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 November 2016
    Melanie B

    Freezing but worth it

    Having completed the Annapurna circuit two years ago I was looking for more Himalayan trekking but somewhere different. The views of Kanchenjunga in the sunrise and sunset are breathtaking and (weather permitting) you see Everest too! An excellent trip with a good mix between trekking and cultural exploration

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Waking up at dawn, in a frost covered tent, before getting to see the sun rise on the mountains.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Sonam was brilliant fun to be with. He took good acre of all of us and made sure that any backmarkers on the trek part were supported. He was kind and engaging and had a wicked sense of humour. He also brought the best cook ever to cook for us on the trek.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This trek is less strenuous than Annapurna but it's still at altitude and the fitter you are the more you will enjoy it. It got really cold in the tents and the ground was harder than you think! I'd suggest getting the thickest, warmest inflatable mattress you can afford and making sure you pack good quality merino and a really decent sleeping bag.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Bring earplugs if coming at Diwali. They like their fireworks loud.
  • Reviewed November 2016
    Paul Bulstrode

    Superb from start to finish

    This was truly a wonderful 2 weeks. From Delhi to Calcutta, the ridge, the people and those others on the trek made this a trip to remember.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The views of the Himalayas, walking along the ridge between India and Nepal and the great food we had to eat

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Sonam was superb, full of knowledge and always smiling. A great character that made us laugh but lead the group well.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    In autumn (mid October) it was very cold on the mountain (at night). Be ready for it. Otherwise no issues, even on the train. Make sure you get up early for the best views of the mountains (although evenings were also great). Relax, forget the world and enjoy! When it says dont take photos, dont take photos (army check points on trek)

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Even with the weak STG, it was still cheap there.
  • Reviewed May 2016
    John Mckenzie

    Sikkim and Singalina Ridge

    I'd never been trekking before, and in many ways I wasn't looking forward to this holiday much, but I absolutely loved it, especially the trekking. What really surprised me was the quality of the support from the pony men, guides, and especially the cook, or cooks. The quality of the food was very impressive even when it was being carried about a campsite in a hail storm. I would recommend this trip to everyone.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    When he second in charge leapt down a nearly perpendicular slope to retrieve my daysack which had fallen down and then snagged about fifteen feet below the edge.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    I don't think Chouspel could have done a better job. He was constantly helpful and pleasant despite one or two awkward customers and the huge responsibilities lying on his shoulders. Top guy.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take the waterproof trousers.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Both the guides were the key to a successful trip. But the cooking was exceptional!
  • Reviewed April 2016
    Sara Harrop

    On top of the world

    A fantastic trip which left our group under India's spell and eager to return for more. This was despite disappointing weather. We experienced mega thunder storms, gales, a hail storm and far more than our fair share of mist and fog. The toilet tent blew down one night in a gale. It could have been a disaster, yet all of our group managed to leave with entirely positive impressions. This was down to a) One day of clear bright sunshine when all the mountains appeared as if by magic; b) a fantastic sense of camaraderie between group members, the guides, cooks and pony men, c) delicious food, d) friendly local people and a great introduction to the culture; e) lovely characterful hotels that felt palatial after sleeping in a cold, damp tent for a week. A lot of people seem to think a trip to India is as good as a crash diet - but not if you go on this trip! Anyone would have thought that the delicious, varied, piping hot and beautifully presented meals had been prepared in a plush kitchen rather than a windswept tent in the middle of nowhere! They even managed a perfectly iced birthday cake baked over a camping stove at 3500m. Exodus seems to have chosen the accommodation particularly well on this trip. The Himalayan Hotel in Kalimpong was a firm favourite, but the Netuk House in Gangtok was also gorgeous and the Sherpa Lodge in Rimbik at the end of the trek (described as basic in the trip notes) is a delightful place in flower filled gardens with comfy rooms with pretty quilts on the beds, en-suite bathrooms and real toilets. The Hilton could not have felt finer. The walking is not too difficult and the paths are good with plenty of interesting flowers and bird life even if you can't see the mountains. The altitude is not too bad. It's a good combination of feeling that you've done something without feeling too stretched and exhausted.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The day the fog cleared and the mountains appeared. We saw Kanchenjunga and Makalu, Lhotse and Everest. Our campsite above Sandakphu was spectacular. At sunset, the clouds sank far below and a panorama of pink-tinged snow-capped mountains appeared all round. Team awestruck! We also loved our unscheduled visit to the beautiful village of Siri Khola when bad weather higher up forced us to head down. We ended up camping in one of the pony men's garden and visiting the cook's home. Everyone felt this was one of the highlights of the trip.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Rajeev is a rising star. He had to cope with some difficult climactic conditions and a lot of questions. He was very helpful towards a slightly slower walker in the group, thus ensuring that we all kept together and safe. The local guides were excellent too and Rajeev had a good relationship with them and with team of cooks and pony men, showing respect and sensitivity to them at all times.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to expect the unexpected and adapt. The hardships make the good times even better. Nights were long and cold in the tent so a good sleeping bag and lots of layers are essential. Filling a metal bottle with boiled water at night keeps you warm and provides you with safe frost-free drinking water the next day. Take plenty of hand sanitiser. A pack of cards is good for after dinner entertainment for in the mess tent as is a good repertoire of anecdotes and a sense of humour.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    None of our group much liked Gangtok, though the hotel there was lovely and Rumtek monastery interesting. Gangtok was quite car-clogged, concrete covered and westernised. On the other hand, we loved Kalimpong. There's a colourful food market, interesting local shops, temples and monasteries, and it's a laid-back friendly sort of place with none of the hassle some people sometimes associate with India. To sum up: this trip was great value for money, perfect for people who like a good mixture of adventure and comfort and I feel as if I have made a load of really good friends.
  • Reviewed April 2016
    Nicholas Hayhurst

    Star Trek

    A fabulous introduction to northern India with a great combination of trekking and sightseeing. The Trek was on good paths through delightful countryside along the border between Nepal and India; many of the trees were in blossom. We had amazing views of the Himalayan range from Sandakphu, the highest point of the trip, although visibility on other days was more limited. Supported by a fantastic team with the best chef in India - yummy! We stayed in a variety of interesting and lovely places throughout the trip with the Himalayan Hotel in Kalimpong being one of the highlights. The sleeper train was a great experience, and Calcutta was an exciting and interesting city in which to end the trip. A brilliant holiday with a lovely group of people - highly recommended

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Amazing views of the Himalayan massif, but also camping at and visiting the mountain village of Shri Khola.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Rajeev was lovely; very helpful and patient, and sorting us all out. He quickly recognised our need for lots of tea stops! He made it all seem effortless.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We had severe overnight storms and needed all our warm gear on - would certainly recommend a good quality 4 season sleeping bag and good mat. Metal water bottles to use as hot water bottles were useful. The guidance says hand sanitizer is optional, but think it is probably essential for this trip.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Loved the trip but Gantok was a little disappointing - it is a very busy modern city. However the drive to it was interesting, and Calcutta exceeded expectation. Our experience on the trip was enhanced by the tourist guides for the part of the trip after the trek, and in Calcutta. Finally would like to applaud our excellent drivers, who negotiated the roads smoothly and carefully. This was our first trip to India but it wont be our last.
  • Reviewed May 2015
    Arran Ellis

    3 Amazing weeks in India \ Nepal

    3 weeks packed with so much to do and see. I have no idea how Exodus can make any profit from this trip. True value for money! In summary if you do the trip and the excursion it works out to be 3 holidays in 1. 1st week, the wonders of Delhi, Agra & Japur. Our driver Amir was brilliant and took us wherever we wanted. We also met 3 very knowledgeable guides who provided guidance while visiting the Taj Mahal, Agra, The Amber Fort and Japur. Our hotels during this part of the trip where excellent. The 2nd part of our trip was Darjeeling & the Singalila Ridge, where we met our new treking friends. The trek was led by Jospal & Suntos a local guide from Darjeeling. What these two did not know about the the mountains and local community was not worth knowing. We had some wet and windy weather but I always felt they had our best intrests in mind. We did get views of Kanchenjunga which was the icing on the cake for me. The tents we used where adiquate and the trek chef never let the side down and produced some of the nicest food I have ever tasted whilst on a trek not to mention a few restaurants I have visited. The days varied in length and variety. I was one of the youngest on the trek at 42 and found the undulating ridge fine. Our oldest member of the trek was 70 and like me plodded with the odd steep section slowing us down. If your relatively fit and healthy you'll be fine. No need to start running marathons to sign up. And certainly do not let age get in the way. The pace was always slow and steady to enjoy the views, banter, and rhododendrons. I chose to do this trip in April \ May to get the best advantage of catching the various colours of plant life. As it turned out it was by chance Budda's Birthday and a full moon during the trek, so whilst staying in small villages from time to time there was always some festivity happening. The 3rd and final part of our experience was what I would call the Jeep Rural Safari. We left Darjeeling after visiting the Mountaineering Intitute where climbers and sherpa's train to climb mountains such as Everest and lead treks and plumited down in altitude driving past massive tea plantations. Where we stopped and visited the tea pickers and farmers. Then onto Sikkim, different from the Darjeeling Region. More Westernised in my opinion, industrial along the river and lots of schools and universities. We stayed in Gangtok and visited a wonderful monestry and had some time to look around ourselves. The drive to Kalingpong took us back out Sikkim and back into the Dajeeling Region where we climed in our jeeps to see wonderful views of the local foothills of the Himilaya. We stayed at the Himalayan Hotel. The same hotel Malory, Irvine, Hillary and Tenzing stayed in prior to going to Everest. This was by far my favourite hotel of the whole trip! Ooozing with character and history. A wee drive to the train station then an overnight train to Calcutta, where we said goodbye to the jeeps and Santos. Calcutta was amazing! We had time to do a whistle stop tour of the city in time for some of us to go to a 20/20 Cricket match to see the Calcutta Night Riders v The Punjab Kings. Such an experience. The stadium was packed with 60-70,000 supporters. This was our last day, so we went to a rooftop restaurant which was a special place to say goodbye to our new friends before parting our ways and going home. I know this was to be a summary but there was too much to tell.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing Kanchenjunga in all its splendor once the clouds moved on, on our final morning on the ridge. Magical.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jospal & Santos where truely amazing! Very very helpful, approachable, flexable. There English was better than mine! You want these guys on your trek!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Prepare for some wet days depending on the time of year you go. Dont skimp on decent waterproofs. Some of the team had Poncho's which seemed to provide the best solution to staying dry. I went April \ May and a 3 season sleeping bag wearing thermals where fine. Drinking water whilst treking can get boreing. Take energy tablets or condensed juce pods to add to your bottles in the morning. Some of the team had metal bottles which proved useful at night to stick in you sleeping back as a makeshift hot water bottle. Bring an open mind and a sense of humour!!!!!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Book today! You wont regret it!
  • Reviewed May 2015
    Michelle Madrigga

    Wonderful mix of nature and culture!

    I went on this trip in April/May 2015, which is the best time for viewing the rhododendrons but may not be the best time for views of the mountains. We were, however, lucky enough to get some great views of the mountains at the highest camp! The trek was not overly difficult or too strenuous but the first couple of days did have some rain so make sure to bring quick drying clothes and enough warm items to wear in the camps in the evenings as clothes may not dry before the next day. Trekking poles came in handy on some of the downhill sections but were not essential. The nights did get quite cool so a three season sleeping bag is ideal. The cook and camp staff were fantastic and always made sure there was plenty of food and hot beverages. I really enjoyed the hot juices at the end of the day's trek - a great way to warm up! The second half of the trip to Sikkim was equally excellent and the jeep rides were a great way to see the countryside. I did not think the time on the road was too long compared to other trips I have done. I think the longest day was about 4 or 5 hours. The jeep drivers were excellent and I never felt unsafe at any point, despite the rather narrow roads and signs of past landslides. Gangtok was a beautiful town, which was clean and quite green. The hotel was excellent and a welcome retreat after the trek. The overnight train from Siliguri to Calcutta was a pleasant experience, despite a bit of a fistfight in the section next to ours. I was not expecting much from Calcutta but was also pleasantly surprised at the cleanliness of the streets and friendliness of the people. Prior to the trip I did the Kashmir extension, which was a great way to adjust to the time zone and relax for a few days before the more hectic pace of the trip. The people were very friendly and Lake Dal was beautiful. The houseboat we stayed on was first rate and the guide and boat staff were fantastic. An amazing trip all around!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Having 4 of the 5 tallest mountains revealed to us through the mist and fog at the last opportunity during the trek. Definitely a mood changer for the group after a few days of rain, cold and mist. Being pleasantly surprised with Gangtok and Calcutta. The friendliness of the people we encountered on the trip and the chance to learn more about the many different religions, regions and foods of northern India.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Chosphel was excellent - always well organized and pleasant. The Nepal earthquake occurred during our trip and we even encountered a small aftershock in Darjeeling. Despite this, Chosphel ensured our trip ran smoothly and remained positive throughout. During the trek he arranged for us to spend one night in a lodge after a day of non-stop rain, which had made the planned campsite a muddy mess. Santos led us on the trek and he was always upbeat, positive and made sure the group was doing okay. He provided great local insight to the region. The cooks, pony boys and jeep drivers were all excellent and friendly.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Definitely bring a warm sleeping bag and plenty of rain gear as well as enough warm clothes to keep you comfortable at night. Also ensure to bring large plastic bags to seal your clothes and sleeping bag during the trek as, if there are heavy rains, stuff may get wet during the pony transport.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    A great trip and a wonderful introduction to India. I am already planning another trip!
  • Reviewed December 2014
    Barry Barry

    Darjeeling, Sikkim and Singalila Ridge

    This trip consisted of six days trekking and six days touring Sikkim and Northern India finishing in Calcutta and gave superb views of the Himalayan Range.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Undoubtadly, the most inspirational moment of the trek was to wake up and go out of the tent to see the Himalayan Range from Kanchenjunga and Everest and beyond a view that I will never forget. I was scheduled to do this trek in October 2013 but had a cycling accident in Lithuania on another Exodus trip and had to cancel at the last moment following a relapse. I am pleased that I cancelled that trek for they had bad weather throughout and the superb views which we enjoyed in October 2014 would have been missed. The area is not haevily visited so you do not have to deal with crowds of other trekkers and in fact we only saw about three other very small groups. This is an unspoiled area and if you want to see the Himalayas in their full glory then I can think of no better trek.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Chospal was excellent. I had difficuly with the altitude but Chospal was always there to support me. He was an excellent leader and Exodus should be proud to have him as an employee.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The Trek is graded as moderate whereas the next trip I did, India Grand Tour was graded moderate to challenging. I would suggest that the trek should be similarly graded as their are steep inclines at a high altitude. The nights can be very cold so a four season sleeping bag is a necessity.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is an excellent way to see some of the World's finest mountains and to experience the contrast of Sikkim with its strong Tibetan influences and Calcutta the teeming heart of India.
  • Reviewed December 2014
    Robert Pearson

    Singalila Ridge & Sikkim - A well organised trek and tour

    Amazing sunrises and sunsets. We were lucky to have good weather on trek. Tour drives were mostly pretty rough rutted post-monsoon mountain roads, but exciting, skillfully navigated by good drivers, and comfortable in large cars. Drives were often fairly long - but with tea breaks! Hotels: the hotel in Darjeeling was perhaps the least comfortable, the basic tea house at the end of the trek the most comfortable surprise, and the hotel in Gangtok the most beautiful and hospitable. Camping was very well supported. Camp meals were very good, varied and plentiful.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    On one misty morning, on the ridge, the sun cast our shadows as Brocken Spectres on the mist below, with Lohtse, Everest & Makalu beyond.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Tour leader Dilip was excellent, keeping a watchful eye on folk, leading from the back marker position! Excellent skills organising varied transport, tea stops, support team and the group.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We travelled from Manchester, arrived early and had chance to grab a taxi at the hotel and explore Qutb minar, Humayun's tomb and Lodi Gardens (entertained by Grey Kites divebombing Picnics). Impressive and diverse islamic architecture at all three sites. Do go for good four seasons or arctic sleeping bag plus silk and fleece liners - the nights were cold in November. Would add to pack list - face masks for some sections of the drives & ear plugs for the Ghoom train (can be heard from 40 miles away) (or better still just skip the short train trip and travel in the cars).
  • Reviewed December 2014
    Sallie Hage

    Darjeeling, Sikkim and the Singalila Ridge

    This was a wonderful trek and very well guided by Mr Dilip and his team. We were a larger than usual group (17 in all) but there was much support all round and we all enjoyed the amazing Himalayan panorama that was always very evident during the days of trekking.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The most inspirational moment of the trip was watching the sun come up over four of the highest mountains in the world. It was 5.30 am, the temperature was -5 degree and we were all out on the mountainside watching the spectacle.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader Mr Dilip was excellent. He was kind, supportive and encouraging and always there when needed.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Get fit! Be ready for very low temperatures at night in November and lots of laughs.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This was a strenuous trek (although graded Moderate) at a reasonably high altitude but the older members of the group were well prepared to keep up with the youngsters!!
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