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Extreme trips replacing traditional luxurious honeymoons


On the third day, Christine Bubser began having second thoughts. She and her husband, David Baron, had just begun a bike trip through newly opened Bhutan when Baron was clipped by a passing truck and thrown into a ditch. When he tried to stand, he found it quite difficult.

"I'm thinking, 'Oh, my God. I'm 36 years old, I finally get married and my new husband has just been hit by a truck in a country where to get decent medical care, they airlift you to India,' " Bubser said recently, four years after their brush with danger.

Wincing, Baron got back on his bike and they finished their trip -- an 11-day, 450-mile bicycle trek through the Himalayas that included 50,000 feet of ascent and 60,000 of descent. Although he could ride, Baron could not really walk.

"So I had to carry all the luggage whenever we made camp," Bubser said. "I'm thinking: 'What kind of honeymoon is this?' "

An extreme honeymoon. A postnuptial adventure that, more and more, is replacing the time-honored Caribbean cruise or trip to Niagara Falls. Forget two weeks in Italy, let's go trekking through Nepal or bungee-jumping in New Zealand. A cabin in Vermont? How banal. Let's tour Vietnam; let's climb Mount Everest. And if we must visit a predictable country such as Switzerland or France, at least let's do it on our bikes.

A generation ago, the honeymoon was a social rite of passage. As recently as the early '60s, it was often the first trip a couple took together, certainly the first one in which they openly shared a bed. The honeymoon was designed to allow a couple to live together for the first time away from the pressures of everyday life.

For modern newlyweds, that traditional concept of a honeymoon is practically obsolete. They are older, wealthier, better traveled and have usually spent a fair amount of time in close quarters with each other already.

The travel industry is nothing if not responsive. Honeymoon packages, once the province of high-end hotels and cruise lines, are now offered by trekking and adventure companies, although some have redefined "adventure" to include chateau-hopping and "tent" camping suitable for traveling royalty. International travel Web sites hawk the romantic possibilities of everything from ice camping to hot-air ballooning.

"We've had people take very high-end walking and biking tours, where they're staying in high-end hotels, and people who have shared tents with other folks in the Grand Canyon," said Tom Hale, president of Backroads, which puts together adventure tours.

Backroads, which is in Berkeley, Calif., has seen so many honeymooners that it started a honeymoon registry -- instead of gifts, friends of the new couple can donate to their bike, hike, kayak and snorkeling tour of Thailand. Which makes sense since such organized tours can range from $1,700 per person for a domestic trek to $5,000 for more exotic destinations.

"People want to take the trip they won't be able to take after they have children," said Jim Sano, president of Geographic Expeditions in San Francisco.

That was the primary motivator in Carmen and Chris Joseph's decision to take an 11-day trek into the Anapurna Sanctuary of Nepal after their wedding last year. Both are avid hikers and had traveled quite a bit -- he proposed during a trip to New Zealand -- so the honeymoon bar was set high.

"We knew we wanted to get pregnant right away," says Carmen, who is due to deliver her first child in October. "So we decided to go someplace we wouldn't take a small child. We chose Nepal, and so we had to trek, because that is what you do in Nepal."

They were part of a group tour and so, although they had a tent to themselves, they were basically sharing their honeymoon with five other trekkers and a crew of 30, she said. A crew set up camp every night and broke it down in the morning and the food was good, but in 11 days she was able to shower only three times. About three days into the trek, the party passed over a very high part of the trail, and Carmen began experiencing vertigo.

"I thought for a minute I wouldn't be able to go on, that I'd have to stay behind in a tea house while Chris took our honeymoon for us." But the guides helped, and she pressed on.

At 10,000 feet, she experienced altitude sickness but, fortunately, she had gotten a prescription to fight the symptoms.

Her husband didn't have the same luck when back in Katmandu, he brushed his teeth using tap water and was sick for the trip from Katmandu to Bangkok and for almost three months after their return.

The honeymoon, "was very hard," she says, "but it was wonderful."

Mary McNamara is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

"We knew we wanted to get pregnant right away. So we decided to go someplace we wouldn't take a small child."

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