Turtle, Ecuador

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

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  • Reviewed July 2019
    IZABELA RUPRIK

    ABSOLUTELY STUNNING

    I booked the jungle extension which we started from then continued onto the cycling part. Our group was small (only 4 people) but well integrated. I would highly recommend the extension but you may want to put it at the end as starting from it means an extremely long travel with 3 back to back flights. The wildlife and the views we saw were breathtaking. Many boat rides, including a canoe-like one which I dreaded (dislike of small boats) but what we saw more than made up for the stress. Be ready for not as much strenuous as stressful at times cycling due to quite technically challenging very steep descents on gravel/stones which require good mountain bike handling skills. Culturally it is a fantastic trip. I loved the flora & fauna of Costa Rica and have great memories from Colombia but Peru is simply an explosion of colour and the food is ridiculously good. The hiking part was challenging but the views breathtaking. The number of Inka ruin sites we visited BEFORE Machu Picchu was also a positive surprise.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The best part of the jungle extension was the 4:30am start on a boat when we travelled to see the macaws and a beautiful sunrise on the way. Also the boat ride on the lake watching the birds, caymans and catching a piranha which then fell into our boat :) I also shed a tear when we stopped the boat in the middle of the night on the river to take in the most starry sky I have ever seen in my life (cue crying) On the main cycling part I was extremely taken with the Maras ruins, salt pans and of course the Machu Picchu itself. When we laid our eyes on the Uros (floating islands) we were all gobsmacked, too. But you cannot underestimate the assault of colours that is the way the strong Peruvian ladies wear! Realising this is not just a tourist thing in Cuzco but what they actually wear on a daily basis, came as a shock. And when the host lady at the home stay brought out all kinds of clothes and hats and we all dressed up in the full attire, hats and all, for a lovely group photo, was a fantastic experience as well.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    First we had Joel in the jungle who is a real Peruvian Wildlife Jedi and can spot a baby cayman in total darkness across the full width of the river. I swear I thought he had placed them there himself ahead of our night trip... Also his tarantula tracking skills are second to none. And when Jeff tripped and lost his sunglasses about 40min away from our base, unbeknown to us Joel traced back our route to retrieve them and arrived at dinner proudly holding them up (drenched in sweat and flustered). Great guy! We then have Carlos on the cycling trip. He is a mountain biker and struggled understanding my fear of steep descents but he took good care of us on and off the bike. When it was one of the girls' birthday he booked a lovely restaurant with a folk show and organised a cake, too. The driver Elvis should be renames as Evil Kenevil after driving that minibus on the most scary road I have ever witnessed! And Leonardo, the Chef, was the sweetest guy with some serious cooking skills.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I must say THANK YOU to Peter Gomes, whose review I read properly on the day of departure and which made me repack! TEMPERATURE: we went in July which is their winter/dry season. from around 10am to about 4pm it's about 30 degrees Celsius. Nights are very cold and at the Alpaca ranch it was -3 in the morning with ice on the streams. Take many layers, winter gloves and thermals for the descents from 4,300m, warm hats and something to cover your face. We only got rained on once (out of the cloud forest) but badly so waterproofs are a must. The bikes are mountain bikes and have no mudguards and you will go through some streams that run across the road so you will get wet even without rain. In the jungle it's hot and humid but you want to sleep in PJs covering your limbs to prevent insect bites. Some hotels are really nice and warm and have extra heaters but the ranch and home stay despite being lovely get freezing at night so we were wearing hats and ponchos in bed. ALTITUDE: I would recommend getting the Diamox. I had gone to the GP but she refused to give it to me and as a result I suffered badly. First day in Cusco I felt like I was not going to be able to take part. I struggled breathing and was seeing spots. But hecto-litres of coca tea helped somewhat (note: it makes you pee like mad). However, any incline (which thankfully there are not too many of) was a herculean effort. The guys who were on Diamox were absolutely fine. FOOD: amazeballs. In hotels, restaurants and the stuff prepared by the chef. We actually all agreed that there was way too much food for the cycling efforts expected of us. The snack bags were very much appreciated but the massive lunches meant we missed a few dinners. SHOES: the hike the day before Machu Picchu is a serious one and good sturdy shoes and walking sticks (which you can hire through the guide) are a must. I don't do much hiking and after that I struggled to walk up and down the steps for a couple of days... Only bring your pedals and MTB cleats if you are a confident MTB rider otherwise I cycled all the time in the hiking boots. LAUNDRY: there are 2 nights in Cusco in the middle where you can use the hotel service. Other than that you can do handwash but take into consideration that if your room have no additional heaters, the chances of your washing actually drying plummets. And at alpaca farm and home stay it is impossible as no heating is available. You will get lucky if you get a hot shower :) but it's so worth it! FINAL SURPRISE: which I did not appreciate was that when the minibus arrived to our hotel in Puno to take us to Juliaca airport, it contained a guide we did not expect. He talked throughout the ride and we had one stop over right outside the town to see the panorama. We should have been told though. We just wanted to get to the airport on time worrying about the luggage being over the limit (yeah, loads of shopping opportunities :) )

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I think Exodus should equip the riders with reflective strips/waistcoats or at least the bikes with some form of reflective items for the descent in the rain forest. It was a great ride but 60km with really bad visibility at times where we were plunged into dense fog completely invisible to the oncoming cars or at times each other. All other bikes we passed had this issue sorted out. It was only for that one day but even the bike pedals had no reflective parts and it must be sorted out.
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Shane Shudra

    Beautiful Cycle Trip Through Jordan!

    Petra & Wadi Rum by bike was an amazing journey through Jordan's stunningly beautiful desert landscape, on very quiet roads. It was quite challenging in late May with the heat, but so rewarding!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    For me it was the second cycling day from Mt. Nebo down to the Dead Sea. It was a spectacular 30+km trip mostly downhill that really left me speechless! I purposely fell behind the group so I could enjoy the amazingly stark scenery with no one else around! Including virtually no vehicle traffic! Once we got to the Dead Sea, we spent time floating in the Dead Sea. It couldn't have been a better day!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader was good. He was not the regular leader for the cycling trips, so I feel he didn't take into account what cycling or more active groups needed or wanted. Snacks and water not quite as readily available as usual on Exodus trips, looked at us funny when we wanted to walk instead of taking taxi's, things like that. That being said, he was a very knowledgeable man and very passionate about his country. I learned a lot!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go! Jordan was amazing! Such a wonderfully compact country with some truly breathtaking scenery!
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Alia Medniuk

    A fantastic introduction to Croatia

    Croatia is beautiful, seriously hot in July when one is out exercising in the midday sun, and the scenery and fabulous coastal roads made for some epic bike rides.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Getting the whole group to the end of the first day 12 km climb in 39 degrees was no mean feat, but we all did it and enjoyed a couple of well earned ice creams at the end of it. Whizzing down the hair pin roads with incredible coastal views was fantastic fun afterwards!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our guide, Dino, was spectacular, and couldn’t do enough for us.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The cycling was just hard enough to be a nice challenge to earn an extra ice cream, but not so arduous it didn’t feel like a holiday. If you’re a proper vegetarian, be warned for some very uninspired eating, and be aware that most of your calories will come from ice cream (not such a bad thing...).

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This was my 8th, or 9th exodus trip (I’ve lost count..) and one of my favourites. A great group as ever makes all the difference. Ours was just that.
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Mary Amann

    Great climbs, wonderful scenery, good food and company.

    The challenges were so worth while. The guide and driver/mechanic Dimitri and Juli were lovely guys. Juli made you smile every time he passed us slogging up the hills :) We saw different kinds of villages and towns, some busy some remote, all with their own charm. Having everything organised for you frees your mind to just enjoy the wonderful scenery and sweeping descents (some a little scary).

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cycling up a remote valley, seeing traditional farming and hearing the calls for prayer. Cycling through beautiful no-mans land between borders. The first view of The Bay of Kotor.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Lovely guy.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take lots of layers for hot or cold weather. We had a lot of rain and it got cold. Definitely take light overshoes, they take no room.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I didn't get much hill practice in, living in Essex but your climbing ability does improve every day. I loved how different this holiday was, it was very different to the Indochina I did.
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Tim Hall

    Great first trip for riding the big mountains

    Excellent itinerary for a first trip into cycling big mountains. Great food and drink to be had en route - Thierry's ability to conjure up a suitable picnic every day, and find beautiful spots to stop to eat, was definitely a highlight. Stunning views from the cols.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cime de la Bonette - highest road in Europe. Seeing the banners for the Tour de France that would ride some of the same climbs just a couple of weeks after us.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Come prepared for all weathers! We had blistering hot days - but other alps trips at the same time of year have had snow falling and temperatures around 0C. If you're bringing your own bike, have a 32 cassette rather than a 28 - you'll use it a lot.
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Jill Sumner

    4 counties in 15 days!

    The Balkans cycle trip has magnificent, spacious mountains and lakes. It's an adventure, not knowing exactly what the weather or the mountains will challenge you with. A discovery each day, staying in high alpine mountains or by the spectacular Lake Ohrid. Likewise, the sea at Kotor and absorbing the cultures and religions of each country.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The people on the trip all gelled through the rough and smooth times, making it the best trip ever, for me. The dramatic skies and snow on the hills after rain. Also, cycling up the never ending hills, then free wheeling for miles.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Dhimitraq is a very good leader quietly in control and sorting out any problems. Julio is an excellent driver, entertainer and watchful carer, looking out for everyone.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take a good waterproof jacket and warm clothes. Waterproof shoes wouldn't go a miss either.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I went on this trip to see an unknown and unspoilt part of the world and was not disappointed, I will go back!
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Dave & Ann Gouldney

    Stunning

    This has to be without doubt the most fantastic trip we have ever done, with breath-taking scenery around every corner. Josh, Dhimitri and Juli were full of local knowledge, well organised and complimented each other as a team. If you have never cycled a steep hill without some motivational Queen or Ram Jam then you have never met Juli! Accommodation and food varied, as you might expect, but was well above what we have experienced on other trips and generally superb. The roads were quiet for the most part, but some busy sections with manic drivers have to be negotiated, but no worse than in the UK.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The mountains of Montenegro and the Tara canyon were particular hi-lights, but when you just thought you had reached peak scenery and taken every possible photo, around the corner was even better.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Josh was great and is really passionate about The Balkans and their history. We would have learnt a lot if not so tired after the days cycling. We had thorough briefings about the rides ahead and he would often take personal responsibility for minor things that went wrong that were really out of his control. Dhimitri is full of knowledge and is quietly efficient, even to the point of serving us breakfast at one slow hotel. Juli is loudly efficient, caring and tremendous fun!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The climbs tend to come in big hits, which can mean 2-3 hours of constant climbing. We managed them all though and thank you for all those who waited patiently for us at the top! Be warned though, despite the mammoth climbs, miles and the burning of 27,000 calories, somehow we still managed to put on weight ! All those lovely cheesy dishes, beer and coke I think.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Our only concern now is how do we top that ?
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Gayle Garrigues

    Don’t be slow.

    The guide was most impatient with the single older women. He was rude, bossy and disrespectful. As I happened to be the slowest rider I got way to much unnecessary attention. I was repeatedly yelled at for riding (in his opinion) to far the left, while he didn’t hassle those riding side by side, including a son pushing his mother up the hills. Once I was yelled at for not moving over to the right as he passed on the right. When I pointed that fact out, he denied it and suggested we talk to one of the other riders as she “was a witness”. The conflict with me was bad enough but suggesting another guest be inserted into the conflict demonstrated remarkably poor judgment. The bikes were poorly maintained. For two days one rider was only able to use the large chain ring. The seat of the bike I was assigned was quick release. For the first day i had to frequently adjust it as it kept slipping out of the desired height. When I brought the problem to the guide’s attention, after a brief shake of the saddle, I was told nothing was wrong. Fortunately, I had a bike tool and that evening tightened the release sufficiently to stop the slippage. You are not provided guide sheets nor is the route marked. Thus, when not riding in the front of the pack with the lead guide or the back of the pack with the sweep you can only guess at the proper route Much of the route is along roads with much traffic and narrow or unpaved shoulders. The parks are overcrowded. We waited over two hours in line to get into M. Antonio. It wasn’t worth it. While the guide was excellent in spotting birds and animals he knew little about the trees, plants, and flowers. Many places no arrangements had been made for restroom use. This company does group tips. That is, every guest inserts money into a common envelope, which in turn, is given to the lead guide and divided between the guide staff using some formula of their devise. Thus, if I was to tip any staff I was compelled to tip the offensive guide. Apart from all the above, the trip had a nice mix of riding and being a tourist. About 1/2 a day you were on the bike with the other 1/2 engaging in transfers of some tourist activity.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    While not particularly inspirational, I enjoyed my fellow travelers.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    A typical Latin male; he expected unattached women to obey and quickly grew upset when, in his estimation, they did not obey. See comments under summary above.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for heat! 90°(f), 30°+(c).
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Gayle Garrigues

    Don’t be slow.

    The guide was most impatient with the single older women. He was rude, bossy and disrespectful. As I happened to be the slowest rider I got way to much unnecessary attention. I was repeatedly yelled at for riding (in his opinion) to far the left, while he didn’t hassle those riding side by side, including a son pushing his mother up the hills. Once I was yelled at for not moving over to the right as he passed on the right. When I pointed that fact out, he denied it and suggested we talk to one of the other riders as she “was a witness”. The conflict with me was bad enough but suggesting another guest be inserted into the conflict demonstrated remarkably poor judgment. The bikes were poorly maintained. For two days one rider was only able to use the large chain ring. The seat of the bike I was assigned was quick release. For the first day i had to frequently adjust it as it kept slipping out of the desired height. When I brought the problem to the guide’s attention, after a brief shake of the saddle, I was told nothing was wrong. Fortunately, I had a bike tool and that evening tightened the release sufficiently to stop the slippage. You are not provided guide sheets nor is the route marked. Thus, when not riding in the front of the pack with the lead guide or the back of the pack with the sweep you can only guess at the proper route Much of the route is along roads with much traffic and narrow or unpaved shoulders. The parks are overcrowded. We waited over two hours in line to get into M. Antonio. It wasn’t worth it. While the guide was excellent in spotting birds and animals he knew little about the trees, plants, and flowers. Many places no arrangements had been made for restroom use. This company does group tips. That is, every guest inserts money into a common envelope, which in turn, is given to the lead guide and divided between the guide staff using some formula of their devise. Thus, if I was to tip any staff I was compelled to tip the offensive guide. Apart from all the above, the trip had a nice mix of riding and being a tourist. About 1/2 a day you were on the bike with the other 1/2 engaging in transfers of some tourist activity.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    While not particularly inspirational, I enjoyed my fellow travelers.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    A typical Latin male; he expected unattached women to obey and quickly grew upset when, in his estimation, they did not obey. See comments under summary above.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for heat! 90°(f), 30°+(c).
  • Reviewed July 2019
    David Innes

    Brilliant Balkans!

    Exodus has done well to allow us to cycle the best bits of 4 different countries in 2 weeks. Some epic climbs but all manageable and the grading at 'moderate/ challenging' is about right. You always got to enjoy the downhills as well. The accommodation was fine except for one guesthouse which I believe has now been removed from the itinerary. Remember, this is a new trip and Exodus are still ' fine tuning' it. Food was excellent and the group as a whole gelled well together. If you want to cycle 4 countries that are uncommon to cycle in, I would not hesitate in recommending this trip

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cycling the unbelievably beautiful P14 road in Montenegro which must be one of the best in Europe. It had only opened the week before due to massive dumps of snow and we went in late May!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Demetri lead the group with quiet authority and arranged a kitty for food which was a good way of doing things, but must have been a nightmare to organise! A wee bit more info on the various places visited would have been appreciated. Our driver and bike mechanic was ebullient and a bit hyperactive but was a good driver. He could have benefited from more equipment though ( ie a footpump that could be used with schrader valves- several of the bikes had these and we were fortunate none of them had a puncture). Bike maintenance during the trip could have been better

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take a few waterproofs as the weather can be unpredictable. If you are thinking about it, just book it!
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