Jun 20, 2012 4:55:58 AM
The biggest adrenaline rushes
Take a deep breath, get strapped in and feel the buzz as we bring you the thrill-seekers’ bucket list, from Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Experiences.
1. Big Shot Ride, USA
This ride, atop the 280m, 110-storey Stratosphere observation tower in Las Vegas, has incredible views – but you’ll be too busy vomiting up your intestines to notice. The Big Shot runs on compressed air, which, with incredible force, rockets you in your harness from the ride’s base to the top of the Big Shot’s 49m tower in just over two seconds. As you shake about in your seat like a rag doll, at a combined total of over 300m above ground, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars you didn’t wear white underwear.
It’s on the boulevard, on top of the Stratosphere Hotel; you can ride it 10am–1am Sunday to Thursday, open until 2am on Friday and Saturday.
2. Motorcycle-taxi ride, Thailand
This is one of the most dangerous rides of them all: three people die every hour in Bangkok traffic. Motorcycle-taxi riders bob in and out of endless lines of cars at alarming speeds, often mounting pavements, and wipe-outs occur with shocking regularity. Often the injured rider or passenger is carted off to hospital in a passing tuk tuk (not the most comforting way to get treatment). Just hang on tight, squeeze your legs in even tighter to avoid getting kneecapped by a passing car, say your Hail Marys and hope for the best.
Look for the orange vests worn by licensed taxi riders, who are legally required to carry a spare helmet; motorcycle taxis are usually down the sois just off the main roads.
3. Rock climbing, USA
They say Yosemite Valley is climbing mecca, with climbs coveted by ‘rock heads’ far and wide, and a degree of difficulty that has necessitated many technical innovations. Even today, as the most demanding ascents have crumbled, aficionados still point to El Capitan, Yosemite’s 915m granite wall, as the planet’s greatest rock climb. Just because it’s been mastered doesn’t mean it’s now a pushover – recently, several experienced climbers died when the weather turned unexpectedly foul. If you make it, you deserve to puff up your chest, because you’re simply the best! Better than all the rest!
Be prepared to self-rescue; it is illegal to camp at the base of any wall; read the climbers’ guide at www.nps.gov/yose.
4. Parasailing, Mexico
Parasailing was invented in Acapulco and that’s no surprise: it’s an absolutely prime location for floating upon the air, with a spectacular, panoramic view of the city, the hills and the islands beyond Acapulco Bay. You take off from the beach and you land on the beach, and while it feels dangerous and edgy, it really is as safe as houses, except for the yapping jaws of the dogs that chase you on your descent.
Operators abound at Contesa Beach; rides cost around US$20 and are easy to arrange except during the busy spring holiday season.
5. Zambezi river rafting, Zambia & Zimbabwe
The British Canoe Union classes this white-water run as an extreme Grade V: violent rapids, steep gradients, massive drops. One of the rapids is called ‘Oblivion’ and is said to flip more canoes than any other on the planet. You might be able to flip it the bird once you’ve conquered it, but then you must contend with the ‘Devil’s Toilet Bowl’, the ‘Gnashing Jaws of Death’ and ‘Commercial Suicide’. It takes a special breed of cat to lick the Zambezi, as you’ll discover as you’re speared, sucked and jettisoned in and out of these rapids like a pinball.
Commercial operators like Safari Par Excellence operate on both countries’ shores; July to January serves up the best water conditions.
6. Running with the bulls, Spain
Is there any more potent sign of madness than the sight of thousands of lunatics charging ahead of a pack of snorting, rampaging bulls through the narrow streets of Pamplona? Actually, there is: the sight of a man impaled on the end of a bull’s horn. Ever since Ernest Hemingway popularised the event, running with the bulls has come to symbolise some kind of macho pinnacle. You can tell the ones who come back year after year – they walk wobbly due to their plastic hip, or they can’t pee straight because they got gored and lost their manhood.
Bull runs start at 8am every day from 7 to 14 July; runners must enter before 7.30am. Once you start running it is technically illegal to stop.
7. Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, Australia
Follow in Aussie comedian Paul Hogan’s footsteps, prefame – he worked as a rigger on the ‘Coat Hanger’, the world’s largest steel-arch bridge; its summit is 134m above sea level. The climb takes over three hours and it’s a hairy thrill, with cars and people below like ants, and lovely Sydney Harbour before you, but old grannies do it, as do young kids (accompanied by adults). Apparently even Kylie Minogue has done it, and for some folk just following in the Singing Budgie’s footsteps is all the thrill they need.
Book online at www.bridgeclimb.com; choose to climb day, night, twilight or dawn on the first Saturday of each month. Prices vary from AU$179–295.
8. Swimming with sharks, South Africa
So, tough guy – dolphins not edgy enough for you? Try swimming with a great white off Dyer Island. All you have to do is jump in a cage and be lowered into a school of hungry sharks. As they peer in helplessly with those dead black eyes, you might think ‘this is soft!’ Think again. Smaller sharks have been known to butt their way through the bars – there’s your adrenalin rush, right there. Some operators bait sharks before sending tourists down, and a debate rages about subsequent harmful effects. Make an informed decision before descending.
From April to August most operators can almost guarantee the sharks will appear; a day on the water is typically around R1500, including pick up from where you’re staying.
9. ‘Edge of Space’ flights, Russia
This must be the ultimate high for mainline adrenalin junkies: strapping yourself into a MiG-29 fi ghter jet and submitting to speeds of Mach 3.2 at a height of 25km – the edge of space – where the sky is black and earth spreads out beneath you. The pilot might even let you take the controls, but make sure you’re not too jittery and bank too far, otherwise you might be forced to draw upon that ejector-seat training they put you through.
A MiG-29 adventure will cost around US$12,500; fl ying out of the Flight Research Institute at Zhukovsky. For details visit www.flymig.com.
10. Swimming with dolphins, New Zealand
These graceful and playful creatures are guaranteed to quicken the pulse of anyone lucky enough to get near them, with their undeniable intelligence and exuberant personalities. They get frisky and acrobatic only if they feel like it (which is fair enough), so a new trend has taken root: swimmers sing not only to attract dolphins, but also to get them in the mood. Apparently Elvis tunes do the trick nicely.
Tours leave from Kaikoura; book online, www.dolphin.co.nz is one of the oldest operators. Costs are around NZ$150.