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

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48 Reviews

  • Reviewed September 2019

    A Proper Adventure

    This was a remote trek in a tough mountain environment south west of Leh. After three days acclimatising in Leh, we spent around 10 days climbing high passes, crossing rivers in full flood and seeing few people outside our own little group. Every day was challenging. We experienced a range of weather from blizzard to heat wave, rain to frost and always a cold breeze at the top of every pass. And every day I would lie back in my tent after dinner and know I’d pushed myself and feel really good about it. We experienced unseasonable weather which forced changes to the itinerary, which our crew and leader were more than capable of dealing with. Heavy snow on the mountain prevented us from summiting Dzo Jongo but we reached the top of Konga Ri in brilliant sunshine and pristine white snow. Such was the nature of the trek that I was not left feeling disappointed at not getting the big mountain, as the whole experience was a proper adventure.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The most inspirational moment of the trek for me was the realisation that I had got to the top of Konga Ri. I’d had a few days of self doubt and I’d found the climb in deep snow tough. But when I got to the top of the mountain, dropped my pack and just took in the incredible panorama of Beautiful snow capped mountains, none of that mattered. I think the slice of cherry cake Tamchos, our guide, gave me at that point may have helped as well.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie, our group leader, was more than a match for anything the mountains could throw at us. She was able to adjust the route and camp sites to deal with the delays caused by weather and still keep us on track. Her knowledge and experience came across in her confidence, which in turn gave us the confidence that we would complete the trek. Our group provided her with some challenges of her own, but they were all dealt with professionally and without fuss or drama. I certainly benefited from her advice and encouragement. And she has some great after dinner stories that made our experiences pale into insignificance!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The internal flight and trek weight limits mean you have to be ruthless with your packing. If I was going back this time next year I wouldn’t take a heavy down jacket (which I didn’t use) but instead I’d use a midweight one and several fleece and base layers. The river crossings are inevitable and cold and you need to wear some kind of protection for your feet as the riverbed can be sharp and uneven. I took cheap crocs but as there was walking between crossings and it wasn’t practical to keep changing back and forth, I would take a cheap pair of walking sandals next time (as did most of the rest of my group). I ended up walking in my light fabric boots, which was fine, but they took a full day of sunshine to dry out. If, like me, your previous treks have been the likes of Everest Base Camp and/or Kilimanjaro, know that this is physically and mentally much more challenging. I found it hard to accept that although we were climbing passes between 4800m and 5300m most mornings, we would descend again to camp much lower, losing the hard gained altitude. It’s the nature of the terrain and its good acclimatisation but it might sap mental stamina as well as energy. A good group dynamic helped me.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is a fantastic adventure, full of hard challenges and amazing rewards. Leh and its surroundings offer an amazing cultural centre worth exploring. Once in the mountains, for every icy river crossing, there was a Lammergeier Vulture or Golden Eagle. For every muddy path there was a stunning landscape of rugged mountains and for every rainy day there was laughter in the mess tent. If you have doubts after reading my review, perhaps it’s not for you. But if it has fired you up, then sign up. I might see you in the next group!
  • Reviewed September 2019
    Paul Rayner

    Be prepared for the unexpected

    It wasn't as expected! I have trekked in Ladakh before and had reviewed my previous photos before this trip. None of us, including Valerie, were expecting to have to face a blizzard, and heavy overnight snow on a couple of nights! The result was that rivers were swollen and crossings became more difficult, and the ascent of Dzo Jongo East was not possible. It was also a remote trek - we only saw other people or groups occasionally, and the sudden return to civilisation was a bit of a shock. Personally I also found that altitude acclimatisation this time took much longer than expected; I am used to high altitude but I think old age is catching up! But overall a great experience, and conditions, particularly the blizzard, led to a close group bonding developing.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Two of them. One was the developing attraction of the mountains. Last time in Ladakh I found myself comparing the Indian Himalaya unfavourably with the Everest region. This time, the terrain seemed more varied and attractive, perhaps in part due to the fresh snowfall. It made me feel I wanted to go back again and see more. The other was, with hindsight, the climb up the river gorge from Chuskurmo and up over the Gongmaru La into the Nimaling valley. The gorge and river crossings were a challenge following the overnight snowfall, I found getting to the top of the pass a real struggle, and we then had to get down to the camp site through a blizzard and sit in the mess tent for a couple of hours (sustained by black tea) while the lost sheep were found and the tents put up. I don't think anyone enjoyed it much at the time - it took me half an hour in a sleeping bag to stop shivering, though we all did the best to keep morale up. But the next day I felt an immense sense of achievement, and I hope others felt the same.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Brilliant as always. Her experience really showed through during the blizzard when she and some others got lost. She had a grip on everything, and a fair bit of illness to deal with, but always had time to chat, and encourage people where necessary.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you are fit and experienced enough for the trek; enjoy yourself; but be prepared for things not going according to plan. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. I think we shall dine out on some of the stories from this trek!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Overall and with hindsight, a great experience. But if I go over 5000m again, I shall make sure I have plenty of time for altitude acclimatisation! It was only on the final 5000m pass of the trip that I could trek up it easily.
  • Reviewed August 2019
    Richard Schwartz

    Perfect combination of remote, Himalayan scenery and culture...

    I'm surprised there hasn't been a review of this great trip so far this year, so I'll leave mine. It was a perfect combination of beautiful, remote Himalayan scenery and culture. There is ample time for acclimatization in Leh, with some short walks and ancient monasteries to visit, as well as optional travel on the world's highest motorable road (up to 5,500 meters/18,000 feet). Much care was given to monitor us for altitude sickness, including nightly surveys. There were some headaches in the first few days, but nothing serious. The trek was beautiful, with mainly comfortable homestays, all with private rooms and some with attached bathrooms. Exodus staff prepared all our meals, which were excellent. I should mention that the last homestay night had a disgusting toilet. The trekking is described as "gentle walks," but be advised that there are steep ascents and descents every day. The walks were in the neighborhood of 4 to 6 hours a day, which is not difficult, but the grades at times were demanding. That said, the guides paced us slowly and the views at the top of the passes were beautiful and adorned with prayer flags. Ancient monasteries waited for us at every stop. My only disappointment is that there are not more treks like this in Ladakh. I would certainly return, though other itineraries require too much camping for my taste.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The tops of the passes and several ancient monasteries.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jagmat was excellent.
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Iain Roberts

    Stunning

    This was a wonderful trip, well organised and lead by the wonderful Valerie Parkinson. We had a great mix of people, who all got on together, and this does really help when your trekking in extreme conditions. The hard work put in by the spotters, porters, cooks and helpers was gratefully appreciated. No task was too much trouble, and always done with a lovely smile. These guys certainly earn their money.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The whole trip from start to finish was good fun, but seeing a couple of snow leopards was the highlight of the trip. The wonderful scenery. We had 36 hours of snow, but when the sun came out and seeing the snow capped Himalayas in all there glory, was truly magnificent.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie is a natural. Laid back, well organised, and was great fun to be with. You can see the pleasure she gets from being in the Himalayas, and helping the local people.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do take the warmest of sleeping bag. We had very low temp. so everything does freeze during the night, so if you need to keep anything warm, just put in your sleeping bag. My face wipes, contact lens solution where all frozen after the first night. I have to admit, that over the six days camping, I only changed once, and probably only washed once, but everybody is in the same boat, so don't worry. As we had a lot of snow, I was really glad to have a pair of micro spikes. They made a huge difference trekking on the snow and ice. They give you a lot more confidence, but do buy decent ones ( Yak Trak ) as cheaper ones will fall apart after one day.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The home stay was a welcome relief after a few nights camping. The people in the mountain village are really wonderful. Nice to be in a room with a log burning fire, and to get up to a hot cup of tea and freshly baked bread.
  • Reviewed November 2018
    Marie Josee van Rijn

    Himalaya experience

    Wonderful, inspiring and active trip full of challenges. Beautiful scenery, great people, lovely staff. Truly one of the best experiences in my life.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Climbing over the highest passes, overcoming my fear of descending (I really prefer walkin uphill), letting go of everything that was going on in my life back home, meeting wonderful new people, dealing with altitude and learning the effects it has on your body, meeting monks in Ladakh and visiting the Taj Mahal (I booked the extension Golden triangle).

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Ngima was the best! He was so experienced with climbing and the altitude. Also, he was extremely fit. He made sure everyone was doing alright all the time and motivated us to keep on going even if we were having a hard time. He showed genuine interest in all of us and opened up to us during the trip. Tashi was great as well, as was the rest of the staff.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I was very happy with my walking poles for the descents. Also, bring lots of sunscreen and a hat with a long flap that covers your neck. Exercise enough at home before you start this trip. I was very happy that a came prepared and fit enough. The altitude and the heat during the day already make it hard so having a certain level of fitness really helps you to be able to enjoy this trip instead of having to struggle through it. Bring a set of playing cards and invite the rest of the staff to join you for a game after diner; they love that! Earplugs will come in handy at night as most nights you will here the continuous sounds of the bells on the horses that stay around the tents. Warm clothes are a must, especially a warm hat, fleece and gloves. A washcloth helps you clean up a little bit during the 7 days camping when you get a bowl of warm water and you try to ‘shower’ in your tent ;-).
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Sasha Hyde

    Excellent trip

    Four of us went on a private tour with Exodus - starting with Trails of Ladakh and finishing with the Golden Triangle. Joshspell our co-ordinator in Leh and Assis in Delhi were excellent - helpful, knowledgeable and keen to make sure that everything was right for us. One of our group couldn't adapt to the altitude in Leh and so two of our group flew back to Delhi. It is when something goes wrong that you see how a travel company responds - Exodus representatives were excellent - helped with the hospital visit, booking flights and arranging an alternative (low level) tour. Two of us went on the Ladakh trek and it was amazing. We went in September at the end of the season so the mountains were quiet and empty. Stunning colours and scenery and we had it all to ourselves. Our guide, driver, cook and waiter were really good. Neepam ran around after us and walked with us some days - lovely man - caring and helpful. We met up with our friends in Delhi for the second part of our trip. Again the co-ordination was excellent. Guides were knowledgeable and drivers especially Dorjay and Shashi were amazing (you have to experience driving in India to understand what I mean). We loved our trip and time in India and we would recommend Exodus.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    -
  • Reviewed July 2018
    Jennifer Newell

    A true cultural experience.

    A truly incredible cultural experience with the added bonus of trekking through the Sham Valley in Lower Ladakh with few other trekkers in the area. Reaching the village around mid afternoon each day allowed the group to have a well earned rest each day but then allowed for a late afternoon walk through the village and interact with the villagers and their families as well as a visit to monasteries in each village in the cooler part of the day. The views witnessed of the mountains in there varying geography while walking the trails to each village is such a wonderful way to see the countryside. When visiting the various monasteries there were opportunities to interact with the monks and enjoy a hot cup of tea and biscuits with them. Jigmet (our guide) and his team were friendly and nothing was ever a bother and they were so very organised. For those adventurers who like to get 'off the beaten track' and enjoy traditional village life this is the trip for you.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    When I reached the Skinyang La at 4,060m after a long hike to reach this point.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jigmet Mepam was a very passionate and enthusiastic leader always working hard to ensure we had the best experience while travelling through the Sham Valley of Ladakh. His sharing of knowledge about the various monasteries and geography of the landscapes we were viewing each day while trekking was excellent. His good humour and friendly nature made it easy to approach him with any questions or concerns during the trip. His encouragement and support when the trekking was getting tough was very reassuring and made it a little easier to complete the day's trekking.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is an amazing tour and I would highly recommend it. Do remember that you need a good level of fitness, it is quite hot and dusty at times. The trails are generally reasonably easy to walk but the ascents can be a little challenging but well worth it. The trip notes are very well written so ensure that you read them carefully. The packing list is very good. Ensure that you research altitude sickness as you are in altitude between 3,200 and 4,000 metres above sea level for the duration of the trip. The tour accommodates three days in Leh for acclimatisation which prepares you very well. The guide and the Exodus team are excellent in ensuring that you manage the altitude well.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    A very well balanced itinerary with a combination of both trekking and a true cultural experience and it was a very relaxed itinerary allowing group members to have adequate rest and time to themselves throughout the trip.
  • Reviewed March 2018
    Neil & Carole Bowman & Mahoney

    Snow leopards aplenty!

    This was our second visit to Hemis NP in search of the snow leopard. Our visit in 2011 produced one very brief sighting. On this return visit we were amply rewarded with several lengthy sightings on four of the six days we were there, giving us the chance to view them stalking prey (blue sheep), resting and ridge-walking. Much of our success was due to the incredible skill and dedication of our Ladakhi spotters. We cannot thank them enough. We were also priveleged to have good sightings of a pair of wolves, a herd of urials, picas, woolly hares and several large birds of prey including two Eagle Owls roosting and flying at dusk. Apart from wildlife watching, there were very good cultural experiences too - visiting monasteries, attending a Buddhist masked dance festival at Matho Monastery and a welcoming homestay in the traditional Ladakhi village of Rumbak.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing one of the leopards, after resting, stand up then roll around on the ground with paws in the air! We were told this helps camouflage its coat and hide its scent from its prey.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    As we have said many times, Valerie Parkinson is second to none in all respects!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you have visited the Himalaya during the summer months, we would highly recommend the contrasting experience of winter in Ladakh. There are very few other tourists, the scenery is different but more spectacular for its frozen rivers and snow-covered slopes. Yes, it can be very cold, but it can also be very bright and sunny, so, as long as you have the appropriate kit, there should be no problem. And don't take too many changes of clothes! Do as the local Ladakhis do in winter.....

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Again, thanks to our Ladakhi team who looked after us with great care and thoughtfulness - nothing was too much trouble for them - and, of course, Valerie Parakinson.
  • Reviewed September 2017
    Franciska Pouw

    Wonderful Ladakh!

    I booked this trip through Sawadee (Dutch partner of Exodus) and I would do it again. The trip was very well organised and lead by Valerie Parkinson. Our local trekking guide Wangail also did a really good job in helping us beating the paths and crossing wild rivers and moutain passes. And my fellow travellers were really nice. This trip was amazing! A 'hot' start in Delhi, early morning amazing flight to Leh when you see the Himalaya mountain range when the weather is good. We had really good views! Leh is very pleasant, kind people, beautiful colours, wonderful monasteries in and around Leh. We even visited the highest motorable road in the world (5600); excellent for acclimatization! The trekking was everything I hoped for. Really colourful mountains, interesting villages and people. We even saw baby eagle owles, pica's (mouse hare), a red fox and loads of blue sheep! The camping was very well organized, food was excellent! I would strongly recommend this trip when you love mountains, trekking and other cultures.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I found it all very memorable.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie Parkinson is a very experienced and pleasant tourleader. She really knows all about Ladakh and buddhism, has good humor, knows how to 'handle' a group, gives you plenty of good tips. After trekking days she encouraged us to go for extra acclimitization walks.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take enough batteries and powerbanks with you on the trek when you like to take a lot of photos!
  • Reviewed September 2017
    Tony Wright

    Magic Markha Valley

    The Markha Valley Trek was a truly memorable experience. The landscape, wildlife and vegetation, the light, the culture and peaceful atmosphere of Ladakh are unforgettable and we were fortunate to experience it 'up close'. The trek was superbly organised, with expert and supportive leadership from Valerie Parkinson. The camping experience was great and the local team was full of joy and very competent. We were very well looked after! I enjoyed the excellent company of my fellow trekkers and appreciated the way in which some of the more challenging sections of the trek were paced and supported. As well as the trek, there were excellent visits to monasteries, and good accommodation in Leh and Delhi. 2 weeks felt like 2 months - it was an intense and very satisfying experience all round. Thanks for everything.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Many! Getting up to the top of the GandaLa Pass after struggling a bit with the altitude, and seeing the incredible view from the crest. Contrasts between summer crops and the utter barrenness of the mountains. Watching the sunset from the Old village at Markha. Visiting Thikse Monastery. All the opportunities to experience the culture and religion. Walking the final few kilometres down the valley to Shang Sudmdo in golden light surrounded by mountains of other-worldly colours.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie is a truly superb group leader. She brings calm authority, care, respect, humour, a vast depth of expertise and local knowledge, and a calm that is both reassuring and authoritative. She has a great knowledge of group psychology too! I feel very fortunate to have been on a trek led by Valerie.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Carry boiled sweets or peppermints to suck on - helps to handle the dry air. If you want to take a lot of photos, take a power bank with plenty of capacity for recharging your camera, as well as a couple of extra batteries. I ran out on the last day of the trek despite having 3 batteries and a 6000 ma power bank!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    All aspects of Exodus planning and organisation were excellent. I will recommend the trip to friends and am looking at my next trip already. Exodus will be my go-to company.