Asia and the Pacific

The Trip Finder, January 1997


Asia and the Pacific
By Kathy Martin O'Neil


New Australia | China | Fiji | New India | Indonesia | Classic New Zealand | Pakistan
Thailand | New Tibet | Vietnam

New Australia
Cruising the Kimberley
The Route
A 15-day expedition from Darwin to Broome along the coast of Australia's northernmost outback. From a 42-passenger luxury catamaran you'll take excursions by Zodiac and helicopter up coastal rivers.
When To Go
Apr - Jun
Difficulty
Easy
Travel Advisory
If you've got time, don't miss Zegrahm's six-day extension ($1,980) to Kakadu National Park's looming escarpment, tidal flats, and Aboriginal rock art sites.
High/Low Points
Taking part in a corroboree, an aboriginal ritual of songs and dances recalling the Dreamtime
Trying to discern (while swimming) the difference between a harmless freshwater crocodile and a dangerous saltwater croc

Outfitters Departures Price*
Zegrahm Expeditions
4
$5,280-$6,780


China
Rafting the Great Bend of the Yangtze River
The Route
A two-week journey through one of the world's premier river canyons--nearly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon--including a 20-mile cliffside trek through Tiger Leaping Gorge and a 110-mile descent of the Class IV-V rapids of the Great Bend
When To Go
Oct - Nov
Difficulty
Strenuous
Travel Advisory
To avoid being rude and intrusive, you should ask permission from the Tibetan villagers before you take their pictures; they see very few visitors.
High/Low Points
Plowing unscathed through a 20-foot wall of churning froth at Baptism rapid
Realizing that hundreds of miles downriver, the Three Gorges Dam will force more than a million people out of their homes

Outfitters Departures Price*
Earth River Expeditions
2
$3,600


Fiji
Sea Kayaking the Outer Islands
The Route
A 12- to 14-day paddle in the lagoons and aqua sea surrounding Fiji's satellite islands, including hikes in the rainforest, visits to Melanesian villages, and reef snorkeling with sea turtles, porpoises, and iridescent fish
When To Go
Jun - Jan
Difficulty
Easy to moderate
Travel Advisory
Ocean conditions and weather in Fiji are stable this time of year, but wind and distances between islands may require a full day's paddling, so get your back and shoulders primed before the trip.
High/Low Points
Paddling along zigzag coastlines with cliffs, waterfalls, and rainforests inaccessible except by boat
Being reminded by everyone you meet that The Blue Lagoon was filmed in these islands

Outfitters Departures Price*
Absolute Asia
Mountain Travel-Sobek
Wilderness Travel
on demand
4
6
$2,495
$1,750
$2,295


New India
Trekking Rupshu
The Route
An 18- to 25-day pilgrimage to the harsh, high-altitude desert of Ladakh, including an eight- to 13-day trek through high valleys and passes flanked by alpine lakes and 20,000-foot peaks
When To Go
Jul - Oct
Difficulty
Strenuous
Travel Advisory
Until very recently, Rupshu was closed to visitors because of its strategic position on the Indo-Tibetan border. You'll still see a lot of military camps in the area.
High/Low Points
Hiking up to Tso Morari lake at 14,850 feet--a breeding ground for black-necked cranes
Slipping into icy boots in the morning while camping in freezing temperatures above 15,000 feet

Outfitters Departures Price*
Asian Pacific Adventures
Geographic Expeditions
Ibex Expeditions
KE Adventure Travel
Myths and Mountains
Snow Lion Expeditions
on demand
2
on demand
1
1
1
$2,400
$2,650
$2,300-$2,500
$2,645
$2,995
$3,600


Indonesia
Hiking Sulawesi
The Route
A seven- to 17-day exploration of Sulawesi's Tana Toraja region, a highland plateau surrounded by mountains that have isolated unique native customs. You'll trek through pine forests and rice paddies and visit Torajan villages.
When To Go
Mar - May
Jul - Oct
Difficulty
Moderate
Travel Advisory
Torajan ceremonies, mainly animist rituals for the dead that last three to seven days, are most frequent from August to October, but you need to be invited by villagers to attend.
High/Low Points
Being asked into a Torajan tongkonan, a boat-shaped house said to resemble the starships from which the Torajan people came
Contemplating the Torajan baby graves, where pure, young souls are entombed in a living tree

Outfitters Departures Price*
Asian Pacific Adventures
Bolder Adventures
Geographic Expeditions
Maluku Adventures
Outer Edge Expeditions
Top Guides
on demand
on demand
5
on demand
3
2
$2,300
$995
$3,750
$2,400
$2,095
$1,880


Classic New Zealand
Cycling the South Island
The Route
A 14- to 19-day bike tour through New Zealand's spectacular South Island landscape, which has 140 peaks over 7,000 feet. You'll ride an average of 30 to 50 miles per day with time for rafting, horseback riding, and hiking.
When To Go
Jan - Mar
Difficulty
Moderate
Travel Advisory
Road cyclists should go with Backcountry, Vermont Bicycle Touring, Gerhard's, or New Zealand Pedaltours, which run trips primarily on paved roads. Fat-tire riders can opt for off-road itineraries run by Rim Tours or Outer Edge.
High/Low Points
Surviving the 1,700-foot climb over Haast Pass to take in the whole snowcapped spine of the Southern Alps
Finding canned spaghetti on the breakfast menu at most hotels along the route

Outfitters Departures Price*
Backcountry
Gerhard's Bicycle Odysseys
New Zealand Pedaltours
Outer Edge Expeditions
Rim Tours
Vermont Bicycle Touring
2
1
2
1
1
4
$2,610
$2,865
$3,665
$3,010
$2,100
$2,995


Pakistan
Walking from the Hindu Kush to the Karakoram Range
The Route
A 15- to 32-day journey along the glacial rivers, sand dunes, and icefalls of Northern Pakistan, including a seven- to 20-day trek that crosses 15,000-foot-high mountain passes between Chitral, near the Afghanistan border, and Gilgit
When To Go
Jul - Sep
Difficulty
Moderate to strenuous
Travel Advisory
Most outfitters include a glacier crossing of the Chilinji-An snowfield. You'll need to bring a climbing harness and ice ax, and rope up for the technical descent.
High/Low Points
Lingering over the view of the Karakoram spires from 14,100-foot Karumbar Pass
Enduring 12 to 16 hours of formidable switchback driving when flights are canceled due to bad weather or overbooking

Outfitters Departures Price*
Adventure Center
Concordia Expeditions
Geographic Expeditions
Journeys International
KE Adventure Travel
Snow Lion Expeditions
4
2
1
on demand
2
1
$1,955-$2,080
$2,700
$4,990
$2,995
$3,495
$3,500


Thailand
Mountain Biking the Golden Triangle
The Route
An eight- to nine-day ride through Thailand's northern hilltribe country, taking side trips to Karen, Yao, and Hmong villages. Some trips also include an elephant-back safari and dugout canoe paddle.
When To Go
Nov - Feb
Difficulty
Moderate
Travel Advisory
Most of the terrain is rolling, but there are some steep hauls--in heat and humidity--for which you'd better be in good shape.
High/Low Points
Pedaling through a thick teak forest to emerge upon an ancient Buddhist temple
Riding atop a male elephant that suddenly goes into rut

Outfitters Departures Price*
Adventure Center
Asian Pacific Adventures
Backroads
Maluku Adventures
2
on demand
5
1
$580
$1,280
$1,898
$2,295


New Tibet
Celebrating the Festivals of Kham
The Route
A 23-day hiking and four-wheel drive tour across the grasslands and wildflower meadows of Kham, a pastoral oasis between mountain ranges on the Tibetan Plateau, to visit Khampa nomads and attend traditional Buddhist festivals
When To Go
Jul - Aug
Difficulty
Easy to moderate
Travel Advisory
The festivals are prime barter and trade events. Bring gifts, extra personal items like sunglasses and baseball caps, or small equestrian-oriented things such as bits.
High/Low Points
Witnessing the jubilant festival at Paiyul, where men in gaudy costumes display their horsemanship
Having your image of pious Buddhism shattered after meeting the "Coca-Cola lama," an enterprising capitalist, at Karthok Monastery

Outfitters Departures Price*
Snow Lion Expeditions
1
$5,300


Vietnam
Sea Kayaking Ha Long Bay
The Route
A ten- to 15-day paddle in Ha Long Bay, a World Heritage Site featuring thousands of complex limestone islands interconnected by caves, where the Viet fleet concealed its ships and men during the Vietnam War
When To Go
Apr - Jul
Oct - Nov
Difficulty
Easy
Travel Advisory
Don't count on having access to all the islands. Ha Long's tidal lagoons are so large that they often generate currents too dangerous to paddle.
High/Low Points
Discovering a secret passage to an uncharted sea cave in Dao Cat Ba Island National Park
Contemplating strange Vietnamese legends of Ha Long sea monsters while you're lost among jagged islands and spires

Outfitters Departures Price*
Absolute Asia
Asian Pacific Adventures
Bolder Adventures
Maluku Adventures
Mountain Travel-Sobek
on demand
2
on demand
weekly
5
$2,250
$2,700
$2,250
$2,250
$2,825

* includes airfare from U.S.

Copyright 1997, Outside magazine

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