Take pointers from these daredevils and sign up for high-adrenaline holidays that include cliff diving, ice trekking and more. By Ryan Peppin & Aakanksha Devi
While many holiday to pamper themselves, an increasing crop of adventure junkies are vacationing by seeking out thrills like blowhole diving in Hawaii. For actor Arun Vijay, who has done 50 plus sky dives in Dubai, London, Thailand and the US, bunjee jumping has now become tame!
“I do a dive after every film to rejuvenate,” he says. We sniffed
out seven other daring individuals whose adrenaline exploits are more than inspiring. That said, if your summer break involves nothing more than a roller coaster ride, try the recently-launched Fury 325 in South Carolina. Touching a height of 400 ft and speeds of 95 mph, it will leave you begging for mercy.
Arun Vasu, the wind surfer
Imagine being stranded about eight kms out at sea, alone, with nothing but a surfboard for company. That’s precisely the situation Arun Vasu found himself in, when the boom of his windsurf board broke during one of his routine wind surfing trips just off the Chennai coast. “I had to paddle for almost six hours to reach shore and had drifted towards Mahabalipuram by then,” the co-founder of Covelong Point surf school and CMD of TT Group, recalls. While this was 20 years ago, Vasu, 46, still braves the sea and has wind surfed in Australia, Italy, Sri Lanka, the Middle East and Maldives, besides Goa, Rameshwaram and the coast from Chennai to Mahabalipuram, closer home. With the Mecca of wind surfing, Dahab in Egypt on his list next, Vasu insists that the Chennai coast has been the roughest and the one with the highest waves (think 12 to 15 feet during the monsoon) he’s windsurfed on till date.
Nikhil Parekh, the ice man
Bengaluru engineer and ice trekker, Nikhil Parekh’s recent conquest was the Chaddar trek, which is rated the toughest in the country. “It’s a walk on the Zanskaar river, which freezes in January and February. And while it’s (only) eight hours of walking a day, the same on ice is really hard,” Parekh says, elaborating that the -25 °C temperature is the actual challenge. “The temperatures are literally painful. The water from your eyes freezes before it reaches your nose. You can’t remove your gloves. Even nature calls are painful,” he reveals, adding that his adrenalin rush hits after the task is completed. Except when he was crossing a melting glacier, with avalanches all around him near Leh, that is. Next up for him “is the 100k run and the ice marathon in Antarctica.”
Pramod Balaji, the snake charmer
He might not describe himself as a charmer per se, but what else do you call this businessman who has rescued around 15 snakes and spotted close to 100. His interest was piqued as a teen, when he volunteered with a group of snake spotters in Kuveshi, Goa. “We were in a small village, in a rainforest near a place called Mollem. There was no electricity and we went out on foot,” he says, recalling the numerous leeches they had to peel off their bodies every day. This is where he spotted the hump-nosed pit viper, Malabar pit viper and almost stepped on a saw-scaled tail viper. Chennai-based Balaji, 31, has completed a course on handling and rescuing snakes by herpetologist Gowrishankar, and besides taking off on snake spotting trips to farms just outside Chengalpet and Sriperambudur, he hopes to visit the Andamans and go reptile spotting, soon.
Viren Mohan, the lone ranger
He’s been bitten by a snake and spotted five tigers among several other animals like elephants, leopards, bisons and wild boars. But despite having camped in the rainforests of Australia’s Northern coast (where crocodiles are plenty) and the outback (where you often to cross paths with kangaroos), it’s the varied insect life and reptiles of western Coimbatore that truly amaze Viren Mohan. The 34-year-old regularly stays over alone at his tea estate surrounded by the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, to get closer to nature. “The jungle is the best teacher you will ever find. It taught me minimalism,” says the commercial photographer, who lists the hyena as the only animal he is yet to come across. The forests of Wayanad, Bandipur, Nagerhole, Satyamangalam and Bhadra have already been crossed off his list of must-visit spots, and Mohan looks forward to heading to North East India soon, with a Himalayan trek also on the agenda.
Pooja Ramachandran, the risk taker
Bungee jumps, insane roller coasters, scuba dives and cliff jumps — actor and VJ Pooja Ramachandran has tried many things that would make others think twice. “My dad was in the army, and all of us children used to play in the training camp. We grew up climbing ropes and riding tanks,” she says, when asked how she developed a penchant for adventure. Ramachandran, 30, has come a long way since her first bungee jump 17 years ago in Bengaluru. “I’ve done sea walking in Thailand, scuba diving in Dubai, been on the Stratosphere rides in Las Vegas and jumped off a cliff in Jamaica,” she lists a few of the things that come to mind immediately, adding that she intends to tick sky diving in Dubai and water rafting in Rishikesh off her list this year. But among all her adventures (including jumping into the sea from a 40-foot cliff), Ramachandran rates her trip through the Ripley’s Haunted House in the US as her scariest outing till date.
Satyarup Siddhanta, the ascendant
If you think conquering the highest mountain in every continent is not hard core enough, imagine doing it with asthma. Satyarup Siddhanta is more than halfway to achieving that goal. “In school, I couldn’t run 100 mts without an inhaler in my pocket,” says the Bengaluru-based software professional and adventurist, who trained at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling, and with exercise, discipline, diet and determination, learned how to control his asthma. His first climb was the Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal. Several inspiring books on George Mallory, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay later, Siddhanta climbed the highest mountains of Africa (Mt Kilimanjaro), Europe (Mt Elbrus), North America (Mt Denali), South America (Mt Aconcagua) and the Alps (Mont Blanc). “The last stretch of Mont Blanc was real scary. We had to break ice to make foot holds. It was blue ice on both sides of the ridge and we knew that one mistake meant being lost in oblivion,” he recalls. While the recent earthquake in Nepal foiled his attempt to scale the world’s tallest mountain, Siddhanta is determined to climb it next year. “In three weeks, I am travelling to Australia to climb Mt Kosciuszko. It will be my fifth out of the seven summits of the world,” he says, adding that Mt Matterhorn, the North Pole and Antarctica are next.
Teena Thomas, the wild child
This programming manager at Accenture, Bengaluru, insists that she doesn’t seek out adventure, but her love for animals steers her in that direction. “I take off every three months to a destination that strikes my fancy,” says Teena Thomas. She has volunteered with lion whisperer Kevin Richardson (left) in South Africa, where she participated in activities like feeding, cleaning and maintaining the camp. “The lions and lionesses (a whopping 23 in total) are tame and walk around as you go about your business. Things only get worrisome when they are agitated. There is strong security to help if things go wrong, but once a massive lioness stopped barely a few feet away and stared at me menacingly for a few minutes before walking,” she shares, adding that her wildest experience though, was coming face-to-face with a great white in the Indian Ocean. “It was during my trip to South Africa. We were dropped into the water in flimsy-looking cages and the sharks were then baited with whole goats. It was thrilling to see the enormous creatures appear out of nowhere, grab the bait and disappear,” she recalls.
Have it in you?
● Founded by Gauri Jayaram, The Active Holiday Company offers curated holidays including ice walking in Norwegian fjords, treks to Mount Everest, marathons to the Dead Sea and a 66-day trip in Africa, hunting the elusive mountain gorilla. Details: 9886681381, activeholidaycompany.com
● Specialising in adventure travel in the Himalayas, Aquaterra offers personalised itineraries and routes. If you’re dreaming of conquering the ice mountains, these are your go-to people. Details: 01129212641, facebook.com/Aquaterraindia
● If activities like buffalo racing catch your fancy, try getoffyourass.com. They also offer international tours and you can choose to rub shoulders with wild elephants in Thailand, swim with sea lions in the Galapagos or catch the great migration of Masai Mara. Details: getoffyourass.com
● Thrillophilia curates trips that include skiing in Auli, snow trekking in Stok Kangri or snake watching from close proximity. Log on to Thrillophilia.com
— with inputs from Rashmi Rajagopal