By Dean Williams
When Hinterland Travel recently launched its Iraq tour, adrenaline-junkies flocked to sign up.
But what is it that makes people stare the beast in the face and come up with an intercontinental grin? TTN went straight to the experts, and who better than the driving force behind The World's Most Dangerous Places. Enter Robert Young Pelton.
But what exactly constitutes a 'dangerous place' Mr. Pelton? we asked. "The place, must pose dangers to visitors," said Mr Pelton. Well guess that accounts for about, oh, the entire globe then. "Actually places like Canada and New Zealand are pretty safe," adds Mr Pelton. He obviously has not met the All Blacks.
But surely a touristy jaunt into Iraq at a volatile time like this is hardly the sanest thing to do? "Iraq is not dangerous to tourists," says Mr Pelton. "People should be encouraged to form their own opinions. It is usually our own ignorance, or media hype that make us think destinations are dangerous. The statistics and on-the-ground experience prove otherwise."
Well easier said than done (though in Mr Pelton's case far easier done). Okay so our new-found fondness for gunfire and shrapnel gets us to our destination, then what? "I always tell travellers to gather information, make contacts and learn how to identify and avoid threats."
And has Mr Pelton ever stared death in the face on his meanderings? "Never," he replies. "Staring death in the face is for terminally ill patients. My readers are the military, intelligence agencies, business people, backpackers, aid agencies etc. I travel to areas that are considered off limits to understand what is going on and I report back to other travellers so that they can be better informed. "
And that is what the man himself had to say. Two to the Congo then? Ummm...maybe not quite just yet, thank you.
Robert Young Pelton's the World's Most Dangerous Places; Come Back Alive; and The Adventurist: My Life in Dangerous Places can be bought from most major book stores around the world.