Top 7 Source-to-Sea River Traverses--by Canoe

Rivers are amazing. They carry water from the highest glaciers across mountain, forest, plain, and desert to the distant sea, often carving out their path through solid rock, forming the epicenter of the most ancient civilizations, and bringing life wherever they run. Some cut across sun-blasted wasteland, allowing for a thin strip of greenery in an otherwise barren glut of brown and red. Others saw through stone and careen over cliff, carving out deep canyons thousands of feet above sea level. Still others wind their way through dense jungle, barely visible from the sky through the thick leafy canopy stretching to the horizon in every direction. Surely it's time to grab a canoe and take to the water.

Thus, o wandering wanderers, we give you the TOP 7 SOURCE-TO-SEA RIVER TRAVERSES--BY CANOE.

We begin south of Whitehorse in Canada, where one of the world's mightiest rivers--THE YUKON--flows north, eventually weaving its way west through remote Alaskan wilderness (at one point even crossing the Arctic Circle) before emptying into the Bering Sea. The entire trip covers almost two thousand miles, but rarely requires any portaging and can be completed in a summer. During the first third of the journey, abandoned miner's camps, hundred-year-old shacks, and other remnants of a bygone era provide some link with civilization. For most of the rest, however, the canoeing wanderer is more utterly alone, probably, than s/he ever will be again. Bring a gun (a big one); bears, plentiful along the Yukon, have been known to bring a tragic end to many a wilderness experience...

Thanks to the nasty government habit of plundering would-be travelers (not to mention, in the context of this particular river, of invading the sovereign territory of other governments), this one might exact more from the wanderer in the form of travel expenses and visa fees. Still, THE AMU DARYA--once known as the Oxus--belongs on the list all the same. Fed by glaciers of the Himalayan system (the Pamirs and the Tian Shan), almost two-thirds of the Amu Darya is navigable, taking the canoeing journeyer from the rugged mountains near northwestern Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, along the northern Afghan/southern Tajikistan border (the river is the border much of the way) and through much of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to what is left of the Aral Sea (which isn't much, actually; nowadays the river peters out in the sands of the Kyzyl Kum desert...). This was a river crossed by Greek, Arab, Chinese, Mongol, and Russian armies (to name a few), and is one of the longest rivers in Central Asia.

For the more cosmopolitan wanderer, a float down THE DANUBE boasts mostly easy-going flow from the forests of southern Germany north of the Swiss Alps, across central and southeastern Europe, and into the Black Sea. Along the way the canoeist will laze past some of the continent's greatest cities--historical centers like Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, and Bratislava--and pass through at least twenty national parks (of these last, this writer in particular longs to visit Romania's Iron Gates).

No best-of river list would be complete without the voluminous AMAZON, winding thousands of miles from the Peruvian Andes into the Atlantic Ocean--where islands in its massive delta might pass for small countries. The jungle here is thick and teeming with life (and the river itself is home everything from the anaconda and piranha to the dolphin and otter), but resupply stops along the way are surprisingly plentiful. Perhaps most surprising is the jungle-locked city of Manaus, roughly located at the halfway point of your route and home to almost two million people.

For a canoe voyage in crocodile-infested waters, take to the fourth-largest river in Africa: THE ZAMBEZI. Beginning in Zambia and flowing through Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia (again), Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, the Zambezi is one river where portage is a must from time to time--like when the river cascades down Victoria Falls (or Ngonye Falls, or Chavuma Falls). Stretches of the river are world-famous for their white water--too treacherous for a canoe, but most of the river is canoe-friendly. Watch out for hippo, perhaps your most life-threatening Zambezi obstacle.

THE BRAHMAPUTRA would immediately scare off most travelers--and perhaps rightly so, with its stretches of fierce whitewater and its meandering around the Great Bend-the world's deepest (and least-explored) gorge. But most of the river is navigable, even by canoe, carving its way east across high Tibet (where it is known as the Tsang-po), until it veers south into the jungle-covered Himalayan foothills of eastern India and the sweltering plains of Bangladesh. The river finally empties into the Ganges Delta. For sheer variety of environment, this one's hard to beat. But do your research; portions of the river border on the unknown.

Our top pick will likely surprise many, but we maintain that it deserves this exalted spot. THE KATHERINE RIVER-DALY RIVER trail in Australia's wild Northern Territory begins at the edge of Arnhem Land (sacred to Australia's aboriginals), flows through Nitmiluk National Park (home to the Jawoyns and boasting some of the most spectacular gorges on earth) as the Katherine, then later flowing into the Daly. The latter is well-known down under for its barramundi (the most delicious fish on the planet), as well as its crocs, buffalo, birds, turtles, and spiders. The Daly flows through mangroves and (giant) bamboo, finally emptying into Anson Bay. This river trail has it all, traversing sacred space, pure isolation, and an ecosystem like no other--and we therefore confidently insert it here, at very the pinnacle of The List of All Lists.


Top 7 Thousand-Mile Treks

Dozens of incredible treks could easily have been included on this list. The world is, after all, filled with adventure, from the towering peaks of the mighty Andes to the empty deserts of the Taklamakan, from the sun-swept plains of east Africa to snow- and ice-carpeted stretches of the Antarctic. We could have added a trek across Borneo, or a jaunt through the medieval forests of central or northern Europe, or a few months on the Appalachian Trail. That being said, we stand by our choices. These are the best–the best–the world has to offer, and we believe there is something here for everyone.

Thus, o wandering wanderers, we give you the TOP 7 THOUSAND-MILE TREKS…

This particular Top 7 list will kick off Down Under–with a trek FROM CAPE JERVIS TO THE PARACHILNA GORGE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA. The way is marked–known as the Heysen Trail–and the hardy hiker will find that it offers a wide range of vistas and landscape types. From the gorge, one heads right through Flinders Ranges National Park, then on south almost to the coastline, past the Spencer Gulf and the Gulf of St. Vincent, skirting the Aussie metroplis of Adelaide, and finally ends up at Cape Jervis, a neck of land jutting out into the sea. Though the trail’s length is actually a couple hundred miles shy of the thousand-mile mark, we figured it nevertheless merited a place on this hallowed countdown.

For something a little more marked and mapped out, we suggest the incredible PACIFIC NORTHWEST TRAIL, USA–from Cape Alava, on the northern coasts of Washington, across Washington, Idaho, and into Montana, ending in the middle of Glacier National Park. Along the way the intrepid traveler will marvel at the majestic Pacific Ocean, ascend the Cascades, wander in the Pasayten Wilderness, and skirt the Canadian border all the way past the Whitefish Range and into Glacier (that includes seven National Forests and three National Parks). In short, you’ll trek all the way from the ocean to the Continental Divide–a 1,200-mile adventure through some of the most scenic country anywhere.

If it’s a touch of Europe you crave, plan now for a 1,300-mile romp through the backcountry of Spain, Andorra, and France, FROM TARIFA, SPAIN TO THE BORDER OF SWITZERLAND. Tarifa is Spain’s most southerly point–and from here the adventurous journeyer treks through the mountains of Andalucia, all the way up the east side of Spain, through the scenic Pyrenees through Andorra, and across the French countryside through Vercors, Grenoble, Chartreuse, and Culoz. Finally, you’ll arrive at the border of that most panoramic of Very Small Countries: Switzerland–a great place to kick back in the shadows of some of the world’s great peaks and relax after a serious overland traverse.

If mountains don’t do it for you, how about a giant, continent-sized desert? The 1,000-mile trek FROM NOUAKCHOTT, MAURITANIA TO TIMBUKTU, MALI meets this single, all-encompassing criterion. Flanked by high, wind-swept dunes and stretches of vegetation-free sand as far as the eye can see, this may appear to be a hike into oblivion–and that it will be if it is undertaken lightly. The truth is, however, that this singular trek will take the sun-soaked wanderer up and over mountain, down and through gorge and canyon, and along the coast of inland lake and sea. Keep your eyes peeled for roaming bandits, rogue units of some rebel militia, swarms of locust, and the occasional snake and/or scorpion.

For those seeking something a little cooler, try trekking FROM SAN CARLOS DE BARILOCHE TO RIO GALLEGOS, ARGENTINA. In the process, the wandering wanderer will traverse a thousand miles through some of the most forbidding and stunning mountain vistas on the planet, including the amazing Los Glaciares National Park, home to jagged-teethed black-rocked summits partly covered by brilliant-white snow and pervaded by that crisp cool air that bespeaks a pristine environment. This is a rugged journey to say the least, leading the traveler into the very depths of pure Patagonia.

For a trip that requires being able to think on your feet, rely on your own preparation for the most part, and often breathe in air at elevations above 12,000 feet, try an unorthodox trek FROM JAMMU THROUGH SRINAGAR AND LEH TO SHIMLA, INDIA. The headstrong traveler will first ascend into Kashmir, finally reaching the green Vale punctuated by Srinagar itself. The city offers numerous day hikes within the area, though a few leisurely evenings on a houseboat might be good for the the trekker at this point–for s/he is about to embark on the most treacherous part of his/her super-jaunt. From here, one turns east, marching over some of the tallest passes in the world through the desolate mountain wastelands of Ladakh, through Leh (“Little Tibet”), then on to the supply town of Keylong. Then, instead of turning south to Manali, the adventure-seeker will loop eastward, through the Spiti Valley and around to the erstwhile summer capital of the British Raj: Shimla. As far as 1,000-mile treks go, this one’s hard to beat.

Let’s face it: the #1 thousand-mile hike on this list must offer the ultimate trekking experience–with a combination of real unadulterated adventure, a touch of the unknown, a hint of danger, and a setting as wild as any on the planet. Thus, we dub A NORTH-SOUTH FULL TRAVERSE OF MADAGASCAR as the best the world has to offer for the hard-core hiker. Beginning just north of Antseranana, the traveler hugs the coast for most of the trail until reaching Feonoarivo, at which point s/he heads inland (that’s right!) about 80 miles before turning south again. For hundreds of miles, the trek is now a jungle one–until about 50 miles south of Ivato, when the wanderer heads back to the beaches by trekking east again, then south with the coastline. A thousand miles from its starting point, the trek ends near Faux-Cap. This hike has it all, and we therefore confidently insert it here, at very the pinnacle of The List of All Lists.


Top 7 Animal Adventures

Mountains, canyons, plateaus. Rivers, lakes, oceans. Towers, bridges, castles. Such things possess a certain grandeur, naturally, but when it comes right down to it, they are, after all, inanimate objects, at least measured by human standards of time and space. Mount Everest may be growing several inches per year, but the great peak is still, for all intents and purposes, of the same shape, and in the same place, as before. And so it will be on the day you die.

Thus we bring you, o intrepid wanderers, a list based not on the inert, the insentient, the dead. This list, indeed, is all about life. Without further ado, we give you the TOP 7 ANIMAL ADVENTURES.

Alive, these creatures would have earned our top spot. We feel, therefore, that dead they are at least deserving of number seven: DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT, straddling Utah and Colorado, boasts one of the world's greatest natural collections of dinosaur bones anywhere. The park is home to many hiking trails, presenting the headstrong wanderer with many opportunities to spot dinosaur remains (a.k.a. fossils). The main fossil wall, temporarily closed from the public at the time of this writing, holds captive within it over 1,500 dinosaur bones. Part of what has preserved the dinosaurs here at Dinosaur National Monument is the area's unique geology, which exposes the many rock layers' textures and colors.

Raise the ante (and the adrenalin) a bit and forsake a jeep in favor of your feet--on A WALKING SAFARI. We recommend South Africa's Kruger National Park, but there are many other walking safaris out there. It's a completely different experience being on your feet in the middle of African big game country. Following carefully in the footsteps of the heavily armed guide in front, the adventurer will be led through brush and scrub into the very wilderness that the metal walls of a safari jeep are meant to protect you from. The most important thing to remember: set up your mosquito netting in the morning; if you wait, you'll find your bed covered with every kind of beetle imaginable, and probably a scorpion or two. Good times.

THE PUSHKAR CAMEL FAIR has earned our fifth spot. Celebrated annually in the small desert town of Pushkar in the Indian state of Rajasthan, the event attracts camel owners from all over India, and even a few from as far away as Afghanistan. All in all, over fifty thousand camels converge on the dunes outside of Pushkar, mostly to be shown off or traded, but also to be raced! And while it's true that camels steal the show, twenty to thirty thousand horses also make their way to the fair to compete on the large racetracks constructed on the fairgrounds. Picture this: you're riding a camel, looking out over the sandy Rajasthani desert, the tall, skinny, temple-topped Pushkar hills rising up behind you, while tens of thousands of camels and horses mill about in a mass in front of you, their numbers extending, seemingly, to the hot, shimmering horizon itself. Definitely Top 7 finalist material.

For the special, snake-loving breed, there is a place in Malaysia where you can literally worship the legless critters. THE TEMPLE OF THE AZURE CLOUD, or "Snake Temple," as it is commonly called, is a 150-year-old edifice built in honor of a Buddhist monk who reputably enjoyed healing powers. According to local tradition, the monk provided refuge and protection to the snakes of the jungle. Long after his death, the temple was constructed--and immediately upon completion, say the locals, hundreds of pit vipers from the wilds outside of town made their way, voluntarily, into the building. The priests swear that the incense smoke pervading the inside of the temple renders the snakes harmless, but we still strongly recommend you don't pick them up... Be sure to bring an egg or two, as the locals do, to offer the slithery serpents.

TRACKING THE MOUNTAIN AND LOWLAND GORILLAS of central Africa's vast forests and jungle-covered mountains have seized our third spot. The backdrop behind any excursion to see these amazing creatures is a sad one; where once thousands of gorillas roamed, now only several hundred remain. We strongly urge that any adventurer seeking a sighting of these mighty primates carefully research the company through which s/he organizes the trip to ensure the highest eco-friendly operation possible--and several commendable eco-tours do exist in the region. This is no walk in the woods; indeed, the temerarious trekker will often be forced to make his/her way through thick, thoroughly moistened flora while laboring across muddy tracts of jungle. At some point, though, the professional tracker will stop, and the traveler's small group will freeze. The tracker will point, and there, through the trees, just a few feet from where you stand, a family of gorillas, larger than you had imagined, will be chewing away on some random assortment of vegetation. It will be a sublime moment.

Speaking of primates, the heart of mostly unexplored Borneo is home to a large primate of its own. At number two, we give you THE RED APE TRAIL, a ten-day trek through completely remote jungle in western Borneo. A jungle-seasoned Iban guide will take the adventurer deep into one of the wildest places left on the planet, and said adventurer will be faced with tropical downpours, river- and stream-crossings, leeches (especially if it rains, and it most probably will), high temperatures and humidity levels (this is the equator), strenuous mountain terrain (lots of up and down), often muddy conditions, snakes, and a complete lack of amenities (read: complete lack). Food is carried into the jungle and prepared in typical jungle fashion: over an open fire. Along the way, the tireless trekker will be drilled in the art of orangutan tracking. Chances are good that dozens of orangutans will be spotted and observed in this, their natural habitat. Apart from the red apes, Borneo is home to scores of mammal and bird species found only here. While on the island you may see several types of monkey, spiders (including tarantulas), hornbills, kingfishers, lizards, turtles, even Asian elephants. Travelers beware: the Red Ape Trail is for serious trekkers only. There's no turning back once you begin, barring some sort of serious medical emergency.

When one ruminates over the most dangerous of animal encounters, the Great White certainly springs to mind almost immediately. But there is another deep-sea predator, less known--but more terrifying. Our top spot is dedicated to the handful of divers who seek A CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH "RED DEMON" GIANT SQUIDS (DOSIDICUS GIGAS). If you aren't careful, these colossal, tentacled, fast-moving killers will take fist-sized chunks out of you then come back for more. And you won't be dealing with just one; they travel in groups of between a dozen to hundreds--and they'll all want a piece of you. We strongly recommend that the journeyer not try this alone. Go with a professional crew that has experience with these animals and can provide you with anti-squid armor (seriously, that's what they call it). All descriptions of monsters aside, the Red Demons--all ten tentacles worth--are incredible animals, and being able to watch them stalk their prey, feed, and even interact with you is an experience wholly worthy of this, Top 7's hallowed number one slot.


Top 7 Adventures in the Dark

The world is filled with dark places. Sometimes the source of that darkness is a sun-blocking wall of stone. Sometimes it's dozens of meters of water. Sometimes it's the nature of the earth's orbit itself. But whether in cave, ocean, or northernmost latitude, there's a certain allure, o traveler, about the dark. It hides knowledge--knowledge that adventurers crave. It hints of danger. It cloaks and conceals and caches. It shadows and shields and screens. Indeed, it adds a certain element of mystery that eludes those who spend all their time in the blazing light of day.

Thus, wandering wanderers, we give you the TOP 7 ADVENTURES IN THE DARK...

Seventh on our prestigious list of dark places: HAMMERFEST, which claims to be the northernmost city (a city being defined as having at least 5,000 inhabitants) in the world. The city is nestled on the rocky coast of Kvaløya island, connected to the mainland by a bridge. Situated as it is on the top of the world, the city experiences months of prolonged darkness during the winter months. But even in the dark, Hammerfest is a nifty little hub for adventure--from skiing and snowboarding to glacial hiking, from gazing at the dancing Northern Lights to serious fishing and dark-water SCUBA diving. Of course, the city is a convenient starting point for further forays into the Arctic... Another Hammerfest claim to fame: they say they have the highest ratio of hairdressers per person than any other Norwegian city (?).

Hawaii's LAVA TUBES absolutely deserve a place on this month's Top 7. Largely undiscovered until the mid-1990s, the lava tubes (caves formed from lava floes) reach scores of miles into the earth underneath the island's most recently active volcano. Hurry--the caves are yet to be commercialized, and unless you want to brave it alone somehow, the courageous adventurer can make a reservation with a local spelunker who leads tours himself (Phone: 808-967-7208). Traversing the entire length of Kazumura Cave, the longest cave in the tube system, takes two days and involves 1,097 meters (3,602 feet) of vertical movement through caverns, up and down ladders and ropes, and over cracks and drops, making it not only the world's longest cave, but also the USA's deepest. And, headlamp aside, it's filled with darkness.

A LONG WINTER AT SOUTH POLE STATION, Antarctica, merits Top 7's fifth-place notch. For months, you'll experience life sans the sun. Built only a few hundred meters from the exact center of the icy continent, South Pole Station can be reached by extremely motivated individuals via dogsled...or by plane from McMurdo Station. Unfortunately, in order to call South Pole Station home, the intrepid wanderer need first earn several high degrees in upper-atmosphere physics, meteorology, earth sciences, geophysics, glaciology, biomedicine, or astrophysics, then vie for a place on the station's scientific team. Not impossible. Once there, you'll have only your fellow team members and an occasional Stercorarius antarctica to keep you company, but the vast, glistening icescape of Antarctica to greet you every day (or should we say: all night long?).

The wandering journeyer will find our fourth adventure-in-the-dark in the red deserts of southern Utah: A NIGHT HIKE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK. After obtaining a permit for an overnight hike, the park, filled with cliffs and arches, waterfalls and caves, grand vistas and steep slopes, is yours. Go carefully, however--hazards abound, especially in the dark. Wear a trusty headlamp, and bring extra water. We recommend the Angels Landing trail--an 8.6-kilometer (5-mile) journey up a very narrow "path" leading to a summit high above the floor of Zion Canyon. Also worth looking into: the Narrows, a 24-kilometer (15-mile) trek on/in the Virgin River--including a three-kilometer stretch between soaring 640-meter (2,100-foot) cliffs a mere six meters (20 feet) apart! Awesome during the day. Incredible at night.

A NIGHT DIVE AT THE S.S. YONGALA, off the coast of Queensland, Australia, lays claim to our third slot. Voted by many as the best diving spot in the world, the Yongala comes especially alive at night in vivid bursts of color that aren't so accentuated during the day. Sunk by a cyclone in 1911, the 109-meter (360-foot) Yongala is a protected historical landmark today, apart from lying within Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Balancing buoyancy 30 meters (99 feet) beneath the black water, the night diver may run into any number of sea creatures, including sea snakes, turtles, large rays, sharks, sizable schools of sizable fish, and possibly even a whale or two (Yongala enthusiasts claim that a diver will see more undersea life here than on the Great Barrier Reef itself...). Thanks to its officially protected status, all sorts of things that would otherwise have been swiped long ago are still visible to divers--including human remains. One hundred and thirteen people died when the Yongala plunged to the bottom of the ocean...

Mixing with the locals is an essential to most great adventure journeys, and our second-on-the-list requires it. Find a local who knows what s/he is talking about, and descend into THE SUBTERRANEAN TUNNELS AND CAVERNS OF PARIS. Crisscrossing the literal foundations of France's capital city, these tunnels, some of them many centuries old, stretch for miles in the pitch blackness. Hidden entrances, secret passageways, strangely-decorated walls and ceilings, and other, odder encounters are a certainty. The most famous area, of course, is the official Catacombs, where Parisian officials of the past decided to bury the dead who didn't fit in the city's overcrowded cemeteries. A must-see, but we strongly suggest a foray into the unknown afterwards. Again, make sure you are with someone who knows his/her way around. Weird, often scary, sometimes disturbing, and occasionally beautiful finds lie hidden in the utter darkness. One could explore the tunnels for months. So with that, we say to you, o traveler: be sure you know your way out.

And the number one adventure in the dark? This one's for the serious mountain climbers out there: A NIGHT AT CAMP FOUR NEAR THE SUMMIT OF NANGA PARBAT, Pakistan. There are several Himalayan peaks that could vie for this coveted spot, but after careful consideration we have selected this, the ninth-highest peak on earth. Rising up more strikingly than most of the other "Eight Thousanders," Nanga Parbat commands the adventurer's attention--and always has. For decades, the mountain was one of the world's great killer peaks, claiming dozens of lives as men strove to conquer the summit. At camp four, one perches precariously at 7,100 meters (23,300 feet). The sky is strikingly awash with stars, and the surrounding snow on near and distant peaks possesses a faintly incandescent glow. Of course, this other-wordly view is most likely being experienced by dehydrated, exhausted, ice-encrusted climbers--but even then, it's magnificent. At midnight, the determined adventurer sets out, headlamp at the ready, for the long-awaited summit push--through snow, over rocks, in the dark.


Top 7 Adventures in the Air

Often, adventure boils down to one simple need: escape. Escape! The feel of chill wind upon one's face while one's feet perch precariously atop a great mountain; the vast expanse of all-encompassing deep blue as one drifts silently, far beneath the waves; the rustling of leaves as one walks alone amidst the primeval trees of an ancient forest. Escape. But to lift oneself off of the earth--to defy the power that keeps our feet upon the ground--possesses a singularly escape-laden element. High above the ground, surrounded by cloud and sky, elusive escape becomes the only reality.

Thus, o wandering wanderers, we give you the TOP 7 ADVENTURES IN THE AIR.

At number seven: A HELICOPTER JOURNEY OVER NEW ZEALAND'S WHITE ISLAND VOLCANO. White Island, known as Whakaari by the Maori, is one of the most active volcanoes in the country, spewing forth long plumes of white steam and rumbling constantly. Eruptions in recent decades have created what is now known as Crater Lake, the temperature of which becomes evident from the steam emanating generously from its surface. The island is also home to the ruins of a sulfur mine. Helicoptering to White Island means an unhindered view of the Pacific Ocean; spotting dolphins is common. All of this combines to deliver one fantastic heli-excursion.

An alternative form of safari: take a HOT AIR BALLOON OVER THE SERENGETI. The balloon hovers low over the acacia-laden plains, giving its occupants a close-up look at Africa's most fantastic flora and fauna below--including herds of wildebeest, buffalo, and zebra; lion, leopard, and cheetah; and hippo, elephant, and gazelle. It's the closest one will ever come to seeing through the eyes of a hooded vulture or a harrier hawk. For added effect (as if that is needed), be in the air at dawn or dusk, airborne as the sky lights up above the blazing Tanzanian sun.

PARAGLIDING OVER THE HARAZ MOUNTAINS OF YEMEN earns our fifth slot. This remote area, tucked away in an isolated country largely untouched by tourists, is ideal for paragliding--though the sport is still virtually unheard of in the region. The key is finding the right local to guide you. Good maps of the Haraz are close to impossible to locate, and the only way to navigate the rugged terrain and unmarked trails connecting the various mountain villages is with the help of a friendly Haraz-dweller. From Sana'a, drive an hour and a half to Manakah or Al-Hajjara--and from there, the Haraz is yours to discover. And don't forget: bring your own equipment...

High above jungle and mountain, our fourth slot is occupied, worthily, by HANG GLIDING OVER BORNEO. We suggest a motorized glider. High above the third-largest island in the world, one looks down upon over three thousand tree species, the threatened Bornean orangutan, the Bornean clouded leopard, the Asian elephant, and the mighty Sumatran rhinoceros. Rainforest, swamp, and lowland, high peaks, jungle, and volcano all mark this diverse island. Whether the plan is for a day-trip or a pan-island crossing (let us know if you do this one!), the Journey element of every true adventure will be your constant companion. Happy gliding.

AN AUTOGYRO FLIGHT OVER THE NAMIB DESERT has staked out our number three spot. The dunes and deserts of Namibia, that most unique of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, serve as a backdrop to one of the most liberating of flight experiences: the little-known autogyro. These tiny crafts are barely bigger than a Harley Davidson, with helicopter-like rotors, an engine-powered propeller, and no outer encasing; you're literally floating, out in the open with the wind in your face, high above the ground. The Namib Desert, though of ominously empty appellation, is actually filled with life, including the traditional African "big" animals--like elephant, lion, rhino, and giraffe. And the sky? Almost always cloud-free.

One for skydivers. How would you like to land at over 12,000 feet? This is, in fact, the highest drop zone in the world. So strap on that supplemental oxygen and get ready to SKYDIVE OVER MOUNT EVEREST. Freefalling past the highest mountains anywhere on earth, the skydiver jumps bravely from a Turbine Pilatus Porter aircraft, then falls from 30,000 feet as the Himalayas, including the very summit of Mount Everest, flash all around. According to one group, who undertook this most extreme of adventure endeavors in October 2008, the dive was "a feast for those who seek to stimulate all their senses to the point of near overload." Not for everyone, to be sure, but hey--if escape is what one seeks, it's hard to beat this, even if it's only fleeting.

And the number one adventure in the air? Yes, it costs a mere US$30 million. But despite its hefty price tag--which might otherwise purchase a small country--there's just no way that anything on this list could hold a candle to SPENDING TEN DAYS ABOVE THE EARTH ABOARD THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION. Piggy-backing along a Russian Space Agency flight, the star-borne adventurer is propelled miles above the ground, through the burning atmosphere, and into the blackness of space, all aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. From your orbital vantage-point, you'd see the earth as it truly is: a giant sphere of immense proportions covered in cloud, ocean, and greenish-brown earth, suspended in an abyss of blackness. You'd also experience bonafide weightlessness, spending your entire journey literally floating in the air. Some cheaper alternatives for us poorer folk are set to make their debut over the next few years, but the truth is that space tourism will be the domain of the ultra-wealthy for quite some time. Still, anything's possible; perhaps you, yes you, o dreaming journeyer, might one day find yourself staring at Earth from 460 km (248 miles) above its surface as you float in orbit at 27,700 kilmoteres (17,210 miles) per hour. It could happen.


Top 7 Ways to Bring Adventure Home

The mighty mountain conquered, the tempestuous sea crossed,
The indomitable language mastered, the dangers worth the cost
The journey has ended, o traveler, so hitch up your ride and move on
Home to the place where you came from; you'll be back on the road before long.

Now it is time to go home. The journey has ended.

And thus begins the part that perplexes many an adventurous one. For we all relish the trail, but what of our "real" lives, stuck as they are in the mundaneness of day-to-day routine? How can we experience adventure, relive past journeys, dream of future home? Indeed, what might be done to feed the flame of adventure burning within, despite the fact that one is working a nine to five, paying bills, and arriving home exhausted evening after evening?

Never fear, fellow travelers. There are solutions to the in-between perplexity of daily life. Thus we present the TOP 7 WAYS TO BRING ADVENTURE HOME...

Perhaps the most obvious of the Top 7 is this: FIND AN ADVENTURE HOBBY. We recommend SCUBA diving, though simple activities like hiking or even running (do you dare train for a marathon, a half-marathon, or a triathlon?) would work as well. You may be surprised to discover how much adventure lies literally just past your doorstep. Get on the Internet and do some research about your area--even if you've lived there for years--and look for trails, dive spots, camps within 50 miles of your address. Adventure isn't just about places; it has as much to do with attitude as geographic location. You can find it almost anywhere. Case in point: one AJ reader from Provo, Utah took three weeks of SCUBA classes at night, earned his certification, and suddenly realized that there were worlds he'd never been aware of all around him--namely, water-filled craters and other inland dive spots, some of them thermally heated. Now, when wanderlust hits, he grabs his SCUBA gear instead of staring longingly out the window, and makes for the water. It may not be Palau, but it gives him a taste! And a taste is all you need to hold you over until your next great journey.

A simple strategy, yet extremely effective for some, is to START AN ADVENTURE HOME LIBRARY. Though we recommend your collection be made up primarily of good books, your library might also include great adventure movies and music. Build up an assortment of books to match your interests, and give your library diversity--some fiction here, some travelogues there, photography books, tomes of history, language references and phrase-books, a good atlas. Sometimes, late at night, when the adventure travel bug is particularly active, a good book--selected from a wide assortment of similarly good books--can take you wherever you want to go. We suggest you start with All Elevations Unknown by Sam Jr Lightner, River of No Reprieve by Jeffrey Tayler, and Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer, then build from there.

ADD SOME "LIFE" TO YOUR HOME by getting a fish tank and some real plants, to start. Aquavista ( offers one option, which they term "living art"--a hang-on-the-wall tank set in a picture frame. With a good backlight, this could provide the ambiance of escape you sometimes seek.

LEARN TO COOK TWO OR THREE EXOTIC DISHES. That's right. With an Adventure Library to stimulate your mind, and an Adventure Galleria (see #3) complete with some "living art" (see #5) to stimulate your eyes, a good exotic dish can bring back fond memories of the road--through stimulation of two other senses: smell and taste. Plus it's just a good thing to know.

So you can't fly to Peru as often as you'd like. You might as well TURN A ROOM INTO AN ADVENTURE GALLERIA of sorts. Frame some tourist posters from your favorite places. Hang up a whole gallery of photographs from your adventures. Put up a world map, and chart your past journeys on it with pins and string. Type up a set of "Adventure Goals for Life" and frame them. This would be an ideal place for your Adventure Library. Sometimes you just need to get away--and a room that provides "escape" is a whole lot better than nothing.

OPEN A COUCHSURFING ACCOUNT. The fact is, when it comes to bringing adventures home this is one of the best ways to do it. Hosting fellow travelers from all over the planet can keep you plugged in to the world of the wanderer. Who knows? Maybe you'll get an interesting conversation or two--or maybe you'll make a friend for life. Either way, you're connecting to the wider world between journeys of your own. And don't worry--you can vet potential guests via CS's comprehensive rating system. Besides, in the future it may be you on the (free) couch, somewhere in Poland, chowing down on some (free) homemade bigos.

In our view, the best advice would be to GET INVOLVED IN A GOOD CAUSE. As a globetrotting adventurer, you've certainly seen what the world has to offer in terms of poverty, corruption and greed, ignorance, and plain inhumanity. Stay continually connected to the places of your journeyings by getting involved in worthwhile endeavors that help people. Fight injustice wherever you've witnessed it. Help feed a family--or a hundred. Sponsor a refugee's education. Free Tibet. The possibilities are endless, because the need is so incredibly gargantuan. And there's no better time to start than now. Not only are you bringing your journeys home, but you are lending them true meaning.


Top 7 Adventure Mistakes

At times it seems the world is conspiring to ruin even your best-laid adventure plans. Some things--like political turmoil, bad weather, and the Chinese government's Olympic paranoia--can't be helped. But the seasoned adventurer knows that adhering to a few simple rules can greatly enhance any journey, not to mention prevent some of those less pleasant experiences that have a bad habit of popping up along the way. Having said that, the unexpected is adventure, if embraced and prepared for. Oh yes: you can prepare for the unexpected. Not only that, you can put yourself in a position to squeeze the most out of your experiences. It's all up to you.

Thus, o wandering wanderers, we give you the TOP 7 ADVENTURE MISTAKES.

At number seven: RELYING SOLELY ON THE AIRPLANE. When it comes to international travel, most adventurers appear to rely almost singularly on air travel. The convenience of the airplane is, of course, unmatched in terms of speed, but you may be surprised how often the journey from Point A to Point B can be accomplished using an alternative form of travel. Taking a bus can be a great experience as you cozy up with the locals and take in an on-the-ground view of the countryside. Buses also happen to be loads cheaper than a plane any day of the week. The same almost always goes for trains. Travelers are often surprised at how extensive many third-world countries' rail networks really are--use them! Other alternatives: a shared jeep, a rental car, a motorbike, a bicycle, a boat, or your own two feet. This is where adventure happens!

Next, one that any intrepid traveler finds annoying: GETTING RIPPED OFF. Ripping off foreigners is absolutely accepted practice in two-thirds of the world's countries. Find out how much things really cost before you get to wherever you're going. The big things to look up: accommodation, transportation, food, entrance fees, and typical souvenirs. Ask someone who's lived there or use the Internet--but find out. Too many would-be adventurers end up ripped off less than one hour into their journey. A note: while it's honorable, at first glance, "not to care" about this sort of thing, encouraging a system of dishonesty is probably not the best idea (or the most honorable, either). Stick to your guns and demand fairness--for the sake of those who do operate honestly--and there are many in this last category!

NOT GETTING OUT OF THE CITIES earns our fifth slot. How many times do travelers seeking adventure end up staying almost entirely in some big city? Balance your trip with long forays into more rural settings. It's outside of the noise and smog where that Journey element really comes to life. You'll see: the people are different, the sky is different, the wind is different. No, really--it is. How did the band Live put it? "In the country, stars shine bright." There's a whole new attitude out where Time has had less of an impact on things. Indeed, we always feel sorry for the people who say, "Yeah, I've been to Thailand," and we ask, "Where did you go?" and they answer, "Bangkok" (as great as Bangkok is). The Thai countryside, like countrysides the world over, has so much to offer! Give it a chance! You won't be disappointed. In fact, you'll probably remember it more longingly than any other part of your adventure. At least, that's been our experience.

Here's a biggie: NOT LEARNING A FEW PHRASES IN THE LOCAL LANGUAGE. Better yet, take the time to learn the real basics in the language of your adventure destination of choice; a whole new layer of meaning will be immediately added to the journey. Speaking the language--even in simple, rudimentary fashion--means you can mix with the locals much more freely, which brings a unique set of rewards that are completely missed by those who insist on only using hand-signs or conversing solely with fellow English-speakers.

NOT READING HISTORY has staked out our number three spot. To some, history is a bore. That's because it's usually presented in the form of dryly written prose and printed in some shoddy book. But great history writing is out there--and almost nothing will enhance your adventure more than knowing the history along your chosen journey's path. How many people visit Burma's Bagan without any historical knowledge of Theravada Buddhism? How many people visit Ethiopia but have never heard of the Derg? How many people enjoy the view from Tibet but have never heard of the infamous Seventeen-Point Agreement? How many people walk the streets of Gdansk but know nothing of the Teutonic Knights?

Here's one that can ruin a trip for some while opening up new avenues of adventure for others. It's a common mistake that can be prevented by changing one very important thing: attitude. So, at number two: NOT EXPECTING DELAYS, CANCELLATIONS, LOST BAGGAGE, AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES AND MISHAPS. There are two things you can do when faced with a particularly inconvenient flight cancellation: (1) fly into a rage, or (2) take the opportunity to take in more of the place. Or read a good book. Or chat with your newfound friend. Or eat one last vegetable jalfrezi. If the inconvenience means you have to delay your departure for more than a day, don't sit around the hotel--do something incredible (see #1 on the list). The secret is to expect this type of thing and roll with it. It's going to happen--count on it. Roads will close. Flights will be canceled. Hotels will lose reservations. This is life on the road. Welcome to the journey!

And the number one adventure mistake? NOT PLANNING FOR "OPEN DAYS." What's an "open day?" It's a day, or string of days, that you've left wide open. This is the day you go find a bicycle and start riding. Where? Doesn't matter, just keep going. This is the stuff adventure is made of. Head into the desert. Head into the ocean. Head into the mountains. Head into the country. Walk around the city. Proper precautions should be taken, of course, but leave what happens up to fate--just for the day. What one stumbles upon haphazardly often turns out to be the most meaningful part of one's adventure.