Seasoned traveller Ian Wright gives a whistle-stop guide to the world’s best treks. Glaciers to volcanos, fjords to rapids and horses to huskies – you name it he’s trekked it, and Ian’s tour takes in the most adventurous and most scenic locations on earth.
In Africa, Nikki Grosse endures a gruelling six day hike through the Rwenzori mountain range along the Ugandan-Zairian border. Her route takes her across extreme terrains and stunning glaciers, deservedly dubbed Mountains of the Moon, culminating in a staggering 15,000 feet ascent of the Margherita summit.
In the former French colony of Mali, Justine Shapiro treks one of the most spectacular routes in Western Africa where the Dogon villages celebrate the Fetes de Mask in April and May, a major festival commemorating the dead and celebrating the harvest. Ian himself conquers the mighty Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, rising six hours before dawn to take in the awe-inspiring sunrise from Gilman’s Point.
When it comes to the planet’s best treks on water, Andrew Daddo survives the rapids of the Zambezi Gorge in the heart of Zimbabwe, while on the other side of the world, in the USA, Hulapai Indians run rafting trips along the Colorado River. Not to mention Idaho’s Salmon River, the largest undammed river in the whole of the United States. The rafts in Thailand are rather more rickety, but if you don’t mind getting your feet wet floating down theMae Tieng River on a few lumps of bamboo held together by bits of grass is a great way to get about. In Greenland the Inuits in the far north are the only people in the world who still hunt whales. Their preferred mode of transport in these parts is kayak and its a perfect excuse for Ian to learn to execute an Eskimo roll.
In Asia, Neil Gibson puts his best boot forward to tackle the Rush Peak Trek in the Karakorum mountain range in Northern Pakistan. East of Pakistan is Nepal, where the treks on offer range from full-scale climbing to a gentle stroll along well-used footpaths. Nepal is also the home of the mother goddess of the world. She’s Chumalumgma to the Sherpas but we know her as good old Mount Everest. There’s four routes to the top of the world’s highest mountain but Ian’s not about to join the George Mallory Club.
When it comes to the best riding treks, Ian has just the ticket to spare your legs and take in some of the remotest regions. In Kirghistan in Central Asia the most skilled horsemen you’ll ever meet make use of the four-legged beast in all aspects of daily life. Ian gets into the saddle to explore Australia’s Mount Buffalo National Park, but in Morocco there’s a different beast altogether in the harness: from the town of Zagora you can take a camel trip into the heart of the Sahara Desert, where the Tuareg nomads, named after the blue sash they wore, once lived. Husky dogs the best bet in Greenland, though, and the Inuit people have used dog-sleds to get about in the harshest conditions for centuries. Ian finds out to his peril that once the dogs start running they’ll only stop for seal meat, bad-driving or a fight with the opposition.
In South America, Neil Gibson hikes the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, the ruins of the Inca capital to which they retreated after their defeat by the Spanish. The city was built even before the invention of the wheel so they transported their building materials by chasquis, runners who formed a relay team through the hills. In the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile are some of the youngest mountains, a mere twelve million years old. Its also home to the six-thousand-foot high granite pillars, the highest rock walls in the world. Just over the border in Argentina is the vast region of Patagonia and Justine makes her way down to Los Glacieras National Park to pay a visit to the awesome glaciers, the most famous of which is Perito Moreno, named after the 19th century explorer who discovered it.
Trekking doesn’t only involve epic feats of endurance, hikes are equally adventurous journeys covering shorter distances. Shilpa Mehta takes the pilgrim trail to Santiago in Northern Spain along the Route of St James. Many hikers time their walk to coincide with the festival of St James in Santiago which takes place on the apostal’s birthday, 25th July. But of all the world’s hiking landscapes there’s little to compare with the awesome power of an active volcano. Glimpses of the explosive lava flow of Pacayama in Guatemala and Yasur on the Pacific Island of Vanatu are, as Megan McCormick discovers, nothing compared to the stupendous explosions of Kilaeuea on the island of Hawaii.
Places Mentioned - Argentina, Australia, Chile, Greenland, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Spain, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, USA, Zaire, ZimbabweShare the series