Times Travel Editor

If your idea of adventure relates to a spiffy suite in St. Moritz or a recliner at the Ritz, tune us out.

Our space today is devoted to travelers who get their kicks out of riding camels across the Gobi Desert, rafting through white water in Argentina, trekking through blizzards in Antarctica and inching their way up some lonely peak in the Himalayas, ice ax in hand, a prayer on the lips.

On the other hand, the macho life needn't be confined to swatting mosquitoes in Mozambique or the tsetse fly in Tanzania. Indeed, it can be as luxurious as floating with Buddy Bombard by balloon over Burgundy, or doing the Bugaboos by chopper, or sailing the waters of Captiva with Steve Colgate. These and dozens of other outdoor adventures are scheduled for runaways in '88.

Bombard, who began ballooning nearly 20 years ago, is regarded as the world's leading drifter, having launched more flights to date than any balloonist on earth. Bombard's "Great Balloon Adventurers" are feted at candlelit dinners at Chateau Cinq-Mars-la-Pile in the Loire Valley and during luncheons at Domaine des Hauts de Loire. His balloonists visit the enormous vineyard, Clos de Vougeot, in Burgundy and picnic on the ramparts of the 14th-Century Chateau Rochepot.

Others drift over the Italian border to Tuscany for lunch in the enchanting village of San Gimignano, after which they take to the skies again to eavesdrop on the vineyards of Chianti. Others ascend over Switzerland and Austria.

Ballooning and barging is the marriage put together by Hemphill Harris of Encino, with leisurely journeys through Burgundy and the Loire Valley. Other Hemphill Harris travelers join fire walkers in the South Seas, motor up the slopes of a smoking volcano in Bali and knock about by helicopter and a vintage steam train in New Zealand.

Exotic datelines crop up on journeys through India, Nepal, Tibet, China and Pakistan--Siliguri, Gangtok and Thimphu, with its devil mask dancers . In a China/Pakistan swing, others strike out for Lhasa, Ghengdu, Lanzhou, Urumqi, Kashi, Taxkorgan, Gulmit, Karimabad, Gilgit, Peshawar and Rawalpindi.

Meanwhile, Tauk Tours does an eight-day Canadian swing that takes in Calgary, Banff and Lake Louise, with a helicopter drop at Bugaboo Lodge overlooking Bugaboo Glacier. From Bugaboo Lodge the chopper cruises over snowfields and alpine meadows bright with bluebells and Indian paintbrush, scenes that are reflected by lakes fed by waterfalls.

Abercrombie & Kent, that Rolls-Royce of tour operators, claims the world is its oyster, be it Europe, the South Seas, India or Nepal. With A&K; one may join a gorilla tracking safari in Rwanda and a visit to Parc Nationale des Volcanes, which is described as one of the last remaining gorilla refuges in Africa. A&K; operates luxury barges in France and England and delivers adventurers in comfort to the outback of Australia.

If you've ever thirsted for adventure at such scattered destinations as Nepal, Kashmir, Rajasthan, Bhutan, Tibet, Botswana, Timbuktu and Tierra del Fuego, then dial Mountain Travel in Albany, Calif. Because Mountain Travel specializes in wilderness tours, one could end up in a tree house in Africa. With Mountain, one travels by camel, kayak and canoe. Joining one of its tours to the Himalayas can mean a 15-day trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary (13,300 feet), along with visits to Katmandu, Pokhara, Ghorapani Pass and Ghandrung.

In 1988 Mountain Travel is scheduling more than 2,500 adventures in Africa, the Sahara, the Pacific, Europe, Central and South America and the United States. Mountain's trippers do six-day hikes up Kilimanjaro and five-day camel journeys across the Timeskis Plateau in the Sahara, running head-on into Tuareg nomads and sleeping, not in tents, but under the stars.

Mountain puts together other tours to storied Timbuktu, traveling the same paths crossed by French Foreign Legionnaires when they marched to the melody of "The Marseillaise." Only in the case of Mountain's groups, the journey is by Land Rover across the haunting desert landscape of Mali for the meeting of sub-Saharan tribes--Bambards, Dogons and the "blue men" of the desert, the Tuaregs--followed by encampments along the Niger River.

In Borneo, Mountain Travel's flock pays a visit to an orangutan preserve, takes in the rain forests of Kinabalu National Park and boards longboats for a two-day trip along the Skrang River, with overnight accommodations provided by ex-headhunters that Mountain describes as "among the most hospitable hosts in the world." (A pity if they aren't!)

Other groups spread out across Papua New Guinea to snooze in native villages, visit spirit houses, join singsings and explore the Sepik River by boat.

Whenever a Mountain Travel group sets down at some civilized crossroads (say, Paris or Rio), their only purpose is to connect with an ongoing flight to some exotic destination, be it Everest, Ladakh, Sikkim, Sulawesi. Or possibly even Spitsbergen. In some cases Mountain's trips are a breeze. Others take the stamina of an Olympic miler. On treks up Mt. Everest, the lungs ache for oxygen, the feet bark back and the eyeballs lose focus in snow-blinding passes.

To the Maldives

For adventurers with a lust for water rather than mountains, another company leads groups to the Maldives with its 2,000 islets south of India. Using native dhonis, they sail among coral atolls and join locals at barbecues on dozens of near-deserted beaches. At $35 a day, Voyages Maldives is one of the highly touted bargains offered by Adventure Travel.

At the same time, the ancient Arabian empire of Yemen is flagging down other adventurers. Yemen's travelers look in on the oldest mosques of Islam as well as the Sabaean ruins of the Queen of Sheba's empire. Accommodations range from five-star hotels in Saana to camps along the Red Sea. (Yemen Airways flies in from seven European gateways.)

Society Expeditions does dozens of trips to the Amazon, Antarctica, the Galapagos, the South Seas, Japan, Korea, China, Alaska, Canada, Iceland and Greenland, plus other storied destinations. Under its category "Special Voyages for Travelers With More Time," Society features a 63-day journey to four continents with datelines from Chiloe Island and Isla Mocha to Panama and Portugal.

Another voyage tracks the route taken by Polynesian navigators to Tahiti, Pitcairn, the Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji. A cruise devoted to the Stone Age makes calls at the Gilbert, Kiribati and Caroline islands, Truk, Kapingamarangi, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the north Moluccas, north Sulawesi and Brunei. (Try dropping one of those names at your next cocktail party.)

Sporting Tours

In Colorado, young Scott Edwards designs other adventure vacations: river trips, scuba diving, formula racing (you do the driving!), mountain climbing and an opportunity to gallop off on a thoroughbred race horse. Edwards' trips are scripted for the nomad with a bent for ballooning, heli-skiing, hang gliding and dog sledding. His Sportnet Co. packages thousands of vacations that run the list from baseball camps to camel safaris in India.

At Captiva Island in Florida, Steve Colgate operates the Offshore Sailing School for both neophyte and seasoned sailors. Colgate concentrates on bare-boating, racing and cruising. He's also into sailing in the British Virgin Islands, where students sign in at Treasure Island Hotel on Tortola. At Captiva, sailor-vacationers put up at South Seas Plantation Resort near Fort Myers.

Colgate's 50,000 sailor graduates are qualified for membership in Colgate's Cruising Club, with opportunities for trips to the British Virgin Islands, Greek Islands, West Indies, coast of Maine and the Bahamas.

Closer to home, Sobek's International Explorers Society (Angels Camp, Calif.) sends adventurers off on journeys to Nepal, India, Kashmir/Ladakh, Bhutan and Sikkim, China, Turkey, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Africa, Mexico, the Caribbean, South America and the South Seas as well as adventure destinations in the United States.

Sobek's adventurers climb mountains, go biking, join safaris, travel by kayak and raft down some of the roughest rivers in the world. Sobek's Richard Bangs tells how the world is divided among two groups--"those who travel and those who read brochures." His people travel. Constantly. And all over the world.

If the conventional tour of China sounds like a bore, Adventure Travel has packaged a trip by bike, boat and train to Guandong Province, Guangzhou, Foshan, Shai, Shichinzhan, Dal Liang, Zonghua Hot Springs and Beijing. Adventure Travel does dozens of other tours, including a 24-day journey on the Trans-Siberian railway from London to Tokyo that passes through seven countries and seven time zones, making it the longest rail excursion in the world.

If the desire to escape the frustrations of civilization bears down, consider Gaidaya Wildlife Lodge (booked by Himalayan Travel) on the banks of the Dungla River inside Royal Chitwan National Park in Nepal. Your companions are rhinos, Bengal tigers, deer, wild boar and bear. Travel is by elephant. (No gridlock in Nepal.)

Guests who tire of travel by elephant take to dugout canoes down the Rapti River. Back at the lodge, rooms are lit by kerosene, a fire glows in the central lounge--and the din of cities is but an echo in the mind.

--Bombard Society, 6727 Curran St., McLean, Va. 22101.

--Hemphill Harris, 16000 Ventura Blvd., Suite 200, Encino, Calif. 91436.

--Tauk Tours, 11 Wilton Road, Westport, Conn. 06881.

--Abercrombie & Kent International, 1420 Kensington Road, Oak Brook, Ill. 60521.

--Mountain Travel, 1398 Solano Ave., Albany, Calif. 94706.

--Voyages Maldives Ltd., P.O. Box 2019, Male, Republic of Maldives.

--Yemen Airways, 545 Fifth Ave., Suite 1004A, New York 10017.

--Society Expeditions, 3131 Elliott Ave., Suite 700, Seattle, Wash. 98121.

--Sportnet Inc., 1680 38th St., Boulder, Colo. 80301.

--Steve Colgate's Offshore Sailing School, 190 E. Schofield St., City Island, N.Y. 10464.

--Sobek Expeditions, P.O. Box 1089, Angels Camp, Calif. 95222.

--Adventure Center, 5540 College Ave., Oakland, Calif. 94618.

--Himalayan Travel, P.O. Box 481, Greenwich, Conn. 06836.

Other sources:

--Born Free Safaris, 12504 Riverside Drive, North Hollywood, Calif. 91607.

--Adrift Adventures (Colorado, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii), 1826 Orchard Place, Fort Collins, Colo. 80521.

--All-Outdoor Adventure Trips, 2151 San Miguel Drive, Walnut Creek, Calif. 94596.

--Amazon Adventures, 1013 S. Central Ave, Glendale, Calif. 91204.

--Asian Pacific Adventures, 336 STI Westminster Ave., Los Angeles 90020.

--Baja Adventures, 16000 Ventura Blvd., Suite 410, Encino, Calif. 91436.

--Kayak & Rafting Expeditions, 17921-S Highway 285, Nathrop, Colo. 81236.

--Boojum Expeditions, 2635 Garnet Ave., San Diego, Calif. 92109.

--American Wilderness Experience, P.O. Box 1486, Boulder, Colo. 80306.

--Wagons Ho (covered wagon vacations), P.O. Box 60098, Phoenix, Ariz. 85082.

--Grand Canyon Dories, P.O. Box 7538, Menlo Park, Calif. 94026.

--Grand Canyon Expeditions, P.O. Box O, Kanab, Utah 84741.

--Grand Canyon River Trips, Box 2997, Flagstaff, Ariz. 86003.

--FITS Equestrians, 2001 S. Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang, Calif. 93463.

--OARS, P.O. Box 67, Angels Camp, Calif. 95222.

--Orange Torpedo Trips, P.O. Box 1111, Dept. STI, Grants Pass, Ore. 97526.

--Outdoors Unlimited, P.O. Box 854, Lotus, Calif. 95651.

--Rocky Mountain Wilderness Experience, Box 63, Lakewood, Colo. 80215.

--Zenith Travel International, 5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 344, Los Angeles 90036.

Visit Papua New Guinea to snooze in native

villages, step up into spirit houses, join

singsings and explore the Sepik River by boat.

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