Short Break with Hazards
Presumably invented by lazy skaters who couldn’t be bothered to stand up, the extreme sport of street luge involves lying prostrate on a giant skateboard and hurtling, feet first, down a road at pant-wetting speeds. Lugers can reach speeds above the ground, that feels even faster than it sounds.
With no hint of machine power in sight, lugers are sent crashing downhill by the force of gravity alone. You steer around bends by leaning into them and brake by using your feet. The fact that lugers must wear full motorcycle leathers and a crash helmet indicates that, yes, this pursuit isn’t without risk. Street luging is popular in the States, Australia, Switzerland and Germany and UK.
Dizzying heights and the lack of a rigid wing structure combine to make the sport of paragliding one of the most foreboding of aviation pursuits. As you sit in a harness suspended below a fabric wing, you are cheerily blasted around the heavens by the wind. But, as with all aerial activities, the altitudes and natural obstacles around you provide a constant reminder of the great injury potential if anything goes wrong. Those jagged cliffs and crashing waves far, far below will ensure you stay concentrated, that’s for sure.
Australia, France, Switzerland and Brazil are all paragliding hotspots because of their stunning natural landscapes, but there are plenty of courses available here in the UK, from the Yorkshire Dales to the Welsh coast. Instructors insist you’ll be ready to fly alone after about 10 days of training, but you’ll be airborne on your very first day.
Confined spaces, lack of visibility and, if things go wrong, the complete inability to breathe: cave-diving is bone-shudderingly frightening stuff, which is why you will have to have a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certificate and heaps of experience before anyone will be stupid enough to let you take the plunge.
Using scuba equipment to explore underground chambers invites all sort of trouble. As a form of penetration diving, cave-diving allows no immediate escape route, meaning divers cannot ascend to the surface in times of trouble. The sand, clay and mud that pollute the caves can reduce visibility to just a few feet in seconds.
The adventure rewards those do dare, with the chance to explore a mesmerising underworld of stalagmites, stalactites and rare flora and fauna. The Bahamas, Florida and Mexico are all fantastic cave-diving locations.
Cage Diving With Sharks
The great white shark is one of God’s most fearsome creatures, so plunging into the murky ocean next to a particularly hungry one is sure to get the adrenaline pumping. The fact the some joker has spend the past hour hurtling crushed sardines into the water to get the beast’s belly rumbling won’t help your nerves when you see a grey fin carving through the water towards you. Seeing those rows of razor-sharp teeth just a few feet from your limbs, and watching the chilling black eyes ogling you from the other side of the bars, is something you won’t forget in a hurry.
South Africa is the top destination for cage-diving, thanks to its proximity to a region know as Shark Alley, which great whites frequent.
The opportunity to venture into the uncontrolled wilderness of the mountains is both the appeal and the inherent risk of heli-skiing. By simply employing the use of one large chopper, skiers can skip the crowded slopes and discover new terrain covered in fresh, virgin snow at higher altitudes and in more remote locations. But, abandoning the sanitised fun of the ski resorts also means the dangers increase exponentially. Avalanche awareness is critical, natural hazards abound and changes in weather can be more problematic when you’re marooned in the wilderness. The best destinations include New Zealand, Russia and Argentina and if you have the guts and cash, the Himalayas and Canada offers up some of the most exciting and easily accessible adventures.
Cycling the Death Road
The lethal 64km stretch of road from La Cumbre to Coroico, which winds through the mist-wrapped peaks of the Bolivian Andes in South America, was dubbed ‘the World’s Most Dangerous Road’ by the Inter-American Development Band in 1995, based on the grizzly ratio of reported deaths per mile. More than 100 people plummet over its crumbling edges each year, while the worst year on record saw a mammoth 320 people lose their lives.
So, it may come as no surprise to learn that people like to cycle down it, for fun. But, if you don’t mind vertiginous 1,000ft drops plunging down just inches from your front tyre, you don’t get freaked out by the sombre rituals performed by the indigenous guides to butter up the mountain spirits in your favour, and you can handle the groaning food trucks belching uphill and trying to squeeze past you on a narrow ledge that is, in places, only 3.2 metres wide, you’ll have a great laugh.