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 January 1, 1998

Elephant rides, camel caravans all part of adventure travel

It could be an elephant ride in Thailand or a Peruvian trek to the ruins of an ancient civilization.

Maybe it’s a visit to the Dani tribe in west New Guinea or a camel caravan journey through the deserts of Rajasthan.

Such daydreams continue to spur the adventure travel industry, which has become more mainstream in the last couple of years. Area agents have the logistics at hand to book you a trip, from Antarctica to the African jungle. Some of them may even come along.

“We book trips all over the world, and most of them are full,´ said Cindy Sonderup, owner of Changes in Latitude, a 5-year-old Boulder adventure travel agency and store.

Sonderup currently is planning a 17-day journey to Indonesia that will include hiking in Bali, cruising through the Komodo Islands and visiting the Dani tribe in west New Guinea. Also in the planning stages are trips to Bhutan, Thailand, Bali and Rajasthan. She has led treks to Thailand and Nepal in the past.

Becky Miller, program coordinator for Narayan Gateway Travel, says the popularity of trips she plans continues to grow. Miller and other local agents book trips for travelers around the country.

“People are looking for alternate travel journeys,” she said. “It’s something new and different.”

Adventure trips are not for the faint of heart or the poor, since area travel agents say they charge $2,500 or more for an organized trip. People need to be in good shape physically and mentally, travel planners say. The idea is to give people the opportunity to experience thrills in groups that they could never experience on their own.

People who go on the trips say they want to expand their experiences and push their limits.

The business has its roots in the ’60s and draws its followers largely from baby-boomers. As they reach their peak earning years and have more time to indulge their urges, adventure travel, whether it’s rafting Africa’s Zambezi River or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, is expected to do nothing but grow.

Beverly Young, who has owned Boulder’s Wind over Mountain travel agency for nine years, say many of her customers are on spiritual journeys.

“I concentrate on Nepal and India more than Africa,” Young said. “I deal with a lot of spiritual seekers who are going to India to see different gurus or ashrams. I also deal with a lot of climbers and trekkers. I’m getting more involved with people going to Africa who want to do safaris.”

For some of her customers, trekking to India is the culmination of a lifelong quest.

“They are driven,” she said. “They are going to a place that will change their lives. I wish every kid in the United States would have to go to a true Third World country before they graduate from high school.”

Trekking to Machu Picchu in South America with Kevin Haight, owner of Tawantinsuyo Explorations, may not be so much a spiritual journey as an interest in seeing something different than the average tourist. Former Tawantinsuyo travelers have visited an ancient salt works, hidden temples and remote villages where the dress is still the same as it was 500 years ago.

“We visit the world-famous attractions, but we also go to places that can be far more fascinating,” Haight said.

Boulder adventure travel agents say their clients are diverse, but many are middle-aged. They come from around the United States and are opposite from the types looking for luxury.

Young said Boulder County travelers are “among the most sophisticated travelers in the world. They come up with places no one has heard of.”

For such tours, however, travel agents say customers should be careful when they plan trips so they don’t buy a trip promoted as a “wild African adventure safari,” if that means driving through a game park and seeing wild animals from inside a minivan, when what the traveler really wants is a five-day hike in the bush without running water.

One traveler described safari “camps” as fenced-in condominium complexes with restaurants, bars, pools and air-conditioned rooms.

In addition to planning independent trips, Miller and Narayan Gateway Travel work with the University of Colorado to offer a credit programs such as Semester Around the World, Semester in Nepal, and The People and Cultures of Nepal, a winter break anthropolgy program.

Students stay with host families and are exposed to a country’s geography, economy, culture, history and traditional ways of life. Narayan also participates in the Helping Hands Health Education program, a non-profit organization that brings doctors, nurses and non-medical volunteers to Nepal to participate in year-round relief clinics.

It could be an elephant ride in Thailand or a Peruvian trek to the ruins of an ancient civilization.

Maybe it’s a visit to the Dani tribe in west New Guinea or a camel caravan journey through the deserts of Rajasthan.

Such daydreams continue to spur the adventure travel industry, which has become more mainstream in the last couple of years. Area agents have the logistics at hand to book you a trip, from Antarctica to the African jungle. Some of them may even come along.

“We book…

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