Turtle, Ecuador

Your words, not ours

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Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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  • Reviewed September 2011
    Anonymous

    PEAKS AND VALLEYS OF THE ATLAS - Amazing Views Of North Africa

    Beautiful scenery, amazing people, truly remote and challenging trekking.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Summiting the pass of Tizi n'Ouanoums was nothing short of spectacular. The day began by climbing the Ouanoums Gorge in a thunderstorm, with lightning cracking through the dawn onto the ridges above us. It then saw us zigzag our way up an impossibly steep looking slope and we were rewarded for our efforts with beautiful views into the valley to our west and the peaks beyond.Watching two Golden Eagles soar above us as we relaxed in the sun at the final gite outside Aremd was incredible.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Mohammed was an excellent guide and obviously very much in love with the countryside and outdoors. He was quietly efficient in ensuring each camp ran smoothly and out on the trail was brilliant at setting the pace and picking picturesque rest stops. He created an excellent balance in information too, highlighting interesting things about the culture, villages or nature around us, but never overwhelming us and encouraging our own questions.It's also well worth pointing out he and his team did this trek during Ramadan, so were fasting from around four am to seven thirty pm each day. If they're all this good during Ramadan, I can't imagine what they're like full of food! 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Clothing-wise, don't be fooled into thinking it's always going to be hot. In two weeks we saw 45 degree heat, gusting winds at 2,500m and mountain thunderstorms which arrived and disappeared with extraordinary speed. Tied to this is making sure your possesions can stay dry too. Dry bags or big zipseal bags for essentials mean if you're ever caught out, you don't have to be uncomfortable.Take sandals or trainers you can get wet (i.e. not the shoes you wear each evening). There is one day when the walking begins by following a river for around 90 minutes, crossing it repeatedly and often wading upstream. They'll also make the occasions at the end of the day where you can get fully submerged much easier, and trust me, getting a full wash is a treat not to be missed.Take water treatement pills. There's always a ready supply of river water in camp, courtesy of the muleteers and though you can purchase bottles in some places, you'll (or the mules'll) have to carry all your rubbish out with you.Although the trip notes say a mattress is provided,  taking a Thermarest was great for me. It was an added layer of comfort at night and meant the guys supporting us had something comfy to relax on in the afternoons after making breakfast, pulling down the tents, packing the mules, overtaking us and pitching the entire camp again. Trust me - they earned it!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Fitness-wise, there are certainly challenging days on this trek but there are also easier days and options to cut around some of the steeper, harder terrain. No matter what, the views are incredible. I figured if I was moving slowly, I just got to see each awesome view for a bit longer and the group was always able to stay together, so there was no hares out front and tortoises at the back situation each day.Food and fuelling yourself is very important and we got both a wide variety and mountains of food, including refreshing fresh salads at lunch, meat or fish each day and plenty of freshly made bread from Ibrahim, our exceedlly talented chef.Get out into Marrakech when you get back. It's tempting to sit by the pool, but the city really is amazing, with plenty to see and much more than Exodus can pack into the morning city-tour.The only negative of the whole trip was related to our tents. I felt they were not up to the high standard of the rest of the trip and have raised my concerns with Exodus. In light of this, I've gone for four stars instead of five. However, there is no doubt that this is an exciting and memorable trek and nothing short of outstanding value for money. Let's put it this way, for £'s per day, you'd stuggle to get two weeks in the Lake District, never mind some of the most spectacular scenery in North Africa. 
  • Reviewed September 2011
    Anonymous

    PICOS MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE - FAMILY HOLIDAY

    Fantastic location in Northern Spain. Cool climate of Picos mountains can lead to changeable weather in August, so be prepared for 4 seasons in a day. Hotel is basic but clean, homely and comfortable whilst favourably located with spectacular views yet within easy walking distance to town. Staff are friendly and helpful and hosts Jim and Pilar remain enthusiastic and knowledgeable about this fantastic part of Spain.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Canyoning. Biggest laughs had by every member of the family. Great local guide and good equipment provided. Worth doing at least once in life.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jim was very helpful, friendly and showed patience and flexibility at all times.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This holiday does not include activities in the basic price. There was confusion in our party because the holiday is billed as a family activity holiday and all activities are charged on top. This was not clear in the brochure and several members of our group had also found the eventual holiday cost less than transparent.Booking the hotel separately and then the activities, transfers and flights would reduce the holiday cost considerably. Of course, Exodus need to make a profit. However the difference is considerable and Exodus do not actually do anything on this holiday as Jim is hotel owner, exodus rep and guide. Perhaps this reflects the fact that Exodus are now part owned by TUI ?    

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Hire a car at the airport. This gives much more flexibility to explore the Picos and visit the coast (25km away).
  • Reviewed September 2011
    Anonymous

    CYCLE INDOCHINA & ANGKOR

    Great trip from start to finish

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Sounds trite but there was something to amaze me everyday.Obviously the temples-but the friendliness of the people, the motorbikes and how organised everyting was!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Al made the holiday -much more than a leader a friend too!. Nothing was to much trouble-everything was so well run that it seemed  so relaxed.Poor Al was the only one to  come off his bike on a very wet, slippery bend- only bruised thankfully

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Money from atms no problemSunscreen,  a hat, and insect repellant vital!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Just give it a go!!!!Stop so often that heat/distance not a problemYou WILL enjoy it
  • Reviewed September 2011
    Anonymous

    KILIMANJARO CLIMB - RONGAI ROUTE

    An amazing experience, great scenery, long hard days, excellent food and catering, great guides. The trip is tough but well worth it as one of these once in a life time events

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The most impressive sight was mid way in when i walked out of my tent and saw that we were above cloud cover. At 3,500m in the morning, feeling like you are standing on top of the clouds is an odd sensation. That was a better sight than the summit.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Very knowledge, had been up the mountain 104 times and our trip was his 105th! I didn't see him much, the other guides were the main people who walked with us, but the best kind of group leader is one who makes sure everything is done and sorted and the one you don't see rushing around shouting at people. It was all very professional. The other guides were amazing, they didn't talk too much, but you always knew they were there, ready to help.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't underestimate this trip. Even though Kilimanjaro has become commercialized with 30,000 people going up each year and the whole fan fare of the celebrities going up it, the trip is still hard. Altitude is hard to adjust to and you will have no idea how you whilst you are sitting at sea level reading this. I got bad altitude sickness which actually prevented me from gettting to the true summit, I only managed to get to Gilman's point, as I was being sick for a good 4 hours prior to getting there.If you are getting headaches and feeling ill early one, i.e. before base camp, take altitude sickness pills. I acclimatised slowly and usually over night, but at base camp (Kibo Hut 4700m) you may be able to acclimatise, but once you start summitting you are climbing 1000m in one night to the true summit (5900m), there is little chance to acclimatise whilst climbing, so if you get sick it is too late to take pills. In heinsight i would begin starting altitude sickness pills from the start. If you weren't going to get sick its fine, but if you were, then taking them may reduce the effects of the sickness. Essentially I didn't take them and if i had, i may have summitted, something which i am gutted about. The only problem about pills is that the side effects can be the effects of altitude sickness, so if you don't think you are going to get and then take the pills, the side effects from the pills could be make it look like you have altitude sickness when you don't. Hard choice. Obviously you need to seek professional advice around this, and I can only say what I would have done.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Firstly enjoy it, the days before summit are managable and enjoyable. Summit is hard, cold and long, don't underestimate it. Pack well, but don't over pack. Don't worry about water purification tablets, i bought some but the guides would treat the water every day, so buying it was a waste. Layers are good, but also good quality gear is key, especially a down jacket on summit night, it was so cold, water froze in my bottles and froze in my camel back tube! Exodus's guide to what to take is pretty good. In terms of cash i took $200. I tipped $130 (the big general tip at the end), and the rest was spent on drinks and tipping other guides/porters individually. Other people took much more, some $700, which i thought was far too much. You wont spend anything on the mountain, except say the odd coke($3) or snickers ($4) at Kibo Hut, the rest you can spend on drinks at the end, up to you i guess. Also take some entertainment for the evenings, thankfully one person in our group brought some cards, that made the evenings go quickly, no one wants to go to bed at 7.30pm! I would probably advise on doing a different route than Rongai as Rongai i think is the hardest. But then again having walked back down through another route, I would say the Rongai is more interesting in terms of scenery than the other ones. You also stay in tents, rather than everyone sleeping in a wooden hut together.
  • Reviewed September 2011
    Anonymous

    CYCLE INDOCHINA & ANGKOR

    This trip was great and was the first one for me as a single traveller I couldn't have had a better time.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I can't pick one inspirational moment as it was all equally good.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Al was absolutely fantastic nothing was a problem.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't take a waterproof you won't need it, its so hot that if it rains its welcomed!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Just thanks to exodus for providing such a great trip.
  • Reviewed September 2011
    Anonymous

    Land of the Rising Fun!

    Japan is a fascinating country – modern, yet so culturally different from the west. Its reputation for being busy is not unfounded, but everything works efficiently (like the excellent rail network) and there’s plenty of stunning scenery in the mountainous regions too. The local people are a joy to interact with – initially a little reserved, but so friendly and helpful to foreigners once you break the ice and so respectful of each other in all aspects of society. Japanese cuisine, although not always to my tastes, was one of many unique aspects of the tour which added to the overall experience of a country that I found to be exotic and rewarding to visit.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Despite heavy rain to start with, the trek up to Mt Yarigatake in the northern Japanese Alps offered some fun, but straightforward scrambling and stunning views reminiscent of a classic Scottish ridge once the cloud finally cleared. The climb of Mount Fuji was also a unique experience, not only for the stark volcanic scenery and lofty views over half of Honshu from the summit, but also to witness the sheer volume of human traffic as a seemingly endless line of head torches accompanied us up to the crater rim to watch sunrise. I was also pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the buzz of Tokyo at the end of the trip.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Rudy did a thorough and comprehensive job dealing with all aspects of the tour and managed fine without being able to speak Japanese.  Our group was also joined by Matt for the trekking elements of the trip who has lived in Japan for 12 years and does speak the local language – his knowledge of Japanese and his enthusiasm for the country that he now calls home really added to our deeper understanding of Japanese culture.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you don’t book the group flight for this tour, don’t worry about getting to and from the airport – with a little planning and a few web searches, it’s very straightforward to sort out rail travel in Japan and the language need not be a barrier to this – indeed, I found figuring out the Japanese transport systems to be all part of the fun. Luggage with wheels is very helpful for transferring between trains. Japan can experience heavy rain during the summer months so pack good waterproofs for the trek, but otherwise you can pack quite lightly as the mountain accommodation is very comfortable (if a little cramped on Mount Fuji). Trying Japanese food was one of many new experiences for me – I liked some of it, but I found it doesn’t always offer enough substance and energy in preparation for a full day’s trekking so I recommend bringing supplementary energy bars from home or buying some additional snacks in from one of the many convenience stores before you set off. Finally, amongst many highlights in Tokyo, I got up early for the tuna auction at the fish market which was well worth the taxi fare and the pre-dawn start.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    My only reservation before booking this tour was whether Japan would end up being very expensive. Prices are quite high throughout Japan and particularly in Tokyo, but it’s perfectly possible to enjoy all aspects of the tour on a reasonable budget. The one thing that can seriously erode your funds is a night out on the town so budget accordingly if an evening of Sake and Karaoke Bars is your kind of thing.
  • Reviewed September 2011
    Anonymous

    CHAMONIX RIDGES & SUMMITS

    A fabulous week among stunning mountain scenery from the comfort of a basic centrally located hotel. We did 5 classic walks never longer than 7 hours in duration. First class guide and excellent companions.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The views looking down on Glacier Le Tour.On our day off the views from the top of l'Aiguilles du Midi and the exciting descent by cable car.Views to Les Drus and Mer de Glace.   

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Hugely experienced international mountain guide and very good people person.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It is hard to think of anywhere else in Europe with so much stunning mountain scenery. Go for it.
  • Reviewed September 2011
    Anonymous

    CARPATHIAN CULTURE AND WILDLIFE

    A great mix of walking & sight seeing in a relatively untouched part of Europe with the added bonus of a lovely hotel.  

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The walking was great, especially as we were really lucky with the weather (7 days of sunshine!). Wonderful views throughout and a nice mix of woodland and mountain pastures. The two main walking days were certainly my highlight.  

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Cosmin was great, one of the best Exodus leaders I have had. Extremely knowledgable and it was really nice to have a local guide who grew up in the area.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Try to read Bram Stocker's Dracula before you go and stock up on tasteful Dracula souvenirs at Bran Castle!
  • Reviewed September 2011
    Anonymous

    WALKING IN TUSCANY

    The 5 days walking were awesome a good variety of walks. The farm house was great, especially the pasta and the pool. Liz was a great guide. The only disappointment was that we didn't spend longer by the pool or on the mini golf course at the end of the afternoons, our schedule regularly overran, on the first day by over 4 hours! Given this was no fault of Exodus I haven't knocked down the star score although it definitely did impact on my overall enjoyment of the holiday.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Bob and Alan we inspirational, both are just under double my age at somewhere around 60. Both were amongst the fittest people in our group. When I was told Bob had run 5 miles and swum 100 laps of the pool before breakfast before the upcoming 6 hours walk I thought they were pulling my leg, they weren’t.  I aspire to being as fit as they are when I am nearing retirement. As one of 4 mild vertigo sufferers, still being alive having walked across the ridge was pretty inspirational (challenging departures only). Having muttered a raft of expletives on first sight, with Liz’s and the group’s encouragement we all got to the other side, this was very gratifying. On the later walks looking back at the mountain one you had already been up was very cool.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Liz was awesome and dealt fantastically with everything that was thrown at her. She is almost certainly never going to have so many people keel over exhausted or injured on her again. 4 vertigo suffers, myself included, on an exposed ridge would test the patience of a saint. Although Liz clearly doesn't get why some bits are particularly terrifying, she never ran out of encouragement.Very good driver, which helps in the mountains 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Some departures are moderate and some are challenging. Pick your departure carefully being realistic about your own level of fitness. If you can't walk at a brisk pace for 5 hours don't book a challenging departure! The exodus web site describes the grading system in massive detail http://www.exodus.co.uk/walkinggrades?Just like in any sport, get fit to play don't play to get fit. That said if you are fit, the challenging departure was awesome.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This has already been stated in other reviews, but more choice of cereals and more fruit at breakfast would be easy to achieve and make a big difference. Personally, I think a breakfast without bacon is an opportunity missed, but that would be much harder to provide.
  • Reviewed September 2011
    Anonymous

    DESERT & DELTA

    The trip vastly exceeded our expectations - it was well measured and delivered on the promise: we fitted everything in without feeling rushed; every day we experienced something new and surprising; above all our guides and hosts were tireless in their enthusiasm for bringing Southern Africa to us, making us feel welcome and looked after. And, yes, we saw extensive wild life, ancient art and endless landscapes. 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    In no particular order:Africa drinking at the waterhole in Etosha (Lions, rhino, elephant herds etc etc); asleep under the stars at Spitzcop; poling through the reeds in the Okavanga; laughter round the evening fire; the endless Kalahari plains; San bushmen .......

    What did you think of your group leader?

    JJ and Steph are inspirational. They ensured that everyones needs were looked after; were unfazed dealing with small emergencies (lorry issues; a badly sprained wrist) and kept us healthy, well fed and watered. But (as noted above) what was special was the way they brought Africa to us, not only the experience, but also its complex energetic cultures, its history (recent and ancient), and the small contribution we as tourists can make to the local communities and cultures through responsible tourism.Exodus are fortunate to have this team working with them.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You do need a 3 season bag: it can get really cold in the evening.  Swakopmund (for us) was grey, damp and rather dreary - so if the sea mist is in, plan on a touristy day visiting the museum, Peter's antiques and the Village Cafe.The whole party were scheduled to arrive a day early (overnight in Windhoek) - this worked very well as it meant we got into Botswana in good time and without stress. Perhaps this should be the norm? (Reading problems others have had with connections.)

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We all felt that the two nights in Swakopmund were one night too many. And that we could have really spent that extra night in the Namib or possibly in the Nakluft mountains - avoiding the danger that the last couple of days could feel a little rushed. 
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