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

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  • Reviewed June 2019
    Mike Frampton

    The Five Stans - A journey through history and the Central Asian Republice

    A great holiday with plenty of superb sites and stunning scenery. One reason for calling this the Silk Road was that silk was used to pay people. It started with the Chinese needing horses to fight the nomads from the north. By 53BC, Rome was spending half its silver production on silk and other products from the Silk Roads. Rome also had to introduce modesty legislation because of the number of people wearing only silk. Whilst Julius Caesar was invading Britain in 53BC, his friend Marcus Crassus was leading another Roman army to defeat by Persia, in an empire that stretched from modern day Iran to Afghanistan and north to Merv. 10,000 Roman captives were sold at the Merv slave market to the Chinese, to fight on their northern border against marauding nomadic tribes. The ruins of three cities can be seen at Merv, in southern modern day Turkmenistan. The first was built by Cyrus the Great when he created the first Persian Empire. Next to it is the remains of the city built by Alexander the Great and next to that the remains of the city built after the Arab invasion, which was destroyed by the armies of Genghis Khan 1221 AD, with up to a million people being massacred. Alexander is a hero in Turkmen, after he freed them from Persian rule. In Uzbekistan, Timor is the hero, as he rose from hired sword to ruler of a vast empire, stretching from the Chinese border to Egypt, destroying many armies on the way. He made Samarqand his capital and made it one of the greatest cities. In Tajikistan, it is Cyrus the Great who is remembered, partly because he was murdered there. In Osh, Kyrgyzstan, it is Babur, great great grandson of Timor and founder of the Indian Mughal dynasty who is remembered. Although it is Manus who is the local hero.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Too many. Merv, Bukhara, Samarqand to name three cities. The snow capped mountains, throwing snowballs and sweltering in the heat all on the same day, magnificent lakes, watching flocks of goats and sheep being moved to the high pastures and seeing the yurts of the shepherds. One surprise was the large number of roses and other plants we saw in the first three countries visited.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Very good. Unusually we had both a western leader for the whole trip, as well as local guides for each of the countries visited.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You may only spend one day in Kazakhstan, but a day time flight home, clouds permitting, gives you the opportunity to see the steppes and the salt pans of this vast country from the air, either through the window (book seat early) or as an alternative to a movie, using the plane's downward looking camera (which is an option in the My Flight screen). On arrival at Ashgabat airport, you have to take your invitation letter to the Visa desk before going to through passport control. The visa fee is also variable, partly depending on the exchange rate. We also found the fee charged to individuals varied from a low of $99 each to a high of about $130 each. Beware of each fresh fruit and salad, it is usually washed in local tap water, which can cause problems. Our costs per person were around: Turkmenistan - 200 Turkmen Manat for food and photo fees (June 2019 rate 4.42TMT = £1) Uzbekistan - 800,000 Uzbek Som for food and photo fees (10,700UZS = £1). Spending in the markets, pottery, silk and carpet shops is extra. Tajikistan - 380 Tajiki Somoni for food (11.93TJS = £1) Kyrgyzstan - 2,000 Kyrgyzi Som for food plus 500KGS for optional Arslanbob jeep tour (88.24KGS = £1) Kazakhstan - 15,000 Kazakh Tenge for food and market visit (481.79KZT =£1) Istanbul/other airport stop overs - don't forget this. Visa fees and tips are extra. Istanbul
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Iolanda Jackson-Johns

    Good

    A very comprehensive tour where you get to see many of the best places in Croatia on the coast and Islands. Beautiful scenery with a picture around every corner. Very busy itinerary both the cycling and the travelling with not much free time so make sure sure you are prepared for this one - both physically and mentally. It was very hot when we were there so you have to factor in that you might be cycling big hill climbs in extreme heat and out in the heat all day, every day. There is a support vehicle if you need it but ours did not have too much in the way of aircon.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cycling the uphill climbs (up to 10km long) in extreme heat without getting in the support vehicle

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Very good, calm and informative.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Get fit on your bike before you go - not really a tour for those who just cycle to the shops at home

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Proud that I did it and many wonderful memories and friendships - THANK YOU
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Robert Wright

    A great week in the Mont Blanc area

    A fantastic week. The accommodation was top notch as were the chalet caterers. The description of the weeks walk was accurate sadly the weather let us down a little.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Teaching the aiguillette des Houches. Alt 2285m

    What did you think of your group leader?

    A fantastic weeks walking with our guide John Briggs. John proved to have in depth knowledge of the area. He was able to juggle the itinerary to suite the weather conditions. Our group was mixed ability and John set an appropriate pace and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time should anyone need advice, encouragement or just a little reassurance. His evening briefings were informative and gave us all the information we would need for the next days walk. Top quality guide.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    No

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thank you exodus, John and the ladies in the chalet for a great holiday.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Jean Hackett

    The not-so-blue Danube

    Temperatures were consistently above 30 deg. C, although we chose early June because it should have been more congenial for cycling. This was quite a challenge as a result. The first point to note is that nowhere on the route did the Danube look blue! It was green at Passau, but thereafter was a sludgy grey, despite the clear blue skies above us. There was a great profusion of wild flowers along the route; the cycle paths were generally segregated from other traffic, which made for pleasant riding conditions, with occasional shared use with pedestrians; even when we were near roads, they were relatively traffic-free. We enjoyed seeing many other cyclists of all ages while we were on the route, and in the towns where we stayed. Austria is an obviously cycle-friendly country, and we could only dream that we might have the same sort of facilities in the UK.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing two river barges going through the locks (one each way) at the hydro-electric power station station near Melk.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    N/A

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take the instructions and distances quoted with a pinch of salt! The Austrian partners don't seem to have cycled the route recently, and there were many changes from the route notes and maps, as well as some unhelpful or incorrect information. Some of this came at the end of a day, and made finding accommodation a challenge at times.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Nette Lowe

    Mont Blanc Highlights

    Had a wonderful week walking in the Mont Blanc massif. Everything was fantastic - the walks were thoughtfully planned and well guided, chalet was comfortable with amazing views, food was delicious and varied, company was excellent........and the weather was brilliant.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Being up high!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Egle was an excellent leader. She adapted the walks to the ability of the group, made sure the pace was appropriate for everyone, is knowledgeable about the area and has a wonderful sense of humour.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I think the rating of 3 is a little low for this trip and some walkers may be challenged if basing their decision on this rating.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    marilyn carroll

    Walking in wonderful Rodopi mountains

    A memorable walking holiday. The walks were through forests, gorges and beautiful wildflower meadows. Lovely views! A very pastoral feel to the whole holiday - and very relaxing. Yagodina is a small friendly village in a peaceful location. The hotel was clean and comfortable. Food was good - lots of local produce was used.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Everyone mentions the lunch stops - but it was so lovely looking at the wildflowers, the birds and the views. There are not many places left in Europe that are so unspoilt. We rarely saw other people when we were out walking. Finding bear paw prints on a walk through some woods was unexpected!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nelly was excellent. One of the best guides I have encountered on a holiday. She spoke English fluently and was a good communicator with the group. Her knowledge of the local flora and fauna was extensive. She gave us a lot of background on the history and culture of Bulgaria. She was very helpful and attentive to the needs of the group.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I spent an extra day in Sofia and I can recommend this. There is a lot to see in the city centre. The Metro system is easy to use and cheap. Be prepared for showers when out walking and take lots of sunscreen.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I wish I had tried to learn a few words of Bulgarian before the holiday. If you are not flying direct to Sofia make sure you have enough time to make your connecting flight. One hour was not enough when flying from Manchester due to delays.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Angie Cutmore

    Inca Trail

    Brilliant from start to finish. This trip excelled my expections as I have never done an Exodus trip before. I am a keen fell walker but have never seen a such diverse beautiful countryside. From river valleys to rugged mountain tops. The second day was quite steep up dead womans path but well worth it. We always got plenty of encouragement from our guides Edwind and Anthony. They were very knowledgeable about all the history and flora and fauna. But the highlight is the Sun gate and your first veiw og Macchu Pichu.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Looking down from the Sun gate.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Edwind was able to help and advise us of all the trip entailed. He was a really nice guy.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you are fit.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The trip to the Sacred Valley is worth a visit too whilst you are acclimatising.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Angie Cutmore

    Inca Trail

    Brilliant from start to finish. This trip excelled my expections as I have never done an Exodus trip before. I am a keen fell walker but have never seen a such diverse beautiful countryside. From river valleys to rugged mountain tops. The second day was quite steep up dead womans path but well worth it. We always got plenty of encouragement from our guides Edwind and Anthony. They were very knowledgeable about all the history and flora and fauna. But the highlight is the Sun gate and your first veiw og Macchu Pichu.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Looking down from the Sun gate.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Edwind was able to help and advise us of all the trip entailed. He was a really nice guy.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you are fit.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The trip to the Sacred Valley is worth a visit too whilst you are acclimatising.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Ann Burnett

    Inexperienced guide

    I have had to give this trip a 2 star because of the guide, although I take no pleasure in doing this. He was inexperienced and quite unfriendly at times. This was my 6th Exodus trip and this was my worst ever guide by a long way. See group leader section.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I absolutely loved swimming in Aidarkul Lake and the desert scenery on the way to and from the yurt. I also loved Samarkand and particularly Shah-i-Zinda.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader Shakh appeared to be inexperienced, he lacked friendliness at times and he showed a complete lack of interest in the fact that I was very badly ill twice. I had arrived a few days earlier (as a solo female traveller) and the day before I met the group I suffered sickness and diarhoea. On first meeting Shakh at the group meeting I mentioned this to him and I could not believe the almost complete lack of interest. In fact, I thought this so unusual, that I repeated myself in case he had not heard. We later went on our tour of Tashkent and I very nearly fainted (as I had not eaten due to the bug). Again Shakh was barely interested, pointed to a door where I could reach the outside and left me to it. Only when the other members of the group asked me if I was OK did Shakh very briefly check on me. A few days after that the bug returned and I was up all night with the worst illness I have ever encountered. The next day I again mentioned this to the guide and he was still uninterested (and no offers of pharmacy stops were made). Other problems with Shakh were:- not having sufficient water for our group in the first few days of the trip (at the desert fortresses we had run out of water completely in the heat and we also run out of water in the morning at Khiva). In fact, at the desert fortresses, I asked Shakh where the water was and he snapped back that he had not picked up the 10 litre bottle yet. As we had driven from the airport at Nukus there had been plenty of opportunity to pick up water. After that I no longer trusted Shakh to provide water and just bought my own to make sure I always had a supply. I have been on 5 other Exodus trips and on all those trips the guide has eaten with the group and the guides have been good/fantastic. This guide did not eat with us on the first night in Tashkent nor the first night in Samarkand and on around 4 or 5 other occasions. He was not always very friendly or smiley, which I think is the requirement of a guide. In fact one time we passed him in the street during our free time and he did not even smile or acknowledge us. The restaurant chosen for our final lunch in Samarkand was appalling in terms of service and again Shakh sat at a neighbouring table. Some of our food took an hour and a quarter or more to arrive and no complaints were made by him, to my knowledge. Then when the bill came the prices had changed markedly, for example the soup price had increased by over 50% and all the other prices had changed. This situation was awful and was handled very badly by the guide. The coach was not always asked to collect us, e.g from right outside the airport, so we were left with quite long distances to drag our cases. This was not really a problem for me as I had a rucksack (albeit a heavy one) but some of the other travellers were in their 70's and I am sure they would have benefited from being picked up. Shakh gave out his mobile number in case of emergency, with instructions NOT to ring him at night. Whilst I am sure most people would not ring the guide at night, emergencies can of course happen at night. On a more positive note Shakh was very knowledgeable about the history and geography of Uzbekistan and I very much enjoyed his commentaries, especially when he told us about his wedding. He also improved as the 11 days progressed (except for the final lunch incident). However I think being completely uninterested in the health of your travellers is completely unacceptable.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Sadly a number of people in our group were ill. Take plenty of rehydration salts. The bread is at least delicious, so you can survive on that! Do get out for a walk in the area around the yurt. I had a couple of little walks and it was so peaceful and the wildlife great.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The itinerary is great for this trip with a lovely combination of nature and cities. I would however definitely check on who is the guide.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    John Wallace

    A wonderful country - but an indifferent leader

    The journey, the country, the route, the accommodation, the food and drink - all faultless. However, one relies very much on the tour leader to provide insights, explanations and observations of their native country, in order to bring that country to life and bring greater richness to the experience than mere observation, as a visiting stranger, can rovide.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cycling amidst spectacular scenery redolent of Middle Earth in a time of innocence.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Poor. He did what he had to and no more. He kept a distance from the group, erecting an impenetrable wall comprising his mobile phone and an attitude that clearly communicated that it would be best for us if we didn't trouble him by talking to him more than absolutely necessary. He had no contact with me throughout the trip, and I felt too intimidated to dare to ask him any of the many questions I had about his wonderful country. I have been on many other Exodus trips on which the leader become a friend, adviser, support and encouragement - and all-around hero.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Ensure that they get an Albania guide who truly loves their job - most of the Exodus guides I've encountered have given their hearts and souls to the execution of their duties.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I hope the gentleman in question can be persuaded to give more time to his paying guests and less time to his mobile phone.
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