5 far-flung adventures to see away the winter blues
Phew, January’s nearly over and the final furlong of winter approaches, but it’s biting hard now and, to be honest, sitting in front of the telly in a onesie still feels like a good option. But I have just the thing to put a spring back in your step and get you out of that onesie and into a pair of shorts quicker than you can say Phileas Fogg.
May I introduce Cheltenham-based Abercrombie & Kent, a travel company that specialises in the kind of edge-of-the-world adventure that appeals to your inner Gertrude Bell? With people on the ground (I did offer my services – please, PRETTY PLEASE), they know exactly where to go to blast away those winter blues – and they’ve obligingly let me in on their hot tips for 2017. Let’s get that holiday booked!
Best for wildlife: Rwanda
It wasn’t long ago that the words Rwanda and cute would be unthinkable in the same sentence, but the once-troubled African country has moved on from its turbulent past and now offers travellers unbeatable access to our closest cousins (and their incredibly cute young). Last year, the Akagera National Park – one of the oldest on the continent – was given a new lease of life, with upgraded facilities (think eco-luxe) and the reintroduction of animals (elephants, leopards and giraffe, as well as primates), putting it well and truly back on the Big Five map. Tracking and hacking through thick jungle to meet a troop of mountain gorillas must rank as one of the most unforgettable experiences of a lifetime.
Best for following in ancient footsteps: The Silk Road, China
If the thought of trekking across the Gobi Desert and traversing the ancient Karakorum Highway makes the adventurer in you tingle with excitement, then me too! You just have to say the words ‘Hindu Kush’ and I’m there, majestically balanced on a camel, my head swathed in a brightly coloured scarf. Admittedly, this one is best booked for later in the year (September is optimum), but that just gives you more time to daydream about sleeping in a yurt in the shadow of the Tian Shan Mountains, lunching with Ulghur artisans, exploring the Thousand Buddha Grottoes and shopping for cloth and spices at the Kashgar bazaar… Sign me up!
Best for island adventure: Madagascar
OK, this looks good – turquoise ocean, white sandy beach, tropical landscape – but Madagascar is not your average island paradise. Indeed, the east African archipelago is new to the ‘luxurious lodge’ world and all the better for it. Renowned for its wildlife, ocean life, flora and fauna, as well as mountains, deserts, waterfalls and coral reefs, there’s not a lot it doesn’t offer the intrepid traveller looking for more than a flop on a palm-fringed beach. But you get that too – result!
Best for dramatic expeditions: Patagonia
First stop Buenos Aries, the so-called ‘Paris of the south’ thanks to its wide promenades, colonial architecture and ready supply of fine merlot (sounds good!); next stop, Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. You’ll be wanting Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia as reading matter – he visited over 40 years ago, but his storytelling still stands – and your camera at the ready to capture some of world’s most dramatic scenery as you ride, trek, kayak and mountain bike through soaring mountains, pampas grasslands, glaciers, lakes, fjords and snowfields.
Best for everything: South Australia
If you want it all – native wildlife, indigenous culture, wide-open spaces, award-winning vineyards and surf-bashed beaches – this underrated Oz state is the place to go. It’s even got cool bars to throw into the mix (all adventurers need a watering hole, after all), as the capital Adelaide is apparently home to some seriously hip hangouts (I know!). You can stick to the red-tinged outback (Bruce Chatwin would come in handy here too) or make for the Murray River for a new trek introduced last year which mixes waterside hiking with houseboat life and plenty of bush luxe. I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! eat your heart out.
Abercrombie & Kent, St Georges House, Ambrose Street, Cheltenham GL50 3LG. Tel: 01242 547760. abercrombiekent.co.uk