Gay Adventure Travel

By Mike Boisvert.

And if "gay adventure travel" looks like an oxymoron, remember that more and more gays and lesbians - tough kids, sissy kids, kids who climb on rocks - are living the Discovery Channel lifestyle or finding gay tour operators who can show them the way.

The sampling of adventure trips covers the Americas, from the frozen tip of Alaska to the thundering waterfalls of South America. With trips in all climates, price ranges and activity levels, there's no reason not to dive in! We've bundled suggestions for enjoying some local gay life, too. Design your adventure, or use the services of one of the gay tour operators listed way down below.

Peru: Machu Picchu

Most travelers who visit Peru's Urubamba Valley head straight for Machu Picchu, leaving the rest of the region relatively untouristed. A new Wilderness Travel trip combines a visit to the star site with challenging day hikes to forgotten Inca ruins elsewhere in the sacred valley. You'll stay in comfortable haciendas and feast on roasted lamb during the traditional festival of Pancha Manca in the home village of your Quechua guides. Finish the trip by passing through the Gate of the Sun to explore the famed lost city. $3,395 for nine days 800-368-2794 www.wildernesstravel.com.

Climbing builds an appetite, and some say Peruvian cuisine is the best in South America. When hunger strikes in Lima, the bustling capital city, head to Maraflores, the city's gay district. A wealth of restaurants awaits, including El Senorio de Sulco (Malecon Cisneros 1470 +51-1/441-0389 dinner entrees: $8-11) and Tarata Caffe (Pasaje Tarata 260 +51-1/446/6330$5-9). The most popular men's club in the city is probably Minotauro Club (Manuel del Pino 694, Santa Beatriz, +51-1/471-8141, http://minotauroclub.tripod.com/.

British Columbia: The Haute Route West

The so-called "haute route" of the Americas, Canada's Spearhead Traverse isn't quite the undertaking it was when four skiers from the University of British Columbia's outdoors club first tackled it in 1964. Back then, it took six hours to travel from Vancouver to Whistler rather than today's two, and there were no ski lifts waiting to transport them magically into the high country. Local speed freaks now knock off the entire ski route - 13 glaciers, 14 passes, and 20-odd miles - in a matter of hours. The three to four-day traverse, which will be offered by Mountain Madness for the first time in April 2005, is decidedly more sane. Clients need to have upper-intermediate ski ability and will be traveling in groups of no more that five skiers per guide. $800 for five days 206-937-8389 www.mountainmadness.com.

Vancouver, B.C. is certainly no slouch at entertaining gay adventurers, and the city is known for its exciting Pan-Asian cuisine and charming bed-and-breakfast inns. In the gay West End, try Szechuan eatery Won More (1184 Denman St 604/688-8856 C$10-15). Feeling Victorian? Stay at West End Guest House (1362 Haro St 604-681-2889 http://www.westendguesthouse.com/ C$95-255), a 1906 marvel in pink.

Argentina: Amateur Archaeology in the High Puna

The Inca spent 50 loud years in the Argentine high puna, conquering villages and turning Andean summits into burial sites for figurines and sacrificial victims. It's unclear, however, whether the religious significance of the 21,722-foot Nevado de Incahuasi volcano predated the Inca's 1480 arrival. Hershey is now recruiting volunteers through the Earthwatch Institute to survey the peak. Armed with aerial photographs and GPS units,they'll fan out in a dragnet, scouring the circumference of Incahuasi - where a few stone ruins and potsherds have already been spotted - between 14,760 and 16,400 feet. $2,595 for 20 days 800-776-0188 www.earthwatch.org

Most trips begin and end in the cosmopolitan capital of Buenos Aires. For dining here, try Babieca (Av. Santa Fe 1890 +54-11/4875/1985 prix fixe: $12.50, a la carte: $5-18), a gay-friendly bar and restaurant, or Inside (Bartolome Mitre 1571 +54-11/4372-5439 prix fixe: $12, a la carte: $8-16).

Panama: Ocean-To-Ocean On Foot

Centuries before construction began on the Panama Railroad and Canal, the "path between the seas" was just that: a Spanish-built cobblestone thoroughfare winding 50 miles across the Central American isthmus. Beginning in the 1500s, mule trains laden with Inca gold followed the Camino Real (King's Road) from the Pacific to the Caribbean to meet galleons bound for Spain buccaneers - Francis Drake and Henry Morgan among them - conspired to relieve them of their cargo. A new weeklong Camino Real exploration led by Ancon Expeditions, the local outfitter behind Panama's recent tourism upsurge, starts with a dugout-canoe ride up the Chagres River. Then it's four days of trekking, finding vestiges of the trail and 19th-century manganese mines along the way. $950 for seven days 507-269-9415 www.arconexpeditions.com.

Cosmopolitan Panama City, its colonial treasures intact even after pirate Henry Morgan sacked it in the 1600s. With typical Latino flair, thre are enough sassy bars, cafes and discos to keep even the most dedicated nightclub habitue from slipping into a coma. Never been to a gay disco foam party? Tsk, tsk. Check the listings for Glam (located in the Tumba Muerto, Urbanization Industrial) and get ready for suds.

Alaska: Off the Map In the Wragells

Wrangell-St. Elias is the undisputed goliath of American national parks, six times the size of Yellowstone, but with one-seventieth as many visitors. And of the 43,000 who do come each year, only a fraction venture farther then the magnificent Root Glacier, an easy day hike from park headquarters. A new guided hike with Geographic Expeditions, you'll be dropped at treeless Skolai Pass, from which a "route" (decidedly not a trail) leads to alpine meadows and innumerable crossings of braided rivers. 43,795 for 13 days 800-777-8183 http://www.geoex.com/.

Gay Adventure Travel Tour Operators

The following tour operators specialize in gay adventure tours:

Adventure Bound (877/440-0990) http://www.adventurebound.com/) Their next scheduled trip takes travelers throughout Argentina and Chile.

HE Travel (866/294-8174 http://www.hetravel.com/) Biking, hiking and multisport tours on all 7 continents including Galapagos land tour and Grand Canyon rafting.

Coda Tours (888/677-2632 http://www.coda-tours.com/) Find trips to Argentina and Chile, Peru and the Caribbean).

Footprints (888/962-6211 http://www.footprintstravel.com/) These globetrotters are headed to Costa Rica, Bolivia, Peru and British Columbia.

Toto Tours (800-565-1241 or http://www.tototours.com/). Enjoy Panama, Costa Rica, and Argentina with this tour operator.

Undersea Expeditions (800/669-0310 http://www.underseax.com/) Upcoming scuba diving trips include the Galapagos Islands and Curacao.

Zenith Travel (+593-2-252-9993 or http://www.galapagosgay.com/) South American specialists, featuring adventures to Peru, the Amazon, the Galapagos Islands and the Andean Highlands.

© 2004 Gay Outdoors All Rights Reserved.

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