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Fall 2008 | Ten Trips that will Change Your Life Part Two

Fall 2008 | Ten Trips that will Change Your Life Part Two

The transformative nature of journeys can be subtle or profound, but these ten adventures may change the way you feel about travel altogether, with itineraries that provoke, challenge, and dare you to come back a different person.

Explore the sandy streets and dunes of the Saharan outpost of Timbuktu

DETAILS: It was once one of the wealthiest and most powerful cities in the world, thanks to the trans-Saharan gold trade. Now the fabled city of Timbuktu is hidden deep within the sands of the French-speaking West African nation of Mali. Beyond being the ultimate place to get your passport stamped, it?s a fascinating step back in time, where spires of mud mosques tower in the clear azure sky, the fires of outdoor bread ovens illuminate women?s faces, silent men in long robes and head scarves float by, and most streets are paved with sand instead of asphalt.

FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT: ?We rode out on camelback into the Sahara until the mud buildings of Timbuktu were a distant speck on the horizon behind us, and stopped on a high dune to await the arrival of the salt caravan. We sat sipping mint tea on nomad carpets when suddenly a seemingly endless train of camels mounted by exotic men swathed in colorful garb appeared to float across the sand in our direction. Our group sat silent and motionless as the caravan approached and passed us by. We were all lost in a much more distant time and place.? --Jim Smith, Coda Tours

SIGN UP FOR THE NEXT TRIP: Florida-based Coda International Tours (888-677-2632) takes gay tours through a 12-day odyssey of Mali, from the dusty capital of Bamako to Timbuktu; February 12?23, 2009.

Ride a camel (or horse) around the Sphinx and the pyramids of Giza

DETAILS: What better sums up the ancient wonders of the world than the 4,000-year-old pyramids at Giza? A tourist attraction since antiquity, the site is now adjacent to sprawling Cairo. Modern travelers reside at five-star hotels overlooking the monuments and climb down into the belly of the Pyramid of Cheops to lie in the initiation sarcophagus of the King?s Chamber -- a spiritual jolt not soon forgotten. The classic way to visit the plateau is approaching the pyramids on camelback or horseback, just like the pharaohs of yore.

FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT: ?My partner and I decided to end our pilgrimage through this ancient land by riding Arabian stallions on the Giza plateau. As we rode, the power and strength of the horses reminded me of the pyramids a short distance away. As we came to rest after a full gallop, I looked over my shoulder at the pyramids. A little choked up and searching for words, all I could say was, ?Wow.? ? --Howie Holben, Spirit Journeys

SIGN UP FOR THE NEXT TRIP: New Jersey-based gay tour operator Spirit Journeys (800-754-1875) not only leads you on a mystical sunset camel or horse ride at Giza but also offers private tours at sunrise, when the pyramids are devoid of humans. It?s all part of their 12-day Wonders of Egypt tour that includes other sacred sites in Luxor, Karnak, and Alexandria; tours take place annually in April-May and September-October.

Climb to the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro

DETAILS: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the highest volcanoes in the world and the tallest peak in Africa, is a must-do. Ascending the ?Roof of Africa,? which rises majestically from the plains of the Serengeti, is relatively easy compared to others its height (over 19,300 feet), thanks to well-worn paths that don?t require ropes or climbing experience. Of the mountain?s three peaks (whose legendary ice caps are quickly melting), the most experienced trekkers target Uhuru. The more popular route for novices, Machame, provides an easy and gradual ascent, with comfy mountain huts offering quarters along the way. Guides, porters, and a cook are included. Add on a dawn balloon safari afterward that departs nearby and floats you 1,000 feet over the teeming wildlife of the great plains of East Africa.

FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT: ?It was bone-chilling cold, but not one of us even felt it. Rather, we felt euphoric, for we had accomplished our mission and were standing on the Roof of Africa. Back down in Moshi, each of us babbled on about how we could have spent an entire day just sitting there peacefully, reflecting back on our accomplishment getting to that point; not just the climb but the journey and accomplishments of our lives that brought us to this specific place and time. Our guides, knowingly, just smiled.? --Kenneth Hieber, Gay2Afrika

SIGN UP FOR THE NEXT TRIP: New York City-based Gay2Afrika (866-462-2374) offers two departures per month for their Snow on the Equator tour, which takes you and from two to seven of your friends on an eight-day hosted trek.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

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