The toughest adventures on the planet
The Snowman trek is a 25-day route through Lunana, the most remote region of Bhutan. (Nicholas Reuss/LPI)
What are the toughest adventures on the planet? Which extreme exploits push willing participants to their mental and physical limits? These feats of endurance, endeavour and -- dare we say lunacy -- will stir up the most jaded adrenaline junkie.
Rafting the Franklin River
Tasmania is an earthly paradise for lovers of adventure, and rafting the fearsome Franklin River is one of the Apple Isle’s ultimate thrills. The trip down the Franklin, starting at Collingwood River and ending at Sir John Falls, takes between eight and 14 days, depending on the state of the river. A 100km journey that begins in the beautiful Irenabyss Gorge ends with the fury of the five-kilometre-long Great Ravine, a stretch of white water which boils with dangerous rapids.
Experienced rafters can tackle the Franklin independently if they are fully equipped and prepared, but for everyone else, tour companies such as World Expeditions, Rafting Tasmania and Water By Nature offer complete wilderness rafting packages.
Running the Marathon des Sables
Considered by some to be the world’s toughest foot race, the infamous Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sand) consists of six marathons run over six days in the middle of the Sahara Desert in Morocco. Sound mad? It is. But this masterpiece of masochism still draws devotees from all around the world.
Competitors must carry all of their personal belongings and food in a backpack, while the organisers lay on water and shelter at the end of each stage. Competitors run, walk or simply stumble a grand total of 250km in temperatures approaching and even sometimes in excess of 50C, with the longest single stage registering a palpitation-inducing 88km.
Completing the Snowman trek
Widely considered to be one of the hardest treks in the world, only a handful of people each year attempt this 25-day route through Lunana, the most remote region of Bhutan. It is expensive, gruelling and success is far from certain. Of the few who do set out along the high mountain passes, less than half complete the route due to altitude sickness or heavy snowfall.
The trek, which starts in Drukgyel Dzong and ends in Sephu, crosses 11 passes of more than 4,500m, following trails through yak herder settlements and isolated farms, against an eye-bulgingly beautiful backdrop of Himalayan peaks.
The window of opportunity for this high altitude undertaking is vanishingly small – the short season when the paths are likely (but not guaranteed) to be open runs from late September to mid-October.
Cycling the Tour d’Afrique
You will need four months to complete the whole of this peddle-powered trans-African odyssey. First held in 2003, the Tour d’Afrique starts at the Pyramids of Giza and threads its way down the continent to Table Mountain.
Riders clock up a total of 11,869km at an average of more than 112km a day as they follow the back roads through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and finally South Africa.
The route takes in a handful of Africa’s most iconic sights, including the Karnak Temple, the Ngorogoro Crater, the Great Rift Valley, Victoria Falls, Fish River Canyon, the Okavango Delta and the Dune Sea of the Namib Desert. The main danger on this journey is dehydration.
Surfing the “Devil Wave”
Take an end-of-the-world location, add huge, unpredictable and dangerous waves and throw in some hungry Great White Sharks for good measure – this is the forbidding recipe for Shipstern’s Bluff, one of world’s most extreme surf spots.
Once known as the Devil’s Point, this remote area off the tip of Tasmania’s Tasman Peninsula, is accessible only by boat, jet ski or a two-hour bush walk. That means you are a long way from civilisation – and specifically, a hospital – if anything goes wrong. And it frequently does at Shipstern, where the Southern Ocean and the Roaring Forties conspire to whip the cold water into a monstrous right-hander.