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Turtle, Ecuador

Reviews

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

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58 Reviews

  • A memorable journey

    This was our first adventure with Exodus, but we are not new to cycle touring having used several other tour companies in the past. This was also our first time in South America and it was memorable for many reasons - the stunning scenery, the excellent guides and the surprising amount of rough surfaces we had to ride on.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Waking up in the mornings and looking out at exceptional views in so many locations. The scenery in this part of the world is part Alps, part Dolomites, part Rocky Mountains, part South Island New Zealand. Then add perfect volcanoes and you've got the Lake District of Chile and Argentina! Riding the valley between Peulla and the border pass was my most breathtaking memory, partly because we saw our first condor, and partly because it was such joy not to be in yesterday's pouring rain! Conguillio National Park is the icing on the cake - so stunning it's hard to describe, and so different from the rest of the experience. On day one, because of the rain, our guides arranged a tour of Teatro del Lago. This should be part of the tour, it was an outstanding experience.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader was Alejandro and he was exceptional. His side-kicks Yal and Diego were too. The three made such a great team. We've never been disappointed with tour leaders, and these three were top-notch, and so much fun to be around.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Yes, plenty. There was so much good about this tour from the leaders to the scenery to the hotels to the food, but if you are a road cyclist then you might be in for a surprise. I know the trip notes say there's 26% of unpaved tracks but that doesn't even begin to describe how rough some of the cycling is. It's more like 30% anyway, and given the time it takes to navigate we reckon we may have spent 50% of our riding time on unpaved surfaces. You need to be prepared for this. There are only two days out of the nine riding days that are entirely spent on paved roads - and they are both heavenly rides, listed as day 7 and day 9 in the trip notes. There are also two days that are entirely unpaved from start to finish, that's day 4 and day 12. Strange there's no mention of this in the trip notes regarding individual days! These days were difficult, and yet they were also the must stunningly beautiful. The advice from our leader to lower your saddle when negotiating steep unpaved downhills with rocks and boulders was extremely helpful and made us feel safer. Quite a bit of walking was happening too. Everyone was in the same boat, but those with off-road experience obviously fared better. There's considerable elevation gain on this tour too. Funny that's not mentioned in the trip notes either. Cycling trip notes with daily distances but without daily elevation gains seems incomplete to us. We made enquiries and eventually got the daily elevations sent to us. Suggest you do the same. They are anywhere from 230 m to 984 m. It is hilly, every day!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Don't be put off by the trip notes for day 4 about the challenging 700 m climb. You can choose to ride up in the hotel pick-up truck that brings along the lunch. You can also choose to walk it, without your bike which will be taken in the truck. We were also give the choice of attempting to ride it and abandoning the bike if necessary and walking - the truck would rescue the bike. So there are options, and people in our group took all of them. The 3 km rocky descent on the other side of the border however has no options as the truck can't cross the border. The bikes we had were Giant, almost new, well maintained, front shocks, disc brakes, very suitable for the terrain. Another piece of advice is to bring a gel seat, and some kind of small handlebar bag for your camera, phone and sunscreen. It's not terrifically hot, but the sun is strong. Don't bother with power bars as the daily snacks are excellent; bananas, chocolate covered peanuts and raisins and more, coffee, tea, always at around 20 km. We also took our toe cages and they were happy to put them on our pedals for us, we were very glad to have them because did I mention that it's hilly?! We are now looking to buy the velcro-strap handlebar mirrors that some people had - these would have been very useful on the main roads; a flashing red rear light would be a good idea too, especially if you have some dark, rainy days; and you might! It was chilly at times, most people wore a Buff in the mornings and long-fingered gloves too. The van will take things as you remove them, no need to cycle with a day pack. Go with your eyes open to these conditions and you will love your Lake District tour.
  • Reviewed January 2020
    Nigel Martin

    Cycling in Argentina and Chile Lake District

    Overall a good trip with generally good accommodation throughout. Exceptional level of support from the brothers Ti and Yal together with the driver Mathias. There is more 'down' time than on previous Exodus trips of all sorts which is something to note. The focus is very much on scenery rather than a different culture which you are likely to get in Asia, for example. Compared with some grade 4 trips that I have done recently, this tends to be on the lower end of the scale (in my view), but please be aware of the amount of cycling on gravel.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The first few days cycling were pleasant enough but the first day that provided a satisfying ride was on the '7 Lakes route'. However, cycling into the final National Park, amongst the lava flows and alongside the stunning volcano was without doubt the best day. The final lodge was also in a lovely setting.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    As mentioned above, Ti was one of the best leaders that I have had. I am usually at the back of the group and spending time with both Ti and his brother Yal was always interesting and enjoyable.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It is unusual to have one day off let alone two as is the case here, on an Exodus holiday. If you want to do one of the typical trips (water rafting, kayaking, hot springs etc) then you are OK. If you want to walk, then it is more challenging to get the right level / accuracy of information. This is a notable surprise for the Refugio Frey walk which is mentioned in the trip notes. If you do not use WhatsApp, then it is more difficult to get the information on the route, options for days off etc. You will need to spend more time with the leader to obtain this information.
  • Reviewed December 2019
    Peter Gomes

    Cycle Lake District of Chile & Argentina : Great trip through stunning scenery

    Another terrific Exodus cycle trip comprising a mix of on & off road riding, flat & hilly sections in scenery that is simply beautiful. Enthusiastically led by Tai, ably assisted by his younger brother Yal, & side-kick Mattieu (the quiet one), our group of 16 bonded on the first evening, were buddies by lunch on the second day and firm friends thereafter. Excellent sea food and of course, steaks to be had and at bargain prices in Argentina due to the devaluation of their peso. Chile was more UK priced. Turquoise lakes & snow capped volcanoes were the centrepiece, topped off with the two day stay at the Eco lodge in the Conguillo National Park. We simply did not want to leave.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    As ever there were so many. Day 1: the view from the plane window as we flew alongside the Andes in the final run into Santiago. Day 2 : The sight of not one but three snow capped volcanoes from the lake shore by our first night's hotel set the tone for the superb scenery to come : a mix of Norwegian fjord, Scottish loch & English Lake with added volcano. Day 4: the first ferry ride and the discovery of an excellent hotel in the wilderness close to the frontier post - we were expecting a youth hostel given the remote location. Day 5: the off road climb to the frontier, and the supportive way in which all those at the top cheered on those further back as they arrived. Plus the rapid downhill that followed. Day 6 : The coastal ride round to Bariloche, passing Tai & Yal's house en route. Day 7 : the largest & tastiest steaks ever at Don Alberto's in Bariloche - not to be missed, plus lunch atop the view point at Cerro Campanario. Day 8: Racing along the downhill section of Route 40 (Argentina's Route 66) into San Martin. Day 10: the impromptu detour to spend the afternoon at the Termas (hot springs) en route to Pucon. Days 11 & 12 riding into and through the landscapes of the Conguillo National Park (volcano on my left, emerald lake on my right, monkey puzzle forest ahead of me - where do I look ?).

    What did you think of your group leader?

    With perfect English, Tai & Yal (despite their youth - mid twenties) were experienced, enthusiastic and capable leaders. Tai, in particular, managed well the different personalities on the trip which comprised five couples, three pals and three singles aged from late thirties to early seventies. He made sure everyone was comfortable riding their way depending on fitness, terrain & general inclination. His restaurant & even individual dish recommendations were consistently excellent. He was confident in his role and thus able to flex the itinerary as circumstances (weather or indeed our whims) dictated. As a strong cyclist he readily earned the respect of those who tried to take him on. Fortunately, his skills as a qualified paramedic did not need to be tested.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The November weather was mixed - Take layers so as to be able to cater for hot, cold & in between - plus rain. On some days there was much adding and removing of kit, with Yal or Mati magically on hand at the right moment to deliver to or collect it from you. This is also true off the bike with cool winds from Patagonia belying bright sunshine at times. The road sections are straightforward with drivers polite, separate cycle tracks on larger roads and wide verges to ride on minor ones. Off road sections are not particularly technical (I'm no mountain biker) and, taken at whatever pace you feel comfortable, readily ridden on the new Specialized hard-tail mountain bikes supplied. Food-wise the emphasis is meat and fish with pasta/pizza available but vegetarian food is a bit limited. Good range of beer and wine to be had and we rekindled our love of Pisco Sour developed on last year's Peru trip.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    My slowest ride was the final eight miles back to the eco-lodge on the final afternoon. It took well over an hour. Why ? Because I simply didn't want it to end. I was not alone - it was practically a competition to see who could ride the slowest. I guess that's a pretty decent endorsement of the trip overall. If you seek a well led trip with excellent company, good food (& drink), fabulous scenery, and varied (and thus interesting) cycling then sign up.
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Brian Guest

    One bike - two countries.

    The snow-clad volcanoes and emerald lakes of the Andes mountains. Gravel tracks, black lava fields and ancient forests of monkey puzzle trees.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Crossing the Andes by bike: not once but twice!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Tai and his younger brother Yal worked tirelessly to support the group. They gave a clear briefing on each day's itinerary and generated Stava maps to show the route. On the road they shepherded us through the traffic and managed to control both those keenest to reach our destination and those more content to just enjoy the scenery and walk the hills. They coped very well with the inevitable problems which occurred: our punctures; occasional falls; late transfers; variable accommodation; wet weather; etc, etc. They were always ready to chat with the group and explain about the local people, their history and culture .

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The trip notes are not always updated and itineraries may well change. Our mountain bikes were very good but with limited space for carrying spare kit or a camera. Although the support vehicle was close at hand, you might consider a ruck-sac or handlebar bag useful. Research beforehand. More options are available for your free days than may be advertised. We really enjoyed excursions to Mount Tronador from Bariloche and later to Huerquehue National Park from Pucon. Take a good camera with a wide angle lens as the landscapes are stunning. And it also pays to get up early for the dawn light. Breakfasts are sometimes meagre but expect your waistline to expand: portions for lunch and dinner are huge! ATM's in Argentina restrict you to 4,000 ARS and cost a lot to use. Santander Rio have branches in all the towns we visited. If you have an account, it gives you a much better rate. Spend a few days in Buenos Aires if you have the chance. It's pretty safe and easy to get around. There's some lovely Art Nouveau architecture, a lively café-culture, craft markets at the weekend, fine Opera and bookshops, tango dinner dances and lots of urban art. We would recommend a 5-hour cycle trip: Hidden Graffiti And Urban Art Tour.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If the weather is fine, as it fortunately was for us, cycling in Argentina and Chile is a joy. Traffic is generally respectful and the distances covered are easily manageable in the time. Where the trip notes describe parts of the route as gravel, be prepared for some pretty rough going. In places it was safer to walk. But the best is saved for last: the Parque Nacional Conguillío - with black lava field and forests of monkey-puzzle trees under the brooding Llaima Volcano.
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Liz Fraser

    Spectacular sights and scenary

    Chile is a stunning country that has something for everyone. This trip provided a wonderful insight and delivered a variety of sights and scenery: from desert and volcanoes, to lakes (and more volcanoes) then mountains and glaciers, followed for me with the legendary moai of Rapa Nui (Easter Island). As the itinerary makes clear, a significant amount of time is spent travelling (I feel I am now very familiar with Santiago airport!) but that is due to the large distances covered. There is very little 'down time' and several early starts so it is definitely not for someone who wants a relaxing holiday. However, if you enjoy spectacular views and new experiences then it ticks all the boxes. Our group of 16 got on well and, alongside our tour leader and drivers, helped to make it a fantastic holiday.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It is impossible to choose a single highlight as there were so many. The colourful houses and street art of Valparaiso; the Atacama desert with its rock formations, lagoons, wildlife and the most amazing night sky; the boat trip on Lago Todos los Santos, gazing up at the snow-topped Orsorno volcano; the breathtakingly beautiful Torres del Paine and Last Hope Sound; watching the mesmerising waves of the Pacific Ocean break on the rocky shores around Rapa Nui and visits to places such as Rano Kau and Ahu Tongariki.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nacho was calm, caring and a real gentleman. He enjoyed telling us tales of his life as a flight attendant and introducing us, with a mix of enthusiasm and humour, to his wonderful country. He always had a variety of restaurant suggestions for dinner to cater for people's different preferences. I was the only one in the group who had chosen the Easter Island extension. Nacho took me to the airport for the flight, met me upon my return a few days later and took me back again the next day for the journey home to the UK. He waited while I checked in and then, deciding that the queue to go through customs was too long, took me to another part of the airport where the queue was much shorter.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I took advice from a previous review and took Chilean pesos with me (which meant I could gauge exchange rates and determine when to purchase them). As a result I managed with cash throughout the trip but others in the group used their credit or debit cards without difficulty in most places. Chile is notably expensive. Just one main course and some water for dinner could cost £12-£15 and, in Easter Island, it was even pricier (for example, a fish and rice dish with a natural fruit juice in a café away from the harbour cost over £25). This was a more sedate trip than I had anticipated so don't choose it if you prefer or expect some proper walks or long hikes. It is a busy schedule with some long days. There isn't much time to do handwashing and get clothes dry before heading off to the next location so you may wish to factor that into your packing. The hotel in San Pedro also has notices in the rooms asking people not to wash clothes. I ended up wishing I'd packed more long-sleeved shirts as I found myself wearing them for sun protection in the desert as well as protection against both the sun and dengue fever-carrying mosquitoes in Easter Island. If you like a bath, bring a universal bath plug as many of the hotels don't provide one.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I investigated several companies who offered pretty much identical trips. I particularly liked the fact that Exodus included most of the activities (eg the visit to Valparaiso) in the upfront price, avoiding the need to budget for additional expenditure/take extra cash. Many in the group would have preferred to have saved time by having lunch in Valparaiso rather than Vina del Mar and therefore been able to include a trip to a winery on the journey back to Santiago. While I enjoyed the stay in Puerto Varas, I'd happily dispense with the walk in the Orsorno lava fields and the few hours in Puerto Montt seemed to be just a filler while we waited for the flight to Punta Arenas. I'd also have loved more time and a chance to do some walks (e.g. for 1-2 hours) while in Torres del Paine. I had visited the area previously on a similar tour several years before and know that there are some walks that could have been worked into the itinerary without turning it into a different type of trip. I appreciate that the main 'Discover Chile' itinerary has been designed to be accomplished in 2 weeks. However, for somewhere like Chile with the sheer distances involved, it would have been lovely if it could have been extended by a further few days, giving more time in Torres and perhaps including a boat trip amongst the fjords.
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Marianne Hong

    Chile

    This trip covered a lot of ground in a short time frame. I (and the rest of my group) agreed that the one area of improvement would be to include a visit to the wineries and have lunch in Valparaiso.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the stars in the Atacama Desert and the landscapes of Patagonia

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Ignacio was wonderful. He was organized, attentive and had a good sense of humor.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Bring layers! It was unexpectedly cold when we visited the geysers.
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Wendy Duckett

    Awe inspiring.

    A land of so many sights, warm people and the impressive Andes mountains almost throughout.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The Atacama Desert. Its forever changing scenery. The Lagoons, The Wetlands and Flamingo's, Geysers over 80 in one area. Sand dunes and forever rock formations. The long long roads and starry nights. Unlike any other desert I have visited.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nacho was brilliant. His charm, smile and funny stories, seeing us all through some very long days. He was Informative throughout the trip. His observations and empathy were outstanding. Great fun and ensuring everyone's needs were met. A calm and unstressful gentleman. Would be great to have Nacho on every Exodus trip.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Chile felt to be a very safe and friendly country from the moment if arrival. This did not change or alter throughout. Happy walking around alone. Don't expect your International adapter plugs to work. I borrowed one and some bought some locally. The 2 circular pins were much smaller. I believe it was the European pinned one that works.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    A boat trip to through the Fjords would be a great addition to this trip. As would a few hours at one of the vineyards when driving right through them.
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Barbara Dean

    A Volcanic Undertaking

    Once again Exodus delivered. Our guides were fantastic, the bikes were well maintained, and the accommodation was for the most part great. The food was also better than some previous trips and only somewhat challenging for a gluten free/vegetarian. Power bars go a long way! Finally, the scenery was picturesque and breathtaking. Lots of lakes and Volanoes.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Day 4 of the tour. We completed a 20km cycle on some serious gravel and then my husband and I opted to walk the 7.5km climb over 700 metre ascent versus cycling it. We passed a few people who ended up frustratingly walking their bikes but getting to the top felt like quite an achievement especially with blisters on both feet.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Tai was a very impressive young man who did a fantastic job. His brother Yal was a great support and eventually their dad, Marcello joined us making the group complete. Their obvious bond as a family just made our experience that much better.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    A gel saddle wouldn’t go amiss as the gravel was sometimes more like boulders.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The trip notes need to be updated. For anyone interested in seeing southern Chile and western Argentina, I would highly recommend this tour.
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Sheila Silvester

    Chile

    Discover Chile is a great trip and a fantastic way to see all the best areas of this long thin country. It is full of travelling though and not just flying. However, as a brilliant and thorough voyage around the Atacama, Lakeland and Patagonia you can't beat it.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Too many to mention high Lakes in the Atacama, hummingbirds in the temperate rain forest and all of Patagonia!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our le.ader was knowledgeable, helpful, enthusiastic and fun. He made the trip much more enjoyable

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't expect to stop for long meals or have much down time but you do see a lot instead.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If you can avoid spending a morning in Puerto Montt do so. Stay and have a better look round Puerto Varas instead, it is much prettier and interesting.
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Margaret Hogg

    Good Title as we moved around alot to give us insite of what the country offered.

    The group of people on the trip all 'gelled' together and with the help of our excellent guide made a trip to be remembered. My only criticism, not your fault, was that I hadn't realized how warm / hot it would be and, as a result I didn't take enough light weight summer clothes.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the Volcanoes cone shaped and the tops covered in snow. The salt covered rocks of the canyons in the desert. Flamingos feeding in the lagoons. Watching the Condors circling overhead. The visit to Valparaiso, the UNESCO World Heritage Site. to view all the excellent wall art.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader was Ignacio Hewstone and he was excellent. Meeting and greeting at the airport went well as did all the other travel travel arrangements he made. His extensive knowledge of Chile was shown to us and it was interspersed with anecdotes (mostly funny) from his youth. This helped to further bring the group together. He was always around should any of us require help , or to advise us on where to eat - many suggestions were given.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Check the temperatures of the various areas to be visited. Take cash or card for money as at some places money can't be exchanged. Comfortable shoes or boots for walking in the desert. Enjoy the Pisco Sour !! and don't forget to bring a bottle home.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    No