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 January 2011
    Anonymous

    JOURNEY TO PERSIA

    A well balanced fascinating trip from ancient Persepolis through turquoise-tiled Silk Route mosques to the traffic chaos of modern Tehran. With the exception of the hotel in Tehran (presumably chosen for its tolerance of early arrivals and late departures), the other 3 hotels were clean, modern and comfortable. I wore a long jacket and light scarf, which was not too irksome! 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The enormous, peaceful, beautiful, empty site of Persepolis The sense of sanctity at the decommissioned Towers of Silence and Zorastrian cemetary in Yazd prevailed, in spite of the presence of teens on quad bikesThe mirrored shrines in ShirazThe opportunity to visit the private house in Shiraz of the extended family of a child I teach; obviously, this is not available to all clients, but it was a wonderful experience to eat a delicious meal in a relaxed family home. Iranians are generous and hospitable, and it was great to spend time with them. 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He was very knowledgeable.  Although a bit formal at first, he was more relaxed with us as the week went on, and very honest about Iran. He had great organisational skills, and everything went very smoothly.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Book this trip!  If you can, search out an Iranian contact before you go and see if you can meet their family.  Before going, I had read about 20th century Iran and particularly about women in Iran, but I didn't read any ancient history; fortunately, our guide was patient, and didn't mind repeating himself. But the more familiar you are with the cultures, ancient and modern, the more you will enjoy this trip.
  • Reviewed January 2011
    Anonymous

    CORSICAN MOUNTAINS & VILLAGES

    Corsoca is a beautiful island with superb scenery , well organised , well led holday , weather was very good. The group worked well , supportive of people of different speeds of walking , some fun characters & good stories.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Several times we walked from the woodland into high open areas with superb views. My wife & I and I are keen to do the GR20 at some stage.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Very knowledgable of the routes - never any doubt. He led at an appropriate speed for all and knew about local history , flora & fauna. He was flexible e.g. the train service on Corsica is a variable feast & he was able to adapt to alternatives  when appropriate.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Corsica isn't high on awareness as a destination , but well worth a trip. Good beaches on the day off walking , but would bother with the bus tour of Ajaccio.
  • Reviewed January 2011
    Anonymous

    DISCOVER ETHIOPIA

    Having travelled quite a bit in Africa and worked there twice, I knew that any trip to Africa would be exciting. Despite this, my holiday to Ethiopia exceeded all my expectations.Definitely one of the best holidays of my life.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The day we walked to the Tississat Falls was absolutely fabulous.We were so lucky that our visit co-incided with market day and as we descended the valley to the old Portugese Bridge, the local villagers climbed up out of the valley, mostly wearing dark green cloth (which we were told is a workers or poor person's clothing) and many of the women with crosses tatooed on their foreheads, herding their goats and donkeys past us and pretty much running up the hill as we huffed and puffed our way down.It was like a scene from some biblical epic.The remainder of the day with the little girls selling their shawls, crossing the icy river, walking through gorgeous lush landscape (a world away from the general perception of Ethiopia as a parched and barren land) and drinking coffee made by an enterprising local lady as we looked down onto the falls, all combined to make this an unforgettable day.    Other highlights for me were the gorgeous and breathtaking Lalibela churches, the angle face ceiling at Debre Birhan Selassie church in Gondar, the friendliness of the Ethiopian people, especially the children (I've never waved so much in my life as on the drives from Bahar Dar to Debark and then on to Gondar), the striking beauty of so many of the Ethiopian women, our visit to The Abyssian Coffee House (just downhill from our hotel) in Lalibela (you must go there after dinner in the evening,so much fun...watch the locals dance and have a go yourself at the shoulder jiggling, drink coffee or Tej...what a hilarious night!) and our great guide and excellent tour group.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gebre was excellent. Friendly, informative, diplomatic and fully understanding of our tour groups teasing and sometimes sarcastic sense of humour.What a nice guy and what a great guide -he really helped make the trip a great one.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    As Ron said, do not even think about the Simien Mountain walk if you don't have a head for heights as the majority of the walk is along cliff edges with sheer drops to the side of you.This would be my only minor criticism of the holiday that we weren't advised of this.I'm not good with heights (though was fine on the day of the mule trek to the mountain above Lalibela as although obviously the climb was high there were no sheer drops around) and after about 30 minutes had to take an alternative route with another guide to avoid the cliff edges.Luckily Gebre managed to arrange for one of our park guides to take me a different route but I did find the whole experience quite embarrassing...I was concerned that I had put Gebre to inconvenience and disruped the group.If I'd known what the walk had involved I'm sure I could have done my own alternative walk (even maybe following the road) avoiding the cliff edges then meeting the rest of the group later.As we had 2 guides plus Gebre I wonder if Exodus couldn't arrange an alternative walk in the Simien Mountains for anybody else who doesn't really want to spent half a day walking on cliff edges.I had a compact digital camera and also took my old SLR which used film. With hindsight I would really recommend only using digital...not because there was any particular problem with film (although at times it can be quite dusty so take care changing lenses) but, as Ron said, everybody wants to see their picture, even if it's only in the viewfinder.They seem to love it, especially if there are a few of them in the shot as they then all seem to like laughing at each others picture.With my SLR I wasn't able to show them any picture and wasn't able to explain why not (my Amharic didn't extend to much more then hello, goodbye and thank you).They were disappointed with that.If, like us, you are a little tired of injera and wat sauces when you return to Addis Adaba, 5 of us went to Serenade restaurant....mostly ex-pats and well heeled Ethiopians but as a one off treat, the food was better than most restaurants I've been to in the UK.With regards to the mule trek, if you weigh more than 85kg, consider walking up the mountain.I weigh 105kg (I'm 6ft 3in) and I'm sure I saw the mule wince when he was initially allocated to me.The mule drivers will take anybody up but it's not the driver who is carrying you.Gebre reckoned that the mules struggled with anything over about 85kg.2 of us walked up the mountain.It was hard work but gave you a great sense of satisfaction when we finally got to the monastery at the top. I took loads of insect repellant and hardly had to use any so in hindsight I may have only taken 1 small tube/can.Beer is cheap and very good (St.George, Daschen and another which I can't recall the name of).Sadly the same cannot be said of the Ethiopian wine. A couple of our group persisted in drinking it (apparently the more you have, the more acceptable the taste!) -brave souls. Tej (fermented honey) was also only appreciated by a hardy few of our group (Gavin seemed to love it...maybe it's a West Country thing!). 

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    As several people have mentioned, the accommodation in Debark was fairly basic although I thought that was fine as we had been warned about it.When I asked if they had any towels I was given one which was soaking wet. I had to laugh.The laundry was being done the young lady told me. Remember to take a towel or do like me, skip the shower for 1 day...it won't kill you.Actually there was only a trickle of cold water so a shower may have been difficult. Aside from that we had great local food that night in the hotel,with hilarious entertainment (a local man singing a song which incorporated our whole groups 'personalities'...either he was very perceptive or he had a little help from Gebre, our guide), the beds were comfy and the beer was cheap and very good. As to the rest of the accommodation on the trip I personally thought it was very good. Certainly much more luxurious than any other places I've stayed in Africa (with the exception perhaps of South Africa).The Ghion hotel in Addis Adaba has a lovely big pool, though the water is pretty chilly.The other hotels on the trip have small pools but due to water shortages these were always empty.Not a problem. So if you fancy a swim, Addis is the place.Ethiopian airlines are, surprisingly (to me anyway), excellent. Their staff are efficient and professional. At one point as I was going through the airport security check the female security officer must have thought I was concealing a money belt and said to me 'Sir, what is that around your waist?' I was a little perturbed to have to lift my shirt and say 'it's my belly...I'm overweight' at which she laughed and waved me through...a little incentive for my impending diet.My only other thought is that I would have loved to have also visited Harar although I realize you can't see everything a country has to offer in one trip.As well as the fact that Ethiopia is a fabulous country to visit, our trip wouldn't have been half so good if we didn't have the excellent group that we had.On arrival in Addis I was a little wary of the fact that nearly everybody else was older than me (I am 42...2 people were younger) with ages averaging 50 ish but continuing up to 70).It soon became apparent that I needn't worry as the type of person coming on this trip is adventurous, has travelled a lot so has lots of interesting stories, and were generally young at heart and mind. We had some real hilarious characters (Lynn, Dougie and Wendy...you are all up there!) who helped make the trip even more wonderful.
  • Reviewed January 2011
    Anonymous

    PETRA & PALMYRA

    A great holiday and wonderful experience.  The itinerary was superb for seeing a range of wonderful sites.  On the whole hotels good but different in accomodation standard (one hotel below par but otherwise fine).  Food good, but go with the guides advice, they know best.  Go with the flow and enjoy!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Petra - I've waited a lifetime to see that most maginifcent of sites.Krak des Chevailers, the perfect castle, sleek and mostly complete.However, plenty of variety to inspire most people.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Two group leaders for each week, both good, well informed and keen to look after the needs of the party.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Travel light, bags take a hammering.Check out the 'extra' paid for trips, they may not be as good as the included ones.The guides know where to get good food, generally local and best value.Whilst you are on the go most of the time, there is chance to rest on the bus, and the guides judge the best pace for the party.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If in doubt - go for it!
  • Reviewed January 2011
    Anonymous

    KILIMANJARO CLIMB - RONGAI ROUTE

    So.........having took the plunge and booked the last two remaining places on the Kilimanjaro treck, we were obviously a little nervous at the shear thought and magnitude of what we had just done, particularly as we'd never walked or climbed any large hill never mind a mountain! So to cut a long story short, we walked three mini mountains in the UK during the 8 month run up to our adventure. These constituted Scaffell Pike in the Lake District, Kinder Scout in the Peak District and Snowdon in Wales. The biggest of these being Snowdon at just over 3500 feet high, which paled in comparison to Kili at over 19,000 feet!  Needless to say these walks along with some stamina work at the gym twice a week enabled us to reach the summit of the worlds highest free standing mountain, meet some amazing new friends and bring back some awesome memories and an experience that will live with us forever.  We must also add that Exodus provided a service that we can only describe as excellent right from the booking staff in the UK through to the guides on the mountain itself.  What are you wainting for?? Take the plunge!! Lee & Abi Shaw (Rongai Route October 2010)

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Wow, there were many, but a few that stand out are;when our group were feeling the effects of altitude sickness and fatigue at the end of day 2. We all helped each other through with immense support and team bonding.  The other being when Abi my Wife unexpectedly beat everyone to Gilimans point and then said come on let's get to that true summit...lets nail Uhuru Peak! This after being one of the team that suffered badly with altitude sickness during the previous few days.Finally; to reach Uhuru Peak and see the curvature of the glorious blue skies, the clouds below us and the warm sun shining down on Africa and our beautiful planet. 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader was called Abraham, he was knowledgeable, inspirational, great support and a very good leader. With his help, 12 out of 12 people in our group reached Gillimans Point and 11 out of 12 went on to reach Uhuru Peak.  I think these results say all we need to say about the leadership qualities of this highly regarded man.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't go overboard with a fitness regime.  You're not running a marathon, rowing in a boat race or swimming the English channel.  You're walking and walking very slowly at that.  The best thing you can do is simply walk long distance and up a few steep hills with a loaded rucksack on your back. Try to do this every weekend or every other weekend combined with two evenings in the week doing 30 to 45 minutes cardio excercise.Walk slowly and try to drink 5 to 6 litres of water per day. Yes you might not be thirsty and you will be needing to urinate every hour or so, but trust me this is the best way to avoid altitude sickness. The ones who suffered in our group were the ones not taking enough water on board.  Also try to eat well, all the necessary foods are provided, but take a few snacks such as nuts and dried fruit to eat during your walks. Equipment:  This is very important, if you go without the proper equipment you will fail.A good water proof Gortex jacket is a must - Try Berghauss or similar (Spend approx £ 100 or more on a good one)Boots - Good worn in boots are critical to your success. Make sure they are very comfortable and supportive around the ankles, it is crucial that new boots are worn in (weekly useage a minimum of 4 months before you go) I bought a pair of Meindl Burma Pro MFS - £ 170 and these were exceptionally comfy, warm and dry thorughout the treck.Layers: Take wicking material (don't forget a good thermal layer trousers and long johns - Trust me you'll need them at night time and for the higher altitude walking days)Rucksack: a 30 to 35 litre capacity with H20 bladder capability is a must. It is important to go and try a few on, don't buy what looks good, it must feel good!! You don't want back ache, pulled muscles or strap burns before you attempt the summit. I can highly reccomend Osprey rucksacks - They manufacture some of the most comfortable and light sacs available. Mine is an Osprey Kestrel 35 litre with airscape and adjustable back setting and it's fantastic. Don't bother with the air mesh sytems that sit off your back by an inch or more, they don't work on these distances and only make your back ache. It is more important to have the rucksack against your back, not sitting off it!  Your back will carry weight all day if you carry it properly against your back.   A good down jacket is very warm at camp, but these can cost anywhere between £ 80 and £ 350. RAB jackets are the high end ones. I bought a RAB summit jacket at a reduced price of £ 90 from the RAB factory shop near Derby - It is so warm it's like a furnace! Finally listen to your guides! They know best. 

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Our group was a mixture of young twenty somethings up to 60 somethings. a 50/50 split of males and females, British and Canadians. We all got along amazingly well! Canadians and British normally makes for a good friendly cocktail.
  • Reviewed January 2011
    Anonymous

    CLASSIC VIETNAM & ANGKOR

    This trip is a great taster for Vietnam and Cambodia.  There are parts which can feel a bit rushed (see additional comments), but overall the pace is fairly relaxed and yet still covers most of the top highlights of the region.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The temples at Angkor are incredible.  Pictures don't give you a real idea of the scale and just how many there are.  That stop alone makes the trip worth it.In Vietnam, Halong Bay has spectacular scenery and is a real highlight.  I also enjoyed the food, in particular the lunch that our tour guide organised with a host family.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Both group leaders in Vietnam and Cambodia were excellent.In Vietnam, Triet organised plenty of extra activities and was genuinely interested in showing us plenty of authentic Vietnamese culture and way of life.In Cambodia, Thy was a wealth of information and even stayed on to take my wife and I round further as we stayed an extra day.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Change money in Vietnam - the rate offered even at the hotels was about 10% better than what I got this end before going, and they don't charge any commission.  Everything in Cambodia is priced in US dollars.Spend an extra day or 2 in Cambodia after the trip.  The temples are massive and you could easily spend 3 days going round them.  Also means you'll be there on a Saturday night and can go to the Beatocello concert at the children's hospital - a very worthy cause.Do get your tour leader to take you to the Cu Chi tunnels outside Saigon - worth the visit.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    It's been mentioned in other reviews, but Mui Ne is still not worth the more than 10 hours round trip on the bus.  It would have been much better to have more time in Saigon or the Mekong delta, both of which were a bit rushed.
  • Reviewed January 2011
    Anonymous

    DUBROVNIK & THE DALMATIAN COAST

    A very good holiday with interesting people.  An excellent tour leader.  Not too energetic.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Sunset over the islands on the last evening.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent.
  • Reviewed January 2011
    Anonymous

    HIGHLIGHTS OF GEORGIA & ARMENIA

    It has been a very easy travel, available to everybody (special fitness is not required), The two countries visited were very unknown for me, i enjoyed it, but at last, it was a religious travel, there are so much religious issues in this countries, all their lives goes arround it, and it is noticed and lived in some way during the trip.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    without doubt when everyone arrive to the nice and very old churches spread arroud this countries. Also Tbilisi is charming, modern, alive, i enjoyed there very much.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    About the group leadres, i have to say that i was very unpleased, they do not personalise in any way, they never try to use our names (i was spain for one of them all the travel, and it bother me very much). About the Georgian leather was, even, unpolite shouting me when i gave an opinion.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take in mind that you visit two countries, think that  Georgia is colder than Armenia,
  • Reviewed January 2011
    Anonymous

    KILIMANJARO & ZANZIBAR

    A superb combination of challenge and idillic relaxation afterwards.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Views in general, feeling of achievement on reaching the top!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Matthew - very good. The African Walking Company are a professional outfit. The daily briefings, local knowledge, porterage and food were particularly good and well executed.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Yes! The first 4 days of the walk are enjoyable/very scenic and no harder than walking in, say, the Lake District. By the start of "summit day", though (15,200 to 19,341 feet), you'll be tired. You set out at midnight, in -5-odd temperatures wearing a head-torch, trekking up scree for 8 hours, then on rock/scree for another 2-3 hours, where the air is very thin and therefore exhausting, to reach the summit. This is, by any measure, pretty brutal. If you don't think you have the mental grit and physical stamina to do this, without moaning endlessly, think twice about this climb. That said, from what I saw, it is impossible to know how you'll react to the altitude. I got a mild headache, but it really disorientates some people.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The Exodus kit list is good but I'd particularly recommend: a very warm 4-season sleeping bag, the warmest gloves you can find, ear plugs, a good Therm-a-rest (a ProLight 4 is ideal), a buff/shemagh (for keeping dust/mud out of your nose/mouth), a sun hat, a day sack with an insulated bladder/water tube, merino wool base layers (good in the hot and cold, don't smell, and double as warm pyjamas) and some good books (you get plenty of rest-time in camp and for the beach). The Zanzibar bit is perfect, pretty luxurious and realllllllly chilled out!
  • Reviewed January 2011
    Anonymous

    TIBET EXPLORER

    A wonderful first trip to Nepal and Tibet.I learnt so much about local customs and the people. The scenery was spectacular every day. I hope to return in the future.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    1. Ten minutes of solitude in Samye monastry sitting on the floor listening to a lone monk chanting.2. The wonderful extensive views across the blue water to the snow capped mountains at Nam Tso Lake.3.My walk down from the base camp of Everest reflecting on the majesty of the highest mountain in the world. 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Both guides were excellent. Very easy to be with and extremely knowledgeable and helpful.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I found that a cold wet flannel on my aching head was very successful in solving the slight altitude problem I had.Leave room in your luggage for souvenirs, there are some lovely paintings and gifts to purchase.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The landscape really is super and as a keen photographer I would have liked a few more stops but realised that it was not possible. If you want snaps along the way check that your window opens or that it as clean as is possible. All the hotels on this trip were much better than I had expected. The few 'orrible toilets we encountered have to be out down as experiences to be laughed about later.
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