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Well, it was bound to happen: if I kept doing trips with Exodus, eventually, I’d go on one that didn't reach the usual high standards. This was my sixth trip with Exodus and, to be honest, I’d have to say that my overall experience was somewhat disappointing. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy a lot of things about the trip or regret going but it wasn’t as successful and satisfying a trip as Exodus’s trips usually are and, I believe, this one could have been. The group didn’t gel very well at all and I think the attitude of our GL made things worse rather than better. In my experience, Exodus GL’s are usually very good at spotting conflict and clashes early and do their best to smooth things over but, as that didn’t happen on this trip, what started out as low level resentment festered into significant hostility towards the end. Also, I felt rushed a lot of the time during the treks. I appreciate that there is always going to be bone of contention between the people who want to walk fast and the people who want to take their time to take in the scenery, take a lot of photos (or take their time over composing their photos) but, ultimately, it is up to the GL to strike a balance between the extremes. I didn’t feel this happened on this trip (our GL siding far more with the people who wanted to walk faster and get the walks/treks over more quickly – often, only to spend and hour or more extra in a bar or, otherwise, hanging around). I’m sorry, but I can go to a bar anywhere, anytime but it is very unlikely I will hike on Etna ever again during my time on this planet!
I feel the Trip Notes - both the text and some of the photos used - are somewhat misleading. I don’t know where that photo at the top of page 3 of the trip notes was taken but we certainly didn’t get any views that resembled it and we didn’t go anywhere that got us anything like that close to any lava. In the current Trip Notes it states "The highlight for many comes as we return to the mainland and trek on Mount Etna … with the option to climb to the summit.". This statement is blatantly untrue as, as I describe above, no-one gets to go anywhere near the summit of Mount Etna. You can go to (what is cunningly named) the "summit zone" at 2900 metres but you won’t be allowed to hike to anything like the actual summit (3300 metres). Later in the Trip Notes what you will actually get to see and do on Etna is much more accurately described but the above sentence, in the opening section of the Trip Notes, is misleading. This same paragraph of text makes reference to “areas of bubbling sea due to underwater fumaroles; rocks with a network of clefts from which boiling water gushes and hot springs.” Nope, didn’t see any of those.
Reading back over the above before finally submitting this review to Exodus I am concerned that I sound like a whinger who’s looking to find fault and I am worried that it gives too negative an impression. As I say, overall, I enjoyed the trip and certainly don’t regret doing it. I just feel it could have been a lot better..