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My husband had a brief love of Bear Grylls and decided we were going to start going on some adventure holidays. I gave in to him slightly bemused, and bought him the Rough Guide Ultimate Adventures book. Priced at £16.99 in my local bookstore, it wasn't the cheapest book but be seemed happy with it.
When he wasn't looking (I didn't want him to actually think we were going on any of these holidays!), I had a look through and couldn't believe what I'd actually bought for him! I got hooked on the book and read the whole lot, rather enviously realising that I wasn't adventurous in the slightest!
I expected the book to be full of adventure holidays that a fairly 'adventurous' person may go on, but what it actually contains is a collection of rather eccentric holidays suitable only for massive adrenalin junkies with never ending budgets. This book is interesting only for me, in the fact that it bemuses me slightly that people actually go on holidays such as these. I thought that a walk along the Great Wall of China or a trek in Argentina was fairly adventurous but these are mild in comparison.
While the book is packed full of ideas and expert advice, it is taking 'outdoor adventures' to the extreme, and I can't see us going on one of these holidays (and we are quite well travelled!).
Each holiday is graded with four factors, skill, physical, psych and WOW! This is supposed to make it easy to select the perfect adventure for you, however it just made me realise how incapable and boring I am!!
So, now for the bit you've all been waiting for, some of the ultimate adventures for you to select! How about exploring in the Mulu Caves in Borneo? Watch out for the bats though! Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is another option, although the trek isn't that tortuous (?!) watch out for low oxygen levels which can make you winded by just tying your shoe lace. Tracking mountain gorillas and coming face to face with a Silverback is obviously something everyone should try, they only weigh 180kg and stand 1.7 metres tall. Perhaps a camel trek through the Sahara is more your thing?
I should have perhaps read the recommendations at the back of the book. Seeing who they are written by should have given me some idea of the content (I didn't even leaf through the book before purchasing!): 'Ultimate Adventures is fantastic, well written, perfectly organised and absolutely inspiring. These adventures are irresistible'. Apa Sherpa, World Record Holder for most climbs of Mount Everest!!! The second glowing report is by Cam McLeay, leader of the first successful White Nile descent, no less! Broken down by Continent, the book is easy to leave through and indexing each activity in the back in an easy table, labelling the star rating for ease of reference.
After a quick refresher exercise I've just leafed through the book again to refresh my memory and I can now happily say that I have completed one of the 177 adventure holidays! Go me! At the tender age of 16 I canoed down the Ardeche. Go me! Woooo! Although this is one of the easiest things to do in the book scoring ony 2 out of 5 for each of the four indicators. I have to disagree with all of them! It was physically draining and amazingly 'Wow', so the author doesn't know what he's talking about! He does actually, he hikes more miles than he drives, wears out boots faster than car tyres and to name but a few accolades has crossed the Grand Canyon on foot more than a dozen times, climbed Colorado's three highest peaks in three days and in one summer hiked 700 miles. Greg Witt, I salute you!
For me, although I have written quite negative things about this book, it is expertly written, gives sound expert advice and is exceptionally laid out. It is however, completely the wrong book for us and is meant for people that dedicate their lives to exhilarating and physical adventures.
Ultimate Adventures is a collection, compiled by Greg Witt under the Rough Guide banner of, well, Ultimate Adventures. As I consider myself to be fairly adventurous and well travelled I thought this would be another good addition to my collection of travel coffee table books. I was expecting a mix of fantasy/dream adventures and realistic attainable adventures but unfortunately these are mainly niche adventures.
The book is divided by region, and starts with USA and Canada which is easily the biggest region in the book, approximately twice the size of any other, so its would seem I don't even live in the right country for an adventurous lifestyle. In fact the first adventure activity featured is Heli-Skiing in British Columbia. Here, instead of the humble chairlift, you take a helicopter to the peak to ski down. Obviously this isn't an activity for the novice or even average standard skier, or for those on a limited budget. I skip forward a few pages and read about NW USA's Mount Rainier which the book invites me to climb. Now, I did a bit of rock climbing some years back, in Australia, however there were no icefalls or avalanche risks there, so the requirement of solid mountaineering skills leaves me back home on the sofa. To be honest, I'm not that disappointed, it sounded a bit too much like hard work.!
So what does South America have to offer me? Kiteboarding in Prea, Brazil? Now that sounds fun! Indeed it looks fun and exhilarating, although it requires balance and co-ordination, two skills I don't have in abundance it could be possible, although high winds could cause problems for novice boarders such as myself, I have slight visions of a Mary Poppins moment as I soar into the sky attached to kite, followed by an ungracious landing. Perhaps somewhere tamer for my first attempt at kiteboarding.
So what else is there to inspire me in this book? Is it all extreme adventures that only experienced people can participate in? No, there are wildlife viewing in Nepal or Galapagos Islands, trekking all over the world and canoe/rafting trips, such as rafting the White Nile in East Africa, or other activities such as cycling in rural China. However such things don't come cheap, so what do we have closer to home?
England offers Coast to Coast walks, which give you the spectacular scenery of The Lake District and Yorkshire Dales either as sequential weekend walks or a longer 10-14 day hike staying at local pubs and Bed & breakfasts along the way, This is accessible and viable but not exactly the adrenaline rush of skydiving or white-water rafting. It seems that is all the UK has to offer is some nice walks and the odd cycle ride with the exception of 'coasteering' in Wales. This, apparently, is where you are wet suited up, life jacket and hard hat on, you run around and clamber the Welsh coastline and treat each rock and inlet as something else to traverse across rather than go round.
I feel I have been quite negative about this book. That is a bit unfair as it is well written, informative, well put together with some lovely colour photographs. However I personally found the adventures a little far out in some places, as far as extreme sports goes, and I expected that. I am never going to climb a major mountain and I am quite happy about it. But also the rest were quite tame but in far flung places, I have done some safaris and game watching in the places listed and canoed the Zambesi, and jumped out of planes and off of bridges. But the remaining offered suggestions of walks and cycle rides, whilst having a certain appeal, weren't inspiring me or else I felt I'd already been there, done that (although sometimes in a different place).
My ideal travel coffee table book is one that you can pick up and browse at any time and get lost within the pages. I just haven't done that with this book, it's not for me.