I would like to think myself somewhat of a global adventure traveler, but compared to these people, an indication of my typical level of risk is me getting up off the Barcalounger and walking outside to get the morning newspaper while barefoot.
Thus, I settle to live vicariously through literature and film of those that do.
For a quick fix, I will pick up one of the many travel magazines that pile up next to my aforementioned lazy-boy—with emphasis on the word “lazy”.
But, I quickly tire of the vacuous stories that are thinly veiled advertisements containing photos of models with Über perfect bodies, entirely all about the same age (about half of mine…or less), the men clothed in high-end labels and the women clothed in not much of anything. Expensive watches and jewelry are, of course, de rigueur.
So, to experience the rigors of extreme-adventure taken by others, you might find me confined to the safety of sitting in the recliner grasping a good book. You already know about my serious man-crush on Tim Cahill, as I have followed his years of engaging and evocative prose on the subject of adventure travel.
As to watching adventurers in action who truly define the meaning of extreme, every year I take in the traveling Banff Mountain Film Festival when it comes to my neighborhood for a two-night stand of over-the-top, mind-numbing action adventure.
The clips are submitted by hundreds of independent film makers from which a sample gets lugged around the globe by so-called Road Warriors, who stop off at 32 countries in every corner of the planet, to be viewed by hundreds of millions of wannabe adventurers…just like me.
Many of this year’s films take the definition of extreme to, well, new extremes.
They run the gamut of the globe and at a wide range of altitudes, with crazy-scary stuff from deep underground to high above the earth.
The movie aptly named, “Into Darkness,” is about a special breed of people—and by “special breed” I mean totally whacked out of their minds—who travel four miles under the earth and crawl, shimmy, and squirm through cracks in the slimy rocks just barely bigger than their body.
True, they often discover awe-inspiring auditorium-sized caverns with amazing, multi-colored rock formations, and true, I myself have gone scuba diving through cenotes in the Yucatan of Mexico—albeit at relatively shallow depths and short distances from daylight; still…these people are certifiably crazy.
But, it makes for a great Banff film selection. Here is the trailer for the piece, but WARNING: this is not for the claustrophobic among you!
Closer to the surface, there are the two young lads who paddle across 2,000 kilometers of shark-infested, and with sometimes hurricane-like winds, high seas, in a modified sea kayak with a cabin below deck slightly bigger than a coffin.
In a movie euphemistically titled, “Crossing the Ditch,” which is named for the body of water between Australia and New Zealand, James and Justin spent two months under extremely trying conditions and numerous challenges on their history-making adventure.
True, I have spent a month at sea on a sailboat, but in my case, there was a refrigerator with ice and chilled pineapple juice to go with my Meyers dark rum, a large bunk with a padded mattress, and a fresh water shower.
These two guys…EXTREME. (You can have a taste of their salty insanity in this short YouTube clip.)
Looking towards the stratosphere, one film chronicles and recreates the story of a young German woman, Ewa Wisnierska, who did not necessarily start out undertaking such an extreme adventure. It just took a turn in that direction.
Riding on a paraglider, Wisnierska was quite literally sucked up into a massive thunderstorm cloud to the lofty, and quite inhumane altitude of over 30,000 feet. Floating peacefully along, very frozen, very much without oxygen, and very much unconsciously, she, by some miracle, survived. The movie, not surprisingly, is called Miracle In The Storm.
The team leader, in a gross understatement, is quoted as,
“We underestimated it, of course.”
No, I can’t say I have ever tried this sport. I once considered sky diving, but chickened-out and took up scuba diving, instead.
But, I have friends who are into hang-gliding, including Bill M. who has flown into cliffs…repeatedly!
Ewa…not crazy. Just unlucky. But ultimately…very, very lucky.
Regarding Bill M: does not getting the message constitute being an extreme adventurer?
Some of the Banff selections are highly comical and often quirky, and some are compellingly beautiful in showcasing far-off wildernesses.
Eastern Rises, the snarky piece about fly fishing in Kamchatka is all three.
Who knew that trout eat mice?
And how many helicopter crashes will it take to make you think twice whether certain travel adventure may be a lot more exciting than you really want.
I have taken some wild helicopter rides, like dropping instantly down, deep into the Grand Canyon, but on other occasions, I have witnessed helicopter crashes occurring right at my feet, so I tend to think two or three times before I hop in one for recreation or sport.
Especially, ancient military surplus models.
The website for The Fly Shop has the Kamchatka trip info and a number of film clips that you can check out, but none contain the humor of the full movie, nor scenes of the untimely demise of multiple Russian MI-8 helicopters.
Finally, I would be negligent to not mention one of the “cutest” selections this year, a movie named Kranked Kids.
Think: a bunch of adolescent kids, dad’s pick-up truck, and a case of beer. What could go wrong?!?
Well, worry not. It’s a comical parody, and unfortunately, the film trailer does not really capture the whole thing, which is reason enough to look up when the traveling film tour comes to your neighborhood, or near enough for a good excuse for a road trip.
If you click on this Banff Mountain Film Festival link you can look up the festival’s worldwide venues for the rest of this year’s crop of movies. Otherwise, there is always next year.
Or, better yet, go out and film your own extreme adventure travel, and maybe you will get into next year’s selections.
That is, if you don’t kill yourself doing it.
Me? I will continue to risk my personal safety and hope that I don’t step on a jagged pebble outside my front door.