When my generation were school kids, we were pumped full of the ozone. In fact, we were told it was our pump sprays that were causing the problem. Whether you believe in global warming or not, there’s no denying that there are still giant holes above us, melting our icecaps and sending them, like lonely castaways, into the sea. There’s also no denying that the human race munches through rainforests like cheeseburgers. So where can you still go before it’s gone?
1. Antartica. Hazardous to land, easy to fly over. Qantas is doing a 12-hour flight from Sydney and Melbourne on the 31st December 2011, again on the 15th January 2012 (from Melbourne only), and the 12th February, 2012 (from Sydney only). Prices range from $999 AUD to $7299 AUD, depending on how good you want your view from the window to be. <www.antarcticaflights.com.au>
If up close and personal is more your style, you can have hijinks at sea and on Antartic landing sites as the cold war continues. Ex-Soviet Union scientific divisions lease their ice-breakers to western companies for commercial tours. For a list of operators or to contact them about your travel preferences see <www.antarcticconnection.com>, but be aware their ‘preferred tour operators’ are advertisers.
Looking for an extreme machine? <www.adventure-network.com> claim they are the only fliers who land in Antartica. They depart from Punta Arenas, Chile, and drop you at camp for skiing and mountaineering.
2. We’re feeling cold in the office so let’s go somewhere warm. The east coast of Kenya. Mida Ecocamp is situated on Mida Creek, a tiny village up from the hotspot of Mombassa. What it offers is an increasingly rare opportunity to holiday in peace, away from the madding crowds. A beautiful two-story hut is on offer, where the top level is essentially a giant balcony looking out onto the Mida inlet, and beyond that, the sea. Perfect to read, write and contemplate. At night, walk out on the Mida Ecocamp boardwalk and lie down under a dazzling sky full of stars. During the day, get a local fisherman to take you out for your own catch of the day, get the cook to prepare it for your evening meal. Places like this only become more popular, but hitting them in off-season will generally get you solo time. <www.midaecocamp.com>
3. Back in the ring. Or circle. The Arctic creates a picture of joviality, so much so that Canada has assigned The North Pole a postal code of H0H 0H0. For a latitude so old, the countries within it still have fuzzy lines of ownership under international law. In fact, getting to the North Pole used to be a cross between ‘blind man’s bluff’ and ‘pin the tail on the donkey’, as the North Pole doesn’t have the advantage of a continent beneath its feet. Instead, it shifts around year to year. But with modern navigation, your options are air, land and sea. Months to look out for are April for a touchdown and northern spring for a fly over. The Russians save the day again if you want to go by sea.
4. Orange, apple, pear, bear. The loveable furry Polar Bear is not stupid. They stay much further south than their moniker, where they can access the sea from the Arctic ice cap. They DON’T eat fruit for breakfast, so if you visit them in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, you would be wise to observe from a distance. Why not just go to the zoo? This writer watched hippos bob up and down in a river like apples in a bucket on safari in Kenya, and it was magical to see animals taken for granted back home in their own wild environment. Churchill, on Hudson Bay, also offers the advantages of The Northern Lights, whale and bird watching.
5.Pretty much every animal has been to space, including Miss Piggy, and a personal favourite, Felix the Parisian street cat. Chasing the ‘payload mice’ that the US kept shooting up in the noses of their rockets, perhaps. With dwindling ozone, what’s your best suborbital before end of days? A man in a bar claimed the Russians shoot civilians into low-orbit jets for $10,000, but no hard evidence supports this. Best bet is either a zero-g flight for $2500 or go talk to a man in a bar. Some define space as 100 km above sea level (known as the Karman line), NASA says 80.47 km. That’s the distance of a long range cordless, so you could still phone home.