I don’t want to be an ironic hipster dickhead about it, but my recent visit to Machu Picchu was one of the most tremendously disappointing events of my life (second only to throwing a hand grenade, in case you’re wondering). I don’t really know what I expected – perhaps a hint of mystery and adventure, an experience vaguely reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark. That would have been my preference, because being chased down by a giant boulder or having my face melted off by ghosts would certainly have been an improvement on reality.
Tourism is one of life’s cruellest ironies – incredible beauty draws incredible crowds which create incredible ugliness. But there is hope, and although there are very few blank spots left on the map, there are plenty of relatively untrodden locations to be found. Instead of heading for the McAttractions of the world, why not stray from the beaten path, if only a little?
Here’s a list of common tourist attractions and some righteous alternatives on the same continent:
Instead of Machu Picchu, why not try the Chalten Massif?
Spectacular, incredible, captivating – Machu Picchu is all these and more. Unfortunately, the “and more” segment of that sentence equates to crowded, expensive and tacky. If you like standing around in lines, you’ll love the place. A day-trip to MP allows an unrivalled queuing experience with a lengths, breadths and speeds to rival any theme-park on Earth. Best of all, you’ll have some 5000 new friends to share these hours of excitement with.
As astounding as Machu Picchu may be as a feat of human engineering, what it really amounts to is a pile of well-placed rocks. But if you want to see South America’s best rocks, you’d better head to El Chalten. Whilst not devoid of humanity, the trekking circuits are wonderful and the views are outstanding… if the weather clears. For those who prefer vertical adventures, there is plenty of sport climbing, bouldering, and oodles of alpine granite with difficulties ranging from “me on a good day” to “Alex Lowe on crack”.
Instead of New York City, why not try City of Rocks, Idaho?
Jesus Christ on a tricycle, who would voluntarily submit themselves to a trip to New York City? I’ve never understood the phenomenon of city-dwellers in a western nation flying across the globe to visit a larger city in a different western nation. With very few exceptions, you can get anything which NYC has to offer practically anywhere else. If you want crowds, try Delhi. If you want pollution, try Lima. If you want a large French-built ornament, try Paris.
Or, if you want a city you might find remotely enjoyable, try City of Rocks, Idaho. Incongruously set amongst rolling, golden hills, this collection of granite domes and towers is like something from a dream. As with most crags in US, you’re not going to have the place to yourself, but its relative isolation guarantees far smaller crowds than more celebrated hotspots. Rest assured, with the sheer volume of monoliths to be found here and in nearby Castle Rocks, I guarantee you’ll be able to find a quiet corner of your own.
Instead of the Great Pyramids of Giza, why not try the Atlas Mountains?
The Pyramids are infamous for featuring all of the trappings of modern tourism in ample quantity – pollution, crowds, dodgy tour operators, hidden expenses, animal abuse and a generous serving of human waste. Society has a tendency toward nostalgia, a collective lamentation for the passing of an apocryphal golden age when times were supposedly better. This is usually unfounded, but in this case, you can’t help but wonder if it might be true – perhaps the Pyramids were better when the only people inside them were dead.
What is a Pyramid anyway, if not man’s paltry attempt at constructing a mountain? Head west across the desert sands and you’ll find the Atlas Mountains in Northern Morocco. Not only are they way taller (almost 30 times taller, in fact), there’s way more than three (probably thousands), and they’re way older (by at least 60 million years). When you put it that way, the Pyramids of Giza are actually a bit shit.
Instead of the South Pole, why not try…
Actually, this is a great option.
Instead of the Great Wall of China, why not try the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat?
So you like walls, huh? Great walls, no less. Well how does the biggest wall in the world strike you? Nanga Parbat’s dramatic southern aspect, known as the Rupal Face, rises some 4,600m from the valley below. It doesn’t just exist to keep Mongolians out, it keeps EVERYONE out. The notable exception to this is Steve House and Vince Anderson, so you might have to share the view with them.
Instead of Sydney Harbour Bridge, why not try the Derwent Bridge Hotel?
For want of something better to do, I once embarked on a road-trip to Kosciuszko National Park in April. Despite my intent on bypassing Australia’s largest city and third-largest hellhole, a friend and fellow traveller desperately wanted to drive across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
“Have you been across a bridge before?” I asked.
“Well yeah, of course I have.”
“Then you know what to expect. It’s just a bridge, honestly.”
“Nah man. It’s the SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE,” he argued, and you could definitely hear the capitalisation of the letters. “It’s special.”
Begrudgingly, I plunged into the godforsaken labyrinth that is the Sydney road network, eventually arriving and crossing the bridge without incident.
“Gee. It really is just a bridge, isn’t it,” he admitted.
A real sight for sore eyes is the Derwent Bridge Hotel after a week spent in the unforgettable Tasmanian wilderness on the Overland Track. Here, you’ll gratefully sip on your first well-earned pint after experiencing one of the planet’s finest treks. You’ll even have a bed waiting for you if you happen to over-indulge, and some fine conversation with one of the most interesting publicans in the land, topics of which may include:
- The various shenanigans of an undisclosed Australian Army unit in an age with less regulations and more courage
- Being on speaking terms with the Booie Monster
- Dave the Shearer who almost had his eyes pecked out by crows
Instead of the Colosseum, why not try anywhere that isn’t in Rome?
Rome sucks and the Colosseum is a crumbling roundabout. I think you have the idea by now.
Ryan Siacci, Esq.