Beyond the surf and sand hide rivers, jungles, and nations lost in time. Far off the beaten path, many of these destinations seem extreme and dangerous, but adventurers pursue them. Why trade resort comfort for the brutality of nature? Nature stimulates humanity’s primal instincts. They lie dormant, softened by the leisurely lifestyle that civilization became. If those feelings stir, then look no further. These are the adult Boy Scout camping trips and the deep African jungle expeditions. A word of warning though, each destination requires peak physical condition and finesse. Carelessness often means death, but few other places invigorate the soul as these untamed lands.
Literally between a rock and a hard place, this isolated province in Mongolia divides the Khangai Mountain Range and the Gobi Desert. Few live here. In fact, in 1994, the population stunted. Only nomadic villages and farmers remain. Life flourishes, however, as expansive grass plains, open steppes, rolling desert dunes, and forested mountains grow uncontested. Plan a week to trek across this varied ecosystem by camel and horseback. Expert riding skills are not mandatory; guides are wise to choose animals that are equal to the rider’s skill. In this untarnished land untouched by human hands, one must, so to speak, keep their hands-off. Guides encourage guests to camp light (there are no hotels here), never leave anything behind, and bathe without soap to keep the water pristine. The way nature intended.
Extreme cold snaps drop the temperatures to an unimaginable -80 degrees so it’s no surprise that the Yukon win the prize for “coldest place in North America.” Extreme temperatures don’t deter the ancestral tradition of dog sledding. Alaskan and Siberian huskies, each born and bred with frost in their veins, offer the best survival companion anyone could hope for. The success of any dog sled team depends on a relationship built on trust between canine and human. The dogs alone cannot do all the work. Experienced mushers compare dog sledding to cross-country skiing, so don’t expect a casual stroll through this Canadian neighborhood. The occasional cabin will permit rest minus running water or electricity. The rewards for a race well run are old gold mines, varied wildlife, and a clear night sky with the brightest view of the aurora borealis.
Rio Futaleufu, Chile
A vicious river fed by glacial and snowmelt, the Rio Futaleufu tests the mettle of any experienced rafters and kayakers. The river’s rapids twist and turn at extreme speeds. Travelers are under constant threat of capsizing or colliding with the rocks. The thrill is unparalleled. A wondrous ecosystem awaits those that combat the river and win. Snow-tipped mountains, lush forests, and beautiful rock formations that the locals refer to as “un paisaje pintado por dios”—a landscape painted by God provide backdrop to the excitement. At 153 miles in length, the trip lasts several days so brush up on those camping skills.
For centuries, the Inuit have inhabited this brutal yet gorgeous land, so they know a thing or two about survival. A trip to Greenland means learning endurance. Sleep in igloos, fish for food, and learn vital survival techniques that will help overcome the physically and mentally exhausting adventure ahead. Greenland houses the largest fjord in the world along with a host of wildlife. Foxes, hares, wolves, and walruses call Greenland home. Polar bears are also common, so stick close to your guides.
The mountain gorillas are as beautiful as they are shy. Living deep in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, these fascinating animals live under the protection of the Ugandan government and good thing too since less than 900 remain. Thankfully, this national park welcomes all to view the rich ecosystem and its inhabitants. Expeditions into the dense and humid jungle offer the curious a phenomenal opportunity to see these gentle creatures and understand them. Don’t worry though, contrary to belief, these gorillas generally keep to themselves and rarely show aggression.