For some, sunbathing and sightseeing won’t suffice on vacation; they need to get their blood pumping by partaking in something a little more extreme. If you’re a self-confessed thrill-seeker, read on to discover the getaways for you
Do you find sipping cocktails on the beach to be far too sedate an activity? Does wandering around a handsome city in search of a beer or a cup of coffee constitute your idea of a tame vacation? Does exploring ancient monuments fail to float your boat? (And, if you have a boat, is it a jet-powered one?) You’re not alone. There’s a cross-section of people in society who think there’s nothing better than hurling themselves down things, clambering up and over things, being chased by things, all while being shot out of a cannon, naked, in a thunderstorm. Or something. Anyway, for such thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies, we’ve compiled some of the more extreme getaway ideas.
White water rafting, Nepal
Of course, this is a fairly common adventure now. Hell, you can even do it indoors in some places it’s become that popular. But this must surely be the ultimate, the peak, of white water rafting. When the Nepalese ice melts, it comes crashing and thundering down from some of the highest mountains in the world, fuelled by torrential rains in a furious wall of noise.
This is where you come in. raftnepal.com organizes adventures of varying difficulty and of varying length, from a simple one-day trip, to a full-on 10 days of rafting and four days of trekking in the mountains to top it off.
If that doesn’t sound exciting enough, bear in mind that if you decide to brave the Sun Koshi — “River of Gold” — one of its sections is called “the Meat Grinder”. Just putting that out there.
Volcano boarding, Nicaragua
Essentially, as simple as it sounds. The original endeavor of Australian thrill-seeker, volcano boarding takes place on the side of the Sierra Nevada volcano near the city of León in Nicaragua.
You’re given a sort-of wooden sled, then the rest of it is up to you. Trudge to however high up the volcano you dare to (the volcano is active, just to add an extra layer of peril) and then slide down it on your sled. Simple as that.
Use your feet to steer and slow yourself down. And slow down you’ll need to at some point. The record speed for a volcano boarder at this location is 90 km/h. Sound good? Good. The Bigfoot Hostel in León runs daily trips to the volcano.
Zip lining, South Africa
Sun City is about two hours from Johannesburg, and it is here that you’ll find the original — and many people still claim the best — zip slide. Zooming down for two kilometers from high atop the grassland and out over the brown, baking earth, you plunge headfirst at speeds of 160 km/h before being caught and dismounted onto shaking legs at the end.
You can choose to have the experience alone, or be strapped to an equally devil-may-care buddy. Either way, it’s the most fun you can have with your legs in a bag.
In the ski resort of La Plagne, something kind of awesome is happening (only from December to April, mind you). A 1.5 km bobsleigh track has been built with the express purpose of letting your average human experience what it’s like to be in the 1993 comedy classic, Cool Runnings.
There are a few ways to travel down the course. If you’re there with friends, there are the options of a two-man or a four-man bobsleigh. Or, if you don’t feel like this should be an experience to be shared, you can go solo on the luge.
That’s right — they’ve designed a luge with a roll-cage, so you get strapped in on your back, then given a crash helmet and a shove, and off you rocket.
Shark cage diving, Australia
In South Australia, there are companies that will allow you to come face to face with one of nature’s most sleekly perfect killers – the great white shark. As well as offering slightly less thrilling “swim with…” experiences, Calypso Star Charters will, for a price, give you some scuba equipment, shove you in a cage and lower you into the ocean.
There you’ll float for 45 minutes as fish berley (a type of bait) is added to the water to attract sharks. To be fair, their rate of actually getting sharks is very good – 85% of dives involve an encounter, a pretty good rate it seems to me.
They also pride themselves on their eco-friendliness and carbon neutrality, so you’ll know that while you’re looking into the cold, dead eyes of a tonne of aggression, you’re also helping their ecosystem. Thrills and goodwill all in one.
Ice climbing, the US
One of the very few things on this list that’s totally free as well as very cool (in more ways than one!) is Ouray Ice Park. Within walking distance of the town of Ouray, Colorado, it’s a natural gorge that has been turned into a climbing venue, typically open from mid-December to mid-March.
The difference is, though, that you’ll be climbing on a vast sheet of completely man-made ice; there are over 200 routes on, over and around it. It’s also very clever. Using excess water from that which supplies the town of Ouray, a cunning pipe network and 150 normal, everyday shower heads, they’ve constructed a masterpiece of sustainable “natural” engineering.
It really is stunning — not that you’ll have much time for looking down as you scale great heights of ice that looks like frozen waterfalls; great, jutting overhangs, and vast stalactites cutting through the air. If you haven’t got the equipment or experience for ice, however, all is not lost. The rest of the park is open for rock climbing, bouldering and various other grimace-inducing pursuits.
Bull running, Spain
This is one I bet you’ve heard of: the running of the bulls in the Spanish city of Pamplona since — apparently — the 14th century. It takes place during the week-long San Fermin festival in July every year. The first running takes place on the second day of the festival, and then there’s one every morning after that until its conclusion.
There are few rules: contestants must be over 18, must do nothing to annoy or incite the bulls (though why you’d want to is a mystery), must run in the same direction as the bulls (again…), and must not be under the influence of alcohol.
Each year, between 50 and 100 people are injured during the event, mostly by being accidentally tripped by other runners. The most dangerous part, however, comes at the end of the course — entering the bull-ring. The road narrows as it reaches the entrance, creating a funnel effect, squeezing the runners together before finally popping them out into the arena.
This pile-up of people has caused ten runners to be gored by bulls rushing up to the back of the immovable mass of people and charging straight into them. One runner was even crushed to death in 1977. If that’s not enough adrenaline-fuelled terror for you, I don’t know what would be.
Coasteering, the UK
Something a little more family-friendly here, if your kids are as crazy about thrill-seeking as you are. Coasteering is taking off in the UK in a big way, and the wild coastline of Wales is the perfect place to give it a go.
So what is it? Well, it’s a combination of everything you can do when presented with rocks and water – abseiling, bouldering, climbing, swimming, kayaking, zip-lining and simply leaping off cliffs into the bounding main below. Nature’s very own assault course, if you will.
It starts on a beach, where your guides will give you equipment (wetsuit, helmet and so on), before whichever program you’ve chosen begins.
Depending on your location, you’ll get the chance to do a half- or full-day’s coasteering, often with lunch thrown in (which you’ll need; it can be very physically demanding). You’ll finish up soaking wet, exhausted, but hopefully very happy indeed!
Cheese rolling, the UK
And while you’re in Britain, why not partake in something a little more eccentric? Cheese rolling only happens once a year (at the end of May) in Gloucestershire, England, and has been the source of some controversy. The idea is that a wheel of cheese is bowled down Cooper’s Hill and competitors run down the hill to try and catch it. It is a hell of a hill too, steep and bumpy.
Gloucestershire County Council has been warning people for some years not to attend as the event is “unmanaged”. This, claim the locals, is untrue, and that the hill is cleared of any dangerous objects and the undergrowth flattened in the days leading up to the roll.
This doesn’t stop people injuring themselves as they hurtle uncontrollably down the hillside. Broken limbs are not uncommon, and the local ambulance service is pushed into service more than they’d like. But still, the odd snapped wrist is a small price to pay for joining in a tradition that claims to be hundreds of years old, right?
Well, maybe. Either way, it’s a bit of English wackiness that people love and want to see continue.
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