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Travel & Holiday

Get off the beaten track

Craving adventure? Here are some holiday ideas for thrill seekers
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - August 25, 2010
By: Sheila Lim
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Get off the beaten track

Adrenalin junkies seeking heart-thumping, hair-raising and goosebump-inducing activities can find plenty of such options around the world – from cage diving with sharks and floating in the blue yonder on a hot air balloon or parasail, to screaming their lungs out on a jet boat or roller coaster and skiing down steep snowy mountains.

But mountain-climbing and trekking remain the most popular adventure pursuits for travellers around the world, as such activities allow them to savour the beauty of nature, challenge themselves, and discover uniquely different cultures and incredible life experiences along the way. 

Scaling a mountain can take the wind out of you, leave you totally exhausted and in some cases, may even kill you. But for the adventurous, that top-of-the-world feeling of making it to the end of a tough trail or summit of a lofty peak is irresistible! Here are some places where such experiences can best be savoured:

NEPAL
You can choose from many trekking routes. Some, like the strenuous 12- to 14-day Everest base-camp trek, will get you up close to the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest. It offers you breathtaking panoramic views of Everest and other magnificent snow-capped peaks. Such treks will also allow you to take in the beautiful scenery of Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park, a sanctuary for various species of animals and trees, visit ancient monasteries and mountain villages and get a taste of the exotic local culture.   
Fitness level: high
Best time to go: October to November

BHUTAN
If you like a trek that takes you through enchanting forests, sparkling rivers and hidden mountain villages, go on a 15-day Black Mountain trek in Bhutan. This mountain range runs from the north at the Tibetan border to the wildlife sanctuary of Manas in the south. Trekkers near Pelela Pass towards the east will enjoy picturesque views of jagged peaks, high valleys, lush rhododendron forests, ancient monasteries, and charming rural villages where life has remained very much unchanged since the 14th century.
Fitness level: high
Best time to go: September to November

SOUTH AFRICA
If you fancy a trek where you could experience four seasons in a week, from steamy forest to snow-capped summit, climb the highest peak in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. The climb is not easy but achievable if you choose the right route and acclimatise properly. You can join a wide variety of pre-arranged treks; alternatively, opt for a private trek and choose the route and dates you want. The summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, which is actually a freestanding volcano, is covered by a GSM mobile phone network, making it the highest point in Africa with mobile phone service!
Fitness level: high
Best time to go: June to September

THE MILFORD TRACK
This is an ideal way to experience New Zealand's enchanting forest and breathtaking peaks. Situated in the heart of the spectacular Fiordland National Park, it starts at the head of Lake Te Anua and ends at Milford Sound. You can walk independently or join a guided group, and choose from a range of multi-day and single-day walks. 

THE INCA TRAIL
The classic four-day Inca Trail trek takes you to Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca city in dense jungle-covered mountains in Peru, South America. Hailed as one of the world's greatest archaeological wonders, this 'Lost City' with its well-preserved ruins lay hidden from the world until 1911.

Trekkers wanting to experience at least a part of the Inca Trail but without the time or energy to complete the full four-day trek can take the two-day Inca Trail trek. Starting closer to Machu Picchu, this is a less strenuous trek; it’s carried out at a much lower altitude than the Classic four-day Inca Trail trek so you do not need to worry as much about acclimatisation. However, as many people still find themselves short of breath when arriving at Wiñay Wayna, this should not be considered an easy option.

Trekkers seeking a less trodden route can opt for the more challenging seven-day Salkantay trek. While horses are not allowed on the Inca Trail, they can be used for the first four days of this trek to carry food and equipment. Trekkers will get to enjoy magnificent scenery of snow-capped mountains, cloud forests and waterfalls, and will rarely encounter other groups of trekkers. On the fifth day, they will join up with the classic Inca Trail and continue on to Machu Picchu.

Though the trails are accessible to trekkers throughout the year, the months between May and October are usually best as the weather is drier; June through September is the peak season. The numbers of trekkers allowed on these trails are regulated. They must also book a permit through a licensed trek operator well in advance, and employ the services of a professional guide or be part of an organised tour group.

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