Winning tip: Mountain biking, New Zealand
There is an almost infinite list of outdoor activities for any ability in Queenstown, South Island. The hills surrounding Lake Wakatipu (pictured above), which provide incredible ski runs during winter, reveal endless kilometres of mountain bike trails in summer. With a good selection of bike-hire options in the town itself, I went for Vertigo Bikes, which offers half-day/five-hour full suspension bike hire for $79 (£42). It also provides recommendations for local downhill trails and cross-country rides all within half an hour’s ride of the town centre. There is a wide range of accommodation in the town.
Kayaking off Pembrokeshire
I thought walking the Pembrokeshire Coast path was awe-inspiring but my breath was truly taken while sea kayaking along the coast’s secret bays and petrified lava flow cliffs. We went with a local company, Mayberry Kayaking, over a couple of days, lunching on Skomer island and paddling past flotillas of puffins in the south and then carving through sculpted rocks and caves with dolphins feeding off the north of the county.
• Two days’ kayaking from £227, mayberrykayaking.co.uk
Hairy cycling, Bolivia
Death Road, aka the North Yungas Road, starts at 15,300 feet and leads from La Paz to the jungle city of Coroico. We cycled down the single-lane road, passing stunning views and sheer drops along the way – until we reached the tropical heat below. Originally an old highway, the route is now mostly used by tourists. It is a precarious ride and not recommended for the faint-hearted, but suitable for both confident beginners and pro-mountain bikers. We organised the bike tour through our hostel, El Solario, in La Paz. There are loads of companies to choose from and prices range according to your choice of bicycle, protective gear and tour add-ons.
Volcano hiking, Indonesia
Never mind the frequent eruptions, volcano hiking is a big thing in Indonesia. The country’s second highest volcano is Gunung Rinjani on Lombok, Bali’s neighbour – its peak stands at 3,726 metres. It last erupted in 2016. Guided hiking tours of the volcano are popular in the drier months, despite its gruelling reputation. The three-day route is the favoured option, with a jaw-clenching, leg-burning, pre-sunrise rush for the peak on the second day. The five hours it takes to summit and return to camp in the morning accounts for less than half of the allotted hiking hours for that day. If you have any breath left by the time you’ve struggled to the top – made harder by the unstable ground, as you trigger a small avalanche of volcanic scree with every step – it will be stolen by the view.
Running and cruising, Norway
On a Hurtigruten cruise up the coast of Norway you can combine chilling out onboard, viewing some of the most amazing mountain scenery imaginable, with fantastic running to make the most of your time on land. We were ready in running gear as we docked and kept a close eye on the time as we ran around the remote villages and ports en route, touring the sights in Trondheim and the countryside behind Hammerfest.
• 12-day Classic Round Voyage from £986pp, hurtigruten.co.uk
Canyoning in Dalat, Vietnam
Canyoning involves travelling down waterfalls using a variety of different techniques – including climbing, abseiling and just jumping – a truly terrifying but equally incredible experience. Dalat, a thriving city in Vietnam’s southern Central Highlands, is a renowned location for the activity. There are many companies in Dalat offering canyoning trips but we went with Highland Holiday Tours, which provided an exciting and safe one-day trip including lunch.
• $50pp, 9am-4.30pm, highlandholidaytours.com.vn
A 45-mile swim around Jersey
Last September, after months of training in cold water, I set off to swim 45 miles around Jersey. I swam for 11 hours, 19 minutes in 16C water without a wetsuit, helped along by Jersey’s huge tidal range and supported by a little boat. It was a day of highs and lows. Starting just before dawn meant I swam straight into the orange-tinted, completely still and utterly mesemerising waters of the sunrise. A few hours later, the wind on the north coast whipped up the waves, leading to seasickness and nausea. Just as I felt ready to give up, exhausted and fed-up, a pod of dolphins joined me, lifting my spirits, even coming back for a final hello as I swam the last few hundred metres to the finish. The funny thing is that as I look back, the elation of finishing something so big, the sheer beauty of the island and call of the ocean have almost wiped out the memory of the mental battles I went through.
Himalayan trek, India
As part of our eight weeks in northern India, in October last year, my daughter, husband and I trekked the Himalayas in Sikkim. Overall it was nine days’ trekking and camping in a group, supported by five locals with five horses. It was hard work but we reached 4,600 metres at Goechala, our highest point. We encountered, sunshine, cold, rain, mud, saw indescribable views; ate wonderful food, all cooked on an open fire or single gas burner; enjoyed camaraderie with other trekking groups. It was booked with Mountain Tours and Treks in Sikkim (costs depend on group numbers), the five men who supported us on the trek taught us life in the mountains is totally unpredictable and utterly amazing.
Trolltunga hike, Norway
After seeing a photo of Trolltunga, three friends and I picked it as our last expedition before some of us focused on fatherhood. A 22km hike that took us 11 hours to complete up and down. The beauty was the change in environments, starting with large stone steps that killed the thighs and changing to walking across snow-covered valleys. The end result was reaching the tongue, sticking out 700 metres above the lake. The exhaustion completely left us once we saw the view. Stunning.
“We don’t want to be remembered for the war” people often say in Bosnia. Having spent the previous day carefully treading the site of the 1984 Winter Olympics to avoid any landmines that remained undetected over two decades later, this was initially easier said than done. Yet, Bosnia is a vastly underrated country; it is simply a treasure-trove of architectural and natural beauty. There is adventure to be found there. At rebuilt Stari Most (Old Bridge) in Mostar, visitors can jump 20 metres into the Neretva river. But another way to experience this beautiful river is by rafting through the deep rock valley. I opted to use the local rafting company Raft Kor. The day started from the town of Konjic. It’s a 75-minute drive from Sarajevo or Mostar but I had reserved the shuttle bus from Sarajevo during booking. All equipment was provided (wetsuits, life jackets, helmets and a waterproof bag). For the next six adrenaline-fuelled hours I encountered spectacular waterfalls, natural springs, cliff diving and swam in the rapids. This trail would be accessible to most, from more experienced rafters to beginners. It was thrilling.
• Rafting with Raft Kor, including breakfast and equipment, from 9am to 6pm,
Original The Guardian