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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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103 Reviews

  • Reviewed December 2019
    Heather Ward

    Simply the best!

    This was our first Exodus cycling holiday and it won’t be our last! The scenery was varied and beautiful, the hotels were better that I was expecting and the cycling was challenging but manageable and a great way to see the countryside. We were able to ride at our own pace through out the trip, with one of the guides at the front and one bringing up the rear and breaks every hour or so for water and snacks. Food from the Exodus Mobile Kitchen was excellent - every meal was something different and we were often the lunchtime the envy of other tour groups! The buffet meals in the hotels were also good - a range of options to suit everyone.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Probably the safari in the Kruger - we saw an incredible volume and variety of wildlife, often quite close up - lions 3ft away, elephants crossing the road in front and behind our vehicle. The crowning glory was a leopard spotted by one of our group which just seemed to want to show off for us!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Bradley, Skhu and Rea did a fantastic job of looking after us all. From fixing bikes (and the truck) to cooking (including baking a cake on the barbecue!) to sharing their knowledge and love of South Africa and its animals, all three were amazing.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It is worth doing some training ahead of the trip, some days were quite tough - up to 2000m of climbing. But we could all ride at our own pace - there was never any pressure to keep up - so don’t let it put you off. There is always the option to get a lift from the truck!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    There is no bar or other access to beer or wine on the first night, so if you want a drink (and you might after a long transfer), you will need to buy something either at the airport or at one of the stops on the drive.
  • Reviewed December 2019
    sandra southwell

    Drakensberg & Kruger

    Correctly graded as challenging, the first few days were harder than I expected with the altitude and head winds. It was quite cool there too, so a warm and windproof layer is essential in the misty conditions, arm warmers were handy too. The Blyde Canyon ride is long, but you start early (earlier than the trip notes suggest, and without breakfast before setting off); the first and last thirds have an uphill bias but the middle part is a really nice undulating section - the wonderful views are a great distraction too. It’s an enjoyable trip, with some good biking including some fabulous descents safe enough for some good top speeds, and we certainly saw more wildlife than I was expecting - take some binoculars, you’ll be glad you did.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The wildlife. This time of year we were told that the animals can be harder to see in Kruger because they’re more scattered in view of the wider availability of water, but we saw plenty - and with the added bonus of lots of babies, including some lion cubs, playful young elephants and the cutest of little antelopes. We also saw some herds of zebra galloping joyously across the meadows earlier in the trip, which was wonderful to see. And late in the trip we passed some people praying by a river family close to the road; hearing their wonderful singing whilst cycling along was very uplifting.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Adonia, Rea and Innocent made an excellent team, I hope for future travellers’ sake that they will work together again because they definitely helped make it a really good trip. They obviously got on well and joined in with the group far more than I’ve experienced with most other Exodus trips (I’ve been on at least fifteen). They were knowledgeable, fun and Ado in particular was very keen to ensure we were all aware of the safety aspects of the trip. They were also good cooks, the beef stir fry and barbecue were definite highlights.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Sleep on the first part of the transfer on day one, after the lunch stop there are great views and animal spotting opportunities. Make sure you get a three round-pin adapter, only one or two places had European two-pin sockets. I bought mine at Heathrow but dare say you could get one cheaper beforehand. All accommodations have charging points, although a battery charger pack might be useful on the safari days if you use your camera a lot. You won’t need a huge amount of cash as most meals are included and there aren’t that many opportunities to buy things; if you see something you like buy it as you may well not see it again. There were ATMs at a few of the places we stopped for the guys to stock up on food, however I’d recommend getting some currency before you leave the UK or exchanging some cash when you arrive at the airport. There weren’t that many opportunities to pay by card, particularly for the smaller purchases. Take a travel towel or sarong for the day-time swimming opportunities, you may like to have water shoes for some too. Worth having a change of clothes handy on part-transfer days to avoid sitting in your cycling gear for longer than necessary. A couple of places didn’t have any soap in the bathroom and some provided a kettle but no tea/coffee. Take a few snacks or buy some at the well-stocked supermarkets along the way; the provisions at the snack stops were generally limited to peanuts, wine gums and liquorice all sorts - sometimes with a banana, apple or orange too; I have been on many trips which provide a wider variety of options at the snack stops (exotic fruits, biscuits, chocolate bars, snack bars, crips, energy drinks and so on). The larger bikes had two bottle cages, but even if yours doesn’t two water bottles are handy if you like to drink lots, especially on the safari days (most of us bought a 5 litre bottle of water each for the days in Kruger and Hazyview, everywhere else you can drink the tap water). Lots of the roads were quite light in terms of traffic, but some days were busier and the vehicles can drive quite close as they’re not used to cyclists in this part of S Africa, there were often decent hard shoulders though. Roads were generally in good condition with a few areas having potholes, sadly broken glass from discarded bottles was pretty ubiquitous. Take cleat shoes and clip-in pedals if you’re used to using them. It’s definitely worth taking one of the optional extra game drives as the drivers are expert spotters and are in contact with each other, meaning they know where the best sightings are (ours cost R700 which was quite a bit more than the trip notes suggest, but was longer and very worthwhile). The knowledge-sharing led to us seeing a leopard as well as the other members of the big five gang. That said, our guides and driver were pretty impressive when it came to spotting animals and birds too, we saw a cheetah whilst driving through the park with them; they have a keen interest in the flora and fauna of the area, and a great deal of knowledge to impart.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I would agree with other reviewers in that I don’t understand why this trip needs to have quite so much self-catering. I totally understand it’s easier for lunches and some of the picnic spots were excellent - day 3 in particular, plus days 10 and 11. In the Kruger we could easily have had lunch in one of the camp cafes/restaurants. However I too would have preferred to have more evening meals in restaurants. After a day’s cycling I don’t really want to have to balance my dinner plate on my lap, and it’s nice to have a choice. Furthermore, the team have to work incredibly hard sourcing and preparing the meals, then clearing up afterwards; they have very little downtime on this trip. We saw steak on offer in restaurants from anywhere between £7 to £10 and I’m sure that most Exodus customers would be more than happy to pay this for a nice meal on a comfortable chair once or twice during the trip. There are a few fairly lengthy bus transfers but it’s such a vast place that they’re inevitable; our guides kept us amused with information from time to time along the way and Adonia had a small library of books on the wildlife for us to read through. We were fortunate in not having a full group as we had plenty of space and travelled in comfort; I think it would be pretty uncomfortable if there were 14 people and it would also make it difficult for everyone to get a good view on the safari days. The accommodation varies along the way, but is all fine. The Eco camp on days 2 and 3 is wonderful, the hotel at Hazyview is nice although the pool wasn’t clean (the pool at the lunch spot that day was far superior), the final night’s accommodation is lovely and spacious with great views from the bar - head there in advance of dinner to watch the rocks changing colour as the sun goes down. The tents in the Kruger had fans and fridges which was more than I’d expected, although you will have to share the washrooms not only with other campers but also an interesting array of insects attracted to the light - but in general the bug count (and particularly the mozzie count) is pretty low on this trip. Keep a look out for the porcupine in the Kruger campsite - it headed down between the wash block and laundry at around 7pm both nights we were there, it moves a lot faster than you’d think! It’s a shame that the hotel at Graskop is out of town as it looked like there were quite a few interesting shops to potter around there. A couple of nights we had to keep the bikes in our rooms - not much of an issue for me as I was on my own, but probably a bit of a squeeze for two. WiFi and phone coverage isn’t available everywhere, or at least not good connections - so expect some respite from electronic communications! I was lucky as my bike was reasonably good, albeit a bit on the small side. It did however struggle to switch from the large ring to the middle one at the front, but the rear gears were infinitely better than a number of my fellow companions who all had lots of issues with their bikes during the trip. People signing up for a level 4 trip will all be keen cyclists with good bikes at home, and Exodus need to make sure that their local partners are aware of the expectations of their clients. Having bikes which need fixing multiple times a day simply isn’t good enough and takes away some of the enjoyment factor of cycling in such lovely areas. As a minimum the bikes need a thorough inspection before each trip commences and be replaced where necessary. If the support team could spend a little less time preparing food for us all they could do a proper check at the end of each day, and they should certainly be given more spare parts for use during the trip. The local company needs to make appropriate investment to ensure more than just adequate equipment is provided.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank Sandra for her review; we were very pleased to read that overall she had an enjoyable trip, but we were sorry that she was disappointed with some of the meal arrangements on the tour.  This tour is structured in a way that we feel offers our customers a range of experiences, from those provided in accommodation, prepared by our local team and eaten in natural surroundings, and also, when they are not included, the opportunity to buy some locally and sample the variety of dishes and snacks available in South Africa.  In some locations, due to the remote nature of the places we stay, there are no restaurants nearby, and meals are cooked and served by our fantastic local staff.  While we regret that Sandra feels this could be improved, we hope this explains why the tour is set up in this manner, but having said this, we have made some minor amendments to the itinerary recently, with three lunches and one dinner removed so clients have additional opportunities to visit local restaurants.

     

    We also understand that Sandra and some other group members had some difficulties with the gearing on their bikes.  We would like to assure her that our local team have a thorough servicing and maintenance procedure, with all bikes being checked before each trip; a mechanic also travels with the group to assist in the event of issues arising as the trip progresses.  While we are sorry for any issues Sandra experienced, we have discussed this with our local team and can assure any customer considering joining this trip that we usually receive excellent feedback regarding the bikes.  We are, nonetheless, sorry for any problems Sandra encountered.

  • Reviewed December 2019
    Sue Altman

    Great itinerary, excellent guides, shame about the bikes

    The bikes are key to the enjoyment of a cycling holiday. I have enjoyed at least 12 previous cycling holidays with Exodus and the bikes provided for this trip were the worst I have ever had. It was difficult or impossible to change gears smoothly on both the front or rear gears. The chain frequently hopped 2 gears, no gears, or changed on a whim entirely by itself. Frequent adjustments were made by the guides, but any changes didn't last more than 20km. I suspect the cables needed changing, but this wasn't in their remit. The display on the handlebars were completely obscured so you had no idea what gear you were in unless you memorised the back and looked down at the front, making it easy to cross chain and exacerbate the problems. On first sight of the bikes at least 2 had new chains which were drooping almost to the ground.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We saw the most astonishing range of animals, including a cheetah, a leopard and 4 baby lions in The Kruger National Park and quite a few outside. The view of the porcupine moving at speed 2 night running on the same route between the toilet blocks in the campsite at dusk was just amazing. I loved the tours of the Rourkes Drift and the Cave paintings

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader Adomi was brilliant; well organised, very well informed . His team consisting of Rio as support and Innocent as the driver worked well and they were friendly and, chatty and mixed in with all of us.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't book this trip until you have assurance that the bikes have been replaced or all the key components changed

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    All the meals included were prepared by the leaders and driver. I would have enjoyed the trip more if we had eaten in more restaurants. Apart from the first meal, their cooking was excellent, but I do like to sit at a table after a long day in the saddle and have a choice of food and a glass of wine offered. There were restaurants in most places and the food was very cheap and good. We couldn't understand why it was organised like this. It also seemed unnecessarily very hard work for the team. Finally I do like proper coffee not instant for breakfast!

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank Sue for her review; we were pleased to read that she enjoyed the itinerary and found her tour leader, Adomi, and his team to be friendly and helpful, but we were very sorry that she was disappointed with the quality of the bikes provided for the trip. All of the bikes used on our South Africa trips are fully serviced at the end of each season with new components fitted, and our local trained mechanic carries out checks on each in between each tour.  Should mechanical issues occur during the trip, at least one member of the team working on the trip, who carries spare parts and a toolkit, is trained to address them.  Our head mechanic in South Africa has explained that in this instance, the bike had been fitted with a new derailleur cable before the trip, which we understand led to Sue having some difficulties with the gears.  Whilst we sincerely regret it was felt this was due to issues with the bike, we feel it is worth mentioning that we generally receive positive feedback regarding the bikes on this tour, and we genuinely hope that this helps reassure that the condition of the bikes is closely monitored.  John Penge – Product Manager.

  • Reviewed November 2019
    Steve Braysher

    Walking, Thunder and Wildlife

    Another outstanding trip from Exodus. It is very cleverly consrtucted, gradually building to the climax in the Drakensberg mountains. There were huge contrasts in scenery, passing through industrial and agricultural areas, the expanses of fairly dry national parks to the much greener hills and mountains of Eswatini, the lakes and Indian Ocean at St Lucia and the stunning mountains of the Drakensberg. The wildlife watching was good, not as easy as places such as the Massai Mara in Kenya, but we did see the big 5 and a lot more besides; on all of the walks there was also the opportunity to see wildlife. If birding is your thing, this is a great trip especially at this time of year as the migrations are just starting. I particularly enjoyed the visit to Isandwala and Rorkes Drift, the scene of major battles during the Zulu Wars together with walking the Fugitive's trail between the two. Weather is never predictable and we went from close to 40C one day in the game reservers to weather and scenery that could have been Scotland the next - but it did give us a chance to make use of the open fires in our accommodation in the hills of Eswatini! (Later in the trip we also experienced the most spectacular thunderstorms I have ever seen - very impressive) The Last four nights were spent in the Drakensberg, two at Thendele and 2 at Witsieshoek. The scenery was stunning and the walk up from Thendele to Witsieshoek showed a different aspect of it - more reminiscent of the Yorkshire Dales. The views from the top are wonderful but unfortunately, as is the way with mountains the weather, it closed in for the last day and the inside of a cloud looks pretty much the same wherever you are! We were a group of 12, thrown together at the start of the trip, who rubbed along pretty well and had some great times together, so a big thankyou to all concerned.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    On a trip as varied as this there are numerous experience that are memorable. The time spent at Letaba Ranch, especially the early morning walk through the bush and the chance for some 'down time' watching the river is one. Although not part of the programme, experiencing the ferocity of a series of dramatic thunderstorms was quite something! However the stunning scenry of the Drakensberg mountains (they are so much more than the Amphitheatre) was the highlight for me.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Santjie was an excellent leader. Constantly cheerful, organised, knowledgable, thoughtful, a good sense of humour and with that special ability to get on with everybody. She worked incredibly hard to make sure that we had the best time possible. On the days when she cooked for the group she produced meals that were remarkably good on some very basic fsacilities. Perhaps the bast way of summarising how good she was is to say that if I would certainly be delighted to do another trip with her as leader.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is a brilliant trip but you need to be prepared for a lot of early starts (often up by 5a.m.) and some long days - especially on the major driving days. Bring your sense of humour with you - especially if you are going to be there on the day England losese to South Africa in the Rugby World Cup!!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is a brilliant introduction to South Africa, and one that makes you realise just what a big place it is. Everybody we met was very welcoming and friendly. The one downside was the vehicle we travelled in. Great for viewing wildlife from but very slow up hills - which extended our driving times significantly. The air conditioning was broken pretty much from the start and it leaked from several points in rain, much to the embarrasemnet and frustration of both our leader and excellent driver. But despite this I would still recommend this trip to anyone with the interest and stamina to do it.
  • Reviewed October 2019

    Good experience

    It was an extraordinary excursion with changing scenes, atmospheres and pressed with new encounters. The course extraordinarily catches the wide scenes and the natural life of South Africa. I adored it and would prescribe it to anybody.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    A visit to Kruger
  • Reviewed August 2019
    Shirley Bell

    TZS walking and wildlife

    Great trip saw lots of wildlife and great walking

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    When we saw a family of lions feasting on a wilderbeast and we got so close to see them. Walking out of my tent one morning and seeing a family of elephants crossing the river so close amazing. The views in the mountains.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The leaders were fabulous

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for long bus journeys. It's cold when the sun goes down Bring binoculars Bring waterproofs it does rain sometimes in Africa It's Africa be prepared for anything to happen.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Martin Hodgkinson

    South Africa: Walking, Landscapes and Wildlife

    This trip is a great way to See South Africa across a variety of landscapes, mainly through National Parks and game reserves. There is a range of environments from the Drakensberg mountains to the Indian Ocean beaches at St Lucia with spectacular walks. There are long drives, over 3000km in total, in a reasonably comfortable 14 passenger minibus. Travelling in May, the weather was dry, sunny and warm, except at night and the highest walks. The accommodation varied between basic and very comfortable, but always clean.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Most of the scenery was striking but the Drakenberg mountains was probably the most spectacular, especially at sunrise. The walk from the historic battlefield at Isandlwana to Rorke's Drift was very atmospheric and fording Buffalo River was an certainly an experience in waist deep water (take a dry bag for valuables just in case). Although I have experienced better safari drives elsewhere in Africa, the night safari in the Kruger was memorable after seeing a pride of 8 lions on the move.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Sku and Morrison looked after us well with good knowledge of the areas and wildlife. They set a good pace on the walks for the group.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you are practised and fit for hill walking with a backpack as some walks are steep and most of the terrain is rocky, not prepared, paths. Good knees and ankles are essential! Walking poles can be helpful on some walks. The chain ladders on the final walk are not demanding unless you suffer from vertigo. There were laundry facilities at St Lucia. In May there were no or few insects although covering in the evening is still advisable, also for the cooler temperatures. Periodic stops at good supermarkets allowed replenishment of snacks or anything else. Food and drink at restaurants is very good and excellent value.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Our group was a good range of ages from 29 to retirees which made the mix more enjoyable. South Africa is a spectacular country and, for any who has not yet been to Africa, this trip is great way to start. Be prepared for the inevitable tips. ATMs are available in towns and most places are happy to take card payments.
  • Reviewed April 2019
    shaun bowler

    Excllent leader but disappointing trip

    A beautiful part of Africa. The trip would have been so much better of some proper road bikes. Town hybrid bikes make the cycling up and down never ending hills very hard work. The accommodation and food was extremely average. The rand is so weak, it was cost so very little more to eat in some nice places and stay in some really nice guest houses we passed. It felt that we were on a budget! The food in SA is exceptional and we never got to experience it. The saving grace was our guides who also were good cooks.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    the Views in the Drakensberg's, especially when going down hills.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    they were both excellent

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take some nice food with you.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    please review the accommodation, food and bikes

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank Shaun for his review. We were pleased that he found this part of Africa to be beautiful and the tour leaders to be excellent, but we are sorry that he was disappointed with the bikes, accommodation and food. We are very confident that the bikes we use are the most suitable for this tour, as they are robust enough for some of the rugged conditions. The route offers spectacular roads and we select the best available accommodation along these routes for groups of this size. The feedback we usually receive about the accommodation and food on this trip, which visits rural parts of South Africa, is usually very positive, as are the reviews for this trip overall, but we nonetheless regret Shaun’s disappointment. John Penge – Product Manager

  • Reviewed March 2019
    David Hill

    Disasterous week 1; OK 2&3

    Supplied with the wrong vehicle which was both unsafe and very uncomfortable and guides who didn't know where they were going. It took a week to replace both.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Wonderful Africa

    What did you think of your group leader?

    First week useless, second and third weeks brilliant

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Ask questions : 1) is the vehicle safe?; 2) is there 'working' air con?: 3) how old is it?; 4) has the guide/driver done the trip before?; 5)are the trip note 'driving' times reasonably accurate?; 6)if you are tall, how much leg room is there? 7)is there room to move on the bus?.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Potentially a brilliant trip ruined by Exodus' attitude to our complaints.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank David for his review, however, we are genuinely sorry to learn that the first week of this holiday did not meet his expectations. Regrettably, due to a miscommunication on the ground in South Africa, our local team provided a smaller vehicle than is usually used on this tour; while we would like to clarify that this vehicle was serviced and signed off by qualified mechanics as in a safe condition prior to the trip starting, we acknowledge that it would have been slightly cramped and uncomfortable, for which we remain very sorry.  Upon being made aware of this issue, a larger vehicle was supplied, and we would like to assure any future customers considering joining this tour that this unfortunate error has not recurred since this trip. We were delighted to read that David felt the second two weeks of the trip were brilliant, which we find is much more in line with the feedback we usually receive from this tour.  John Penge – Product Manager

  • Reviewed March 2019
    Chris Williams

    South Africa: landscapes, wildlife and battlefields

    The Exodus holiday in South Africa was a wonderful introduction to African landscapes and wildlife. I have travelled widely in my life but with little experience of Africa. This holiday exceeded my expectations in two ways: the remarkable opportunities to see wildlife at close quarters in Kruger; the amazing landscapes of the Blyde River canyon, Swaziland and the Drakensurg Mountains. My enjoyment of the holiday had a lot to do with the way it was organised and led by the group leader. I have been left with many great memories.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It was inspirational to be in Kruger National Park for a few days and to see the great variety of wildlife. I'm thankful that there remain a few places on earth that have this rich ecosystem. A three hour walk just after dawn was especially exciting - being aware that large animals were around us and that we were walking through their natural habitat, their world

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader, Rowan Moon, was excellent and I rate him highly. His enthusiasm and energy was infectious. He is natural leader and developed a close relationship with us as a group and as individuals. Organisation and time-keeping was excellent. He has developed a very good working relationship with Sofiso, the driver, and I felt safe and well-cared for at all times. He has remarkable wildlife-spotting skills and was able to detect the presence of animals (including many species of birds) and identify them accurately and instantly. He also has very good hiking skills and was confident at route-finding and care of people who struggled on more challenging parts of the mountain trails. The driver, Sofiso, was superb: very safe driving at all times on some challenging road surfaces, very well organised for luggage and food preparation and hard working & reliable in all ways. He is also friendly and good company. Betz, a trainee guide, worked hard assisting with food prepapration. A few times she gave information when we were touring in the minibus but I found it really hard to understand her because she has a very strong South African accent. This would have been a big concern for me if she had been our group leader.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    My advice for travellers buying this holiday is to ensure that they are as fit as possible for the days of walking. And to be aware that while the trails are not over-long, nor are the altitude climbs significant (about 700m maximum), the routes are very rugged at times, there are parts when there are steep or near vertical sections on or near the route, there are a few quite tricky river crossings and there are very challenging metal ladders on the last two days (see my comments below). The guide Rowan, and the driver Sofiso, gave excellent support on these walks.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I would definitely say that there is a walking activity grading problem for this holiday. The walking grade 'Moderate' says 'general underfoot conditions will be fair'. However, on all the days there were sections of the trail which were more demanding than 'fair' - the Blyde River canyon to some extent, but especially the Tugela Gorge hike, the Witsiehoek 'Crack' hike and the Sentinel Peak hike to the ladders. These three days, if fully completed, including ascent (and descent - you have to come back down the same way) of the frankly hair-raising 20 metre ladder up to the Tugela Falls viewpoint, would clearly fit into a Challenging category in my opinion. So, the length of the walks are Moderate (about 2 to 5 hours max) but the trails are rugged and challenging at times. Should the holiday be given a Moderate/Challenging rating? Or the last 2 days only could be given Challenging. Please note that Day 13 description should make clear that the Crack is demanding for those with vertigo and has a 7 metre ladder which is in quite poor condition. My wife was made aware of the ladder just the evening before and had to miss the day's walking for this reason. Our guides, Rowan Moon and the local guides hired were superb at all times helping us with these routes. Thank you.