Climbing to the Top: Sydney Harbour Bridge
The first time we were there, I’d trained my lens on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and saw a single file of people walking along its topmost arch. Construction workers, I thought. Maybe they need to hammer in some loose rivets. But what struck me as strange was that they seemed a jolly bunch, waving away and gesticulating wildly. I was sure I even caught the split-second blip of a camera flash. We later found out that the Sydney BridgeClimb was an activity that anyone with reasonable fitness could do. You just need to be sober and not be very scared of heights. The views from the top are fantastic. It is very safe; mandatory space-age harnesses, clothing and footwear are provided. Time flies as the guides keep you entertained and before you know it, you are standing on top of the bridge posing for a photograph or two.
Over the Remarkables: Queenstown, New Zealand
If jumping out of a plane in flight doesn’t terrify you then you must be lying. But facing this fear head-on is what makes skydiving so much fun. And, in Queenstown, it is all the more spectacular because you are skydiving over The Remarkables mountain range. I had been a nervous wreck driving up there, but the atmosphere in the hangar was one of adrenalin-pumping excitement. Soon, I was a convert as the crew prepped and briefed me about the jump. The second time the python of fear uncoiled in my stomach was when we got to 15,000 ft and the plane’s door was pulled open. Those five seconds at the door are the scariest, as my jumpmaster, belted and buckled to me, did final checks and hurled us out. Fear conquered, it was pure bliss after that — an entire minute of free fall at 200 kmph. And the view below was absolutely stunning.
Mammoth Friends: Jaipur
In Jaipur, elephants mostly carry you to a fort, labouring up the steep climb. But at the Elefantastic elephant sanctuary, you can befriend the gentle pachyderms — feed them sugarcane, stroke their trunks, look into their eyes, talk to them and give them a drink of water or even a bath. We were assigned a full-grown female. Her trunk was strong enough to uproot a tree, but gentle enough to softly caress your cheek with its tip. Intimidating as it may sound, Maya’s ways were reassuring, putting us at ease. A gaze into her soulful eye, and it seemed she could actually understand what we were telling her.
Rafting through Holiness: Rishikesh
In contrast to the meditative evening riverside aartis or yoga sessions at the many ashrams of Rishikesh in Uttarakhand is the mother-of-all adventures: white-water rafting in the holy Ganga. After its tumultuous rush down the Himalayas from its source, Gangotri, the river somewhat calms down for a few kilometres before entering Rishikesh. Yet, at places, it is quite fast-flowing and the rapids vary from Grade 2 to Grade 4. Thrilling to negotiate as the raft is tossed about at the whim of the river and the current. There are calm interludes, too, where the current is uniform, and you can take a refreshing dip. Getting back into the raft is quite a process, though.
Coast-steering, or Coasteering, is an extreme, high-intensity adventure sport that involves jumping off cliffs into the sea and then swimming out to outcrops, scrambling over them and jumping into the sea again. Lapping against the county of Mayo in West Ireland — beneath the blue skies and cheery sun — the freakishly cold sea continues to thrill. The water, especially the green and frothy waters of the Atlantic, is always cold in Ireland. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. The most difficult part for us was to take the initial plunge. Despite the shield of wet suits, the shock stuns the senses and then the current grabs you, pulling you along. A crazy high-adrenaline rush is guaranteed!
Rishad Saam Mehta is the author of Hot Tea Across India, Fast Cars and Fidgety Feet and The Long Drive Home.High.