Exploring a remote river in India by kayak

Some of the last unexplored places on the planet can only be reached by kayak, with explorers making a first descent on rivers that are wild and untamed. The video below is an example of such an expedition through the Tawang Valley located the remote Arunachal Pradesh in India. The journey was expected to take two weeks, with the team going completely self supported over 130 miles of river that, up until that point, had never been seen by man. Along the way, they experienced Class V rapids, deep canyons, perilous rocks, and plenty of adventure.

Enter Tawang Chu Part: 1 from Ben Stookesberry on Vimeo.

Four resources for horse-crazy travelers

I grew up riding horses, and though now that I live in a big city I don’t get to ride as often as I’d like, I still love the feeling of galloping on horseback to the rhythm of hoof beats. I’ve ridding with the gauchos in Argentina, through coffee fields in Honduras, over rolling green hills in Hawaii, and on the five-gaited four-legged teddy bear of an equine that is the Icelandic Horse. If you love horses and are looking to plan an equestrian vacation, here are four resources to get you started.

Equitours, “America’s largest and oldest horseback riding vacation company”, offers packaged tours for avid equestrians. With tours in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Europe, America, and the South Pacific, they pretty much cover the globe by horseback. The site allows you to search by experience level, location, length of tour, and date. Trips range in cost from $800 to $2900 and include riding, accommodations, meals and transfers, but not flights.

Hidden Trails Equestrian Tours offers packaged vacations, but goes beyond the standard trail rides. In addition to vacation treks, they offer cattle and wild horse drives, riding clinics, covered wagon treks, riding safaris and pack trips in over 40 countries. Specialty trips include ride and cook, ride and fish, woman only, and gaited horse trips. Rates range from $600 to $3000 and include riding, accommodations, meals and transfers, but not flights.Equitrekking works with local riding companies to offer equestrian vacations throughout North and South America and Europe, with few options in South Africa, India and Nepal. In addition to offering links to the individual companies and their tours (which range in price, riding ability required and length) the site also offers advice and information on equestrian travel, travel tips, and clips from episodes of the Equitrekking TV show.

Nancy D. Brown, a travel writer and the lodging editor at Uptake.com, details horseback vacations around the world on her new blog, Writing Horseback. Detailing everything from full-service ranches and resorts to equestrian vacations and companies offering trail rides, her site covers destinations from California and Oregon to Antigua, Norway, and Hawaii. It’s not a fully comprehensive list of everything that’s out there (the site is quite new) but if you are open to suggestions for a destination, want to plan a trip to a resort that caters to riders, and prefer first-hand reviews, this website is a great resource.

Gadling’s gift guide for the outdoor and adventure traveler

In this first of several Gadling gift guides, we’ll follow the tradition of all other sites by suggesting some great gift ideas for travelers. Today, we’ll take a closer look at some impressive kit for the outdoors and adventure traveler.

Since I am more geek than adventurer, you’ll notice a trend towards battery powered gadgets. Some of these great products were featured here on Gadling this year, others will be reviewed in the coming weeks, so keep paying attention to our product reviews!
Contour HD camera

The Contour HD is a lightweight HD digital camera that can be attached to almost any surface. It features a really impressive wide angle rotating lens. To top it off – the camera also features 2 lasers, which help adjust the camera so you know exactly what you are shooting.

One of the coolest features of the ContourHD is its large sliding record button, which allows you to immediately start recording whenever you want, without having to fiddle with small knobs. The slider is large enough to operate when you are wearing gloves.

The camera itself is only part of the package – once you have recorded some awesome adventure footage, you can share it with the world on the VholdR ContourHD community. If you have recently paid attention to Mike Rowe on “Dirty Jobs”, you’ll have noticed him climbing off the edge of a building using one of these cameras to record his antics. We’ll have a full review of the ContourHD here on Gadling next week.

Price: $279.99 (Contour HD) and $329.99 (Contour HD 1080p)
Where: ContourHD retailers

180s Quantum Vent gloves with Tec Touch

There is very little “high tech” about most gloves, unless those gloves are the new Quantum Vent gloves by 180s. These gloves are obviously designed to keep your hands warm, but they also feature an adjustable venting system and a goggle wipe.

The really cool feature comes from 180s patented “Tec Touch” system. This nifty invention allows you to control your iPod or other capacitive touch screen device without having to take your hands out of your gloves. Metal conducting fabric on the inside of the gloves, and a metal tipped finger make it possible to switch tracks or start your iPhone fart app on the slopes.

Price: $75
Where: 180s product page

Garmin Oregon 400t

You can tell I’m not much of an outdoors person, because I’m the kind of person that would pick a GPS unit before even thinking about good boots. Still, a good outdoors GPS device can be a real handy piece of kit.

One of the best outdoor units is the Garmin Oregon 400t. This device combines a waterproof touchscreen GPS unit with a compass, barometer and even wireless connectivity with other Oregon devices. You can plot tracks, view topographic maps and of course, find your way back to basecamp (or your car).We reviewed the 400t earlier this year.

Price: $499.99
Where: Garmin product page

Eagle Creek Take 2 ORV Trunk 28

Adventure travel is not always lightweight travel. If you need to haul a lot of gear, then check out the new Eagle Creek Take 2 ORV Trunk. This large rolling case features 2 separate compartments, with enough room for a ton of kit. The bag works as a rolling trunk, or as a shoulder bag (with the included shoulder strap). If holds 49 liters of stuff, and weighs just 12lbs when empty, which is really impressive for a bag this large.

Compression straps help reduce its bulk. and “off road” wheels let you pull it through smooth hotel floors as easily as through muddy trails. A full review of this bag is coming up later in December.

Price: $350
Where: Eagle Creek product page

SPOT Personal satellite messenger

If you really love the outdoors, you’ll regularly find yourself well out of range of cellphone signals. This is where the SPOT personal satellite messenger can help. This small device communicates with a constellation of satellites to relay your position, inform people that you are “ok”, or send an emergency message in need of immediate assistance.

Sure, it may not be a replacement for a true emergency beacon, but at just under $150, it is a really handy tool, with a proven track record of saving lives. We reviewed the previous (larger) generation SPOT unit last year.

Price: $149.95 + $99 annual subscription
Where: SPOT retailers

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TX1 waterproof camera

Heading to cool locations is great, but if you’d like to share your trips, you’ll need a camera that can survive the elements. The Panasonic DMC-TX1 is a waterproof and shock/drop proof digital camera. Its internal 4.6x wide angle zoom lens shoots in 12 megapixels, and allows you to record HD video clips. We reviewed the Lumix DMC-TX1 here.

Price: $379.99 (MSRP)
Where: Panasonic Lumix retailers

Madagascar: East of Africa

I have this habit of never preparing adequately for trips. The tickets get booked, the bags get packed at the last moment, and I suddenly find myself about to touch down in a foreign place.

When I found out I was going to Madagascar for work, I did some brief Wikipedia and Wikitravel skimming: fourth largest island in the world…lots of plants and animals…used to be a French colony…etc…etc…but I really had no idea what to expect.

I hadn’t seen the famous animated movie, my French was mediocre at best, and I knew very little about the history of the country.A year prior I spent five months in Tanzania and one month going overland from Mombasa to Cape Town, and figured it couldn’t be that different…right? The shortest distance between the shore of Madagascar and Eastern Coast of Africa is just 250 miles. As far as I was concerned, it was practically still East Africa.

The plane touched down, and I stepped onto the tarmac. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was wrong, again. Madagascar was not East Africa. It was East of Africa.

In the first few days on the island, a lot of things surprised me. I hadn’t realized that the population was so racially diverse and had assumed that the majority of people would be African because of proximity. But the land was first colonized by Austronesian people, (think Borneo, Malaysia, Indonesia) which has allowed Madagascar to develop an intriguing blend of language, skin tones, culture, and practices.

Another surprise was the apparent lack of tourists in the country’s capital, Antananarivo. The political unrest at the beginning of this year has put a big damper on the tourism industry; which survives because of Madagascar’s ecological attractions, animal life, and large national parks. And while a safari is a good reason to make the voyage out to Madagascar – it’s certainly not the only thing that the country has to offer.

I quickly came to appreciate the hospitality and sincerity of Malagasy people, the simplicity of the local food, the remarkably beautiful landscape, and the shreds of French charm scattered from the colonial period. On the contrary, I struggled to comprehend the strong presence of beggars in Antananarivo, the intricacies of the political disarray, and the reported corruption in business in the country.

Of course, there are things that Madagascar has in common with the African nations 250 miles to the West, but it’s clearly a place that has had a unique development, and will have a distinctive future.

For the rest of this month on Gadling, I’ll be sharing my observations from Madagascar through writing, photos, audio clips, and video. From the capital of Antananarivo to the southern coastal town of Toliara and back, I’ll be bringing you stories from the road, the beaten path, and everywhere in between. Tonga soa… welcome to Madagascar.

Starting this week, Gadling will be bringing you stories, photos, audio and video from the fourth largest island in the world: Madagascar. Check out all the posts in this series by following along here.

Give the gift of sailing this holiday season

Forget cheerful sweaters or last minute meat and cheese logs from the local gas station. If you’d like to really surprise someone, give them the gift of sailing.

Starting at $200, you can purchase a gift certificate for the Offshore Sailing School. Founded in 1964 by Olympic competitor Steve Colgate, the school has trained over 100,000 people how to sail.

The Offshore Sailing School operates four locations in Florida, one on the British Virgin Islands, one in New Jersey, one in New York and one in Maryland.

While supplies last, all purchases of $200 or more, will get you a free Inshore Sport Vest, making your gift even more worthwhile. Lessons start a $75/hour, and a full three to five day course starts at $895.

For more information on this thoughtful Christmas gift, or to place an order, check out their gift certificate information page.