TV presenter Charley Boorman has just returned from shooting a new series in the States and reveals five amazing adventures you must attempt on your trip
The Big Island has this massive active volcano called Kilauea where you can go out onto the volcano fields, basically where all the magma has flowed. You can walk down to the beach, to the sea and then watch all this magma pouring out into the ocean. It’s absolutely spectacular, waterfalls of lava cascading into the sea.
If you get the chance, do one of the boat tours where you can watch the lava from the sea. The magma floats, just for a moment, because of all the gases inside, they’re still cooling down. I managed to catch one in my t-shirt. It was still steaming, but cool enough to hold. Later, when we were watching the rushes from the day’s filming, you could see that that piece of rock was still absolutely molten inside. If it had cracked open it would have burned my hand.
When we were in Alaska, we climbed Mt McKinley to visit the glaciers about 7,000ft up. While we were there, we built this survival shelter, a kind of ice cave. What they didn’t tell me was that it took eight hours to build. You have to build this huge mound of snow and let it sit for a couple of hours so it solidifies, before digging out a room inside. You’re digging away for hours and hours and hours and then you finally create this ice cave and then you crawl in and sleep inside. That was pretty out there. I’d never done anything like that before.
We dropped by Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to the spot where the Wright brothers first developed their planes, and I got to try out the one they used before they added the engine. It was the model they perfected the tail rudder, using a method that is still used today.
I do a lot of paragliding and paramotoring, and with both of those you should never fly when the wind is stronger than 12 miles an hour. But with this huge, wooden thing you have to wait for winds of at least 35 miles an hour just to get the thing off the ground. I was strapped into this wooden frame, covered with canvas, waiting for the wind to gust up. And once it did, they shouted ‘Run!’ and then you’ve got to run off this sand dune as fast as you can, then you take off and fly. I went 20 feet less than the Wright brothers did on their first flight. It was a very special thing to do.
In Cajun country, down in the bayou, like all those swamp movies, this crazy guy took us frogging. Frogs are a big delicacy in New Orleans because of the huge French influence. All the big foodie people in New Orleans love them.
Anyway, this guy took us out on his hovercraft, with the big fan on the back, skimming across water and land. He took us to get these pretty big frogs, in the middle of the night with big torches. You scare these frogs and catch them and eat them the next morning. It was quite brilliant, but my God, we were flying along in the pitch black. Occasionally we’d sweep our torches, either side, and all we could see are hundreds of pairs of red eyes staring at you, all these alligators, just all staring at you. Absolutely incredible.
Our original plan was to pick up a replica of the Easy Rider bike, the Captain America one which Peter Fonda rode, and ride it through Death Valley. It was the beginning of summer, but they’d had the biggest rainstorm that they’d had in decades, so things didn’t quite go to plan. All the roads we were trying to ride along were washed out completely. Whole bridges had been taken out. It was the most extraordinary thing, in Death Valley, one of the lowest, driest, hottest places on earth and I was trying to battle my way through these swollen rivers. Still, it was amazing and I’d recommend it – wet or dry!
Charley's new series, Charley Boorman’s USA Adventure, will be broadcast on November 21st at 8 pm on Channel 5. For the latest news on the series and Charley's adventures, visit his official website: CharleyBoorman.com. And don't forget to visit www.DiscoverAmerica.com for more great ideas when visiting the States.