Ten Thrills

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asianTraveler spoke with its extreme travel correspondents and came up with a list of the top ten daring activities they love to do best when on the road.

Make that on the road, in the waters or up in the air! These must-try adventures will not only give you an adrenalin-rush- they are bound to make your travels unforgettable.

1 Hot Air Balloon

A hot air balloon consists of a bag called the envelope that is capable of containing heated air. Suspended beneath is a gondola or wicker basket, which carries the pilot, passengers and a source of heat, in most cases an open flame from a propane burner. The  heated air inside the envelope makes it buoyant, since it has a lower density than the relatively cold air outside the envelope.

There should be a lot of good spots for ballooning in the Philippines besides the lahar area in Clark where the Philippine Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is held every year. The Cagayan Valley must be a perfect place for ballooning and is yet to be flown in.

The best places for hot air ballooning are Albuquerque in New Mexico, that hosts one of the biggest balloon fiestas in the world; Loire Valley, France; Serengeti National Park in Tanzania; Napa Valley in California; Cappadocia, in the Anatolian Region of Turkey; and Gstaad, Switzerland, to name a few. One can fly a balloon in any seasons for as long as the weather is good, meaning clear skies and light winds so that in a country like Switzerland where there are snow-capped peaks, balloons fly for as long as the weather allows. Each country or region has their own “ballooning  season” though.

If the equipment is maintained properly, if the weather is good, if the pilot is properly trained and would follow proper procedures then it will not be risky at all. Anyone can try it but it is a good idea for the passenger to be tall enough to look outside the basket and be able to anticipate movement of the basket during strong wind landings, in case the weather changes during flight.

There’s no need for physical preparations or cautionary exercises. As long as the person is not sick of epilepsy or does not have anxiety attacks, then he should be a good passenger and can enjoy the flight.

Hot air ballooning is something that everyone should have in their bucket lists. What makes a hot air balloon ride unique from other adventures? It’s a peaceful ride once you’re up flying. You get the thrill of riding with the wind and being one with nature.

Equipment: for a pilot, a GPS, a variometer, altimeter, and compass would classify as handy, but not necessary; ballooning started with no instrumentation whatsoever and remains so to this day except when going very long distances. Clothing: Comfortable clothes, no gears necessary, except maybe a good camera to take photos while flying.

Cost: one individual has to prepare between 200 to 500 US dollars to pay for just one ride. An example would be in France, a 60-minute balloon journey costs about 277 US dollars per person. Or you may combine a flight with an overnight stay at a bed and breakfast for about 785 US dollars  for two

Recommended hot air balloon events: The Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in February, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October, International Balloon Festival in Chateau d’Otex held on the last week of January, Bristol Balloon Fiesta in October, and the relatively new International Turkey Balloon Fiestain Istanbul.

Recommended hotels/inns: When attending the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, guests may check out Holiday Inn, Hotel Vida, Oasis Hotel and a lot more

Correspondent: Christalyn Fame Lelis of the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2013

Photography: Butch Duque

2 Skyrunning

Skyrunning is racing and/or running on trail at altitudes reaching 2000 meters above sea level (masl) and beyond. It differs from track and running in technicality. The terrain of the trail is not flat nor predictable. It is uneven and can be a steep ascent or descent. In skyrunning, you also have the increase in altitude to consider. It is very different from mountain climbing because when you skyrun, you do it sans the heavy gear and backpacks. Also, you do not pitch tents. Once you get to the peak, you pause for a while, rest, inhale the view and soon, head back down from where you started. Level of difficulty depends on the fitness and level of interest of a person. But anyone can try it, It would be wise to train.

The Philippines is blessed with mountains that reach the 2000 masl mark and above. It would be great to target our highest peaks like Mt. Apo, Mt. Pulag and Mt. Kitanglad, although there are also less popular mountains which one can explore. It’s best and safest to run up the mountains during dry season. You save yourself from negotiating the slippery terrain and the possibility of getting wet and catching colds. Skyrunning is very popular in Europe and is just taking baby steps in Asia. The International Skyrunning Federation, the governing body of skyrunning globally and which has been around over 20 years, publishes a calendar of official skyrunning races in different beautiful countries. This 2012 for example, the calendared skyraces were held in Basque Country (Spain), Premana, Lecco (Italy) Zinal, Valais (Switzerland, Colorado (US) and Sabah (Malaysia).

Skyrunning takes you to places far and high, where you will gain experiences very close to your heart and to nature. Getting out there and trying out skyrunning will also mean breathing in fresher air and getting your health and fitness back on track. Plus you’ll get to meet so many people and learn different cultures.

Clothing: one of the most important pieces of basic gear is the trail running shoe — one that has knobby undersoles to create traction beween your foot and the surface of the trail and one with a comfortable fit that gives support to your ankle and protection to your toes. If the weather or climate of your skyrun venue is tropical, just as in road running, one ought to wear singlets and shorts made of light and easy-drying fabrics. Wear leggings to avoid scratches and wounds from grass, thorns and falls/trips. If it’s the peak of summer, you’d be wise to slap on a layer of sun lotion, wear a cap or visor and a pair of sunnies.

Equipment: bring hydration equipment – a hydration pack witha  bladder or a race belt with some hydration flasks where you can bring your water or sports drink. These also have some pockets, nets or fold wherein you can insert your trail food, a whistle, a few bills for emergency money and ID. If it’s cold, a lightweight, breathable and water proof jacket with hood and a buff (a 1-piece, multi-purpose head scarf) are quite handy. Gloves and trekking poles can also be useful.

Cost: if you want to travel to all the popular skyrunning spots both locally and abroad, skyrunning can be expensive. But if you are just keen on doing it nearby, it an be manageable. A skyrun weekend in Benguet, for example, may cost aroun Php2500 all in. It’s better to go with a group of friends to help distribute costs.

Recommended groups: Philippine Skyrunning Association in the Philippines. If you have a trip planned outside the country and want to do some skyrunning there, check out the list of member associations of the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF) at www.skyrunning.com. In 2013, a worldwide ranking list of recognized races will be published. All the Skyrunning World Series races are quality events.

Correspondents: Nina Dacanay, president of the Philippine Skyrunning Association, and Lauri Van Houten, executive director and vice president of the International Skyrunning Federation. Photography: Ian Corless at iancorless.com ©copyright

3 Surfari

A surfari is a group surf tour packaged for beginners interested in surfing and travel. The usual destinations for Manila-based surfaris are La Union, Zambales and Baler. These group tours organize everything from the group’s transportation, accommodations and surf lessons. Sometimes, they also include side trips for the place’s other attractions like waterfalls, giant trees, etc.

Surfaris are usually taken to La Union, Baler and Zambales. These are well established surf spots that are well equipped with boards and instructors.

Surfing and surfaris can be for everyone. The surf spots have well-trained and experienced instructors that can guide first-timers. Beginners are taught using longboards and soft topboards that are easier to learn on.

As to physical preparations, it will be an advantage if you go do some laps in the pool before a surfari because you’ll be doing some heavy paddling. Skateboarding and an indoboard will also help in developing your balance and core muscles.

Surfing is all about making friends, travel and adventure. Surfaris allow you to meet new friends and your future surf mates. It’s perfect for city folk to have a change of lifestyle even for just a weekend and get to experience the surf, food and drinks by the beach.

Equipment: soft top surfboards and longboards are used in teaching- they give added stability to the aspiring surfer.

Clothing: the usual board shorts, bikini and rash guard are the norm.

Recommended groups: Surfari, Surfista travels, Travel Factor (these groups also provide accomodations for the surfari participants)

Correspondent: JP Sarmiento, ace surfer and surfista adventurer

Photographs: courtesy of JP Sarmiento

4 Drifting

Drifing is a driving technique wherein a car moves from point A to point B with the car moving sideways, as the rear tires are slipping and sliding and the front wheels are at an angle, guiding the car while it is essentially over steering. It is the fastest growing motorsport today and is very exciting to watch. It’s also called “the motorsport rebel”, because it does not follow the conventions of traditional motorsports. While you are drifting, the driver is controlling a car that is technically at the edge of losing control. Drift events are not measure through time, but evaluated by judges who score drivers on several factors such as speed, angle, grace and style.

It is always best to do drifting in an enclosed and safe environment. You can opt to get some drift time on a real racetrack, such as those in Batangas (Batangas Racing  Circuit) or Pampanga (Clark International Speedway in Mabalacat City). Some drivers also rent out large open and paved areas, such as large parking lots, old factory warehouses, old airports or runways. Just e sure there is enough space for drifting and for making mistakes. Always make sure that people are out of harm’s way before drifting.

Drifting may look hard, but it’s actually easy to learn. With a good teacher, you can learn the basics in a day. If you have your own vehicle that has the necessary requirements in a drift car, you can also try to learn by yourself. A lot of the top drifters in the world are self-taught. Anybody who can drive can try drifting, although it would be easier for rivers who can drive a manual transmission vehicle and know how to work a clutch.

Its always good to prepare your car before a drifting session. Make sure your car is running well and you have sufficient amount of tires. Travelers should try out drifting because it gives an exhilarating feeling that you will never forget. The Philippines has a very welcoming drift community that will make you feel right at home.

Equipment: to drift a car successfully, you will need a rear-wheel drive vehicle. That means the engine is rolling the two rear wheels to move the car as opposed to a front wheel drive car where the front wheels are the ones turning. No matter what you read, you cannot drift a front wheel drive car. A front wheel drive car going sideways is sliding, and not drifting. To drift, it would be best if you have your own rift car. But there are several companies that rent out drift cars for different occasions. There are several grass-roots budget drifters who turned into the professional drift drivers we have today.

Recommended groups: DMF Drift is the first drift company to  be opened in the Philippines which came with a lot of other firsts. DMF Drift is the first to have a drift-specific performance garage, drift school, and drift events company. you can check out their website at www.dmfdrift.com. You can also check their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Correspondent: Artie Lopez

Photographs: by and/or courtesy of Errol Panganiban Images and Productions, and DMF Drift

5 Downhill landboarding

Downhill longboarding is skateboarding. It is an expression. There is no difference between downhill longboarding and skateboarding. They are one and the same: a wooden plank, trucks, bearing and wheels held together by nuts and bolts. You take that and go down a hill. That’s downhill skateboarding in its purest sense.

The best destination to practice downhill longboarding would be mountain spots that offer the steepest andlongest runs. The north eastern peaks of theSierra Madre mountain range contain within her pristine virgin mountain slopes, with little to no vehicular contact along the way. The islands of the Visayas are also ideal with the many asphalted gems hidden in their hills. All year round is the best time to go.

Falls and spills are inevitable in skateboarding. It is easy to learn the fundamentals, but it could prove difficult if you want to continue and progress. The level of difficulty will depend on your mental conditioning. It’s all fun and easy up until your first major spill. Taking up your board and riding again after your first spill is the most difficult part, but once you get past that, downhill becomes fairly easy.

No specific training of physical preparations is needed before engaging in this. If you sleep early, hydrate regularly, take vitamin C and live organic, you should be fine.

Downhill skateboarding is naturally attractive to those that want a break from the norm. If you’re open to new experiences and willing to accept a fall once in a while, downhill skateboarding is for you. It is  a great way to get from point A to point B without having to use petroleum. That’s on top of the fact that it’s a great excuse to see the roads of the world and climb up mountains.

Clothing: downhill skateboarders wear whatever they want to wear.Some choose to wear thicker clothes, like long sleeved shirts or jackets, to protect themselves from scratches. Some individuals go so far ashaving suits tailor-made out of animal skins to protect their own skin when going downhill. Thin breathable clothes suit skating in tropical islands. To protect my skin from damage, apply zinc oxide before heading out.

Equipment: a wood skateboard deck with little to no flex would be ideal for riding down hills. The rigid construction will help with stability. The kinds of skateboards available for downhill are just as numerous and diverse as the people that ride them. Boards that are longer in length translate to generally greater stability at speed, while boards that are shorter in length are generally more maneuverable and nimble. A lightweight helmet is essential.

Cost: downhill longboarding can be generally expensive. Starting out can set you back upwards of Php 10,000. If materials (wood) are readily available in your area and you know your way around the workshop, boards can be made at home. This is a cheaper alternative to buying ready-made boards from local and international retailers.

Recommended groups: Whiskey Hill and Skate of the Nation if you’re Metro Manila. In Metro Cebu, look up the Grupo Nopo kids.

Correspondent: Rafa El Itchon, who’s been riding a skateboard sine he was in grade school. In his 20’s now, he lives to skate and love to surf, going all over the Philippines to race down mountains and search for the biggest hill to skate. He is supported by Ladera Skateboards (California) and backed by Whiskey Hill

Photography: Tito Boy courtesy of Rafa Itchon

6 Kite landboarding

Kite landboarding is two sports combined – powerkiting and mountain boarding or land boarding. it’s similar to kitesurfing but its done on land and has the same principles but different equipment.

The best place to do kite landboarding here in the Philippines is at Lingayen and Binamalay Pangasinan. You an also do it in any place that has a wide flat open area with good wind conditions. The best time to do kite landboarding in the Philippines is during the summer season and at the end of the year.

Kite landboarding is a progressive sport. you can do it for leisure or be competitive in other countries, but it’s considered as an extreme sport, meaning this sport may not be for everybody. Anybody can try it as long as accompanied by a professional or an instructor on the first try.

There are no particular physical preparations for this sport but we don’t recommend this to people with heart problems. Before you fly our kite, you must have to learn more about the wind (wind direction, how to estimate wind speed, and how to control your kite). You must learn how to control your kite before you ride a land board. This sport requires 50 percent mental and 5 percent physical skill.

Kite landboarding allows you to move from point to point with the power of the wind and not with a motorized engine. You get to look at nature in a different perspective, get a full body workout and meet new friends. If you want to go extreme, this is the sport for you.

Clothing: you can wear anything that is comfortable but protective gear is a must for beginners (helmet, knee and elbow pads, and gloves). Denim pants and long slees shirts is also recommended for first timers.

Cost: most people think this is an expensive sport and yes it is, but you don’t have to spenda lot of money to start. You can start with buying second hand equipment. Powerkites can range from Php 500 to 45,000, while kite landboards/mountain boards range from Php 10,000 to 40,000.A kite harness is around Php 2,000 to 5,000.

Recommended groups: You can contact the PKP Power Kiting Philippines, the only registered kite landboarding group in the Philippines. Get in touch with them through the Facebook fan page.

Recommended resort: JT resort in Binmalay Pangasinan

Correspondent: Jorel Guevarra, freelance web/print/multimedia designer and kite landboarder at Powerkiting Philippines

Photography: Jorel Guevarra

7 Cross Country Mountain Biking

Cross country mountain biking (MTB) or cross-country (XC) cycling is the most common discipline of mountain biking. It isdefined by the terrain on which it is performer.XC course and trails consist of a mix of rough forest paths and single tracks, smooth fire roads, and even paved paths connecting other trails. Cross-country riding emphasizes endurance above technical prowess, and races vary from 30 mintues to 24 hours in length. Riding or racing is also only deemed cross-country if the technical complexity of the trails is easy or moderate. Trails nearly impossible seen to experienced riders are more often dubbed “all-mountain”, “freeride”, or “downhill”.

MTB bikers usually preer off road tracks, trails and mountainous areas. Summer is usually the best season to ride your bike bu there’s no particular season for mountain biking especially on a tropical country like the Philippines.

The level of difficulty varies from easy, moderate to hard and the type of terrain, distance and elevation gain usually dictates the difficulty of a mountain bike ride. Anybody can do mountain biking as long as you know how to.

The best training for mountain biking is mountain biking. Ride your bike on all kinds of terrain as often as you can and usually, the longer and better. Your training program should consist of training for cardiovascular endurance (long rides), speed (intervals), muscular endurance (weight lifting) and climbing training (hill repeats). You can also do cross training such as swimming and running.

Traveling on your bike is cheaper, healthier and you get to cover more distance. Biking in general is universal and you’re in control because you ‘re the one pedaling and steering your bike. You can go as far as your legs  can  take you and you can visit and explore places inaccessible to motorized vehicles.

Equipment: mountain bikes can be classified into four categories based on suspension – rigid has a frame with a rigid fork and fixed rear, no suspension; hardtail has a frame with a front suspension fork and no rear suspension; activated by flex of the frame instead of pivots; dual or full suspension has a front suspension fork and rear suspension with a rear shock and linkage that allows the rear wheel to move on pivots. Cross country mountain bikes are designed primarily around the discipline of cross country racing.

Clothing: mountain bikers usually wear dry-fit, lightweight shirts or bike jerseys. A helmet is a must.

Cost: you don’t have to have a very expensive bike to join fun rides and races. But if you’re a iming to be competitive, this is where mountain biking will start to get expensive. You will have to start investing on a good quality bike (the lighter, the better and the more expensive) and gears (helmet, shoes and clothing). Your training will man more time on your bikes and more out of town trips. Usually, your expenses for a race will depend on the location of the race, the length, distance and the logistical preparation that you need for the race (the longer the race, the more expensive it is).

Recommended group and competitions: depending on your riding preference (XC, downhill, free riding, etc.) groups usually have websites or Facebook pages that you can visit. A sample of these groups are Philmofo and Mountain Bike Philippines or PMTB. Races are year round for XC racers, the most popular races are the endurance races (24 hours race and the 100 kilometer race) in La Mesa and the dirt weekend in Nuvali, Laguna.

Correspondent: Thumbie Remigio

Photography: Tumbie Remigio

8 Triathlon

Triathlon or “tri” is a multisport event which consists of three disciplines done in succession, starting with the swim, bike, and lastly, the run. Some of the more common race distance are the following: full Ironman (3.8km swim/180km bike/42.2km run); half Ironman (1.9k swim/90km bike/21.1km run); Olympic or standard (1.5km swim/40km bike/10km run); and sprint (750m swim/20km bike/5km run).

Most triathlon events in the Philippines are held in Subic, Olongapo for its calm, clean beaches, well-paved roads and sunny weather. Batangas is also one of the go-to places for tri events. Since the Ironman brand had recently relocated to Cebu, tri races have been booming there as well. The number of triathlon races organized each year have picked up in the last few years. Tri races are held once or twice almost every month this year, with distances and difficulty that accommodates both beginners and the more seasoned ones, so individuals have the opportunity to pick and plan their races accordingly.

Level of difficulty can vary depending on the technicality of the course. But since there are aspects involved that can be unpredictable (i.e. open water condition, weather changes), it is always good than an individual is well-prepared, fit and trained to do the event. Train well ahead of time and accordingly based on the distance you are joining in. It is also good to do a recon or know the conditions of the race course at least a week before the race. You can also try and simulate your race strategy during trainings so you can practice and prepare not only specifically for three disciplines, but aswell as for your transitions and nutrition.

One way to step up and make your travels exciting is by participating in local  events like triathlon, where you get to sight-see and exercise at the same time. Unlike some sports, triathlon offers a unique kind of challenge. Every race is a different experience. Triathlon also keeps training interesting since you’re not stuck to doing one thing only.

Equipment: swimming cap and goggles for the swim part; helmet, bike shoes, shades, socks and gloves (optional) for the cycling part; running shoes, visor/cap (optional) for the running part. For the longer distance tri events, it is advisable to carry spares in a saddle bag that would come in handy in case of emergencies, like popping your tire in the bike leg. Extras usually consist of a hand pump or carbon dioxide canisters and inflator, inner tube, allen keys and tire levers.

Clothing: a tri suit is the staple outfit in triathlon events since the materials and construction is made to be comfortable throughout the three disciples.

Cost: triathlon races can be a bit expensive but this doesn’t mean that you can’t go on a budget. There are events where registration fees are less expensive but still offer the same distance, quality and experience as the more known ones. It’s all about planning which races and how many you want to race in a year so that you can budget accordingly.

Recommended groups and competitions: more known competitions that triathletes look forward to are the Subic Bay International Triathlon (SuBIT), 5i50, Tri United Series and the celebrated Ironman 70.3 in Cebu. Beginners can also look forward to sprint triathlons like the Animo Sprint Tri.

Correspondent: Keisha Fule

Photo: Courtesy of bike king

9 Skydiving

Skydiving is the sport of jumping off an aircraft in flight and landing back to the ground with the aid of a parachute to slow down the descent. Skydivers, especially expert ones, may execute free-fall stunts after their jump. Free fall time is a time within the jump during which the parachute is not immediately deployed while the body accelerates to terminal velocity. A free-falling body reaches its terminal velocity during free fall when the downward force of gravity equals the buoyancy and/or resistance force of the drag.

In the Philippines, several locations have been cited online as ideal skydiving destinations or jump off points. In fact, the three most mentioned places represent a location in each of the three major island groups of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

In Luzon, the skydiving place to go is Pampanga, near Clark airfield. The most referred-to location here is the Tropical Asia Parachute Center, Omni Aviation, at the Clark Special Economic Zone in Angeles City, which offers student training, static line parachuting and advanced training. In the Visayas,there’s Cebu, with two places where the jump can be made: at the spacious Camotes Island or Tagbilaran Airpor’s grassy landing area. Skydivers are loaded at Mactan Cebu International Airport, and are then transported in a flight to either Camotes or the airport. In Mindanao, there is Butuan, where the drop off point can be the Bancasi Airport in Butuan City. Surigao can also be a drop zone point, through the Surigao Airport.

For the first time skydivers, tandem skydiving is highly recommended. This is the kind of skydiving where the skydiver takes the dive with an instructor harnessed along with him under one parachute system throughout the skydive.It can take as short as about 30 minutes to brief and train the initiate for this kind of dive, and free fall can last for 30 to 50 seconds.For those feeling a bit more adventurous, the static line program is recommended. It covers instructions on climb-out and exit from the aircraft, free fall, canopy flight, landing and emergency procedures orientation.

New Zealand has also been cited as an international skydiving destination, particularly Christchurch which has a stable summer weather ideal for the sport.

Equipment: aircraft can be either from a Cessna 172 or 206, or the upscale PAC-750XL

Clothing: comfortable loose-fititng clothes are advised as inner garments.Sneakers or closed shoes with soft and comfortable soles must be worn. Jumpsuits, helmets, goggles and gloves  are always provided by skydiving centers.

Photos: courtesy Manuel Egay of Skydiving Butuan

10 Cliff Diving

The thrill of cliff diving does not always come with the actual process. It comes before and, at times, after the deed has been done.

Considered by Discovery Channel as one of the most dangerous sports in the world, the sheer thought of surviving it can be exciting. Meanwhile, the mere sight of the descent- an image often undermined by courageous first timers-can also be exhilarating. And after the task has been completed, the thrill can come from the thought of either doing it again or talking about it endlessly.

Said to be inspired by a royal Hawaiian tradition where subjects of the king would prove their loyalty by jumping off cliffs,the task has evolved into a more democratic adventure for thrill seekers goaded by their companions. One, however, should not hastily give in to peer-pressure without knowing the basics. Plunging in toes first with a stiff upright body, for instance, is  a must for beginners. Meanwhile, it is also ideal to choose the best jump spots.

In the Philippines, among the best cliff diving destinations is Ariel’s Point- a scenic location of jagged rock formations, makeshift shelters and pristine waters located near Boracay. Currently managed by Alvin Abriam, the picturesque tourist magnet is accessible after a 30 minute boat ride from the famed island paradise. Offering jumps that go a slow as 8 meters to as high as 15 meters, Ariel’s Point has been said to be an ideal spot for both beginners and longtime divers.

On the whole, cliff diving is a quick process. What lasts is the impression left by the experience- and at times, the bruises  it can leave to the body right after a bad, blunt landing.

Clothing: for cliff dives below 30 feet, experts advise to wear secure and aerodynamic bathing suits. Clothes that are flapping and oversized should be avoided. A wet suit is also advisable since this can provide impact cushioning between the skin and the water; as the cliff diver hits the water. No need to wear goggles because this can fly off when you hit the water after the dive.

Correspondent: Angelo Cantera

Photos: courtesy of Ariel’s point

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