For the 156th consecutive year, the World Tourism Federation (WTF) has named Mount Everest the world’s top place to visit.
“Many tourism sites and attractions claim to be among the world’s best, but only Mount Everest, at 29,028 feet, can claim to top them all,” said WTF spokesperson Bob Payne.
In addition to its altitude, a number of other factors have helped Everest win the prestigious award so consistently, Payne said.
Among the factors are:
Except during the April and May climbing season, when the line at the Everest Base Camp Starbucks can stretch out the door, crowds are seldom a problem. And to escape them even in season it is often necessary only to climb above 26,000 feet, into what is helpfully described as the Death Zone.
Spring and Fall are the most popular times to visit, but in November through February cooling breezes of up to 200 mph make Everest an offseason-delight for all who are willing to hold on.
No matter what the season, inexpensive parking is always available, as is accommodation, although the best of the accommodation, with some of the most awesome rooms-with-a-view on the planet, requires hanging tethered to a sheer rock face.
“It’s not as precarious as it might sound,” said Payne, “Although local outfitters don’t recommend it for older men who need to get up frequently during the night.”
Local sites of interest include the last resting places, or assumed last resting places, of the more than 200 deceased climbers whose bodies still remain on the mountain.
For visitors looking for activities other than climbing, Wildlife viewing includes up to ten species of ants, and the occasional yak, which are best admired from the uphill side.
The local people are another Everest draw. For a suitable tip, they are often happy to help you get all the way to the top, and, for an even more suitable tip, back down again.
Travel humor writer Bob Payne is an enthusiastic social climber.
Since before the Phoenicians, rowed trips have been one of the world’s great travel adventures. Rowed trips promise sea air and vigorous exercise, either while journeying solo or in the company of up to 50 or so like-minded individuals, all often moving to the beat of a locally-renowned drummer. What more could you ask for? Except maybe the occasional breather, and sip of water. Here are six rowed trip favorites.
Jason and the Argonauts’ Golden Fleece Rowed Trip
One of history’s first rowed trips, the 1300 B.C. voyage of the Argo was in pursuit of a ram’s fleece Jason had to capture in order to reclaim a usurped kingdom. It forms the basis for what may be Western literature’s oldest retelling of a hero’s quest.
Route: 1800 miles from Iolcos, in ancient Greece, to Colchis, a no longer existent kingdom on the Black Sea.
Vessel: 50-oared galley named the Argo.
Highlight: As often happens in this kind of tale, things didn’t work out all that well in the end, with a timber from the Argo falling on Jason and crushing him to death. On the other hand, he did get to marry a king’s daughter, and journey beyond the edge of the known world.
Leif Ericson’s American Rowed Trip
True, he sailed part of the way from Greenland. And the Indians lining the shore were in agreement that he did not actually discover the North American continent. But it is certain that Leif Ericson explored at least some of America hundreds of years before the first camper van was even dreamed of.
Route: About 2,000 miles round-trip from Greenland to “Vinland,” probably on what is now the Northern tip of Newfoundland.
The vessel: There’s no reliable record, but it was probably a dragon-headed Norse long ship that could maneuver under sail or with up to 50 oars, making it ideal for the New York Yacht Club’s annual cruise to Maine.
Highlight: Knowing that because he’d arrived 400 years ahead of Columbus he could almost certainly count on having a place to park anywhere along North America’s East Coast, even in summer.
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers Rowed Trip
A two-week rowed trip (elapsed time discrepancy noted) in 1839 that resulted in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, a collection of writings by Henry David Thoreau that generations of American readers have found even more difficult to get through than Walden.
Route: 126 miles from Concord, Massachusetts to Concord New Hampshire, and back.
Vessel: Fifteen-foot fisherman’s dory Thoreau and his brother built themselves, in a week. It was a remarkable achievement, considering that the book took ten years to complete.
Highlight: In the short term at least, the rowed trip, along a tranquil, slow-moving river, was a far greater success than the book — 706 of the first 1,000 copies published going unsold.
First Modern Transatlantic Rowed Trip
In 1896, clam diggers Frank Samuelsen and George Harbo were the first since Leif Ericson to undertake a rowed trip across the Atlantic. Without even the assistance of a drummer, they made it in 55 days.
Route: 3,740 miles from New York City to the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of England.
Vessel: 18-foot double-ended Sea Bright skiff
Highlight: They survived.
A Woman’s Three-Oceans Solo Rowed Trip
As time passes and more and more has been done before, it becomes harder, even in the annals of rowed trips, to make one’s mark with a singular achievement. That said, in 2011, Roz Savage became the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.
Route: Canary Islands-West Indies-California-Papua New Guinea-Australia-Mauritus.
Vessel: 23-foot unsinkable rowboat with sleeping cabin.
Highlight: Savage was able to listen to 62 audio books.
A Man’s Three-Oceans Solo Rowed Trip
In 2012, a Turkish-born American named Erden Eruc went Roz Savage one better by combining a rowed trip with a hiking and cycling journey to circle the world under his own power.
Route: 41,196 miles starting and finishing at Bodega Bay, California. Not a person to rush things, Eruc took just over five years.
Vessel: As are the craft of most modern ocean-going rowed trippers, his was lightweight, self-righting, and unsinkable. Getting perhaps less credit than it deserved, the 24-foot vessel had twice crossed an ocean even before he owned it.
Highlight: Not having to repair bicycle tires.
Plan Your Own Rowed Trip
No affiliation at all with them, but the adventure travel company Oars offers rowed trips on rivers and seas around the world. If anyone should ask, we find the Wine Tasting on the River Adventures especially suited to our skill and interest levels.
BobCarriesOn.com editor in chief Bob Payne has himself been in many rows
A recent survey by the travel writing website BobCarrieson.com has found there is currently far too much coddling of readers by publishers of travel books.
“Just look at what’s out there,” said Bob Payne, who is the Non-E-Book Editor for BobCarriesOn.com. “Happy Herbivore Abroad, Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World 2013, Glamping with MaryJane. If travel publishing is to survive, what you want are adventure titles that inspire people to stay home, and read,” Payne said.
“For proof of how egregious the situation is, consider that a book about a mountaineer’s adventures in Kashmir, which included death threats and a kidnapping by people who may have been Taliban, is titled Three Cups of Tea, which sounds like it ought to be shelved with Happy Herbivore,” Payne said.
Among Payne’s recommendations for classic titles that encourage readers to remain in the easy chair are:
In Trouble Again, by Redmond O’Hanlon
During a four-month journey among primitive people in farthest reaches of the South American rainforest, the author of In Trouble Again finds himself in the dire situation of having ingested an hallucinatory drug that is making the women of the most violent men on earth start to look good to him.
The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
No doubt to overcome the burden of having such a wussy name, this young English gentleman joined Robert Falcon Scott’s 1911 expedition to the South Pole. It was an expedition that Scott, despite his far more heroic-sounding moniker, did not survive. What Cherry-Garrard discovered during the expedition was that Polar exploration is “the most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised.”
The Valley of the Assassins by Freya Stark
Freya Stark was a fearless Englishwoman who usually traveled solo though many of the most dangerous parts of the Arab world, including the journey chronicled in The Valley of the Assassins, to Syria in 1927, to a “part of the country where one is less frequently murdered.”
No Picnic on Mount Kenya by Felice Benuzzi
The story of adventure in its purest form, No Picnic on Mount Kenya involves three Italians who broke out of a British prisoner of war camp in Africa in 1943, climbed Mount Kenya with home-made gear, then, not sure what to do with themselves next, broke back into the camp, where for their efforts they each received a week in solitary confinement.
Jaguars Ripped My Flesh by Tim Cahill
As this is a collection of short pieces written mostly on assignment for Outside magazine, Jaguars Ripped My Flesh doesn’t have the narrative power of most of the other titles on Bob Payne’s list of recommendations, but as Payne himself has spent nights alone in the South American rainforest, listening to the distinctive cough-like sound a Jaguar makes, the title has for him a certain “What am I doing here?” resonance.
The Fearful Void by Geoffrey Moorhouse
With the exception of occasionally coming close to dying of thirst, lice were the biggest threat on this six-month camel journey across the Sahara. Still, lice can easily convince you that you should have stayed home.
One of the appeals of adventure travel is that you can often experience the sensation of danger without actually being in much mortal peril. On the other hand, there are times when you are seriously at risk of doing yourself harm. One of those times was during a journey I took to Papua New Guinea for a scuba diving magazine called Aqua, which at the time was published by the same people who published Islands. The diving was interesting, but not nearly as much as the situations you could get yourself into above the water. Here’s one of those situations, which I wrote about in the introduction to the Aqua story:
On the island of New Britain, off the coast of Papua New Guinea, two small outrigger canoes are moving tentatively toward a beach at the base of a volcano whose last major eruption had covered much of the port town of Rabaul with foot upon foot of thick gray ash and left the town looking like the set for a dystopian film set in a post-nuclear-holocaust.
In one canoe, which is being paddled by a local villager, photographer Darrell Jones is busily snapping away at a thick column of smoke the volcano is pumping into the sky. In the other canoe, which the villager’s niece is paddling, my attention is focused on the niece, who every few strokes of her paddle stops to let her fingers drag in the water, and who appears none too happy with the information this is apparently providing her with.
The niece, I realize, and wish I hadn’t, is using her fingers to test the water temperature, on the lookout for any sudden heating that might presage another eruption. “I’m beginning to think,” I call over to Jones, “that this going for eggs wasn’t such a good idea.”
Earlier the villager had explained to us, in a mix of English and Pidgin that is the lingua franca of Papua New Guinea, that a kind of big-footed bird called a megapode lived at the foot of the volcano, whose underground heat it used to incubate its eggs. The locals gathered the eggs, which was a risky business, he had said, because to reach the eggs they had to dig holes down as much as six feet into the unstable ground. Sometimes the holes caved in, burying the diggers alive, and baking them in the process.
But now, as we approach the beach, the villager is saying nothing — nothing except whatever it is he is mumbling, uneasily, to himself. Some kind of chemical reaction has turned the water near the shore a shade of red that looks much too much like blood. And when Jones and I jump onto the beach, which consists of crunchy, powdery, rock, I can feel intense heat through the soles of my shoes.
“What a strange place,” Jones says to me, as he again puts his camera up to his face. “Could you stand over by that smoke?”
The niece refuses to get out of the canoe. But the villager, who is a man after all, and has something to prove, which is, I suspect, that men don’t have nearly as much sense as women, follows us up onto the beach. The air smells of sulfur, and above us steam is venting from any number of cracks in the volcano’s cone.
“When, exactly, did the volcano last erupt?” I ask the villager, becoming more and more concerned by his nervousness and less and less certain about my assumption that he would not put us in danger simply for the equivalent of five dollars we are paying him.
Travel company to offer epic Afghanistan adventure tour in footsteps of guy who sweeps area for landmines
I assumed that anyone who read it would know I was kidding, in part because I am kidding just about every time I Tweet something, or post on Facebook or Google+ or write for this blog, which is titled, helpfully, I would like to think: Bob Carries On – Bob Payne’s Travel Humor.
At least one reader, however, took me seriously enough, it seems, to ask for a link to the travel company.
Perhaps the reader was a regular follower, and was paying me back in kind. Or perhaps he is a more mild-mannered iteration of those readers who have demanded, with a sense of outrage and challenge, that I produce my sources. Tweets/Posts they have railed against include:
Fashion Week Cruise ends in disaster when ship sinks but passengers refuse to wear off-the-rack life jackets
Claim of discovering previously un-contacted Amazon tribe dismissed after some tribe members found to have Wi-Fi.
To enhance on-board experience, first North Korean cruise ship considers installing working toilets.
In victory for environmentalists, Serengeti highway plans scrapped; subway line to be built instead.
In effort to get passengers to pay more attention to lifeboat drill, cruise line dresses crew as Somali pirates.
It’s only coincidence, I am sure, that the majority of these have come from people one might likely encounter on a cruise ship. I do, however, like to think of Bob Carries On as a full-service site, so in that spirit I have included a link for readers interested in Afghan Adventure Travel.
Bob Payne's travel news and advice since before Columbus landed at Plymouth Rock.