From Chile to Utah and Australia to the earth’s core (or as close as you can get), here are eight adventurous reasons to drop the remote and skip town.
Pucón, Chile – CLIMB A VOLCANO.
One of the most trafficked volcanoes in the world is so potent that the local Mapuche tribe who lived there called it Quitralpillán Villarrica, or Residence of the Ancestors with Fire. Regardless, every year more than 15,000 travelers scale Villarrica, near Pucón. It’s home to an open lava pit and last erupted in 2009.
To reach the snow-covered pinnacle, you’ll need crampons, an ice axe and a medium fitness level, but the view of a cauldron of bubbling lava beneath is easily worth the effort. // www.outdoorexperience.org
EXPERT: GEOFF MACKLEY, DISASTER ENTHUSIAST AND HOST OF DANGERMAN
Although this videographer, photographer and TV host has experienced just about every kind of cataclysm, his specialty, volcanology, has been immortalized in a hit YouTube video he filmed in which a colleague is hanging a third of the way into Vanuatu’s 1,650-foot Marum Volcano as it erupts. “That was the most extreme volcano shoot I’ve ever done, but it wasn’t terrifying to me,” he says. “It was awe-inspiring.”
Aquismón, Mexico – DESCEND INTO THE SÓTANO DE LAS GOLONDRINAS.
Every sunrise, visitors peering down into the Sótano de las Golondrinas, or Cave of Swallows, detect movement deep in the sinkhole. In the cave below are, as you might guess, swallows.
Over the course of a half hour, the birds awaken and rise up through the cave in a great column. In the evening they return, align themselves over the opening and dive safely below. At more than 1,000 feet deep, the cone-shaped cave, located in dense forest in the foothills of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains, is one of the deepest sinkholes in the world. Fortunately for travelers who come here to rappel via rope or even parachute down to the mossy floor, it’s also easy to get to—just a 20-minute walk off of the road. Tours can be arranged in town. Not recommended for ornithophobics.
EXPERT: BILL STONE, WORLD-CLASS AMERICAN SPELUNKER
In February 2012, the Texas-based Stone will return to J2, a cave system in the cloud forest in Ocotal, Mexico. During his 2009 expedition, his team descended nearly 4,000 vertical feet below the surface of the earth via rope and dived through underwater caves into a cavern considered the most remote place on earth (7 miles from the entrance). This time, he wants to go another 6.2 miles in and perhaps 6,500 feet down, hoping to advance, inch by inch, what mankind knows about this dark place in the planet. “It’s like three-dimensional chess,” he says, “except that each move takes three years.”
Patagonia, Chile – PATAGONIA’S MOUNTAINS ARE RIFE WITH GOOD RAFTING.
Patagonia just sounds adventurous. The name conjures images of perilous treks on narrow trails, steep cliffs falling off to your side. But actually one of the best adventures you can have in the region is on the water, at the confluence of the Rio Azul and Futaleufu River. There you’ll find some of the best ra ing in the world: Turquoise water tears between snowcapped mountains and forms frothy Class IV and V rapids. A local outfier—such as Expediciones Chile, which has trips of various lengths and for different skill levels— can equip you with horses or mountain bikes for those stretches that are too rough to ra . Your sleeping arrangements, luckily, are a li le less adventurous at Expediciones’ Tres Monjas Eco Camp, a campground with a sauna, gourmet chef and private skinny-dip beach. You don’t want to tackle those Class Vs without a good night’s sleep. // www.exchile.com
Tanzania – MOUNTAIN BIKING TO TANZANIA’S NGORONGORO CRATER.
Starting below the towering peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, this moderately difficult 300-mile route, along cow paths and Jeep trails and amid elephants, ostriches, lions and other African megafauna, leads across the baobab tree–studded Masai Plains and into the Great Ri Valley, past stunning vistas and lake sides dotted with fishing villages. The ride concludes at the Ngorongoro Crater, a 100-square-mile volcanic caldera in the Serengeti formed millions of years ago when a volcano erupted and collapsed. Today it’s a self-contained ecosystem reputed to have the world’s densest population of lions, along with black rhinos, hippos and about 25,000 other species living in the grasslands, swamps and forests between the crater’s steep, 1,400-foot walls. There are a few tour companies you can book to lead you along the trip, handle camping accommodations and, most important, book your Ngorongoro safari in advance. Riding your bike at a high rate of speed into the crater as though it were some kind of BMX ramp is not advised. Those cheetahs are both nimble and hungry. // www.keadventure.com
EXPERT: DAVID HOUGHTON, CANADIAN ULTRACYCLIST AND TOUR D’AFRIQUE VETERAN
For four months in 2005, Houghton rode almost 7,500 miles, from Cairo all the way to Cape Town, South Africa, in something called the Tour d’Afrique, gaining membership in the “Efi Club” (an acronym for an unprintable name that includes “every” and “inch”). “Whether you get sick, or the bike breaks down, or you get hit by a truck, you go the whole distance,” he says of the club’s ethos. “You never take a day off . That maniacal discipline really appealed to me.” The trip to Cape Town was grueling but worth it. “Riding into the city and seeing Table Mountain, I was crying,” he says. “I had never been there before, but I felt like I was coming home.”
Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica – HANG 10 ON THE OSA PENINSULA.
There are very few places that intimidate Man vs. Wild host Bear Grylls (see “The Hemi Q&A”). But when he parachuted into the dense jungle of Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, he had second thoughts. Home to jaguars, tangles of snakes and unspeakable insects, the wildness is part of what makes Matopalo, the surf break off Osa’s beach, so special. The rabble stays away. Of course, you don’t have to parachute in, but it’s not exactly Times Square, either. From tiny Golfito, you’ll find a handful of lodges and a variety of world-class waves. // www.pavones.com
Dalton, N.H. – LEARN TO SPICE UP A QUIET SUNDAY CRUISE.
Some people find a quiet drive along a tree-lined road on a Sunday relaxing.
Others prefer to tear sideways at full speed on a closed course, quarterpanels inches from the treeline. At Team O’Neil Rally School & Car Control Center, you learn how to do the la er. Using dozens of miles of dirt roads, the instructors teach the fine art of skid control, high-speed vehicle dynamics and, if you want, the vagaries of off road rally racing. // www.teamoneil.com
EXPERT: KEN BLOCK, WORLD RALLY CHAMPION DRIVER AND COFOUNDER OF DC SHOES
Few sports require nerves as steely and car control as precise as rally racing, in which drivers steer, skid and slide along winding gravel roads narrower than alleys. Block, who drives a $1 million Ford Focus in the World Rally Championship, is the top American in this very European sport. “I started out at the Team O’Neil school,” he says. “That’s where I learned to stay in control of the car in very extreme conditions—like a WRC race, where I literally have to memorize thousands of turns over the course of a week, and do them at 100 mph. Sideways. It’s fun.”
Moab, Utah – GO FAR BEYOND HIKING IN MOAB.
Canyoneering is a cross between climbing and hiking, yet somehow it transcends both. In part, the appeal is in the surreal: rappelling into a Seussical slot of red rock or dangling from a cliff while watching shafts of light illuminate underground streams. Nowhere is the feeling more pleasantly disorienting than in Moab’s national parks, where outfiers like Red River Adventures, The World Outdoors and Moab Cliffs and Canyons lead intrepid adventurers into striated sandstone crevices and past soaring pinnacles. You don’t even have to be a dyed-in-the-wool explorer to get your first taste: Halfday trips into Chamisa Canyon and Morning Glory can be structured to include sub-100-foot rappels, easy scrambling and even a swim or two. // www.redriveradventures.com
Queensland, Australia – A DEEP LOOK AT AUSTRALIA’S BEST WRECK DIVE.
The Great Barrier Reef off of Queensland, Australia, a racts more than 1.6 million tourists a year. While most come to gawk at the thousands of species of aquatic life, there’s also some history under the sea. The SS Yongala was a passenger ship that launched in 1903 and sank in 1911. Its wreck was discovered in 1958, and divers have reveled in exploring it ever since. Although the inside of the ship is now off limits (the air bubbles can erode the structure), you can see the name still intact on the outside, as well as a spectacular artificial reef with bright coral, barracuda, sea turtles and, from May to September, humpback whales. Yongala Dive can take you out, show you the ship and have you back in time for dinner. // www.yongaladive.com.au
EXPERT: PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, UNDERSEA EXPLORER AND HOST OF OCEAN’S DEADLIEST
For Cousteau, the grandson of Jacques, who revolutionized scuba and undersea exploration, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. “I’ve been diving in the Great Barrier Reef a lot, but my most memorable time was when we were filming Ocean’s Deadliest. I was with Steve Irwin on what turned out to be his last expedition. It reminds you how powerful nature is.”