Life's a Wild Trip

Step inside: another inviting nook off the Grand Canyon     Photo: Corel

10. Free Your Soul on a Pilgrimage
Tibet / To the Center of the Universe

May 26—the date Buddha was born, reached enlightenment, and died—is the day to visit Mount Kailas, a peak sacred to Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus. And Tibetan Buddhism expert Robert Thurman (yes, he's Uma's dad) is the man to go with. On this 28-day journey, you'll circumambulate 22,027-foot Kailas. For an authentic experience, prostrate yourself as you go. OUTFITTER: Geographic Expeditions, 800-777-8183, www.geoex.com WHEN TO GO: May PRICE: $8,085 DIFFICULTY: Strenuous

Spain / Biking El Camino de Santiago
Devout Christians have been walking the roads from the city of Burgos to the shrine of St. James, in the city of Santiago de Compostela, for more than a thousand years. Modern pilgrims can save their soles by making the 326-mile journey on a bike. You'll ride on dirt roads and trails up to 60 miles per day for nine days, stopping to sleep in small hotels and to explore Romanesque churches in villages along the way. Follow ancient tradition and pick up a rock (of a size proportionate to your sins) on day six, and carry it 1,200 feet before ditching it at the highest point on the Camino: 4,891-foot Foncebadón Pass. What, after all, would a pilgrimage be without a little suffering? OUTFITTER: Easy Rider Tours, 800-488-8332, www.easyridertours.com WHEN TO GO: May-July, September PRICE: $2,250 DIFFICULTY: Moderate
Peru / Sacred Sites of the Incas
In the tradition of their Incan ancestors, the Quechua people of southern Peru celebrate the June solstice at the foot of 21,067-foot Mount Ausungate, the spirit of animal fertility. Circumnavigate the holiest peak in the Cusco region on this 44-mile, high-altitude (12,000-foot-plus) trek, following ancient paths past grazing alpacas and Quechua villages. The 18-day trip also includes a four-day, 27-mile trek up the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. OUTFITTER: Southwind Adventures, 800-377-9463, www.southwindadventures.com WHEN TO GO: May-September PRICE: $3,675-$4,525 DIFFICULTY: Strenuous

TRIP ENHANCER
NEC Versa DayLite Notebook PC

Kayak, Tent, or African bus: The 3.3 pound Versa DayLite ($2,499; 888-632-8701) goes where you'd never dream of hauling heavier laptops, and goes for seven hours on its battery. But the screen is the star; its significantly heightened contrast means easy readability under the harsh glare of, say, the Saharan sun.

11. Explore Majestic Canyons
USA / Arizona / Padding and Hiking the Grand Canyon

Floating 235 miles through the 6,000-foot-deep Grand Canyon on its storied waters is a once-in-a-lifetime experience (unless you have an in with the permit office, which is doubtful). On this 13-day trip you'll hit all the raging Class IV+ rapids and have ample time to hike and boulder in the side canyons, play under 125-foot waterfalls, explore Anasazi granaries, and swim in the calcium carbonate-tinted bright-blue pools at Havasu Creek. OUTFITTER: Outdoors Unlimited, 800-637-7238, www.outdoorsunlimited.com WHEN TO GO: May, September PRICE: $2,795 DIFFICULTY: Moderate

Peru / Whitewater Rafting Colca Canyon
The reward for threading through 40 miles of SUV-size boulders on southern Peru's twisting Class V Colca River—beyond the rush of making it out alive—is the rare view of soaring black condors against the canyon's 11,000-foot walls. But don't look up too much. The run demands deft maneuvering in paddle rafts. An added boon on this eight-day trip are the abundant natural springs. Soak in the hot ones; drink from the cold ones. OUTFITTER: Earth River Expeditions, 800-643-2784, www.earthriver.com WHEN TO GO: July PRICE: $2,900 DIFFICULTY: Strenuous

Mexico / Trekking in Copper Canyon
Hike through four biotic zones while dropping 6,000 feet from rim to floor in Chihuahua's Copper Canyon. This ten-day trek starts on a cool plateau of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. You'll descend on paths used for centuries by the Tarahumara Indians, through piñon pine and juniper to reach arid slopes and agave cacti. Lower still, enter the subtropics, where parrots squawk in mango trees outside your tent. OUTFITTER: Adventures Abroad, 800-665-3998, www.adventures-abroad.com WHEN TO GO: February-March, October-December PRICE: $1,590 DIFFICULTY: Moderate

12. Save an Endangered Species
Mongolia / In Search of the Snow Leopard

Journey Mongolian-style across the golden steppes and 12-mile-long sand dunes of the Gobi Desert as you help biologists find the nearly mythical snow leopard in its native habitat. You'll sleep in yurts as you travel by camel, horse, and four-wheeler south from Ulan Bator for 11 days. Drink fermented mare's milk with nomadic tribesmen before scouring the wild southeastern fringe of the Gobi, searching for malodorous leopard markings: The elusive cats spray the same spots for generations. OUTFITTER: Asia Transpacific Journeys, 800-642-2742, www.southeastasia.com WHEN TO GO: September PRICE: $5,895 DIFFICULTY: Easy to moderate

U.S. Virgin Islands / Tracking Leatherback Turtles
Heroic beachcombing? Absolutely, at least along the southwest shore of St. Croix, where the Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge hosts a slew of endangered leatherback turtles and one very successful conservation team. For ten days, live in airy beachside cottages and walk the two-mile white-sand shores, helping resident biologists measure nests and count hatchlings as the newborns struggle toward the warm Caribbean. OUTFITTER: Earthwatch Institute, 800-776-0188, www.earthwatch.org WHEN TO GO: April-July PRICE: $1,895 DIFFICULTY: Moderate

Suriname / Paddling with Giant Otters
(New Trip) This former Dutch colony contains some of the most pristine tropical rainforest in the world and offers the best chance to see—and help save—some of the 3,000 or so endangered giant otters still left in the wild. For eight days, paddle in dugout canoes with biologists and natives in Kaburi Creek, a favored otter habitat in central Suriname (and home to kaleidoscopic macaws and parrots). Sleep in hammocks on the shore and canoe to "otter campsites" in this pilot project to count and study the friendly six-foot-long animals. OUTFITTER: Oceanic Society, 800-326-7491, www.oceanic-society.org WHEN TO GO: September PRICE: $2,390 (includes airfare from Miami) DIFFICULTY: Moderate

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