In this century when technology could take you to the edge of the universe, it’s quite frustrating for die-hard explorers when they realize that there are secret places on planet Earth that remain unvisited or rarely approached. L+T has drawn up a list of some of these locations. It’s a challenge to reach them and you’ll need more than money to reach them, perhaps luck even more than brains and wit. Is it worth all the effort? If you’re a real explorer and your definition of ‘living’ is to experience as much as possible what the planet has to offer, the answer is an absolute YES!
Also known as The Desolation Islands, Kerguelen Islands sit in the centre of the southern Indian Ocean around 3,330 kilometres away from Madagascar, the nearest port. Legally colonized by France, the only residents are scientists and researchers – no locals live there. As there is no airport on Kerguelen Islands you’ll have to board one of the supply ships which sail there only four times a year, from Madagascar, and spend six days on the vast ocean to reach the main island called La Grande Terre. Once there, you will confront an unbearably cold climate that is discouraging, but also find yourself surrounded by a pristine geography and natural habitat. Such as spectacular mountains and fjords, exotic flora like Kerguelen Cabbage and giant brown algae called Cochayuyo, and fauna including elephant seals, mouflons, reindeer and Macaroni Penguins. These sights and experiences will dissipate the exhaustion of your journey, and confirm that your decision to visit the Kerguelen Islands was a terrific one after all.
Annapurna Massif is situated within the Himalaya Range. Its highest peak Annapurna I Main is also the tenth highest peak in the world. According to Hindi belief, Annapurna is the name of the Goddess of the Harvests, but I’m not sure whether her harvests mean food or lives because Annapurna I has the greatest fatality rate of all the mountains in the world. The ratio of death per safe return is 34 percent, which means that about four out of every ten climbers will never reach ground again. The causes of fatality are mostly snowstorms or avalanches. Despite all this discouraging information, I am certain that die-hard explorers will not be easily deterred from making this trip to breathe in the crisp air and imbibe the stark but beautiful white panorama up there. You can start with the lower peak of the Annapurna Circuit as a test of your physicality and to acclimatize to the harsh climate, dehydrating conditions and day-by-day regime. During your hike, you’ll also have the opportunity for fun activities such as paragliding, canyoning, mountaineering and visiting Nepali villages or famous holy sites like Boudhanath and Swayambhunath.
Would you like to know what hell looks like? Then head to its gateway at Erta Ale Volcano in Ethiopia. You’ll first need to cross Afar Depression, a desert as depressing as its name. It’s barren and scorched territory, and you’ll need to spend about one week coping with thirst and exhaustion, and sleeping in a windswept tent under the starry nocturnal sky. Your buttocks will ache from all-day camel rides and your stomach will very likely growl with hunger. You also need to be aware that there’s local unrest in this region, and make sure that your local tour guide is accompanied by a military escort. Nevertheless, the surreal desert experience will stir the inner-most curiosity of die-hard explorers and push them on towards the volcano. You’ll be astonished by the powerful beauty of ancient Erta Ale Volcano and its active lava lake, as well as the acidic hot springs in Danakil Depression. Both sights will become etched in your memory and leave you marvelling at the history of the planet.
VALE DO JAVARI RESERVATION
In the middle of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil there still exist more than 50 human tribes living in total isolation, untouched by our otherwise increasingly technological world and preferring to keep their indigenous lifestyle and customs. To protect them from outsiders and preserve their lifestyles, the government of Brazil does not permit visitors without their authorization. If you are unable to get this authorization, you can still travel in the surrounding areas and canoe along the Javani River to observe Amazonian wildlife such as Amazon River Dolphins. Who knows, you may even be fortunate enough to become the first outsider to have eye-to-eye contact with one of these ‘lost’ tribes.
If you like to flirt with danger, you’ll love this! Running throughout the barren desert of Nevada lies the road towards the very mysterious Area 51. It’s a wide road without blockages or gates and looks deceptively clear, but your curiosity will be piqued once you see the warning signs not to enter Area 51 and hesitation will likely set in. Area 51 is a top-secret military base of the United States Air Force and constant rumours say it is the communication centre the U.S. Government uses for communication with extra-terrestrial beings. Carry on down the nicknamed ‘Extra-Terrestrial Highway’ until you reach a town called Rachel, where you’ll find the Alien Research Center and a little café named ‘Little A’Le’Inn’. That’s a good place to start your visit. Always remind yourself that this is a military property and limit the photographs you take, including of military officers. Also, do not trespass into any forbidden area or you will be arrested for violation of the law and fined heavily.
It’s a bit ironic to be riding on one of the fantasy rides at Disneyland Park, California and know there is a club only seven minutes away that is so exclusive you might not be able to enter it. Situated on Royal Street, Club 33 is a private member-only club and executive lounge. Behind the Art Nouveau-style door, staff will escort members upstairs to the fine dining restaurant decked with luxurious furniture and Walt Disney’s rarest memorabilia. This is the only spot in Disneyland Park where you can savour intoxicating nectars along with the finest ambrosias of your choice. To enter this paradise you’ll need to be the guest of a current member. If you want to become a member, you must either be invited or get on the membership waiting list – which might take as long as 14 years to clear – then pay the USD 100,000 initial fee and USD 30,000 in annual fees. Do you still believe that it’s a small world, after all?