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Adventure Vacations

December 13, 1987|JERRY HULSE | Times Travel Editor

If your idea of adventure relates to a spiffy suite in St. Moritz or a recliner at the Ritz, tune us out.

Our space today is devoted to travelers who get their kicks out of riding camels across the Gobi Desert, rafting through white water in Argentina, trekking through blizzards in Antarctica and inching their way up some lonely peak in the Himalayas, ice ax in hand, a prayer on the lips.

On the other hand, the macho life needn't be confined to swatting mosquitoes in Mozambique or the tsetse fly in Tanzania. Indeed, it can be as luxurious as floating with Buddy Bombard by balloon over Burgundy, or doing the Bugaboos by chopper, or sailing the waters of Captiva with Steve Colgate. These and dozens of other outdoor adventures are scheduled for runaways in '88.

Bombard, who began ballooning nearly 20 years ago, is regarded as the world's leading drifter, having launched more flights to date than any balloonist on earth. Bombard's "Great Balloon Adventurers" are feted at candlelit dinners at Chateau Cinq-Mars-la-Pile in the Loire Valley and during luncheons at Domaine des Hauts de Loire. His balloonists visit the enormous vineyard, Clos de Vougeot, in Burgundy and picnic on the ramparts of the 14th-Century Chateau Rochepot.

Others drift over the Italian border to Tuscany for lunch in the enchanting village of San Gimignano, after which they take to the skies again to eavesdrop on the vineyards of Chianti. Others ascend over Switzerland and Austria.

Ballooning and barging is the marriage put together by Hemphill Harris of Encino, with leisurely journeys through Burgundy and the Loire Valley. Other Hemphill Harris travelers join fire walkers in the South Seas, motor up the slopes of a smoking volcano in Bali and knock about by helicopter and a vintage steam train in New Zealand.

Exotic datelines crop up on journeys through India, Nepal, Tibet, China and Pakistan--Siliguri, Gangtok and Thimphu, with its devil mask dancers . In a China/Pakistan swing, others strike out for Lhasa, Ghengdu, Lanzhou, Urumqi, Kashi, Taxkorgan, Gulmit, Karimabad, Gilgit, Peshawar and Rawalpindi.

Meanwhile, Tauk Tours does an eight-day Canadian swing that takes in Calgary, Banff and Lake Louise, with a helicopter drop at Bugaboo Lodge overlooking Bugaboo Glacier. From Bugaboo Lodge the chopper cruises over snowfields and alpine meadows bright with bluebells and Indian paintbrush, scenes that are reflected by lakes fed by waterfalls.

Abercrombie & Kent, that Rolls-Royce of tour operators, claims the world is its oyster, be it Europe, the South Seas, India or Nepal. With A&K one may join a gorilla tracking safari in Rwanda and a visit to Parc Nationale des Volcanes, which is described as one of the last remaining gorilla refuges in Africa. A&K operates luxury barges in France and England and delivers adventurers in comfort to the outback of Australia.

If you've ever thirsted for adventure at such scattered destinations as Nepal, Kashmir, Rajasthan, Bhutan, Tibet, Botswana, Timbuktu and Tierra del Fuego, then dial Mountain Travel in Albany, Calif. Because Mountain Travel specializes in wilderness tours, one could end up in a tree house in Africa. With Mountain, one travels by camel, kayak and canoe. Joining one of its tours to the Himalayas can mean a 15-day trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary (13,300 feet), along with visits to Katmandu, Pokhara, Ghorapani Pass and Ghandrung.

In 1988 Mountain Travel is scheduling more than 2,500 adventures in Africa, the Sahara, the Pacific, Europe, Central and South America and the United States. Mountain's trippers do six-day hikes up Kilimanjaro and five-day camel journeys across the Timeskis Plateau in the Sahara, running head-on into Tuareg nomads and sleeping, not in tents, but under the stars.

Mountain puts together other tours to storied Timbuktu, traveling the same paths crossed by French Foreign Legionnaires when they marched to the melody of "The Marseillaise." Only in the case of Mountain's groups, the journey is by Land Rover across the haunting desert landscape of Mali for the meeting of sub-Saharan tribes--Bambards, Dogons and the "blue men" of the desert, the Tuaregs--followed by encampments along the Niger River.

In Borneo, Mountain Travel's flock pays a visit to an orangutan preserve, takes in the rain forests of Kinabalu National Park and boards longboats for a two-day trip along the Skrang River, with overnight accommodations provided by ex-headhunters that Mountain describes as "among the most hospitable hosts in the world." (A pity if they aren't!)

Other groups spread out across Papua New Guinea to snooze in native villages, visit spirit houses, join singsings and explore the Sepik River by boat.

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