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Adventure Sports Online

Wild Dog

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Student Adventure

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Expedition Photography

Far from the Modeming Crowd         back to TTN home page
by Joe Harkins- Jul 1, 98
no - it's not a hairpiece, just a bad haircut

    An amusing paradox of the Internet is that adventure travel, escaping from the familiar, such as that persistent little hour-glass on your monitor’s screen, is the subject of an astounding number of pages on the World Wide Web.

    For example, a recent search on HotBot, the web’s biggest, most powerful indexer, offered 3,182,194 sites containing the word "travel" but pages mentioning the word "sex", that supposedly universal and popular pastime, showed up "only" 1,976,976 times. Similar results, in differing quantities and varying percentages, come up on Lycos, AltaVista, DejaNews and Yahoo.

    There’s probably a potential doctoral dissertation in the social implications of that lopsided ratio. Equally striking is how many travel web sites are devoted to rugged outdoor adventure, far from the modeming crowd. Unfortunately, the size and scope of some adventure-travel sites can make exploring them as daunting as an uphill struggle through a field of ice-covered boulders.

    Take GORP, which is not only the name of the high-energy mixture of fruits, nuts and seeds popular with hikers and climbers, but also is the acronym and web site for the Great Outdoor Recreation Pages. Like trail-mix itself, the site is nutritious and tasty, but when dumped out on the table (or your browser’s screen) it’s difficult to separate raisins from peanuts and pine-cone seeds. Hundreds of topics are presented as non-alphabetized lists of hyperlinks, largely without organization beyond a few broad categories. A search engine would help.(update*)

    Despite that shortcoming, GORP has solid information, listings, articles, forums, interviews, tips and features that place it high on the must-visit list of the active traveler. Some are fun, even for a Himalayas-dreaming armchair-bound wannabe like me.

    Each week, GORP’s visitors are invited to contribute to an irreverent Top Ten List on a travel theme. The archive contains such lists as Top Ten Clues You Picked The Wrong Climbing Partner ("What at first appears to be her backpack turns out to be a parachute") and Top Ten Signs Your Vacation is Over ("You are out of food, money, and clean underwear.") Don’t overlook the monthly contest drawing. The current prize is a Rocky Mountains white-water rafting trip for two.

    Not all adventure travel web sites require a virtual piton and belay. Adventure Sports Online offers a more pleasing and negotiable face with well-organized navigation buttons, small, fast-downloading graphics and, like the outdoors itself, generous amounts of uncluttered space. As a result, the site might appear to have a narrower range of information, but that’s not true. ASO is well seasoned with links to a large variety of relevant pages and affiliated sites.

    The Wild Dog Adventure Travel Directory was created as a showcase for a London, England design company’s creativity. The site owner explains the name, "Deep inside all of us is an explorer, a wild dog if you like, waiting to be released from its domestic lifestyle and duties." In addition to doing great credit to that goal, the site is jam-packed with systematized world-wide listings that exceed the opening screen’s enticing promise of "overlanding in Africa, heli-skiing in British Columbia, discovering remote Peruvian villages by mountain bike, crossing the Himalayas on an Enfield motorbike, a walking holiday in the Tuscan Hills, skiing in Antarctica or salmon fishing on the River Umba in Russia."

    Wild Dog’s rail-travel links, which may not seem very adventurous, reflect a delightfully English perception that adventure is not limited to high altitude trekking across Sikkim and Darjeeling or tenting along the back-roads of Mongolia (also detailed on the site.) After reading through Wild Dog’s directory of dozens of trans-India rail-tour operators, I’ve taken my travel bag out of the closet and started checking discount fares to that sub-continent.  -30-

(note: The material that appears below may or may not have been published in your local newspaper depending on the  available space in this week's edition.)

Other web sites born to be wild:

Adventure Search
Not a tour operator, but a promising database of adventure travel resources. The graphics tend to slow things down and the overall design would benefit from some "data drill down" concepts, but it's still worth a patient visit.

Student Adventure Travel
Not all adventure travel involves climbing, rowing, or other deliberately aerobic activities. Sometimes adventure is as simple as finding a cold beer and a spot in the shade to watch the passing hard bodies. This is for *that* student adventurer in all of us.

Specialty Travel Online
This is a genuinely useful web site for adventure travel planning. Unlike most others, it offers zero (zip, nada, none) graphics to slow you down but lots of very well organized and indexed information. There's no eye-candy here, but for examples of what travel writing at its best is like, click on Editorial Features for June and July 1998. I'm envious.

Fast Focus
High-energy adventure reports from field events in progress. The site calls them "live", but most of us know the difference between live and recorded. This may be a great source for extreme or adventure travel planning and reporting, and they sure look like one, but the current word inflation doesn't help credibility. What will they call this stuff once technology allows genuinely live, real-time events over the Internet? And who will believe them?

Adventures Galore
Hiking to Mountain Climbing, Hang/Para Gliding, Skydiving, Ballooning, Sailing, Wilderness Tours, Wildlife Tours, Scuba Diving, Hunting, Fishing, Safaris and a whole lot more. Also offers link to Sports Camps.

Expedition Photography
This site seems to be either under construction or going out of business. Many of the links don't work, but those that do contain superb adventure photos.

UpDate (posted 12/25/98)
GORP has greatly improved without losing either its range or focus; a neat trick, actually. In addition to a search engine, they've cleaned up the layout in subtle ways that clarify what's there and they've added a feature (home page menu; lower left) called GORP Guide which presents a well organized overview of the site by categories.

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