Most New Zealand's will know Andrew Bayly as a community man and a local MP, only a few will know the other side of his life, the Andrew Bayly who is an adventurer.
He has climbed mountains, both here and internationally. Trekked to both the North and South Poles, a feat that gains him a place in an exceedingly small club, as he is one of only 140 explorers who can make this claim.
As a father, he loves to share his passion for adventure, and with each of his sons, as they turn 21, he gives them the gift of experiencing the world, at the extremely basic level. No luxury resorts, no fancy 5-star restaurant meals, but a taste of life as mother nature intended.
“I want them to have an experience that they will remember for a lifetime.”
For the trip to the North Pole, Andrew partnered with his eldest son, James. His latest adventure, which he shared with his son Daniel, was to trek across Arabia, following the routes that T. E. Lawrence undertook during World War I, gaining him the title as Lawrence of Arabia. They wanted to keep their journey as authentic as possible, so did so riding camels. With only one guide, Jali, and three camels as their companions, and with a copy of the book, Lawrence in Arabia, they set off on the 22 day, 500-kilometre trek. The local Bedouin told them they were crazy, referring to them as the crazy New Zealanders. No one had ever crossed the dessert on camels on such a long journey for decades. And it turns out, according to everyone they spoke to, no one had ever undertaken to follow in Lawrence’s footsteps in such a fashion. It soon became evident that what they were about to embark on, was something out of the ordinary.
For the first six days, they made their way across Wadi Rum. No one travels through this area and is unaffected, Andrew and Daniel were no exception. It is beautiful. Its colour, immenseness and geology combine to create a wonderful place.
“We used routes less travelled, so managed to avoid most of the tourists.”
They made their way to Umm ad Dami, the highest mountain in Jordan, which is on the border with Saudi Arabia. It is a reasonable climb, being 1,855 metres (6,083 feet), which enables a spectacular vista.
Moving north they stopped at the Khazali Canyon. It is less than 100m long but is a deep crack in Jebel Khazali. Its walls have numerous inscriptions and rock drawings, dating from Nabatean, Islamic and Thalmudic times.
The temperature dropped to zero at night, so they huddled the best they could in their bed rolls under rock overhangs. Meals were traditional Bedouin style, bread baked in the ashes of their fire, sweet sugary tea, with onions and potatoes boiled in a large pot.
During the trip Daniel noted that the camels were very individual, each having a big personality, distinguishing itself from the others. Although it is claimed the dromedary (an Arabian racing camel used in military camel corps) can travel 80–120 miles per day carrying a rider, Arabian baggage camels have a heavier build and are capable of carrying a 200 kilo load up to 40 miles per day. The camels Andrew and Daniel used were of the Arabian baggage type. On two days they covered 50 km per day. They estimated they were walking at 4–5 km/h and trotting at 8–10 km/h. Cantering for prolonged periods was out of the question, giving how uncomfortable it was. To cover 50 km in a day entailed trotting for 2 hours and walking for 6.5 hours. Considering the time required to stop and eat, and rest the camels, this was a 10-hour riding day.
Daniel had no clue what was in store, he understood the logistics of what they were planning, what lay ahead, but he had no appreciation of the historical and cultural significance. Having had minimal travelling and camping experience, he expected the expedition to be quite a challenge, both mentally and physically.
“What I experienced was an opportunity to step outside my comfort zone and rise to the challenge of doing something few people have done.”
Despite all the challenges, both loved the adventure. The great surprise and delight, the opportunity to make the trip together. Andrew urges all parents to get to know their children as adults.
“The experience can be both revealing and rewarding.”