Cheap thrills: 9 adrenalin-pumping things to do – for free

18 February 2015

Perch on Trolltunga lookout, Norway

Trolltunga – the Troll's Tongue – is a narrow piece of rock jutting out above the stunning Norwegian landscape of lakes, cliffs and glaciers. It's a challenging 4-hour hike to reach Trolltunga (your knees wont thank you), but the views are sensational.

At the top, you can crawl out to perch yourself on the end of the Troll's Tongue. There's no guardrail, no cliff below – nothing between you and the ground, hundreds metres below. Not for those with a fear of heights. Or a fear of rock suddenly breaking after thousands of years, like it's surely going to do one of these days. Gulp.


Eat a tarantula in Skuon, Cambodia

Whether this inspires an adrenaline surge will depend on your attitude towards large spiders. For the regular insect eater, this is just a chewy snack. But for those us who are more accustomed to meals without hairy legs, a plate of these deep-fried critters can get really set the heart pumping. Genuine, large, hairy tarantulas are too big for just one gulp – you actually need to tackle the crunchy legs and chewy body separately. Shudder.

Stop at the town of Skuon to buy this roadside snack. At about 30 cents each, they're not quite free, but you cant quibble with the price. That's a cheap thrill in anyone's language.


Jump off a cliff at Santorini, Greece

The twin-set of beautiful blue-dome roofs and matching blue waters of Santorini are alluring. But once you've had your fill of watching sunsets on the waterfront while drinking ouzo (and that might take a while), you'll be ready to expend some nervous energy.

Head to Kamari Beach and wander to the end, where the rocky cliffs rise out of the water. The cliffs are up to 12 metres high – that's four stories – so take a look, then climb up to find a launching spot.  There are plenty of different places to jump from so you can pick your height, and the water here is deep so it's pretty safe. Peer over the edge, take a deep breath – and launch. If your heart isn't pounding, you didn't go high enough. Wimp.


Swing at the edge of the world, Ecuador

On a hillside near the town of Banos in Ecuador is a little wooden tree house. Pretty unassuming. But the tree house has a rope swing attached – and it's no ordinary swing. It swings out over an abyss, the steep valley falling away underneath you. It's known as the 'swing at the end of the world' and once you're perched on that rope, it's easy to see why. The view is stunning, with the active Tungurahua Volcano looming nearby – and the pretty shabby-looking rope adds to the thrill.

OK, ok, we hear you. It's not actually free. It's a one dollar admission. But lash out, cheap skate. You only live once.


Swim with sea turtles, Mexico

To go swimming with most big sea critters, you need to take a boat trip. But at Akumal, on the beautiful Yucatan Peninsula, you can walk off the beach into the warm blue water and swim out to meet the sea turtles. Go early in the day for the best viewing opportunities and remember to give the hard-backed fellas a couple of metres of space – definitely no touching allowed.

Spotting these graceful creatures in the water – and snorkeling down for a closer look – will get your heart beating with the excitement. Well, it wont beat as fast as, say, when swimming with a shark – but then, on the up side, you are far less likely to get eaten by a sea turtle.


Drive the Guoliang Tunnel Road, China

This cliff-edge tunnel was hand-carved through the mountains of China in 1972, by local villagers wanting to connect their remote town to the outside world. It took 13 villagers five years to dig the 1200 metre tunnel road. (Surely moving house would have been easier?)

It is a seriously scary experience to drive it – it's narrow and rough and the cliff side has a sheer drop off at the edge of the road. Scary? Yes. But hey, that's what we're doing here. Taunting danger with our thrill-seeking behaviour.


Cross the Mt Titlis suspension bridge, Switzerland

Take a leisurely stroll across the world's highest suspension bridge at Mt Titlis, in Switzerland. It gets a bit of a wobble up in the breeze, giving you a chance to get  better view of the snowy valley floor over 500 metres below – along with the sterling views across to Italy. Panic attack, anyone?

Technically, it's free to walk across. But the kicker is you need to take three cable cars to get to the top of the mountain. That is not free: Swiss mountain prices apply. Doh!

If this price tag for crossing a scary bridge seems too high, head to Nepal and cross just about any suspension bridge high in the mountains. Those flimsy-looking bridges with missing planks are sure to get the heart beating.


Fly down Changi Airport slide, Singapore

Singapore's Changi airport is almost a destination in itself – a pretty great place to spend the 14 hours you have to kill between flights. There's a butterfly garden, full body massage chairs, a swimming pool, free movie cinemas, a sunflower garden, a gaming centre, over 120 cafes and loads more stuff.

But today we would like to thank the good folk of Changi for The Slide@T3. It's a 12-metre high enclosed slide that twists down from Level 1. It's steep – you fly down at around 6 metres a second. An adrenalin rush for the hardiest playground enthusiast. Spend $10 at the airport and you can get a token to ride the slide. Or just try the shorter slide from Basement 2 – that's totally free. You've got to love Changi.


Descend the Alpe D'Huez on a bike, France

Perhaps the most famous climb of the Tour De France, the Alpe D'Huez is a formidable obstacle. Although it's usually the territory of hard cycling men, a regular person can ride down a hill too – you just might put the brakes on a little harder than the pros.

With speeds of up to 70km/h, you'll descend around tight corners with the hillside beyond the road dropping steeply into the valley below. (Warning: Do not slip in the gravel edges. Have you ever had a graze from a bike fall? Times that by, oh, a mazillion.)

You'll either need to get dropped at the top, or you'll need to climb the hectic ascent yourself. Hope your calves are in form. And also remember you are not in le Tour. This is a road. There may be cars coming the other way.