Want to be a cowgirl in the Aussie bush, an adrenaline junkie in the Alps or a surf diva in Costa Rica? Make 2007 the year you chase your wildest dreams.
Words by: Amanda Maclean
Be a backcountry babe at Baldface
Call off the search. To find heaven on earth head to a place called Baldface, a luxury lodge hidden high in the kootenay mountains of British Columbia where guests feast on gourmet meals, bask in the outdoor sauna and ride powder all day long.
Pack your snorkel, because you’ll be going deep into the white. Annual snowfall here is 12 metres and there’s plenty to plough through in a day – 5,500 vertical metres, and 145km2 of terrain are all yours. Repeat. No punters but you lot! You might even get to name a first descent. So, how do you access this powder triangle? In toasty-warm, snack-filled snowcats that deliver you at astonishing speeds to wherever you want to go – steep chutes, big fat bowls or fun-filled forests. Guest to guide ratio is six to one, snowcat capacity is 12 and, unlike fair-weather choppers, hardy snowcats head out in almost anything.
You might be reluctant to leave the lodge with massage therapists, gourmet chefs and the barman on standby, but save those services for after the final run each day when the body needs some TLC and you can’t wipe that smug smile off your face.
Insider tips: Ladies will be taking over the lodge on March 18-22 for four days and four nights of pow and pampering. L’freq Week has 36 places that are filling fast. Price $2861.70CAD (£1,355), which includes catered accommodation, guided cat skiing and snowboarding, pro coaching, yoga and pampering.
Book it: Prices start at $450CAD (£213) per person per day (low season), and most guests stay for four days/nights. To get there, fly to Vancouver or Calgary, then Castlegar, BC, which is a 20-minute, £10 taxi drive from the Baldface helipad in Nelson. You’ll be picked up by helicopter (an extra £90) and whizzed off to Baldface lodge at 2000m. Guests are advised to warm up on the local ski fields in Nelson, and must be competent riding powder. Visit baldface.net for full details.
Be an adrenaline junkie in the Alps
Wimps and bookworms need not apply; Crystal Active’s so-called breaks are just the ticket for adventure seekers with an aversion to sun loungers. R&R comes in the form of hiking, biking, horse riding, rock climbing, kayaking, canyoning, rafting, paragliding, skiing and snowboarding. you can opt out if the going gets too tough, but it’s much more fun to play along. On rock, river or land, qualified guides and tip-top, safety-checked equipment will help nurse you through the wobbles if you’re a beginner, or turn you into a certified junkie if you’re already half way there. In some activities, guests are split into novice and competent groups so everyone gets a chance to hone their skills.
Crystal Active’s playgrounds include Chamonix, Les Gets, Saalbach, Kaprun and Mayrhofen, resorts that are just as lively in the summer as they are in the winter, so save some energy for the bars and clubs. Accommodation is usually in comfy chalets, with meals (and packed lunch) included. Guaranteed there’ll be plenty of like-minded souls collapsed around the dinner table, so you can stay in and make your own fun, head out and party into the early hours or go to bed with a book, but I bet you won’t finish it!
Insider tips: If you can’t find anyone to travel with, go solo and you’ll make friends in a jiffy. In May, June and September, there are no single supplements, and some resorts are supplement-free all season.
Book it: Seven nights at Club Active Abendruh, in Kaprun, starts at £409, which includes flights, transfers, all meals, guided mountain biking, white water rafting, windsurfing, canyoning, climbing and hiking. Paragliding, horse trekking, golf, tennis and skiing/snowboarding are optional extras. Deduct £100 if you want to drive or book your own flight from the UK. For a brochure, visit crystalholidays.co.uk.
Be a surf diva in Costa Rica
Why cross an ocean for a romp with the surf when you can have one at home for a fraction of the price? For warm water, paradise beaches, jungle boogies, mojitos at sunset and the world’s number one surf school for women.
At Surf Diva’s new school in Costa Rica you won’t find rocks, crowds, traffic or high rises – just a three mile stretch of palm-lined beach with uncrowded surf and clean waves. With so much room to progress, coaches have to tempt riders out of the breaks with hot Costa Rican coffee, mango smoothies and freshly baked goodies. Afternoon yoga, jungle walks and relaxing massages punctuate the day, and if you want more action you can go deep-sea fishing, horse riding and zip-lining Tarzanstyle through the jungle. The evening vibe is super-chilled. you’ll dine alfresco on local seafood and tropical flavours, sip sumptuous cocktails and salsa-dance the night away. The hotel is set in a tiny little fishing village where iguanas sun themselves on the roof and monkeys play in the trees right outside your window. Welcome to the jungle!
Insider tips: Boys are allowed. If you want more privacy, upgrade to the Decadent Diva package, which includes luxury lodging on a private beach and a personal chef.
Book it: Viva la Diva packages start at uS$1,975 (£1000) for one week including all equipment, lessons, plus return transfers. Fly to San Jose. Prices from Europe approx. £500. Visit surfdiva.com and opodo.com for the best deals on flights.
Be a jillaroo in the outback
Mustering cattle on horseback, picnic lunches by the creek, wrestling calves in the paddock – it may sound like the all-Australian cliché, but if you’re after a wild adventure on a shoestring budget, it’ll be the best £220 you ever spent.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never ridden before, Leconfield’s Jackaroo and Jillaroo School, in New South Wales, claims to turn even city girls into cowgirls in under a week. On its fast-track, five-day course, you’ll pick up the skills of the trade, starting with a ride among the gum trees for a lesson in horsemanship, bush survival and local bush tucker. When you’re not out bush mustering cattle and sheep, you’ll be in the paddocks trying to lasso calves, shear sheep and shoe horses. Expect to get your hands dirty wrestling and branding calves in the yard and take your swimmers for crossing the creek with your trusty mount. You’ll sleep in bunks, eat around campfires, make great friends and wish you could stay for ever. Alas, at the end of the course when you’re a fullyfledged new chum Jillaroo, follow the flock into Tamworth, the local town, for some well earned cold beers to soothe the heartache and saddle sore.
Insider tips: Leave your heels behind for this adventure. Just pack a towel, toiletries, hat, sunscreen, repellent, swimmers and some tatty work clothes. You can borrow an old pair of boots. For gappers who want to Jillaroo for real after the course, Leconfield helps graduates find mustering jobs in New South Wales.
Book it: Leconfield five-day Jackeroo and Jillaroo School costs $550 AUD (£220), which includes a pick-up and drop-off at Tamworth YHA hostel (420kms north-west of Sydney), bunkhouse accommodation, all meals and all activities. Novice and experienced riders welcome. Visit leconfield.com.
Be a fitness freak in Africa
A Wild Fitness break in Kenya is the perfect antidote for anyone feeling like a hamster on the wheel keeping fit in a gym. Here, you’ll discover your ‘inner panther’ as you stride barefoot across bleached white sand, race up sand dunes and play chase in the coconut clearings.
‘We work on the qualities you see in panthers: agility, co-ordination, balance, strength and speed,’ says Wild Fitness founder Tara Wood. ‘You get fit while you’re having fun.’ Guests stay at Baraka, an elegant hideaway with the Indian ocean at the bottom of the garden and an indigenous forest stretching back from the house. Much activity is done in Baraka’s own back yard – early morning snorkelling in the coral reefs, primal skills on the beach, yoga in the Dojo hut and sunset meditations on the roof terrace. Outings include a 3km swim across a creek, swimming with dolphins and a reggae night in the local bars.
You’ll survive (and thrive) on a caveman’s diet: no sugar, grains or starch, but fresh seafood, organic meat and salads galore. Meals are served five times a day to optimise your physical performance. You can eat with your knife and fork, but paws might be quicker – you’ll be ravenous!
Insider tips: Listen to the science bit when personal trainers, nutritionists and holistic therapists tell you how to keep your inner animal alive when you’re out of Africa, and paradise is long gone.
Book it: Prices start at £2,205 for the nine-day kick start package, excluding flights. Fly to Nairobi then Mombasa or Malindi. Visit wildfitness.co.uk.
Be an explorer in Rajasthan
Forget the air-conditioned coach; to embrace the wonder of India, explore it on two wheels. The colourful northern state of Rajasthan, known as the land of the kings, encapsulates the essence of India with its sun-drenched deserts, ancient Hindu palaces, vibrant people, bustling cities and exotic markets. Travel by bike and you’ll slice right through its heart and soul.
‘People love the buzz of seeing life at the roadside – getting mobbed by inquisitive kids, overtaking elephants threading their way through the streets, spotting camels waiting at traffic lights and getting caught up in the general noise and chaos of the towns,’ says Richard Mclaughlin, founder of Adventure Café, which organises 17-day guided cycling trips to this exotic land.
The Riding with the Maharajahs adventure starts at the Taj Mahal, in Agra, and weaves west into the desert, taking in the thriving city of Jaipur and the fairytale lakeside towns of Pushkar and Udaipur, dubbed the ‘Venice of the east’. you’ll cycle an average of 80kms (50 miles) a day, mainly on the flat, pulling up in tea shacks or markets on the roadside to rest and refuel, and breaking regularly to feast on the fabulous sights and sunsets. Some nights you’ll sleep under the stars (and mosquito nets), but mostly you’ll be in comfortable guesthouses with showers. If ever there was an adventure about the journey, not the destination, this has to be it.
‘So many adventures are focused on the goal, and if people don’t achieve that goal, they think they’ve failed,’ says Mclaughlin. ‘This trip is a cultural exploration. There is so much to see and take in, and such a fi ne tradition of hospitality that it’s hard not to fall in love with Rajasthan.’
Insider tips: Take your own bike and the right tyres for bumpy roads. plan the trip at least two months in advance to have inoculations and to upgrade your cycling fitness.
Book it: Adventure Café is running two Rajasthan trips in 2007: March 1-17 and November 1-17. price £899, which includes accommodation, cycling guides and airportn transfers from and back to Delhi. Flights are extra, plus you’ll need to check with the airline that you can carry your bike on board. Hire a bike box from your local bike shop. Return flights to Delhi cost approx £400 in low season. Visit adventure-cafe.com.
Be a water baby in the Med
On a Sunsail holiday in the Mediterranean, water babies can mess around on boats and boards from dawn till dusk and never get bored. you can take your pick from dinghies, catamarans, windsurfs, day yachts, wakeboards, water-skis and canoes. Qualified watersports staff will help launch you on whatever craft tickles your fancy and rescue boats are on the water to keep you on the right tack.
You can merrily switch from boards to boats as the days fl oat by, and take part in all the races, but to add a little structure to the week, sign up for a RYA course. All five Sunsail Clubs in Greece and Turkey offer two-day beginner and improver RYA courses in dinghy sailing, catamaran and windsurfing. Budding yacht masters can do a three-day flotilla training course, and wakeboarders can opt for the big air Lee Whitehead at photolounge.co.uk. course with top wakeboard instructors. If and when you do feel like beaching, tennis, fi tness classes and mountain bikes are free, and when you’re pooped, spa treatments and plenty of sun loungers are nearby.
Singles, couples, groups and families add to the mix of a Sunsail holiday, and the day and night vibe is always relaxed and informal. Watersports staff usually lay on light-hearted evening entertainment around the pool or at the beach bars, but all resorts are near towns if you’re after a different scene.
Insider tips: Make the most of what’s included in the price of the package: all nonmotorised watersports and teaching clinics, and loads of shore-based activities. If you’ve got a skipper’s licence, or befriend someone who has, it’s also free to spend the day cruising around in a day yacht. Wakeboarding, waterskiing and RYA courses are extra. Some clubs also offer scuba diving.
Book it: Sunsail has four clubs in Turkey and one in Greece. Seven nights at Club Phokaia, Sunsail’s new flagship club in Turkey, starts at £579, inclusive of flights, transfers and half board accommodation.