We’re bombarded with images of what adventure travel should be, but it’s not always necessary to go so far to get your adventure fix. Some cities, like Boulder and Seattle, seem to specialize in easy access to outdoor activities like hiking and climbing. Big cities, especially farther afield like Cape Town, Sydney and even Hong Kong, have outdoor adventure in easy reach. Chicago has fewer outdoor adventures than others. That’s why when the chance to go kayaking on the Chicago River came up, I jumped at it. No reservations were needed, and we were on our way after a little instruction. Paddling south from North Avenue, we made our way around Goose Island and headed toward downtown. Given boat traffic on the river, Chicago has its own unique rules: commercial traffic has the right of way and, like road traffic, kayakers stick to the right bank of the river. But the wake of big boats is the biggest danger, and so it is easy to enjoy the unique perspectives—going under bridges and gliding past glass skyscrapers—for a couple of hours of adventure in a city like Chicago.
Archive for August, 2009
Travel, among other things, is about the unexpected. Amidst the stories of war and deprivation, it is still possible to have a nice day out in many parts of Afghanistan. A short drive north from Kabul, not far from Bagram military base, above the heat and dust yet below the snowy peaks of the Hindu Kush, is the village of Istalif. Walking west out of the village, several aid workers and I walked amongst grubby, friendly and endlessly curious kids (for them, we seemed to be the morning’s entertainment). We hiked on for more than an hour, tracing the switchbacks of the cool mountain river, until the mountain air became crisp and the trees grew tall. We reached a guest house that could only be reached by hikers, donkeys and robust goats. Under a mulberry tree, we all took off our day packs and pulled out what became a great lunch of cheese, fruit and Afghan bread. We talked about the important, yet fleeting, nature of aid work and about the possibility of creating projects that worked more closely and sustainably with local Afghans. Back in Istalif, with aching leg muscles, we bought some pottery for which the village is known and made our way back to Kabul.