Interviews with Adam Hills and Amar Latif for The Last Leg Down Under
The award-winning gang from ‘The Last Leg’ have been sent to the wilderness of Australia for the ultimate outback road trip - though one with a twist: After 4 years of English co-hosts Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker abusing Australian Adam Hills about his idiotic country, his imbecilic countrymen, and his funny accent, Adam is plotting his revenge. He wants to show the lads that Australia isn't the silly place they thought it was, but in fact a searing hot, unforgiving hellhole, stuffed full of people who are hard as nails.
To help him do that he's booked adventure travel agent Amar Latif who has spent a decade taking disabled people to experience things others wouldn't dare go anywhere near, despite being blind himself. He must arrange the toughest Outback itinerary imaginable.
The Last Leg boys have just two weeks to complete this hellish itinerary and drive 3000 miles across the continent in order to get to Sydney in time for a party in honour of Adam's 97 year old Grandpa. But will Josh and Alex be broken by the real Australia before they even get there?
In this, the first of two episodes, the boys head from Darwin to Uluru. How will self-professed Neighbours addict Josh, BBQ and beer aficionado Alex cope as their fantasies of beaches and sunshine are replaced with camping out with the deadly snakes and spiders of the outback, facing off with hard faced biker gangs and embracing a real life Crocodile Dundee experience? Adam really embraces his Ozzie roots and transforms into a hardened Outback man, Josh and Alex wonder if a nervous breakdown looms - and “Is it OK” becomes “…Are you OK?” Could this trip be the last straw for the Last Leg comrades? The boys learn a great deal about the other side of Australia, a nation with a steadfast optimism and a dark underbelly. But the three will find out a few things about each other too, whilst turning each encounter into an exciting, poignant and most of all, richly comedic journey.
ADAM HILLS INTERVIEW
Your new show is The Last Leg Down Under. There’s a bit of a clue in the title, but what’s it all about?
After years of listening to Alex and Josh make fun of Australia, I wanted them to experience the country properly, and meet some real Australians. So we drove four thousand kilometres from Darwin to Sydney to have a beer with my 97 year old grandfather where he grew up, under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I employed a blind travel guide called Amar Latif, who specialises in extreme holidays, to put together the Aussie itinerary from hell to take the boys out of their comfort zone, and help me to do some things I've never done before either. It's your classic "two fish out of water, one fish in deeper water, and a blind fish pulling the strings" scenario.
Can you explain a bit about Amar and his role on the show?
Amar organises extreme tours for blind people, and regularly wings his way around the globe to guarantee they get an adventure packed holiday. His job was to ensure I got to see a side of Australia I'd never seen before. Ironically, it's a side of Australia he'll never see either, so I had to describe most of it to him. He also made sure Josh and Alex were outside their comfort zone, which wasn't too hard. Once they were two miles from a chai latte, they were outside their comfort zone.
How did he get on with the guys? Is he sufficiently immature and daft to fit in?
The thing is, Amar didn't have to fit in. He was above it all, like an all-seeing deity. Without the seeing bit. He dropped in from time to time to find out how we were doing, at which point Josh and Alex swore at him for not organising plush accommodation, or for travelling ahead of us all in a tour bus, or for sleeping in a bed while we slept in the desert. They then made faces behind his back, and often in front of his face. But apart from that, it all went swimmingly.
How did it feel having a Pommie organise your Aussie road trip? Something wrong there, surely?
I was really worried he was going to organise the cheesy, touristy, Australia that most overseas visitors thinks is the "real Australia". But he did his research. When we visited a bikie bar in Darwin I knew this trip was going to be a little different. When we helped park rangers pull crocodiles out of traps I was happy to be doing something I've never done before. When we watched an Aboriginal Heavy Metal Band play a gig in the middle of the desert, I thought "I've never seen this on a Foster's ad".
Were you at an advantage over the boys because it was your home turf, or was it as alien to you as it was to them?
Yeah, it was a little unfair. It was like we were all playing the same video game, but I was on a higher level because I've played it before. Having said that, I really got to see and do some things I've never done before, and may never do again. In fact, I think I appreciated the trip more than Josh and Alex, because I knew how special it was to be doing some of those things. I genuinely got to see a new side to Australia. And it got to see a new side of me. The truth is, I acted a lot tougher than I really am because I didn't want to fail at something that Josh and Alex could do in my own country. I threw myself into everything and pretended nothing phased me, while deep down I was wondering what on earth I was doing. But don't tell them that.
What was your favourite moment of the trip?
Seventy kilometres outside of Alice Springs we watched the world's most isolated heavy metal band, called Southeast Desert Metal. They played on a dirt oval in an Aboriginal community to launch their first album. The whole town turned out, from five year old kids to eighty year old grandmothers. There were a few white faces, including a six foot four drag queen, but almost everyone was indigenous.At the end of the night I was dancing in front of the band, and some of the aboriginal kids started dancing with me, and giving me high fives. It was such a great night, with white and aboriginal people coming together, but the smiles on those kids faces will stay with me forever. My second favourite moment was went Josh and Alex fell asleep in the van while spooning each other.
What was your worst moment of the trip?
My worst moment of the trip came while flying over Uluru (Ayers Rock). The entire flight was beset by low-level but constant turbulence, and after about twenty minutes I threw up. Then I threw up again. And again. All in all, I threw up five times. I managed to hold it together long enough to describe Uluru to Amar, but once we left the rock, my breakfast left me. If there was anyone climbing Uluru that day as we flew overhead, I sincerely apologise.
Basically, almost all of Australia’s fauna wants to kill you. Did you have any close encounters with the local wildlife?
I stuck my finger in a crocodile's bottom! There, I said it. Are you happy now? After pulling a metre-long croc from a trap the ranger asked if we wanted to sex it. I volunteered, and was duly told you have to stick your finger up its arse. So I did. Later when we pulled a three and a half metre (eleven foot) croc out of a river, I had to do it again. If you're wondering, the first one was female, the second one was a male. And no, neither of them have kept in touch with me.
What was the scariest moment on the trip?
The scariest moment for me was when I dressed in drag as an homage to Priscilla Queen of the Desert, in Broken Hill. We went to a local pub and sang karaoke, which was a hoot, but at midnight it was time to walk home. And there is no animal quite as scary as the drunk and slightly bewildered Australian male. Crocodiles make sense, snakes make sense, drunks don't make sense. Especially when they feel threatened. And nothing scares an Australian man more than another man dressed as a woman. I made sure the "girls" I was with all got into taxis, and scurried off to my room as soon as everyone was gone. I felt safe in the outback, I felt safe in the desert, I didn't feel safe dressed as a woman while surrounded by drunk, confused men.
What did you discover about Australia?
I discovered that Australia is a truly amazing country. I don't mean the people, I mean the countryside itself. And that all the character traits we as Australians claim as our strong points come from that countryside. The toughness, the dryness, the laid back approach to life, all come from the countryside. I don't think most white Australians realise just how powerful a force the Australian landscape is. When we do, we might start to realise how devastating it must be to Aboriginal people who have been dispossessed of their land.
More worryingly, what did you discover about the others?
I discovered that if Alex stays at a hotel without internet he throws a tantrum. I discovered that Josh's idea of an oasis is a cafe that serves a good smashed avocado on toast. I also discovered that deep down in the hearts of those two city boys lies...well,...actually they're both a couple of pampered city boys. But I love them to bits, and I discovered that even after eighteen days on the road, staying in tin sheds and sleeping under the stars; travelling in a clapped out campervan with no working temperature gauge or decent fuel gauge; even after all that, we still make each other cry with laughter.I think we all discovered that we are a pretty strong team, and that our differences make us funny.
AMAR LATIF INTERVIEW
You’re a traveller, entrepreneur, actor, director and motivational speaker. Are there any jobs you don’t do?
Life is too short! I like to grasp opportunities with both hands and hit the road!
Is it fair to say that running Traveleyes is your day job? Could you explain a bit about the company?
Yes, because Traveleyes isn’t something I can just turn off. It’s a lifestyle and I love it. I still lead many of the trips myself. Seeing the effect our holidays have on people’s lives makes it all worthwhile and besides, it’s great fun! We take groups of travellers around the world together, on all kinds of exciting holiday adventures. These groups are made up of solo travellers, friends and couples. The difference is that half of the group are blind and the rest are sighted. Our sighted travellers guide and describe the sights to a different blind traveller each day. By doing this, we are making the world a more accessible place. It also gives those with a visual impairment a level of independence which is affected by sight loss.Sharing your sight this way makes you look at the world from a new perspective. You’ll look deeper than ever before as you describe what you see and explore with a focus on your other senses. Many people comment on how they have never taken home such vivid memories from a holiday before. You don’t need any experience of blindness to be a sighted traveller on our holidays and in return for your shared sight throughout the trip, we’ll subsidise the cost of your holiday by up to 50%.
How old were you when you started to lose your sight? How did you deal with that?
When I was 4 doctors broke the news to my parents that I would become incurably blind by the age of 18. And that’s what happened. My sight faded quickly. I woke up one morning and I couldn’t see the picture hanging opposite the end of my bed. I remember walking around crashing into things. My parents had to sell my bike because I could no longer see to ride it. A few months into my Uni course, I could no longer read my text books. My life had totally changed. It hit me hard. I was heading down a depressing street that I call ‘Why me street’, why did this have to happen to me. However, I soon realised that we only have one life and this is it. I wasn’t prepared to sit on the side lines and watch the world go by. I wanted to be included. And with this mind-shift, I started climbing out of Why me street and up the mountain of life, and the higher I climbed, the view just kept getting better - even although I couldn’t see it, it cried out to me.
How did you end up being dragged into the carnage that is Last Leg Down Under?
I’d been working with a TV production company called True North. I was keen to take my passion for travel back into television with something that hadn’t been done before. Channel 4 came up with the idea and I thought “A blind guy leading three comedians through the outback…What could possibly go wrong”? In the end it all got a bit crazy.
What on earth made you say yes to such an endeavour?
How could I say no?! I was a fan of the Last Leg anyway, so it was never going to take much persuading. I remember watching the show and thinking “how are these three going to react to camping in the desert with snakes, spiders and anything else that fancies them for dinner”. At that moment I knew this was something I would never live to forget.
What was the experience like?
On the whole it was an amazing experience for all of us. There were times when I felt sorry for the guys. But not really sorry, just a little bit. Like when I was flying the plane over Uluru and Adam kept throwing up into a bag. I felt bad that he couldn’t handle it, but I loved flying the plane. We covered over 4k miles in a few weeks! Unfortunately for the guys, it was mostly done on the road, in a clapped out campervan.
How did you get on with Adam, Josh and Alex?
We got on really well in the end, but I think they were sceptical of me at first. It didn’t help that I was putting them through some less than pleasurable experiences, but they saw the funny side in the end. Honestly, I’ve never laughed so much in my life.
Which of the boys was the most trouble?
I’d say Brooker was tested the most, especially by the heat. He had no idea what he’d let himself in for. Anyway, it’s all part of the banter isn’t it?
How did Adam feel about a Pommie showing him round Australia?
I think he was initially perplexed by the idea, but I hoped he realised that it was a special adventure that even most Aussies don’t get to experience!
Were there any really scary moments on the trip?
It’s never nice when you’re nearly run over by a three carriage road train! I nearly ended up crushed like that poor old camper van.
What were your highlights?
It’s really hard to say. Flying the plane, meeting Harold Bishop and Dr Karl Kennedy and becoming Amira - queen of the desert, are all at the top of my favourite moments.
Did you learn anything new about yourself or the others?
Yes, to my great surprise, I didn’t mind wearing a dress, heels and hair! In fact, I think all guys should experience it to know how much females really put themselves through. I also learned more about Australia’s indigenous people. This isn’t a side to Australia we often see in the UK, so I arranged for the guys to attend a metal rock concert in the desert, which was amazing and equally as surreal. The locals gave us a very warm welcome.
What would you say to someone who was invited on a road trip by Adam, Josh and Alex?
Never a dull moment!