CREATE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE

by Ulises Guixeras September 2016 Read in PDF format N12/2016
CREATE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE DRIVING 16,000 KM IN A MINI TO MONGOLIA, NAVIGATING THE COASTS OF TANZANIA IN AN INDIGENOUS VESSEL, CROSSING SIBERIA AND LAKE BAIKAL ON MOTORBIKE, VISITING THE GORILLAS IN RWANDA... THERE ARE EXPERIENCES THAT WILL ETCH THEMSELVES ONTO YOUR RETINAS FOREVER. IF YOU ARE BRAVE ENOUGH

There are agencies specialising in racking their brains to find the most out-of-the-way journeys on the face of the Earth, the most remote places and the most exciting experiences. What used to be huge undertakings can today be sorted out by getting in touch with specialist travel companies. But it is no laughing matter. On the contact page of The Adventurist (theadventurist.com) there is a warning that states: “Do not underestimate the risk involved in participating in these adventures. The probabilities of being seriously injured and even dying are high. Some of those who have participated in the past have suffered permanent disfiguration, decapitation and some have even lost their lives. These are not holidays. These are adventures and are therefore, by definition, extremely hazardous.”

WHAT’S IMPORTANT IS THE PATH

In 2001, Tom Morgan, a British fine arts student, bought a clapped-out Fiat 126 during a student exchange in the Czech Republic. “I had loads of free time to think about the most ridiculous and remote place I could drive to. My friend Joolz and I decided to go to Mongolia and we had a miserable time of it on the way,” explains Tom, founder of Mongol Rally. That was the seed of a proposal that today offers 10 different types of adventure of the most ludicrous variety. In 2004, the rally officially began with four teams and that figure has not stopped growing until reaching more 300 that currently set out on this pilgrimage to Mongolia. And to dignify this heroic accomplishment, it should be noted that in order to participate it is necessary to pay a fee that goes to several NGOs. Two other journeys should be highlighted from this factory of recklessness. Ice Run is a desperate race across 2,000 kilometres of the Siberian winter blanket. Of particular note is that the participants travel on a Ural, a Russian motorcycle designed in 1939 which has little in common with today’s bikes. The route includes adventures such as crossing the frozen Lake Baikal under the zenithal lighting of the northern winter. Meanwhile the Ngalawa Cup takes us away from wheels and engines and proposes an epic adventure on the Indian Ocean. 500 nautical miles onboard a peculiar indigenous vessel consisting of little more than a hollowed out trunk, two wooden outriggers and a rough lateen sail.

ON TWO WHEELS THROUGH NEPAL

There is also a type of adventure which is a far cry from the eccentricity of the above. Vintage Rides (www.vintagerides.travel) offers numerous options through Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Thailand and even Bhutan, astride a Royal Enfield, a motorcycle of English origin which has become India’s two wheels par excellence. Once again, it’s the story of a student; Frenchman Alez Zurcher arrived in India ten years ago to go to university, barely had he arrived when he got on an Enfield and decided that it would be his business model. In 2016, he already has 800 bikers signed up. Speaking with Denise Wright, the English-speaking representative on his team, we become attached to the route through Nepal, a 14-day, 1,200km trip which crosses the Terai Jungle, the Mustang valley and almost reaches the border with Tibet. Along the way, there is time to take a couple of days and spend some time at the Chitwan National Park, where it is possible to have a ride on an elephant and walk among Indian rhinoceroses and other animals.

GORILLAS IN THE MIST

Speaking of animals, we have also had a look at the offerings from Nuba (nuba.net), an agency specialising in designing customised trips and boasting an annual turnover of €35 million. We ask them for adventure and they immediately lead us to Rwanda to see the gorillas up close. They guide us through the foliage and mists of the Virunga Mountains to discover one of the colonies of the 300 gorillas that live there. After following in the footsteps of Diane Fossey, we cross the border into Uganda for a well deserved rest at a lodge in the Bwindi National Park. From there, the adventure continues in Uganda: Rafting in the Jinja, one of the most breathtaking rapids in the world; long-distance horsetrekking in Lake Mburo National Park through primary forests; and cruises on lakes, rivers and natural canals. Such is the diversity of possible trips it is more than likely that someone will argue with their partner or friends: “Fine, you go your way and I’ll go mine!”.

THE MOUNTAIN OF GOD

“When you talk about Tanzania, everyone thinks about safaris, but the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is much more than that,” says David Nieto, a lover of Africa who founded Samaki safari consultancy (samakisafaris.com) for here and other parts of Africa. For this reason, even though the Ngorongoro crater is one of those must-visit destinations (with a diameter of 20km full of diverse fauna), he also proposes a seven-day trek through the conservation area of the same name to interact with nature and the Maasai people. And as David confesses his devotion to the African night, he also suggests finishing the trek with a challenge: a nighttime ascent of Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano which in 2008 was still spewing out its insides. “We always go up at night, around midnight, and arrive at the summit at dawn,” he explains. After taking in the views, it’s time to descend what the Maasai call ‘The Mountain of God’.

A MEETING OF WATERS

Very close to Manaos, in Brazil, the Amazon River meets the Negro River and for many miles the two currents run parallel to one another without mixing. Between the emerald green of the first and the impenetrable black of the second, there is a clear thin line that is as easy to make out as a continuous line on a road. It is the big tourist attraction in the area, which many visitors coming by boat to get a closer view.

However, the impenetrable rainforest offers many other attractions.

One of the many agencies operating there which can get us closer to those destinations is Amazona Tours (amazonatours.com). It is possible to visit some of the indigenous populations or get back on the Negro River once again to reach one of the spots where the ‘botos’ or pink river dolphins of the Amazons are easier to see. You can swim with them if your fear of piranha is outweighed by the desire to embrace a slippery dolphin. And if taking a dip is not your thing, the Amazon rainforest is the area with one of the greatest diversity of animals on the planet and strange is the day when it doesn’t surprise you.

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