending very soon after we passed the 2 hour mark…not fun!

Irregardless (not a real word, but a private joke) the movie is a must see for any fan of the other 3 movies, and it is great entertainment for a long afternoon!

Life of Pi

Friday 4th January 2013

The movie “Life of Pi” is one that I was very keen to see, although I knew nothing about it, except the book had been a bestseller in the early part of 2001/02.

Unfortunately, any discussion about the film will necessarily spoil the plot as the most interesting talking point is the twist in the tale, so if you do not want to have the book/film ruined, then watch the trailer and stop there.


After being shipwrecked at sea for 227 days, the main character, Pi, is interviewed by Japanese officials trying to determine the cause of the sinking. He tells the story of how he survived the sinking in a lifeboat with a spotted hyena, an injured Grant’s zebra, and an orangutan.

As Pi strives to survive among the animals, the hyena kills the zebra, then the orangutan, much to Pi’s distress. At this point, it is discovered that a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker had been hiding under the boat’s tarpaulin; it kills and eats the hyena.

Frightened, Pi constructs a small raft out of flotation devices, tethers it to the boat, and retreats to it. He delivers some of the fish and water he harvests to Richard Parker to keep him satisfied, conditioning Richard Parker not to threaten him by rocking the boat and causing seasickness while blowing a whistle. Eventually, Richard Parker learns to tolerate Pi’s presence and they both live in the boat.

When the Japanese Ministry of Transport officials do not believe his story, he tells an alternative story of human brutality, in which Pi was adrift on a lifeboat with his mother, a sailor with a broken leg, and the ship’s cook. The cook kills the sailor and Pi’s mother to use as bait and food. Pi, in turn, kills the cook. Parallels to Pi’s first story lead the Japanese officials to believe that the orangutan represents his mother, the zebra represents the sailor, the hyena represents the cook, and Pi is Richard Parker (the tiger).

After giving all the relevant information, Pi asks which of the two stories they prefer. Since the officials cannot prove which story is true and neither is relevant to the reasons behind the shipwreck, they choose the story with the animals. Pi thanks them and says, “and so it goes with God.” And so it is with the viewer…left to decide which version they prefer to believe in…

Snow White and the Huntsman

Sunday 3rd June 2012

I have to admit that I wasn’t particularly keen to see this movie, but the fact that Charlize Theron was in it, plus the absence of anything better, meant I was convinced at the theater to go along, and I’m glad I did…and certainly not for Theron.

The story is loosely based on the Brothers Grimm tale, but with modern, and ancient, twists to it. It was a dark retelling, with Theron quite scary and unattractive at times, and the dwarves  played by actors who had their faces digitally transmuted onto small bodies. (This caused a protest from the Little People of America!)

Well worth the time…


Friday 20th April 2012

Battleship is a 2012 American science fiction naval war film based on the children’s game. The film stars Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, and Liam Neeson. Unusually the film opened in many countries outside North America, more than five weeks before its North America release, whereas it is normally the other way around. Perhaps this was a tactic to counter copyright piracy?

In 2005, NASA discovers an extrasolar planet with conditions similar to Earth. On the chance that it contains intelligent life, NASA transmits a powerful signal from a communications array based in Hawaii. Around the same time, the talented but undisciplined slacker Alex Hopper attempts to impress a woman by getting her a chicken burrito; the result of which sees Alex break into a convenience store and be tasered by the police. Stone Hopper, a naval officer, attempts to give his younger brother some direction by forcing him to join the United States Navy.

By 2012, Alex is a lieutenant and the Tactical Action Officer aboard the destroyer USS John Paul Jones, while Stone is commanding officer of USS Sampson. Alex is also in a committed relationship with Samantha Shane (the woman he tried to impress seven years prior), and wants to marry her, but is afraid of asking her father, Pacific Fleet commanding officer Vice Admiral Shane, for permission. During the opening ceremony for the RIMPAC multinational naval exercise, Alex gets into a brawl with Captain Nagata, commanding officer of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force destroyer JDS Myōkō; the latest in a string of incidents marring the young officer’s career. Alex is given a dressing-down by Admiral Shane, and later learns from his brother that there is a good chance he will be discharged at the end of RIMPAC. Meanwhile, Samantha accompanies Army veteran and amputee Mick Canales on a hike on Oahu in order to help him adapt to his prosthetic legs. (Double amputee US Army Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Gadson plays the role of a legless recuperating US Army Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales.)

Then, a small fleet of alien ships arrives in response to the NASA signal…

This movie is very much in the Transformer category, but has far more script and storyline, though the method of linking the movie to the game is convuluted. Certainly worth watching for several reasons, whether you are into sci fi, military, action or you are just bored. Just don’t expect a classic.

Food, Inc

Friday 23rd March 2012

Food, Inc. is a documentary film directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner. The film examines corporate farming in the United States, concluding that agribusiness produces food that is unhealthy, in a way that is environmentally harmful and abusive of both animals and employees.

The film’s first segment examines the industrial production of meat (chicken, beef, and pork), calling it inhumane and economically and environmentally unsustainable. The second segment looks at the industrial production of grains and vegetables (primarily corn and soy beans), again labeling this economically and environmentally unsustainable. The film’s third and final segment is about the economic and legal power, such as food libel laws of the major food companies, the profits of which are based on supplying cheap but contaminated food, the heavy use of petroleum-based chemicals (largely pesticides and fertilizers), and the promotion of unhealthy food consumption habits by the American public. It shows companies like Wal Mart transitioning towards organic foods as that industry is booming in the recent health movement.

I have always known that fast food was not healthy, but I had no idea how unhealthy nearly all food we buy is! I had no idea what “processed” food really meant, and when I was told I was intolerant to corn starch, I did not think it was a big deal, as I did not know how much is in nearly everything we buy at the supermarket! Watch this film at your own peril, as your eyes will be opened and you can never go back!

The Iron Lady

Tuesday 13th March 2012

A present day Margaret Thatcher is asked by a doctor how she is feeling, and she rants at him that people today are more concerned with how people are feeling and not enough about what they are thinking. He asks her what she is thinking and she says that the problem today is people spend too much time wanting to be someone, and not enought time doing something.

Ironically, the film then spends too much time on Thatcher as being someone, and almost no time on what she did to become so famous. There is almost no reference to how she got her nickname, little about her most defining moments as a leader, or her most hated policies. It just becomes a vehicle for Meryl Streep to showcase her talents at playing a woman suffering from dementia, as the film tells her life in brief muddled flashbacks. (note to the film editors, the Falklands happened in 1982, the miners strike happened in 1984)

Essentially the movie is about a woman with dementia, remembering bits from her past, and coping with the death of her husband. This is no more a movie about Margaret Thatcher, than a movie about Arnold Schwazenegger, which neglects to mention he was a world champion body builder, movie star and Governor of California!

I found the movie entertaining, but the continual flash backs became irritating after the 17th time, and as a whole I found the movie to be false advertising. Viewing the trailer gives a sense that the movie will be about her life, not the end of her life, but in the end, the movie will be viewed much as the Iron Lady was…as a very divisive subject. Half will love it and half will hate it.