In Conversation with Exodus: Travel Styles and Guides
Exodus first took travellers to the Himalaya over 40 years ago, and has been taking people on adventures around the world ever since...
W ant to really get under the skin of a destination and get to know its people, culture and history? Want to walk, cycle, eat and snap your way around the world’s desert highways and watery byways? Care about travelling responsibly, yet also fully immersing yourself in incredible experiences? For 43 years, Exodus has been delving into the unknown, taking people on extraordinary adventures all over the planet and thrusting them into different environments: cities, jungles, mountains, deserts and coastal settings. How does exploring the Arctic with an award-winning wildlife photographer sound? Or what about cooking up a storm in an Amalfi kitchen, with brothers who have grown up with a devotion to Italian cuisine? For something more active, consider trekking through the Himalaya with one of the best mountain guides in the business, or biking through Costa Rica, led by a woman who has been cycling there for 15 years.
Exodus tour leaders are uniquely qualified, passionate and knowledgeable about the world around them, and selected for their ability to offer unrivalled insight into a destination. Meet your guides…
Trekking with Valerie Parkinson
“I fell in love with the high Himalayan peaks on a trek with my father in 1984,” says Valerie Parkinson, who has lived amid the soaring snow-capped peaks of India and Nepal for 31 years, more than half her life. “The azure skies and multi-coloured rocks in Ladakh made me happy. It felt like coming home.
“The silence, sunrises and sunsets, full-moon nights spent camping under stars, and the warmth of the mountain people… it’s special. And the freedom to walk with my life in a kitbag had me hooked.”
In 1986, Valerie became a trekking leader for Exodus, and has since become a mountaineering hero: she’s climbed to the South Summit of Mount Everest (8,748m) and in 2008 became the first British woman to summit the Nepalese mountain of Manaslu – at 8,163m, the eighth highest in the world – without supplementary oxygen. She also manages the Exodus Himalayan Community Support project, encouraging responsible tourism, and helped to raise more than £270,000 after the devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal.
Valerie is committed to showing visitors these mountains in all their glory. “I want to help people achieve their dreams, whether that’s trekking to Everest Base Camp or reaching their first Himalayan summit.” Valerie has nine special treks planned in 2018, including a trip to Langtang, a scenic valley to the north of Kathmandu that has just reopened following the 2015 earthquake. “This is off-the-beaten-track trekking at its very finest. There are no cars or fumes or noise – just the silence and noise of nature, with no interruptions.”
BOOK IT NOW
Trek the Langtang & Gosainkund Lakes with Exodus from £1,149pp for 15 days. Add international flights from £479pp.
TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT
You don’t have to go quite so hardcore; with stunning views and food on offer, test your mettle with a classic week walking the best of the Mont Blanc Circuit in the French and Italian Alps. 8 days from £999pp.
Cooking with the Acampora brothers
Born amid the aroma of food cooking in their home on the Amalfi Coast, Nicola and Giovanni Acampora grew up with an unbridled passion for Italian cuisine. Inheriting their culinary calling from their father, Antonio – a chef – they began crafting pizzas as boys. Today, the brothers treat guests to divine foodie experiences in that same house, now the family-run Hotel Due Torri.
“Although over 20 years have passed and the business has grown, our family hasn’t changed much,” says Nicola, who hosts more than 1,200 Exodus customers every year. “We’re united by love and laughter. Our mother, who is 82, dries the plates each evening and our father supervises the kitchen.”
Their favourite dish is scialatielli all’amalfitana, a thick, short tagliatelle with parmesan, oil, fresh basil and a seafood and tomato sauce. And then there’s the pizza. “The best is margarita,” explains Nicola. “Simple, with few ingredients: tomato passata, mozzarella, basil and olive oil. These are the key ingredients that give an Italian flavour to every recipe. Simple, flavoursome and healthy.” Here, vegetables are plucked straight from their father’s garden. “Blessed by a mild climate, this region has been producing the best fruit and vegetables since Roman times.”
Nicola and Giovanni have been hosting Walking the Amalfi Coast groups for Exodus for 15 years. For 2018, they recommend the new Amalfi Coast Food Adventure, packed with demos, classes and tastings, as well as true Italian hospitality.
BOOK IT NOW
Get a taste for Italy on the Exodus Amalfi Coast Food Adventure from £1,349pp for 8 days. Add international flights from £199pp.
TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Already mastered pizza? How about a mouth-watering exploration of China’s regional cuisine, from sampling quintessential Peking duck to savouring seafood in Xiamen – and learning authentic cooking skills along the way? 12 days from £1,949pp.
Cycling with Andrea Bolanos
Think you have the best job in the world? Andrea Bolaños would beg to differ. She became part of the Exodus family four years ago and has been taking people around her home country of Costa Rica on two wheels ever since: “Becoming a cycling leader has been the best experience of my life.
“My job is an adventure, showing people our nature, culture, responsible tourism and great landscapes, all from my bike. That’s my passion: sharing knowledge with travellers.”
Encouraged by her father and brother to be a cyclist, Andrea has been riding for 15 years. One of her favourite places to put her pedal power to the test is La Fortuna, around 90 miles northwest of San José. “Here our clients cycle around the forest, finding toucans, monkeys and butterflies, all the while glimpsing the Arenal Volcano in the distance.” Andrea’s trips include the chance to sample local food too, at the same time as supporting local communities.
The cycling difficulty varies, but if the ride gets tough Andrea inspires her guests to push on: “I once had a client who was feeling bad because she was cycling at the back of the group, so I kept telling her that she was a good cyclist, she had to believe in herself. On the third day, she was cycling better; I was really proud of her.”
Andrea will be leading tours all around Central America in 2018, including a “cycling adventure” in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
BOOK IT NOW
Cycle Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama with Exodus from £2,299pp for 15 days. Add international flights from £855pp.
TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Have kids in tow? If you’re a freewheeling family, how about a self-guided trip along the Danube? You’ll be able to travel at your own pace, but have detailed trip notes – and your bags carried for you. Self-Guided Cycling on the Danube: Passau to Vienna, 8 days from £749pp.
Wildlife photography with Paul Goldstein
“Nothing gives me greater pleasure than somebody utterly nailing an image,” says Paul Goldstein. And having led wildlife photography tours with Exodus for 21 years, he’s seen a lot of photos. “The best ones come with a story. Like getting up at 2am, driving to the river and being 20m from a female jaguar within 25 minutes. Three of the group were in tears. It doesn’t get much better than that!”
When Paul joined Exodus, it was a small independent adventure travel company. “Although it’s grown, there’s still that ethos. We make a difference, not just for our guests but through our outreach charity programmes.” Paul is passionate about animal conservation and runs the tented Kicheche wilderness camps in Kenya, which all hold Gold or Silver Eco-rating Certification.
Among his favourite places to photograph are the conservancies of Kenya’s Masai Mara, Antarctica, the Pantanal in Brazil and the Norwegian outpost of Svalbard. And during his time at Exodus, he’s taken some remarkable pictures. He’s been 500m from a snow leopard, spent years with big cats in Africa and spotted polar bears on Arctic sea ice. “I love Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard archipelago. There’s magnificent wildlife – so much to photograph, and 24 hours of daylight to do it in!”
He doesn’t deny the challenges, though: “Animals, by their very nature, are capricious. But if it was easy, I wouldn’t do it.”