Extreme Travel


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January 20th 2018
Published: January 20th 2018
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I generally do not travel to extreme or dangerous places, at least, not intentionally. Extreme is different than dangerous. But it appears as though I have been to a few.



From a list of the big ten:




The driest place on Earth: Atacama Desert, Chile



You'll definitely need the right kind of sunscreen if you plan on traveling through this desert. According to both NASA and National Geographic, the Atacama Desert in Chile has soil comparable to that of Mars. (Fun fact: Mars scenes from the television series Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets were filmed here.) From October 1903 to January 1918, the Atacama Desert did not see so much as one drop of rain, making it the longest rainless period in the world’s recorded history. Sparsely populated, the Atacama Desert has several hotels to choose from that cater to tourists who come to explore the land. Mike and I spent the better part of three days here, including a car that would not start, in the middle of the desert, nobody else around! But visiting the desert here is a stark contrast to Patagonia, and the Beagle Channel near Ushuaia.




The coldest inhabited place on Earth: Oymyakon, Russia



As the coldest inhabited place on earth (with a recorded temperature of -96.16 degrees F in 1924), the small Russian town of Oymyakon, with a population of 500, was once only used as a location for political exiles. Winter temperatures average at about -58 degrees F, which has a serious on effect on body function. The ground is permanently frozen all year long and the town currently has only one hotel. Popular sports include skiing, ice hockey and ice fishing. I got within 2500 miles of Oymyakon, when I was in Vladivostok. And even closer when I was in Skovorodino, Russia (while on the Trans Siberian Railway), a mere 1278 miles away.

I did not set out or plan to visit these extreme areas. The Atacama was part of my drive through Chile from top to bottom. And I cannot even remember getting off the train in Skovorodino. Coldfoot, Alaska was cold enough at zero degrees F!!! Pick your poison carefully.



Now this was a real adventure. Mike and I stopped here for a few days on our way to several safaris in central Africa.


Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


Ethiopia—home to a 1,700-year-old Christian civilization, the birthplace of modern humans, and the coffee bean—is climbing back onto the international stage with an assist from China, which has gotten busy building new highways across the country and finishing a new airline terminal in the capital of Addis Ababa, seat of the African Union. It's more feasible than ever to use Addis as a base to explore what the rest of the country has to offer. To the north, the “historical route” connects Aksum, the fourth-century home of the Ark of the Covenant, to the medieval castles of Gondar, as well as the 12th-century rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and the grass-roofed monasteries of Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile. In the south, the Omo Valley is home to a diverse and vanishing number of tribes in a landscape that’s lush and raw and the Danikil Depression, reachable by helicopter, the hottest and one of the deepest places on earth. With so much to see, make sure to take some time in Addis, too: to view the famous skeleton of Lucy at the National Museum, drink a macchiato at Tomoca Coffee (just okay), share a plate of injera (yuck!), the teff flatbread used to eat stewed meat and veggies, and sample the hopping Ethio-jazz scene in one of the city’s historic night clubs. —Alex Postman GK says skip Addis!!!! It is a cesspool, and a challenge to navigate.




My suggestion for any of you seeking adventure: just let it happen, do not make it your goal. Even the three African safaris were relatively safe and predictable, in retrospect. I would worry more about pickpockets, hotel theft, and opportunistic cab drivers. I was a long way from home, not likely to ever set foot there again.



So, what is the craziest place you have visited?



Speaking of which, there are only a few places I would never visit again. Tangiers, Morocco comes to mind, as does Machu Picchu, Peru, Siberia, and Stonehenge. In the U.S., I would never re-visit the Great Mall in Minneapolis, Disney World and the Everglades in Florida, and any of Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

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