Bizarre Favorites

Water Buffalo Races in Bali

Everyone dreams of going to Bali, but many Balinese don't even know about the thousands of locals who gear up all year long for the best month-long series of races in all of Indonesia. A hundred pairs of water buffalo careen down a 2-mile-long track, hauling chariots and carrying frenzied drivers all hoping to take the top prize. Thousands line the rice paddies along the route, cheering on their friends. The food tents behind the fans sell some of the best street fare on the island.

Uncharted Africa

The single coolest travel experience of my life came courtesy of Ralph Bousfield and his team who run the premier safari outfitting company in the world. Uncharted Africa runs many programs, and I can't wait to check out Jack's Camp with my family one day, but until then my experience with them at the San Camp in the A-Ha hills outside of Xai Xai is my all-time favorite.

Countyline Dragway in Miami

On the weekends they "run what they brung" as pros and amateurs alike all hurtle down the 1/8-mile track, hoping to take home the trophy. You can also learn how to "drift" if you like. Watch RVs and snowmobiles race on the track, and you can even race against local cops in their super-charged, customized street racers in the National Beat the Heat races. An amazing slice of American car culture. Look for Francis, he sells the best conch salad in Southern Florida.

Gales Point, Belize

Check into the Manatee Lodge on Easter Weekend. Prepare to jump the Sambaii when this ancient community, living on the teeniest sand spit of a peninsula in the middle of the mangrove forest, continues the traditions that were started by their enslaved ancestors hundreds of years ago.

World Bodypainting Festival in Austria

This annual body-art celebration features hundreds of contestants in several categories, painted by artists from 40 countries. It's a 3-day, music-driven love-in of the highest order. I was amazed at not only the thrill of the event, but how well organized it is. Anyone heading to Europe in the month of July needs to put this place on their must-go list.

Trinidad, Cuba

Head to this amazing seaside town, in the heart of the southern side of Cuba's Caribbean coast. Get lost in the Jardines de la Reina for a day. This cluster of 400 islands is Cuba's best-kept secret. At night head to the steps of the town's cathedral and spend a night eating, drinking and dancing at the Café de la Musica.

Cave of the Crystal Maiden

This ancient underground and underwater cave system, known as Actun Tunichil Muknal, is a living museum with ancient artifacts and, yes, skeletons strewn everywhere.

Maun Airport in Botswana

This teeny little airfield is apparently the busiest small plane hub in the Southern Hemisphere. That's not surprising since everyone travels around the Kalahari by bush plane. Planes come in once or twice a day from larger hubs, dumping slack-jawed tourists who are swept up by dozens of bush pilots, who whisk you off hundreds of miles further into the middle of nowhere for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Table Mountain in South Africa

Check out the only city in the world that wraps around a national park. Spend a day driving around Table Mountain. You will see some of the world's greatest coastline, hillside enclaves that look like Beverly Hills must have looked 100 years ago, massive half-moon bays with perfect surf, penguin colonies and dunes resembling a lunar landscape. Then hike up Table Mountain in the afternoon and abseil off the top -- if you dare.

Lake Front Brewery in Wisconsin

I love Shana Martin and the rest of the Lumber Jills and Jacks in Hayward; the cheese makers in Monroe; the snowshoe baseball players; the Lake Geneva mail-boat jumpers; the open-water snowmobile runners; and all the other lunatics in this wonderful state right next door to where I live in Minnesota. The Polka Fest of 600 to 1,000 people, who gather every Friday night at the Lakefront Brewery for a traditional Milwaukee fish fry, really know how to party.

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