This 52-year-old who has become the first person to complete a solo journey across the world’s largest sand desert on foot says he plans to now give up adventuring to be with his pregnant wife and family.
Italian explorer Max Calderan has crossed the Rub’ Al Khali desert from West to East on foot after setting off from Najran in Saudi Arabia on 18th January.
He took the risk even though his wife is pregnant as it had been his dream to make the trek from an early age, and he walked through 1,100 kilometres (683 miles) of desert with temperatures reaching 36 degrees Celsius during his trek. He says he even suffered from hallucinations in his gruelling ordeal but was determined to see it through.
But he also added that he saw so many plastic bottles in the desert that he was planning know he was back in civilisation to devote his time to saving the environment as well as spending time with his family.
The risks faced in the desert included wild cats and deadly scorpions, but he said his biggest fear was of the desert itself.
Calderan was faced with dunes as tall as 300 metres (984 feet) and told reporters they were “the biggest I’ve ever faced,” adding “The only solution is to climb the dunes, pray to find the right path and go beyond them.”
He says the hardest part was the final 200 kilometres (124 miles) which was “the first time in my life I prayed to get out of the desert safe”.
The Italian added: “Rub’ Al Khali isn’t about the distance to cover. It’s an extreme environment that nobody has done before. This journey isn’t about physical ability but the way one handles difficult situations. This is what makes a difference.”
Local media report the explorer often lost GPS signal in the desert making it difficult for him to contact his support team.
He eventually reached the other side of the desert in Liwa in the United Arab Emirates on 3 February, calling with his wife, who is pregnant with his fourth child, to assure her he was safe.
Calderan, who moved to Dubai six years ago, says he trained for the “past few years”, using food and water deprivation to prepare himself for the trek.
The Rub’ al Khali is reportedly the largest sand desert in the world and is known as the ‘Empty Quarter’ of the Arabian Peninsula.
Max added that he has been planning this adventure since he was seven when he was at home in Udine in northeast Italy and saw a photo of Bedouin man with his camels under a caption that said the desert was so treacherous it even frightened camels and birds.
He said there and then he told his mother “when I grow up I will be the first man to go inside those deserts”.
He added: “From that day on I became a desert explorer.”
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