Off the beaten track.jpg

Off the beaten track

NOT EVERYONE longs for two weeks of sun and sand at this time of year, so here are two of the more unusual holidays on offer around the globe.

Ice challenge

IT MAY sound unlikely, but to some people, trekking through blizzards to the South Pole is a dream holiday; and now, would-be Antarctic adventurers will soon be able to reach the South Pole more easily – by van!

Voyage Concepts’ Jason De Carteret set a world record last December for the fastest unsupported drive from Patriot Hills on the Antarctic coast to the Pole. His specially prepared Ford Motor Econoline, nicknamed Ice Challenger, made the journey in 69.5 hours, smashing the old record of 24 days set by the Japanese in 1992. The feat will be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Now he claims that tourists could soon be joining him. “It is a very rough trip, but, yes, tourists could use the vehicle to get to the Pole,” De Carteret says.

The sport utility vehicle was built in Iceland and flown to Antarctica in a special Russian cargo plane. A team of five adventurers, including De Carteret, took turns driving the 700 mile stretch of polar ice cap, burning 360 gallons of gasoline supplied by two fuel dumps along the way. But this was no budget van trip – the total cost for the project, which was two years in the making, was around 300,000 euros. The first vehicle to travel overland to the Pole was a tractor, in 1958, when Mt. Everest pioneer, Sir Edmund Hillary, made the journey in 82 days.

Get chilly in Chile

IF YOU prefer your time in the snow to be a more civilised affair, why not take to the slopes? If you fancy a spot of skiing, you don’t have to wait out the hot months to snap into your skis again. Chile’s ski season, which runs from June 15 to October 10, offers everything you could want from a winter resort. Plus, both of the main resorts, Portillo and Valle Nevado, are within a two-hour drive of Santiago, Chile’s capital, so there are plenty of flights.

Portillo has 15 runs, 800 acres of terrain, and a base elevation of 8,241 feet above sea level. It opened in 1949 with 125 rooms, and the resort has remained intimate, priding itself on having no more than 450 guests. And there are 450 workers to attend to all of your needs.

Nearby Valle Nevado has nearly three times as many runs as Portillo, creating plenty of choices for beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert skiers (including huge tracts of deep powder). In fact, the resort boasts the largest ski-able area in the Southern Hemisphere, with 39 runs, 22,000 acres of terrain, and a base elevation of 10,000 feet above sea level. And, if you should tire of the resort’s own slopes, you can ski over to two adjacent resorts, La Parva and El Colorado.

Enjoy your journey

NO MATTER where you dream of going, some say a holiday is not about the destination, but about the journey – although many budget air passengers might find that hard to believe. Now, in a bid to change people’s minds about the experience on offer, airports around the world are striving to provide more creature comforts – at a cost, of course – to make life more pleasant for those in transit. Depending upon the airport, you can enjoy a massage or spa treatment, nap in a special pod or relax in an airline club lounge.

According to Executive Travel SkyGuide listing, you can get a massage at most major airports from Boston in the US to Schiphol in Amsterdam, where for example, Back to Life offers both chair and aqua massages. For passengers who have the time and need more pampering, airport spas can provide not only massages, but also facials, manicures, pedicures and a hair styling service to revive you both before and after the flight. Some of the best airport spas include Calgary, Alberta, which offers an oxygen wellness spa; Hong Kong’s Regal Hotel health spa and pool; London Heathrow, with a Molton Brown Travel Spa, which also operates in the British Airways terminal at JFK; and Vancouver International with two Absolute Spa locations.

Another innovation for sleep-deprived passengers is the MetroNap pods. At the moment, only one airport, Vancouver International, offers pods to its passengers, but they are due to spread across the globe shortly. The pods are ergonomically designed for power-nappers and look like a super modern, hooded reclining chair. They rent for about five euros for half-an-hour and 10 euros for up to two hours.

Alternatively, if you find yourself in Frankfurt, head for the Airport Forum. Officially designed to inform the public about the history of the airport, the Forum has 10 comfortable and inviting plastic ‘bubble’ chairs that gently sway over a floor map of the airport.

Stuck in Tokyo? The airport offers fee-based shower rooms, day rooms and lounges in both terminals. Rates range from 1.50 euros an hour for a shower room with a dressing area, to three euros an hour for a day room, which are great for napping and include a bed and shower facilities.

If you find yourself stuck without a pod, many airport hotel properties, for example, the Mercure at Amsterdam’s Schiphol, the Hilton at London’s Heathrow, the Sheraton at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Tokyo’s Hilton Narita, offer low cost day rates, or, in the case of the Hilton Narita, five hours for 30 euros. Hotels close to an airport normally offer day rates as well.

If you don’t have time for a hotel, why not opt for spending a few hours in a special airline lounge? Surprisingly, you don’t have to be an airline club member – check with individual airline lounges about day passes – and relax in peace until your flight.

Health flash: Spain reports biting menace

SPANISH RESORTS are being invaded by the fearsome tiger mosquito, which is usually found in parts of Asia. Unlike the more common mosquito, the tiger bug attacks during the day and can even bite through clothing. The biting menace can be distinguished by its black and white striped legs and body. Experts are reassuring the public that although its venom can be painful, it does not transmit any dangerous viruses. In addition to its new home on the mainland, it’s also feared the insect could find its way to the Spanish islands of Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza this summer.