Turtle, Ecuador

Reviews

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

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18159 Reviews

  • Reviewed May 2022

    A great week and a super country

    This is a super trip if you are up for 'moderate' level cycling, want to visit a new country and are interested in seeing a village lifestyle that may well soon disappear. It is full of small but magical moments - overtaking horses and carts, waves from villagers, passing hi-fives with children and visits to the baker. the blacksmith, the mill, and being shown round a fortified church and a ruined abbey by the local priest. The scenery is great - for the first couple of days we would be cycling alongside snow-capped mountains. That then turns into the lush green hills of Transylvania. The first three days have the longest routes and we were glad that we'd done some hill training before the trip but we coped - although we were usually last we weren't far behind! The routes are well planned and there is less traffic in Transylvania than on our previous cycle trips in western Europe. Some of the dirt roads are being tarmacked and will soon be smoother rides. The dinners in the small hotels / guests houses were very good as were our picnics and snacks during the day. The fortified churches are really interesting and, as a keen photographer, there were plenty of opportunities for good photos along the way. Btw, the bikes were fine!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I'm split, so here are two: - Hearing cuckoos every day while cycling. I used to hear them at home as a boy - that doesn't happen now in southern England but it does in Transylvania at least in May! - Seeing the cows come home in Viscri. There we were, enjoying our food and wine at dinner, and our host says 'the cows are coming home'. Out we rush...what a surprise! Enjoy!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Tudor is excellent, he's a very experienced guide, with super local knowledge, a nice friendly style and good focus on a safe trip. He made our last day - we chose not to visit Bran Castle and instead to go to Peles Castle but via Brasov. That was a super addition on his part. We'd been in villages and small towns. To visit a 'Saxon' city was great. The Black Church and the main square were both wonderful. Thank you Tudor. Our driver Lucien was great too and added to the vitality of our small group (post Covid and with war in Ukraine, we were six + guide and driver. There were no Covid issues or disruption. The Romanians have taken in many Ukrainian refugees and two families were staying at the church in Vulcan.)

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The accommodation isn't in standard hotels - it's a mix of small hotels and guesthouses. There's something to like about every place but also the odd thing that isn't ideal but it all adds to the special nature of the trip. In a couple of guesthouses we shared a bathroom with another trip member and that worked fine. In Vulcan the room was a bit basic but the evening welcome from the priest was fab and, after a couple of glasses of welcoming schnaps, it didn't matter!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Romania is really interesting and on the up. We stayed a few extra days so we could see a bit more of Bucharest and then went north to see the painted monasteries and to visit Moldova.
  • Reviewed May 2022

    Recommended trip to the Baltics

    1st post pandemic trip, originally booked for 2020. A fantastic trip to get back travelling again. Great balance of scenery, history, culture and fun. The itinerary is well planned snd we benefited from an experienced tour leader who really did ‘make’ this trip so fantastic. He worked around us, the places, and worked hill time making sure we all got what we wanted. No early starts for one😀 The special feature of these locations is their history of being ‘in the middle’ for centuries. Most recently the transition from Soviet rule to European independence. The signs of both are very evident. The icing on the cake got this trip was the tour leader Andrius being born and raised under the Soviets and now benefiting from the new freedoms. His experiences were very good to hear snd learn from

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Learning from Andrius 1st hand the journeys made by these countries from Soviet to post Soviet existence

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Wonderful. Really made the trip work so well for all of us. Very easy to get on with and approach. Great sense of humour snd very knowledgeable. Would recommend any trip he leads.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I wasn’t sure about the temperature/weather and what to take. May in the Baltics had it chilly moments, so a good coat, gloves and hat aren’t wasted😀
  • Reviewed May 2022

    Mr

    Scenic walks (apart from the introductory one on Sunday which was a bit of a walk to nowhere) with great views from the top of the hills. It was a bit hot but all the walkers coped with the permanent sunshine. Gizer, the leader, is a very good organiser, with perfect timing and good knowledge of the history of the places we visited – Girne, Bellapais Abbey, Saint Hilarion, Kantara and Buffavento Castle (the walk up to it recompense the walker with breath-taking views). He also organised the optional but very informative excursions to Famagusta and Nicosia which offered us the chance to find out a lot of facts about places we knew only from the news. I would also like to commend Omar, the driver, very efficient as well, helpful and funny; he helped me learn more Turkish language than I knew before 😉. The food was good, and the best dinners we had were at Niazi’s and Eminem (no connection with the rapper 😉). The best lunch was at the Caravan Serai in Nicosia – thank you Gizer! Pia Bella Hotel was clean with good sized rooms, very professional, polite, and friendly service, good range of food items at the breakfast. Al in all, a very rewarding holiday – Thanks to Exodus, Gizer, and everybody else who made it happen.
  • Reviewed May 2022

    Cycling the undulations of Puglia

    A varied trip with great cycling opportunities, mostly off main roads, led by an experienced leader. Emanuele was our leader, a local man with knowledge and passion for local history and geography. There were opportunities each day to eat and drink local specialities, and a couple of special treats such as cheese-making and olive oil tasting. There are no bus transfers, you cycle a good way each day, sometimes a few challenging hills and dips, sometimes a chance to cycle as fast as you want off road, but on good surfaces. Emanuele is an excellent leader who keeps control of the group at the same time as giving everyone the chance to go at their own pace. You don't need to be a strong cyclist to do the trip, there are always regroupings so that nobody gets left behind, and nobody feels left out. There are a couple of coffee and lunch stops where we were able to swim in the gorgeous blues of the Ionian Sea if we wanted, or just laze on a bench with a marvellous gelato. A couple of the hotels en route had swimming pools.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I particularly enjoyed our visit to a working farmhouse that provided hotel accommodation and a pool. It was very different from the norm, comfortable, with gorgeous tiled bathrooms.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Emanuele is an experienced cycling group lead and had firm control of the group. I have been on a few trips when this has not been the case and chaos ensued, resulting in disappointing experiences for some. Emanuele is confident and able to let those more experienced ride at their own pace while ensuring that others never felt left out or left behind. He involved everyone in taking responsibility for our own safety and helping each other. His knowledge of the area is widespread and he has a passion for the region and its communities. His technical knowledge was excellent, and his English was so good. He translated for us wherever we went and showed us how to eat the local produce like Italians.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take your swimming costume just in case, and plenty of sun cream. We went in early May and only had rain for an hour one day.
  • Reviewed May 2022

    living history

    For the well season wanderer, a trip to Baltics is a time traveller's delight. From visiting medieval town (Tallin), 18th century chateau (Rundale), wonderful art nouveau buildings (Riga), dour grey soviet era (nuclear missile site) to an optimistic future (Vilnius). Our wonderful historian on this trip, Andrius, knew pre and post soviet rule and was very clear which path for the Baltic states he would choose

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Art Nouveau buildings , and nuclear missle site

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Andrius - was brillant, paitence, flexible and informative

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Wrap up warm - cold even in May and wet
  • Reviewed May 2022

    Getting a flavour of Albania

    We travelled to Albania at the end of April 2022 and had a brilliant experience. Three days in the mountains followed by three days by the coast. Scenery was stunning so we ran out of superlatives to describe it. We were met by our local tour leader - Erlis- at the airport who competently organised everything. Food on the trip was very good. Mediterranean in style, lots of vegetables, fresh fish and many plates of chips. We were very well fed. Cycling was challenging particularly on the first and last days with some long ascents however the bikes supplied were pretty good and gearing coped well. All the effort was definitely worth it. We have travelled to a few remote places around the world but Albania was completely different and well worth going to. Erlis gave us a good briefing on some of the recent history of the country opening our eyes to this part of the world. Definitely a place to visit.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Starting to get an understanding of this little known country.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent. Organised everything.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go
  • Reviewed May 2022

    Predictive tech

    Technology needs to do what it is told.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    You will see my review from the other day below is grammatically incorrect. The group leader section starts with Variously obviously..... This is totally wrong. I typed Vania who was our leader. It is Vania, Vania, Vania not Variously. Word obviously decided it didn't like Vania and made something up. With all the money I have given Microsoft a refund is obviously due.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Vania is a star. Never met Variously.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Rant over
  • Reviewed May 2022

    Good view of former Soviet states

    Group leader (Andrius) was perhaps the best part of the trip. He was born under Soviet rule and just as he entered university the Soviet Union dissolved and his country declared independence. His insights and knowledge of history and society were a real treat.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    See above. Andrius was skilled at meeting the special needs of some travelers without inconveniencing the group. We had a schedule that was very flexible. Summary - he was great!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Read the trip notes and check up on the weather to be expected. Northern Europe can still be cold and blustery in mid May. There is quite a bit of walking on this trip - 3 to 5 hours on most days. Early spring has lots of flowers and '50 shades of green' spread over the fields and forests.
  • Reviewed May 2022

    Brilliant Trip

    My first time with a group tour and with Exodus. I would very much recommend it. The tour is well organised - taking in some wonderful and varied places. You get a real feel for the region. All 3 countries have a rich history and for me learning more about the soviet era was fascinating given current events. Our tour leader, Andrius, was fantastic! He looked after us all so well. His take on the places we visited was very insightful. He also went over and above to find us local cuisine. There was so much to take in, from medieval old towns to nature reserves, cold war nuclear bunkers to live blues music. I even managed a swim in the Baltic (very short one)! I would recommend packing many layers for this time of year. Thank you Andrius and Exodus.
  • Reviewed May 2022

    Our trek to Everest Base Camp

    In retrospect, the trip was the experience of a life-time, but always enjoyable at the time and we believe there are things Exodus Travels could do to make this tough expedition easier for future trekkers. Obviously the walking was tough, although my wife and I are seasoned trekkers and knew what to expect. Regarding the route itself, we did wonder whether an overnight stay at Pangboche instead of Phakding would make the trek-day to Namche easier? Also, we question whether a 'B Plan' would be possible in case of bad weather at the high end of the trail ? We reached Gorak Shep by lunch-time on 1st May and would have gone on to Base Camp, but heavy snow prevented that and in order to 'summit' we had to start early the next day to reach Base Camp, return and then walk down to Pheriche, which made for a very long day. We appreciate that it seldom snows in May, but the local people are finding that that pattern is altering as the global climate is changing. There somehow needs to be a 'spare' day in case of bad weather. Accommodation' This was probably our main area of concern; we knew to expect that these would be 'spartan' but this does not excuse the extent of filth in several cases: at Labouche, mould was clearly evident on the bedding, and at Gorak Shep, the one 'western' toilet seat was not only cracked and broken, but underneath it was encrusted with human waste. As someone once said, you can see what the bathrooms are like, but not the kitchens! As for the bathrooms in general, we found at Namche there was no washbasin anywhere except in the corridors, which was the only place where you might brush your teeth, but you obviously could not have a proper (strip!) wash in a corridor in full view of the public! There were 2 showers in that tea-house but one was filthy, obviously not regularly cleaned. At Lukla, there was an under floor water-leak, so that whenever taps were turned on in our room, the carpet in the room and outside in the corridor became immediately soaked. Showers were not available there and in a few other tea-houses - we had to rely on paying extra for a hot bowl of water. At Tengboche, we passed by several newly--built-looking hotels before reaching our tea-house which was much the poorer. (We met other trekkers who had stayed in the newer accommodation and spoke favourably. We wondered there as at Namche why Exodus appeared not to have chosen the best option for accommodation. But there were some good, clean tea-houses; Chhumoa and Khyangjuma were clean and comfortable, as was the newly-built tea-house at Dingboche, which boasted electric blankets. Could this 'luxury' not be provided elsewhere, as would make overnight stays much more comfortable - we enjoyed our two nights there. Pheriche was also clean and relatively comfortable; we saw the toilets being cleaned out by staff in the morning... The most important omission we found was means of (international) communication in the tea-houses in case of emergency. When our daughter became ill and clearly could not continue the trek down from Pheriche, we found it impossible to contact our insurers back in the UK before organising a helicopter. In order to send just one email, we used the tea-house landlord's phone positioned in one particular part of a window to get just 'one bar' of phone reception; a satellite phone in each tea-house would help in situations such as ours. Possibly the most potentially serious issue we had was on the trail out of Namche, where we encountered a herd of yaks descending towards us across the entire trail. On one side was a vertical bank, and on the other a sheer drop. The yaks were moving fast and their driver who was at the back was as much use as a chocolate fire-guard. Our tour-leader said to move to the side by the bank, but then the yaks veered in our direction, threatening to crush us against the rocks. So we were advised to swap to the other side, and the yaks followed us. Whilst they narrowly missed our daughter and me, they knocked my wife over who was scrambling to avoid being swept over the edge. The yak driver did not respond to our shouts of concern, and more worryingly, our tour leader did not appear overly concerned and just said that it was 'crazy'. I think there needs to be some extra care and training given to tour leaders to avoid what could have been a fatal accident in our case.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We loved trekking in the mornings especially when there was sunshine and views of the scenery could clearly be seen and we had many such mornings like this, including having breakfast outside at Khyangjuma. The acclimatisation walk above Namche to the Everest View Hotel was also fantastic, and although the weather at Gorak Shep made for a precipitous trek to Base Camp, it was amazing to see the expedition tents there and to see the snow 'formations' across the Base Camp plateau. Equally inspirational were our sherpas who made the trip for us and couldn't do enough for us, especially Lhakpa I (the older Lhakpa) and Kami who were as attentive to our comforts as they could possibly be, finding the best place to dry towels for us, always there with hot drinks and bringing/ taking away crockery at meal-times, as well as much more. When our daughter could not continue the trek due to a flu-type virus, it was Lhakpa I who stayed with her at Dingboche and Pheriche. When with us on the trail he always set a steady pace, dealt with all the paperwork at checkpoints and was clearly the most experienced among the tour leaders/ guides. But it was Kami and Lhakpa II who were with us on the icy boulder-field walk to base camp and Kami who prevented me from slipping countless times. We tipped the three sherpas generously, but would liked to have given them more. We found the Nepali people friendly and helpful, and our three Sherpas were good ambassadors for the Nepali people. We were pleased with the efficiency of the evacuation by helicopter for our daughter, which enabled us to continue with the trek. (The helicopter pilot was a Canadian who we'd met staying in Lukla - he'd also helped sort out the plumbing problems in our accommodation for us, so we were fglad the helicopter pilot who flew our daughter to Lukla was someone we knew!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We were less happy with Aniche, our principal group leader. He put in lots of time with us when we arrived early both in Kathmandu and Lukla, helping show us round Kathmandu and waiting for several hours beyond the expected flight arrival in Kathmandu. As the trek went on, however he appeared less confident in our abilities and his own, frequently asking us if we should abandon our trek and descend, when we had slight headaches. At Gorakshep, he announced that he did not feel well and decided to leave us with our Sherpas, organising a replacement (Khusman) although the latter did not reach us until we had completed the Base Camp walk. He took a helicopter back to Lukla, then on to Kathmandu, leaving us with Khusman who had had to alter his aranged leave and family time in order to join us at Base Camp on Monday 2nd May. On our arrival in Kathmandu, Anish was there waiting for us clearly expecting to resume his position, which Khusman respected. (We wondered whether the awarding of potential tips had anything to do with this.) At dinner on one of the last evenings Anish confided that he was unsure whether high-level guiding was right for him ( given the apparent symptoms he'd had, although he didn't look that ill to us.) He speculated whether lower-level backpacking or water sports activities might suit him better. We were glad we hadn't known this at the start of the trek, concluding all in all that he didn't seem very experienced or have much self-assurance. We were pleased that Khusman was able to step into the breach at short notice, and enjoyed trekking with him. When we returned to Kathamandu and Anish re-surfaced, Khusman tactfully faded into the background.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you have winter trekking equipment with you in case it snows on the summit attempt, even if you're told it shouldn't be necessary. Also ensure you have quick-drying towels and waterproof gear; we were lucky that the tea-houses werent that busy when we needed to dry our kit. Don't rely on Wifi - it's very patchy; an Ncell local SIM card is more useful. Get a good battery pack - it's not always possible to charge your phones. Keep a careful watch out for the yaks - they nearly did for us!!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I think most points I've covered. Looking at our photos, the overall experience was great - we had plenty of 'moans & groans' but you forget these quite quickly; to reach Base Camp and return in one piece is unforgettable and you only need to do it the once!