Turtle, Ecuador

Reviews

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

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  • Reviewed September 2019

    A Proper Adventure

    This was a remote trek in a tough mountain environment south west of Leh. After three days acclimatising in Leh, we spent around 10 days climbing high passes, crossing rivers in full flood and seeing few people outside our own little group. Every day was challenging. We experienced a range of weather from blizzard to heat wave, rain to frost and always a cold breeze at the top of every pass. And every day I would lie back in my tent after dinner and know I’d pushed myself and feel really good about it. We experienced unseasonable weather which forced changes to the itinerary, which our crew and leader were more than capable of dealing with. Heavy snow on the mountain prevented us from summiting Dzo Jongo but we reached the top of Konga Ri in brilliant sunshine and pristine white snow. Such was the nature of the trek that I was not left feeling disappointed at not getting the big mountain, as the whole experience was a proper adventure.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The most inspirational moment of the trek for me was the realisation that I had got to the top of Konga Ri. I’d had a few days of self doubt and I’d found the climb in deep snow tough. But when I got to the top of the mountain, dropped my pack and just took in the incredible panorama of Beautiful snow capped mountains, none of that mattered. I think the slice of cherry cake Tamchos, our guide, gave me at that point may have helped as well.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie, our group leader, was more than a match for anything the mountains could throw at us. She was able to adjust the route and camp sites to deal with the delays caused by weather and still keep us on track. Her knowledge and experience came across in her confidence, which in turn gave us the confidence that we would complete the trek. Our group provided her with some challenges of her own, but they were all dealt with professionally and without fuss or drama. I certainly benefited from her advice and encouragement. And she has some great after dinner stories that made our experiences pale into insignificance!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The internal flight and trek weight limits mean you have to be ruthless with your packing. If I was going back this time next year I wouldn’t take a heavy down jacket (which I didn’t use) but instead I’d use a midweight one and several fleece and base layers. The river crossings are inevitable and cold and you need to wear some kind of protection for your feet as the riverbed can be sharp and uneven. I took cheap crocs but as there was walking between crossings and it wasn’t practical to keep changing back and forth, I would take a cheap pair of walking sandals next time (as did most of the rest of my group). I ended up walking in my light fabric boots, which was fine, but they took a full day of sunshine to dry out. If, like me, your previous treks have been the likes of Everest Base Camp and/or Kilimanjaro, know that this is physically and mentally much more challenging. I found it hard to accept that although we were climbing passes between 4800m and 5300m most mornings, we would descend again to camp much lower, losing the hard gained altitude. It’s the nature of the terrain and its good acclimatisation but it might sap mental stamina as well as energy. A good group dynamic helped me.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is a fantastic adventure, full of hard challenges and amazing rewards. Leh and its surroundings offer an amazing cultural centre worth exploring. Once in the mountains, for every icy river crossing, there was a Lammergeier Vulture or Golden Eagle. For every muddy path there was a stunning landscape of rugged mountains and for every rainy day there was laughter in the mess tent. If you have doubts after reading my review, perhaps it’s not for you. But if it has fired you up, then sign up. I might see you in the next group!
  • Reviewed September 2019

    Amazing Manali - Leh Cycle, led by Valerie Parkinson!

    I had been wanting to do the Manali - Leh cycl for some time, having done several treks in Ladakh, and it lived up to its reputation as a tough, but spectacular challenge! We were lucky to get the bad weather out of the way at the start, and as we crossed each successive pass, the weather got better and better. We had a really friendly group of 12 cycling, and under Valerie's expert leadership we enjoyed an unforgettable trip. The scenery was spectacular, and made the long climbs, rough stretches of unsurfaced road and river crossings all worthwhile. The team of camp assistants and cooks were brilliant, and always so kind and helpful.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Crossing some of the highest road passes in the world with breathtaking views, and arriving in Ladakh entirely leg-powered from Manali!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    In a word, brilliant! Valerie's experience is second to none, and she gives confidence to everyone in the groups she leads. Her care of everyone in the group, especially when people are not feeling great, is wonderful, and she enable people to come through and complete treks where they might otherwise not succeed.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you are really fit and ok climbing for several hours at a time! The rewards make it all worth it!
  • Reviewed September 2019

    Amazing Manali - Leh Cycle, led by Valerie Parkinson!

    I had been wanting to do the Manali - Leh cycl for some time, having done several treks in Ladakh, and it lived up to its reputation as a tough, but spectacular challenge! We were lucky to get the bad weather out of the way at the start, and as we crossed each successive pass, the weather got better and better. We had a really friendly group of 12 cycling, and under Valerie's expert leadership we enjoyed an unforgettable trip. The scenery was spectacular, and made the long climbs, rough stretches of unsurfaced road and river crossings all worthwhile. The team of camp assistants and cooks were brilliant, and always so kind and helpful.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Crossing some of the highest road passes in the world with breathtaking views, and arriving in Ladakh entirely leg-powered from Manali!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    In a word, brilliant! Valerie's experience is second to none, and she gives confidence to everyone in the groups she leads. Her care of everyone in the group, especially when people are not feeling great, is wonderful, and she enable people to come through and complete treks where they might otherwise not succeed.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you are really fit and ok climbing for several hours at a time! The rewards make it all worth it!
  • Reviewed September 2019
    Paul Rayner

    Be prepared for the unexpected

    It wasn't as expected! I have trekked in Ladakh before and had reviewed my previous photos before this trip. None of us, including Valerie, were expecting to have to face a blizzard, and heavy overnight snow on a couple of nights! The result was that rivers were swollen and crossings became more difficult, and the ascent of Dzo Jongo East was not possible. It was also a remote trek - we only saw other people or groups occasionally, and the sudden return to civilisation was a bit of a shock. Personally I also found that altitude acclimatisation this time took much longer than expected; I am used to high altitude but I think old age is catching up! But overall a great experience, and conditions, particularly the blizzard, led to a close group bonding developing.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Two of them. One was the developing attraction of the mountains. Last time in Ladakh I found myself comparing the Indian Himalaya unfavourably with the Everest region. This time, the terrain seemed more varied and attractive, perhaps in part due to the fresh snowfall. It made me feel I wanted to go back again and see more. The other was, with hindsight, the climb up the river gorge from Chuskurmo and up over the Gongmaru La into the Nimaling valley. The gorge and river crossings were a challenge following the overnight snowfall, I found getting to the top of the pass a real struggle, and we then had to get down to the camp site through a blizzard and sit in the mess tent for a couple of hours (sustained by black tea) while the lost sheep were found and the tents put up. I don't think anyone enjoyed it much at the time - it took me half an hour in a sleeping bag to stop shivering, though we all did the best to keep morale up. But the next day I felt an immense sense of achievement, and I hope others felt the same.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Brilliant as always. Her experience really showed through during the blizzard when she and some others got lost. She had a grip on everything, and a fair bit of illness to deal with, but always had time to chat, and encourage people where necessary.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you are fit and experienced enough for the trek; enjoy yourself; but be prepared for things not going according to plan. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. I think we shall dine out on some of the stories from this trek!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Overall and with hindsight, a great experience. But if I go over 5000m again, I shall make sure I have plenty of time for altitude acclimatisation! It was only on the final 5000m pass of the trip that I could trek up it easily.
  • Reviewed August 2019
    Richard Schwartz

    Perfect combination of remote, Himalayan scenery and culture...

    I'm surprised there hasn't been a review of this great trip so far this year, so I'll leave mine. It was a perfect combination of beautiful, remote Himalayan scenery and culture. There is ample time for acclimatization in Leh, with some short walks and ancient monasteries to visit, as well as optional travel on the world's highest motorable road (up to 5,500 meters/18,000 feet). Much care was given to monitor us for altitude sickness, including nightly surveys. There were some headaches in the first few days, but nothing serious. The trek was beautiful, with mainly comfortable homestays, all with private rooms and some with attached bathrooms. Exodus staff prepared all our meals, which were excellent. I should mention that the last homestay night had a disgusting toilet. The trekking is described as "gentle walks," but be advised that there are steep ascents and descents every day. The walks were in the neighborhood of 4 to 6 hours a day, which is not difficult, but the grades at times were demanding. That said, the guides paced us slowly and the views at the top of the passes were beautiful and adorned with prayer flags. Ancient monasteries waited for us at every stop. My only disappointment is that there are not more treks like this in Ladakh. I would certainly return, though other itineraries require too much camping for my taste.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The tops of the passes and several ancient monasteries.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jagmat was excellent.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Frances Carr

    To the source of the Ganges and much more.

    Stunning Himalayan scenery combined with the fascinating spiritual side of India to be found in Rishikesh and Gangotri.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The time spent at Tapovan, camping at the base of the beautiful Mount Shivling and walking through the snow towards Meru base camp surrounded by spectacular peaks.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We were very lucky to have Rajeev as our group leader. He is a from the area which made a big difference when he led us off the usual tracks and knew alternative routes when one of the paths was closed due to rock falls. We were privileged to be taken to his home in Barsu where he introduced us to his family who gave us tea and hospitality while it poured with rain outside. A rare, intimate glimpse into local life in this rural location. His English is excellent and he was able to answer all our questions as well as being a good companion within the group and a mean card player.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The hotels were a little more 'basic' than those usually used by Exodus in this part of the world so be prepared to use your sleeping bag on occasion and wear flip-flops around the rooms and bathrooms.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The downside of this holiday (and the reason I've only given 4 points instead of 5) was the horrendous traffic jams we encountered. In particular the journey from Barsu to Gangotri. We sat in insane traffic jams for (literally) hours on end while buses and coaches tried to manoeuvre past each other on a narrow road with seemingly no traffic rules. The journeys all took much longer than the trip notes suggest and after consulting with the group, a couple of the cultural parts of the itinerary were abandoned. The hill station of Mussoorie was massively congested with traffic and the noise of horns combined with the awful pollution levels made it particularly unpleasant to walk around.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Janet C

    Temples and Tigers

    A very interesting trip covering the highlights of Rajasthan. Some very long travel days and a lot of time on the bus, but the sites were worth it. There were a lot of temples including the Taj Mahal and we were incredibly lucky to see 7 tigers at Ranthambore; including a mum and her cubs very close by.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Playing Holi in Jaipur and being covered from head to foot in paint.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gaj was a great guide, he added a lot to the trip with the additional information he shared with us about life in India. Gaj made it possible for us to stay longer in Jaipur where we could play Holi with the locals which for many of us was one of the highlight of the trip. Gaj organised a trip to see a Bollywood Movie one evening for those who wanted to go; definitely worth it.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I traveled on the last trip of the season (March) when the temperatures start of rise and it was very hot some days especially at Pushkar. I had read about the increased risks of being ill when travelling at the end of the season but was fine, however the vast number of people on the trip were ill at some point which impacted the whole trip overall. There is a LOT of time on the bus and it can be very tiring with the bumpy roads, continuous road works and a group of sick travelers.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Gaj recommended a couple of additional stops for some of the very long traveling days; the advised stops were interesting and broke up the days. There is not much free time on this trip and where we did have time it seemed to be at the wrong places. The bus driver and his assistant were amazing and worked so hard. They had some long days especially if they drove us out to a restaurant for dinner in the evening.
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Heather Quinn

    A exceptional trip to Assam!

    This trip to Assam was truly exceptional! It fulfilled all it promised in the travel notes ....... and then more. It was India for those that wanted another view of this beautiful country, an alternative to Mumbai, Goa, the Kerela back waters, Delhi, The Taj and the Golden Triangle; when you have been there, come on this trip for a delightfully different, certainly a less tourist-visited part of this amazing country of contrasts. The scenery, the explorations and the experiences our small group of eight clients had, made the trip an absolute delight. We had an amazing guide Nivan Gurang whose knowledge and hard work on our behalf made sure the trip was what we had all hoped for.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    So many inspirational, exciting experiences such as our safari with lots of elephants, the promised rhinos and even a distant but huge tiger by the lake. Our hike down to see the ancient amazing, tree root bridges was not as formidable for our group as we were warned, tough yes but satisfying; we saw beautiful landscapes, memorable sunsets over rivers and hills and met some warm, accepting villagers who still saw non-Indian tour groups as a novelty. We were promised ‘Head Hunters (retired) ‘ and we did drive up into the mountains to share a ‘nice cuppa’ with them as they sat round their fire on a cool mountain afternoon! What we heard from our super guide, what saw and experienced gave us an insight to many different ways of life for all the wonderful people who actually seemed pleased to see us as we travelled along; No there was not the continual hard sell that we have come to expect in India and other tourist-dependent countries, this was not inspirational but it was marvellous.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nivan Gurang Exodus could not have asked for a better guide for our small group of 8 clients. Nivan was exceptional in both his industry on our behalf and his knowledge. Without his leadership our trip could have been so much less fascinating, even mystifying. Hie knowledge of the many and varied facets of his country brought a greater understanding of what we were seeing, experiencing, why our route was thus, how and why this 21st Indian century worked in this area and always with introductions, discussions and sharing a glimpse of the lives of local people. All around us as we walked, hiked and travelled he found the evidence for what he was telling us from Government notices, ancient sites to babies vaccination cards of village mothers. His friendliness, his courtesy to local people we met, the great relationship he had developed with our hosts/ hoteliers and his hard work on our behalf meant we experienced and hugely enjoyed Assam and Nagaland. He made sure the trip lived up-to all Exodus had promised. I valued that he took care of the daily tipping on our behalf. We all appreciated his care, his sense of fun and warmth. Thank you Nivan.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Read the ‘Trip Notes’ before you book, they accurately reflect what the experience will be. ..... then follow the advice given. Don’t take huge packs, you may have to carry them short distances. This is a very different trip to the luxury hotel of the big cities ...... that is its appeal and delight. This is not an area to visit as an individual and see the best of without a good, Indian speaking guide and your own tough 4 wheel drive vehicle due to the undeveloped roads. Our driver, Dinesh was great, he avoided all the many, many road wandering cows, crazy drivers and was patient and considerate helping with our packs and our comfort.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thanks to all ‘background’ Exodus staff who put together such a fascinating trip that ran so smoothly. Good staff training helps but hard work and good organisation makes it work.
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Janel Hannis

    Epic trip in Epic Country!

    Having done about 10 trips with Exodus now, this one excelled.. It is challenging, rewarding, interesting, fun, exciting, all mixed in with a heady charm offense that India is.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I enjoyed the climb up the Jalori Pass, (3200m); one minute in the snow-line, 56 downhill kms later, in the soaring heat - 38degrees I'm guessing! Extra-ordinary contrast in one day!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent leader. Difficult to manage a small group of 4, but did a good job nonetheless. Interesting information about the country and always jolly and helpful.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Not really... If you pick this tour you are obviously quite fit, so just stay hill fit.. A range of suitable clothing and wet weather gear is useful.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Just an awesome trip, I would eagerly do again!
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Gordon Goldsmith

    Taj Tigers & Temples

    Amazing trip , well organised & staff where very reliable & friendly Day to day changes in the Itinerary or timetable did not effect our enjoyment too much But changes were partly due to a larger group than expected , (25) Having met our initial group, about 10 joined up later on the first day which we where not expecting & the dynamic's of the group where somewhat affected for most of the trip ! An example to highlight this happened when the second group ( who also previously knew each other )wanted to go Elephant riding . The 'original ' group had to seat it out as we all did not approve & had not asked for this

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Gurudwara Sikh Temple in Old Delhi ALL the early morning starts … great

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Ajay Gupta was a very good guide Knowledgeable , witty ,very accommodating with some overbearing aspects of certain group members He also managed to be diplomatic at all times & showed lots of patience

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    No not really If you have never traviled before , its all in the notes supplied Do not feel concerned about things like water , safety etc... India is changing very fast !

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Possible inclusions for the trip A few more walk-a -bout's at times in interesting areas & suburbs Reduce group size so there can be a few more ,'smaller & interesting hotels , some in the city centres Rather than on this trip where they were predominately 'out of town' , so no opportunity to eat out

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank Gordon for his review, and we were very pleased to read that overall this was an enjoyable holiday.  We were, however, concerned to learn that an elephant ride was arranged by the tour leader for some members of the group, as our policy on elephant riding is very clear; we do not condone this practise because it can be extremely negative both physically and mentally for the elephants.  Our tour leaders are informed of our Responsible Travel policies and are expected to adhere to them.  In this case, the leader acted independently and in breach of our policies, which we have followed up on.  We would also like to apologise for the inconvenience that Gordon and other members of the group experienced as a result of this matter.   

     

    Kashka Lantis - Product Manager for India