wish list: grub hub

grub hub camp kitchen

Eight years in development, the Grub Hub provides a complete outdoor kitchen, including side tables for cooking and prep, an aluminum table that holds a two-burner camp stove, a molded back table for dining, tower organizer, all terrain tires, and a sink to make clean-up easy as it gets in the wild. The whole contraption sets up in just a few minutes and – even better – folds up into a backpack for easy portability. Light enough to haul across the Pembrokeshire Coast Path yet rugged enough to handle the Salcantay Route, I think I might need this for my next hiking adventure – because, you know, finding my way back to the Four Seasons can be grueling. Check out the unbelievably quick set-up HERE.

paresa

paresa 3

Perched high on the cliff side, over azure blue waters and a picturesque panorama of the Andaman Sea, Paresa is more than just a hotel: it’s Phuket’s best kept secret. Imagine the Swiss Family Robinson, if they were smart enough to build themselves a treehouse made of teak in the tropical forest, an outdoor shower, a fully stocked bar, and a private infinity pool cantilevered over the cliff, and you begin to get a sense of the luxury adventure that awaits. Add a team of Angels on call to do your bidding – plus a private beach club along the marvelously under-crowded Kamala Beach – and your search for the perfect idyll has ended. Or at least my search has ended. What need have I with the rest of this island when my jungle villa awaits? Cocooned, the outside world falls away. And while I’m due at the spa any minute now, for the first time in my life I’m thinking a massage might actually be redundant.

kamal beach - paresa

paresa 2

in praise of bond

I love the James Bond films  - even the lame ones - for so many reasons: the geeky gadgets and kooky villains for a start. Then there’s the crazy chases and death-defying stunts and, of course, Bond’s bevy of double entendre-toting beauties. Plus, there’s all the exotic locales. In film after film, few heroes have given us wider license to travel the far corners of the world than Agent 007. Here are just a few memorable highlights.


SCHILTHORN, SWITZERLAND: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) took us to the mountaintop, literally: the 2,970-meter-high Schilthorn, which George Lazenby skied down at breathtaking speed with Telly Savalas as Blofeld in hot pursuit. It’s one of the great movie ski chase scenes, now documented in an exhibit at Piz Gloria, which doubled as the Bleuchamp Institute for Allergy Research in the film. Organized Bond-themed excursions start from the car-free town of Mürren, or you can glide up the mountain yourself on a 32-minute aerial cable car trip that originates in Stechelberg. For more Bond-style adventure, ski the mountain’s 15.8 km mixed-terrain Inferno course. Experienced skiers usually cover it in about 45 minutes; competitors in the annual Inferno Race – the largest amateur ski race in the world – can do it in 15.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY: Several locations in Turkey – where East meets West on the banks of the mighty Bosphorus – are featured in Skyfall, the newest adventures of James Bond. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar has been a must-see since 1461. More than 550 years later, it attracts nearly a half-million visitors daily. Presumably few of them other than Skyfall director Sam Mendes envision its narrow, crowded aisles as a location for a high-speed chase. It is, however, an excellent place to buy local handicrafts and to engage all your senses as you immerse yourself in the city.

KEY WEST, FLORIDA: Licence to Kill (1989) kicks off with Timothy Dalton parachuting in with CIA pal Felix Leiter to Felix’s wedding at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church in Key West after some insane aerial maneuvers. Other scenes shot in the area include a car chase on Seven Mile Bridge, the segmented concrete (to make it hurricane-resistant) span you’ll cross if you’re driving to Key West, and a scene at the Ernest Hemingway Home in which M demands that Bond relinquish his “license to kill.” Hemingway, no slouch in the adventure department himself, moved to the house at 907 Whitehead Street in 1931. A guided tour shows off his writing studio as well as the descendants of Hemingway’s famous six-toed cats, who have unlimited license to roam the house and grounds.

THE BAHAMAS: Of Bond’s many visits to the Bahamas, the most memorable is Sean Connery’s 1965 Thunderball battle in the underwater caves of the Exuma Cays. They’ve been known ever since as the Thunderball Grotto. (Connery returned there in 1983 for Never Say Never Again.) Several charter companies, including Four C’s Adventures and the Island Routes 007 Thunderball Luxury Tour, will take you out to the grotto by boat and guide you on a snorkeling route to the inside of the caves, where the light streams in and colorful fish dart about below the water’s surface.

PARIS: With an “I’m too old for this stuff” look on his face, Roger Moore chased Grace Jones to the top of the Eiffel Tower in A View to a Kill (1985), only to watch her parachute off, land on a boat conveniently waiting along the Seine, and make a spectacular getaway in one of the film’s more memorable scenes. (It was almost as good as Duran Duran’s video for the movie’s theme song.) On a tour of the tower, you’ll learn about Franz Reichfelt’s tragic demonstration of his “parachute suit” in 1912, which should convince you that parachuting off the observation deck is not the thing to do here. However, if you’re feeling fit, climb the 704 steps from the ground to the second floor. From there, you can catch the lift to the top, where you’ll find a champagne bar with killer views of its own.

AUYUITTUQ NATIONAL PARK, CANADA: Nobody does it better, ahem, than the opening sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), in which Roger Moore BASE jumps off the edge of a mountain and – whoosh – a Union Jack parachute opens and glides him to safety. The mountain, with its distinctive twin flat-topped peaks at 6,598 feet, is Mount Asgard in Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island, Canada. Serious outdoors people find the 7,370-square-mile arctic park a haven of pristine beauty offering 24-hour daylight in summer. Accessible via the Inuit hamlets of Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq, which can be reached only by small plane, the park requires that all visitors attend a safety orientation before they embark on their travels. For this level of adventure, only experienced wilderness travelers — and MI-6 agents — need apply.

chomping at the bit

out of the bush

At the airstrip I am reluctantly coming to grips with the fact that the time to head home draws near. I’ve got a night in Nairobi and a weekend of housekeeping in Ireland before I head back to New York, yet still; the sudden chill in the air means summer’s grand adventure is rapidly approaching its denouement.

first sky

trading continents

After months of planning it’s finally time to trade Ireland for Africa. Tonight I fly to Nairobi before heading onward to the Kenyan border with Tanzania – and the heart of the fabled Masai Mara. Adventures await.

nailing the landing

The 200-foot water-slide perched on the edge of Mystic Mountain is the perfect cool down after the sweaty adrenaline rush of bobsleds and zip lines. And despite the speed, I somehow managed to nail the landing – even if I do say so myself.

zip-a-dee-doo duh

The second stop atop Mystic Mountain is the zip line canopy tour, a guided series of tree-to-tree platforms that sends you flying through the coastal rainforest. Readers of this site have seen me harnessed up a number of times, so the opportunity to indulge again is a bit of a no-brainer. With only six relatively short lines it’s by far the shortest zip adventure I’ve encountered, yet it also includes two interesting features that spice things up a bit: a vertical rappel and a suspension walking bridge.  As for the zip line itself, well, watch the video and you’ll agree it’s so easy even your granny could do it.

video: cool runnings

Head due East out of Mobay and after a while you find yourself in Ocho Rios - Jamaica’s adventure capital. There’s no shortage of tours and attractions catering to the massive cruise ships that dock off the coast but Mystic Mountain is the only place where you can make like you’re a part of Jamaica’s most famous team of Olympic hopefuls. On the Rainforest Bobsled ride, custom-designed individual sleds coast along stainless steel rails in a 3,000 foot gravity-driven whoosh through the forest. It’s sort of like a roller coaster – except for the scary fact that you’re on a sled hurtling between trees and limestone cliffs. You can control the speed with a handy hand break, however; or let go, if you dare, and allow the full force of gravity to propel you downhill. Fast or slow, you’re in for a thrill – with a soft landing at the bottom and a scenic ride back to the top.

not quite 20,000 leagues

My last day in Curaçao involved a real whiz-bang adventure under the sea.  Substation Curacao is a specially designed 3-person submarine which takes passengers down to a depth of 400+ feet.  The opportunity to view a pair of shipwrecks along with the island’s incredible undersea life at a depth I could never reach with a scuba – let alone snorkel – was pretty amazing. I’m thinking of what I could possibly compare it with but words, for a change, escape me.  Half kid in a candy shop, half James Bond in For Your Eyes Only, it isn’t a cheap experience – and emphatically not for the claustrophobic. But feeling like Jacques Cousteau for an afternoon?  That’s priceless, indeed.

video: undercity adventure

I came across this fascinating video on Towleroad. Videographer Andrew Wonder and urban adventurer Steve Duncan, go guerrilla, exploring parts of New York City you won’t see in any guidebooks: an abandoned – and pristine – City Hall subway station; the city’s first sewer; the vaults under the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. It’s a little long, but stay with it; their final heart-pounding adventure takes them up and inside the towers of the Williamsburg Bridge for a one-of-a-kind view of the city skyline – followed by an equally one-of-a-kind descent.

UNDERCITY from Andrew Wonder on Vimeo.

wish list: makgadikgadi salt pans

How can you look at this photographed and not be transfixed?   Granted it is taken with a fish-eye lens, but still….  What kind of crazy no man’s land terrain is this – and how do I get there?

In case the title of this posting wasn’t enough of a clue, it’s Botswana:  a world of endless horizons, four thousand year old inverted Baobob trees, and the boundless salt pans of the Makgadikgadi – a lunar landscape the size of Switzerland that’s curiously close to the Okavango Delta, the worlds largest inland water system, as well as wildlife-rich Chobe National Park.

I’ve heard of Botswana, of course.  But it wasn’t until quite recently that I met a most interesting man – Ralph Bousfield – who’s on a mission to share the country he calls home with the rest of the world.  Jack-booted with long tousled hair and the requisite iPhone, he’s one of those people I didn’t think existed outside of old Douglas Fairbanks films or Victorian novels:  an adventurer.  Together with partner Catherine Raphaely, he’s created Uncharted Africa Safari Co., capturing the renegade spirit of Ralph’s father, Jack Bousfield, the legendary, grand African adventurer with the dubious distinction of being listed in the Guinness World Book of Records for hunting 53,000 crocs.

It was really Jack’s vision to start a safari camp in the Makgadikgadi using four wheel drive quad bikes at a spot he discovered while hunting in the 1960′s and continually revisited thereafter.  After his death, Ralph built an authentic tented safari camp and together with partner Catherine, they built Jack’s Camp and San Camp, pioneering the integration of ecological sensitivity and cultural tourism in Botswana.  The camps are unique because they are the only permanent camps in the area allowing you the full dessert experience, focusing on the unique species of the area as well as the geology, archaelology, and anthorpology of the Kalahari.  This area is also the only place in Southern Africa where one is still able to see  – unobstructed, due to the nature of the exposed grasslands – a migration of tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebra followed by their predators.

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