Who watched the London marathon at the weekend? I went along to cheer on a friend and as I stood there, chocolate bar and fizzy drink in hand, enthusiastically cheering (and consequently spilling most of said fizzy drink all over the poor man in front of me) as hundreds of super-fit (and frankly super-human) people sweated it out over 26.2 miles, I had something of an epiphany. I may have missed the boat on the marathon front but there is no time like the present when it comes to challenging yourself and, in this instance, the world is well and truly your playground. So put down the cake, get off the sofa and get active people! Here are my top 5 challenges and activities around the world.
Riding Safari in Botswana
Channel your inner Clint Eastwood in A Fist Full of Dollars (or Woody from Toy Story for the less mature reader) and become a real-life cowboy on a riding safari in Botswana. Exploring the diverse and beautiful Okavango Delta or Kalahari Desert aboard a trusty steed is, needless to say, simply spectacular. If you're an experienced rider looking to take it to the next level, this is the activity for you. You'll be on equal terms with the game as you gallop alongside herds of wildebeest and zebra, or watch quietly as your horse grazes near a family of giraffe. You won't just be on a safari, you'll be in it.
Sea Kayaking around the Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
Croatia's Dalmatian Coast is considered one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world. Think breathtaking beaches, water so clear it looks photo-shopped and charming towns and cities dotted along the way. This is one activity that sounds less challenging and more, well, heavenly really. Let me paint you a picture: by day you're kayaking the crystal clear, calm waters of the Adriatic; going from cove to cove, eating al fresco and basking in the glory of the warm Mediterranean sun. In the evening you're camping on deserted beaches or staying in charming little hotels on the islands. Need I say more?
Galapagos Surf & Yoga Safari
The Galapagos Archipelago is one of the last places in the world to be untouched by man, lying at the crossroads between science, nature and exploration. What better place to challenge yourself to learn to surf? Now, you may be asking why the yoga is in there but learning to control your breathing is surprisingly helpful. Plus many yoga moves mirror those of surfing. The Galapagos Safari Camp offers just such a course. Spend your days with an instructor, surfing in the water off a white sandy beach and taking breaks to look for wildlife. Learning a new skill, getting active, finding your inner zen and spotting incredible wildlife - sounds like the full package!
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Now I could wax lyrical all day long about how spectacular climbing Kilimanjaro is, having done it last year. We tackled the Machame Route, renowned as one of the hardest, thanks in no small part to the knee wobble-inducing obstacle known as The Wall (I'll leave that one to the imagination), but the landscape and views we encountered along the way were nothing short of sensational. Summiting overnight, you watch sunrise from the first peak (there's two?! I hear you cry), Stella Point, before heading around the rim of the volcano's crater. Glacier to your left, volcano to the right, there are no words to describe that view. Did I lose all sense of time, space, balance (and let's face it, self) and imagine little gremlins running up the mountain beside me? Yes, but the fact that it was so hard only made the feeling of elation when I reached the top that much better.
Running the Marathon in Rome
Now, if you found yourself positively yearning to jog while watching London last weekend and have been inspired to hop on that marathon train then where better to do it than in the world's greatest outdoor museum? The Rome marathon starts on the Via dei Fori Imperiali, in the shadow of the Coliseum, and then weaves right through the heart of the city, taking in landmarks like the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and St. Peter's Basilica. You will, essentially, be on the greatest city tour known to humankind. There is, of course, the minor consideration that you'll be slogging it out around a 26 mile running course but details, details.