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Traveller stories: the world's southernmost hike

The trail was rough, yet pristine. It was rigorous, yet rewarding and I was able to connect with nature in an entirely new way.

The Dientes Circuit on Navarino Island or Dientes de Navarino was a hike that was on the top of my must-do adventures, a route that leads travelers to some of the most remote and magical spots of Chilean Patagonia.

I was staying in the town of Puerto Williams (the southernmost town on earth), which is not far from Dientes de Navarino. The town offered many adventure activities, such as kayaking, biking, horseback riding and, of course, trekking.

The Dientes de Navarino circuit was four days long and is recommended for hikers who are physically fit and mentally strong. Fair warning: it's possible to experience vertigo on this hike and therefore it’s important that trekkers come fully prepared and up for a challenge.

Beautiful lake views on the Dientes Circuit on Navarino Island |  <i>EcoCamp Patagonia</i>

But it was such a wonderful and fulfulling challenge for me. The adventure began in a forest full of Nothofagus, native trees of the region. They stood tall and proud around me as I marvelled at their beauty.

We walked through the forest at a brisk pace, travelling uphill towards Cerro La Bandera. At the top, we were welcomed by a jaw-dropping panoramic view of the Beagle Channel, Puerto Williams and Argentina's Ushuaia.

We spent some time taking in this fabulous scenery before pushing on to Laguna el Salto, where we made camp next to a beautiful waterfall.

The next morning, we began our climb to the top of another hill and a viewpoint of the Cape Horn archipelago. We passed by Paso Australia and Paso Los Dientes, finally arriving at Laguna Escondida where we camped for our second night. This overnight stay was a beautiful back to nature experience, surrounded by ñire trees and a stunning view of Cerro Gabriel.

Vibrant colours trekking Los Dientes de Navarino circuit in Patagonia |  <i>EcoCamp Patagonia</i>

The following two days were the most challenging, but also the most rewarding. We travelled to Paso Ventarron, a spot with strong winds and navy blue lagoons. We also hiked to the front of the Lindenmayer Mounts, ending at Lake Martillo where we camped for the last night for a well-deserved rest.

On our final day, we reached a steep slope which we descended from with the help of our guides. To my relief, I managed to get down without any problems.

After a long and challenging journey, we finally made it back to our driver, who greeted us with enthusiasm and a refreshing beer.

This adventure was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and something I will never forget. I was surrounded by all types of special creatures and plant life, such as condors, magellanic woodpeckers, beavers, lichens, miniature forests of mosses and liverworts.

Trekking the pristine Los Dientes de Navarino circuit in Patagonia |  <i>EcoCamp Patagonia</i>

It’s crazy how small you feel when surrounded by such an enormous piece of paradise. I highly recommend this trek for any fellow nature lovers and trekkers out there, it was a fantastic and refreshing experience, both physically and mentally!

From its jagged summits to its mysterious lagoons and mossy pathways, Dientes de Navarino is one trek that just can’t be missed.

Words by Keila who travelled on the Dientes Circuit on Navarino Island.

K2 trek in photos: Baltoro Glacier, Concordia & Gondogoro La

Home to the highest concentration of 8000-metre peaks on the planet, the Karakoram ranges have captured the imagination of trekkers and mountaineers for decades.

Having recently completed our K2 exploratory trek, mountaineering guide Soren Kruse Ledet shared spectacular shots from his expedition in Pakistan.

Baltoro glacier |  <i>Soren Kruse Ledet</i>

His group traversed the Baltoro glacier, crossed the famed Gondogoro La (5585m), admired an amphitheatre of 8000 and 7000-metre peaks, and trekked to the base of the world's second highest mountain, K2, which stands at an impressive 8611 metres.

Campsite in the Karakoram mountain ranges |  <i>Soren Kruse Ledet</i>

Soren was the best leader you could ever expect to have. Simply outstanding," said fellow trekker Pat from Australia. "Staff and porters did an amazing job and couldn't have been more helpful. Organisation was first class.

Trekking through the Karakoram mountain ranges |  <i>Soren Kruse Ledet</i>

Karakoram mountain ranges |  <i>Soren Kruse Ledet</i>

Travelling with an experienced mountaineer like Soren, and hearing the stories they have to tell, whilst in this environment adds additional richness to the experience," said Michael from Australia.

"Fantastic destination, itinerary and logistical support make this truly one of the great experiences of a lifetime. Speaking to other trekkers in the area it was obvious that World Expeditions is a great company to travel with if you want to achieve your goals in this region, avoid unwanted surprises and have unavoidable logistical challenges managed effectively with minimal disruption to the trip.

Wildlife in the Karakoram ranges |  <i>Soren Kruse Ledet</i>

From the "Throne Room of the Mountain Gods" to the Baltoro glacier, it's not hard to see why this is considered of the finest high altitude scenic treks on offer anywhere in the world. Trekking through this rugged and wild region of Pakistan, nestled between China and India, truly offers a challenging and rewarding experience like no other.

Trekkers dining with a mountainous backdrop |  <i>Soren Kruse Ledet</i>

Karakoram mountain ranges |  <i>Soren Kruse Ledet</i>

Photos by Soren Kruse Ledet.

Feeling inspired? View our K2 and Karakoram expeditions >

10 lesser-known hiking trails that avoid the crowds

The sound of nature is calling – a gushing river you can hear but are yet to see, mountains silently standing, birds singing among treetops, and the wind that carries that distinct alpine smell as it whispers through the forest. What you do not expect to hear is the number of boots trudging on the same trail. You don't mind the company, but you find that the numerous chatter in the distance disrupts your peace.

If you want to steer away from the crowds and find your own pocket of solitude in nature, here are 10 trails you’ve probably never heard of and should be on your adventure bucket list. The best part? These guided and self-guided treks take care of all the hard logistics and planning while caring for the natural environments visited. All you need to do is be open to the adventure and enjoy the impressive hike ahead.

Damodar Saribung, Nepal

Trekkers on our Damodar Saribung Traverse trip |  <i>Dan Beacom</i>

What makes it special? Seldom visited by tourists, the Damodar Himal is one of the last frontiers close to the Tibetan border. From the upper Mustang region to the Annapurnas, you’ll leave behind “classic” Mustang and enter vast and wild valley, following a route used by pilgrims that afford spectacular views of Dhaulagiri.

From desert trails to glacial terrain, enjoy varied scenery as you cross numerous high passes and follow ridgelines for awe-inspiring vistas of the Tibetan Plateau.

Pass through villages written with Tibetan culture and reach the highest point of the trek, the physically demanding and snow-covered trail to Saribung Pass (6042m).

Ideal for: The seasoned trekker who is looking to experience a more challenging traverse through the rugged Himalayan. Also suitable for adventures wanting to step into the realm of mountaineering.

When to go: August to September, April to May.


Dientes Circuit, Chile

What makes it special? It’s the world’s most southernly hike, camping in true wilderness style and trekking over varied terrain. The 42-kilometre remote circuit, completed by a few trekkers, is found in Navarino Island on the far end of South America.

Blue skies overhead trekking Los Dientes de Navarino circuit |  <i>EcoCamp Patagonia</i>

Passing alpine lakes, glaciers and jagged rock pinnacles, each day will be demanding, but the scenically arresting landscapes you cross makes each step worth it.

Take in stunning views of jagged mountain peaks, the Beagle Channel, the town of Puerto Williams in Chile and Ushuaia in Argentina, Nassau Bay, the Wollaston archipelago and the mythical archipelago of Cape Horn.

Ideal for: Trekkers wanting to get off the beaten track in Patagonia. But come prepared with an open mind; it’s a challenging adventure where you’ll be required to carry a full pack of 15 kilograms. Expect rocky and steep trails with chances of scree, snow or ice cover, as well as exhilarating river crossings.

When to go: November to March

Charlevoix Traverse, Canada

What makes it special? It’s one of the best long-distance trails in the enchanting hinterlands of UNESCO-designated Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve in Quebec. How long exactly? 105 kilometres (60 miles) from start to finish over seven days. It’s rugged, verdant, it’s teeming with wildlife.

Keep an eye out for the rare caribou North American reindeer and beavers by the dam and follow side trails to awesome viewpoints.

Mont Du Four is accessible as a day hike from Squirrel Hut on the Charlevoix Traverse |  <i>Tourisme Charlevoix, BESIDE</i>

The trail will lead you to over-the-edge views of an impact crater created by a meteorite some 360 million years ago, and the lookouts you’ll hike to will offer the perfect photos that take in surrounding mountains and panoramic valleys.

Ideal for: Outdoor enthusiast who love travelling through forest scenery and vast lakes views. If you prefer hiking at their own pace, this self-guided trek means you can enjoy the flexibility and sense of accomplishment without compromising on the security and organisation of a guided tour.

When to go: June to October

Ak-Suu Turkestan, Kyrgyzstan

Trekker enjoying a rest in the upper reaches of the Ak-Mechet gorge

What makes it special? You’ll be among the first to trek on this newly opened mountain trail, which can be likened to an 'Asian Patagonia'.

Picture: deep canyons, stunning gorges, glacier fed streams and lakes, alpine meadows, grazing yaks, lush fir tree forests, sheer granite towers and rugged peaks crowned with snow.

The path takes you into the remote mountain ranges of Turkestan where nature thrives. The key word here is remote, with a true sense of wilderness, camping in our scenically located semi-permanent campsites. There’s even a tented sauna at one of our camps, perfect to relax in after a day’s walk!

Ideal for: Those who enjoyed Patagonia or love wilderness camping. It’s one of our toughest Central Asia treks, so you best be prepared for occasional rough terrain and several ascents and descents of 500 metres or more.

When to go: July to September

Parang La Traverse, India

What makes it special? Appreciate the scale and grandeur of the commanding Indus Valley, ancient monasteries, snow-capped peaks, beautiful azure lakes and the solitude this region has to offer.

Gain impressive views of the host of 6000 metres peaks from Parang La (5590m) while panoramic views extend to distant ridges that form the borderlands of Tibet.

It’s wild and off the beaten path trekking, which follows the traditional trade route between the people of Spiti, Changthang and Tibet through high arid plains and remote villages. You’ll also encounter local Champa nomads.

The view over the Indus River, at the start point of our Markha Valley Trek |  <i>Bruce Gray</i>

Ideal for: Trekkers wanting to explore a different side of the Himalayas – the lesser visited regions of India.

When to go: July to August

Moonlight Trail, New Zealand

What makes it special? You’ll want to pull out your camera for this hike with breathtaking views of the Southern Alps as you climb along a ridgeline which separates the Shotover River and Moonlight River valleys.

Views over Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables Mountain Range from Ben Lomond Station |  <i>Colin Monteath</i>

Tucked behind Queenstown, step into some of New Zealand’s best and least-known country scenery that ventures far from the crowds.

Deep into beech forests, traverse deep valleys, golden tussock slopes and explore mountain streams and waterfalls. Discover the remnants of the gold mining times whilst walking along the historical water races and Moonlight Creek where a cooling swim and scenic picnic is possible.

A highlight is the overnight stay in a beautifully appointed lodge in the Moonlight Valley, positioned to take in sweeping alp views.

Ideal for: Active people who love the back country and want to spend quality time in nature. 

When to go: November to March

Mountains of the Moon, Uganda

What makes it special? It’s Africa’s best kept trekking secret located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Rwenzori Mountains or ‘Mountains of the Moon’ is isolated, rarely visited and showcases the country’s beautiful and diverse climactic zones – from remote alpine valleys, montane rainforests (lots of monkeys!), moorland with giant lobelias and even glacial landscapes. (You probably wouldn’t have guessed it, but this national park contains much of Africa’s permanent ice.)

Kitendara Lake Uganda

Up the Stanley range and going higher than any other guided group, challenge yourself on an exhilarating climb to Africa’s third highest peak, Margherita (5109m) for rewarding vistas of the huge Rwenzori mountainous expanse and across to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Ideal for: Trekkers looking for their next big adventure in a biodiversity hotspot. If you’ve climbed Kilimanjaro, this incredible trek should be on your list for impressive scenery at every turn.

When to go: August to September, December to February, June to July.

Transcaucasian Trail, Georgia

Trekkers enjoying the expansive mountain scenery in Georgia.


What makes it special?
Be among the first to walk this new trail that will connect more than 20 national parks and endless UNESCO listed sites. Delight in the scenic panoramas of mountains, alpine meadows, rivers and glaciers that await you in historic Georgia.

The Georgian Transcaucasian Trail could very well be the new Silk Road, travelling through some of the world’s oldest cities against a jaw-dropping mountainous backdrop. At times, it will feel like time has stood still.

While the full route is still being developed, you can now walk sections of the trail with us in Georgia through the stunningly rugged and remote Svaneti region.

Ideal for: Walkers who enjoy a charming blend of natural beauty, historical sites, thousand-year-old churches and countryside scenery.

When to go: May to September

Ha Giang Villager's Trail, Vietnam

What makes it special? Escape the Sapa and Mai Chau crowds and explore Vietnam’s “final frontier” in an untouched region in the far north bordering China. Between the Tay Con Linh and the Song Chay mountain ranges, hike through quiet farming villages and wild, rustic landscapes of granite mountains, pine forests, lush valleys and beautiful rice terraces.

The famous rice field terraces of Northern Vietnam

The highlight? The local’s warm and embracing nature. You’ll experience rural hospitality at memorable homestays along the way – they’re simple, but provide an authentic cultural experience.

Ideal for: Those who want to get off the beaten track with barely any tourists in sight. Great for bushwalkers and day hikers looking to explore natural and social environments.

When to go: October to April

Jatbula Trail, Australia

What makes it special? It’s Australia’s Top End hidden gem with only a handful of other visitors in sight.

 

Bushwalk between pristine waterfalls and swimming holes along the edge of the Arnhem Land escarpment. You’ll also gain a deeper understanding of the local Indigenous culture with visits to ancient rock art sites.

When the sun sets, the evening sky will provide a remarkable display of speckled stars as you camp in true wilderness.

Ideal for: For walkers who love the tropics, outdoor picnics and an impromptu swim in waterholes – don’t worry, they’re croc-free!

When to go: June to August

Browse more trekking and hiking adventures >

Wildlife photography tips from a pro | Alex Cearns

One of the best parts of travelling is re-living the experience through your photos when you get home. And though a photo of a sunset transports you to that sublime moment of the sun sinking into the horizon, or your pictures of the ancient ruins reminds you of the history and culture of a place, mastering photos of animals in their natural habitats is a whole different skill.

Internationally renowned animal photographer, Alex Cearns and Creative Director of Houndstooth Studio spills the beans on her top wildlife photography tips that will put you in the right frame of mind when capturing your next wildlife adventure on camera.

Do your homework

Before leaving home, think about the sorts of animals you may encounter, then try to learn as much as you can about their behaviours. Are they more active at certain times? Do they have a specific breeding season? Does their behavior follow certain patterns? Can they be dangerous? Do they live alone or in a pack? Would we be seen by them as prey? The information you find will make it quicker and easier to locate your subject and enable you to determine the safest way to photograph them when you do.

Be a storyteller

You’re more likely to capture the shots you need if you plan the story you want to tell or the message you want to convey. Think about what you want to shoot and why that angle or scene might be interesting. Will  a certain point of view help others to understand your vision in that moment?  When photographing wildlife, it’s our aim as the photographer to capture the poses we see as great images and through them, tell a story.

Compose your image

I love to zoom in close and crop my subject, showing little environment and filling the frame with them. Sometimes though, there’s a need to add some of the habitat and environment into images. There aren’t any hard and fast rules, so you are free to find your own flow with the type of images you like to take.

Focus on the eyes

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul and this is no different for animals. Animals express a lot of emotion and character through their eyes. Capture your subjects eyes in sharp focus if you are chasing eye contact in your resulting image.

Choose good light

Outdoor photography is a challenge as you cannot control the lighting conditions. Overcast days with a light sky are ideal outdoor photography conditions, but figuring out the times of day that provide the best light will help you perfect your exposures. Try to get up early with the sun and photograph in the lovely soft light of dawn, or at dusk, where you may score a stunning sunset as your backdrop.

Anticipation and timing

Capturing that split second moment you see as a perfect photo opportunity requires anticipation and timing. Once you see the image you want to capture, you may need to work as quickly as you can to get it, and the shot you miss could be the shot that never comes around again. The more you practice, and the more photos you take, the faster you will get at capturing that perfect moment . The beauty of digital cameras is that they enable us to take thousands of images in one sitting, so take full advantage of this to get the photos you are after.

Patience

Learning to be patient is a crucial factor when taking portraits of your wildlife. Sometimes the shots you want will come instantly, while others could take hours. Sometimes you'll have to choose which shots to sit tight for and when to move on. Being prepared to wait for an image to present itself pays off when you get that top shot.

 

BY FIONA OS
About Alex Cearns

Alex's images have won a multitude of awards and have been published widely across Australian, even in an Australia Post stamp collection. Inspired by the joy of working with animals, Alex’s philanthropy and passionate advocacy for animal rescue has earned her high regard among Australia’s animal lovers and a strong following on social media. She is a popular tour leader with World Expeditions and escorts global animal adventure tours to various regions of the world. Alex lives with two rescue dogs, Pip and Pixel, and one rescue cat, Macy, and claims that animals are her “favourite kind of people.”

Join Alex on her next wildlife photography adventure to Laos, supporting bears affected by illegal wildlife trade. Find out more >

UNESCO's newest World Heritage sites: how to see them differently

UNESCO has inscribed 29 new places on the World Heritage list for 2019, among these are Bagan’s monumental architecture and a beautiful Italian vineyard region.

The prestigious list has come a long way, with 1,121 cultural and natural sites now tagged as World Heritage-listed. In comparison, the very first World Heritage list in 1978 featured only 12.

We list five of the most exciting additions and ways to explore them differently.

Vatnajökull National Park | Iceland

It's a mega park that encompasses almost 14 per cent of Iceland. It's volcanic, ice cap scenery is spectacularly varied with sub-glacial lakes, jagged mountain ranges, and active volcanoes, that haven't erupted in many years.

UNESCO describes the landscape as an "interaction between volcanoes and the rifts that underlie the Vatnajökull ice cap takes many forms, the most spectacular of which is the jökulhlaup – a sudden flood caused by the breach of the margin of a glacier during an eruption.”

Go there on a Iceland Northern Lights experience. Explore an ice cave in the heart of Vatnajökull for a spectacular winter experience before retiring in a comfortable hotel literally in the middle of nowhere, to maximise your chance to view the extraordinary coloured lights streaming through the northern sky, the Aurora Borealis.

Aurora Borealis over Iceland |  <i>Tim Gallantree</i>

Jaipur City, Rajasthan | India

Known for its iconic architectural legacy and vibrant culture, India's Pink City of Jaipur recently made its entry into the UNESCO World Heritage list. The walled city's finest monuments include the City Palace, Amber Fort and the iconic Hawa Mahal.

“The city’s urban planning shows an exchange of ideas from ancient Hindu and modern Mughal as well as Western cultures," states UNESCO. "The grid plan is a model that prevails in the West, while the organization of the different districts refers to traditional Hindu concepts. Designed to be a commercial capital, the city has maintained its local commercial, artisanal and cooperative traditions.”

Go there on a Rajasthan Cycle adventure which departs weekly from October to March. At Jaipur, you'll visit the City Palace, bazaars of the Old City and the Palace of the Winds, originally built as part of the City Palace. You'll then cycle the outskirts of Jaipur to your next destination to savour a way of life that is still in harmony with the seasons.

The Palace of Winds in Jaipur is located in the city and is a stunning example of Rajput architecture and artistry with its pink delicately honeycombed 953 sandstone windows known as 'jharokhas' |  <i>Fiona Windon</i>

Bagan | Myanmar

No trip to Myanmar is complete without a visit to Bagan, a sacred landscape of Buddhist art and architecture, as well as archaeological greats. Find some Southeast Asia's finest collection of temples and stupas dating back to the 11th-13th centuries.

Mist rises over the enchanting Bagan, Myanmar

From monasteries and places of pilgrimage to frescoes and sculptures, UNESCO featured the city on its heritage list as it "bears spectacular testimony to the peak of Bagan civilization. This ensemble of monumental architecture reflects the strength of religious devotion of an early Buddhist empire.”

Go there on an all-encompassing Myanmar Adventure which departs on various dates year round. Explore the ancient Bagan temples by bike, before relaxing in the serene Minnanthu area for a scenic picnic lunch in this historical setting.

Le Colline del Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene | Italy

You can probably guess by the name of this Italian region is known for it's wine and beautiful vineyards.

As described by UNESCO, its landscape is "characterized by ‘hogback’ hills, ciglioni – small plots of vines on narrow grassy terraces – forests, small villages and farmland. For centuries, this rugged terrain has been shaped and adapted by man. Since the 17th century, the use of ciglioni has created a particular chequerboard landscape consisting of rows of vines parallel and vertical to the slopes.”

Vineyards of Prosecco

Go there on a Prosecco Wine Cycle trip which departs between April and October. Cycle in the heart of the Veneto and through the picturesque and romantic hills of Prosecco. The gorgeous views of the almost never-ending grapevines will certainly build a craving to sample the world famous sparkling wine from local vineyards.

Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, Braga | Portugal

Reach this hilltop sanctuary via a 575-stepped staircase that leads you to an impressive a biblical landing of allegorical sculptures, picturesque gardens, ornate fountains and multiple chapels expressive of Via Crucis.

UNESCO says this pilgrimage site is a "sanctuary was developed over a period of more than 600 years and illustrates a European tradition of creating Sacri Monti (sacred mountains), promoted by the Catholic Church in reaction to the Protestant Reformation."

Go there on the Best of the Portuguese Way tour which depart in April, May, September and October. The visit to Braga will give you the chance to explore the historic town on special pilgrimage walk, the Portuguese Way. Second only to the Camino Francés in popularity with modern day walkers and pilgrims, it extends from the capital Lisbon across to Santiago.

Published on 18 July 2019.

In Hillary’s footsteps: my Everest Base Camp journey

I look to the left and can just see the tip of Mount Everest peering over the frozen ridge, the familiar plumes of powdered snow escaping like smoke signals from her summit.

From this direction she looks much more innocent than she really is. She’s just another mountain, but her intimidating allure draws hundreds of climbers worldwide every year.

The upside-down rainbow above fascinates me and I stand here for almost too long until I need to leave it behind and move on. I'm not there yet.

My booted feet move surely over the maze of boulders by the edge of the track; these flat feet that caused me no end of problems over the last sixty years have taken to hiking boots surprisingly well.

We are walking very slowly, the altitude and exhaustion taking their toll but none of us are going to be stopped on this day.

Every day I’ve been up here I’ve asked myself the same question: how the hell did I get here? When I would peer out of my little orange tent each morning and see the backdrop of mountains sparkling in the crisp morning air, when I looked down - admittedly rarely - from the swinging suspension bridges as we crossed deep river gorges, when I struggled to hold my breath and keep my trousers out of the quagmire that I've had to use as toilets, when I lay face down with my bloodied nose planted in the Himalayan dust, and when I congratulated myself each evening on making it through yet another day, I ask myself the same thing: how the hell did I get here?

Only a few minutes short of Base Camp I catch up with Meryl, one of the trekkers in my group who has been walking a little way in front of me all morning.

"Are you okay?" I ask, she was sitting on a rock. There are tears in her eyes and exhaustion on her face, her body is crumbling.

"Not really," she answers, "I can’t go any further. I just can’t." There isn’t much I can do for her. I am having enough trouble keeping my own spirits up.

Yangjin, our guide, comes up to us, she takes Meryl’s water bottle from her pack and hands it to her. Meryl is in good hands now, so I move on.

Admiring the Himalayan mountains towering over while on trek |  <i>Pamela Lynch</i>

It is just after 11.00am when I reach the end of the ridge, it simply doesn’t go any further, and I follow the track as it veers to the right. My footsteps crunch across the last few metres, and to my left I hear another chunk of ice crack from its anchoring and hit the freezing water, its fate sealed. The mountains are silent around me, a few wispy clouds slide across their summits and pyramids of ice at their base stand sentinel.

I walk slowly into the small clearing, its rough cairn of rocks indicating I can go no further. What little breath I have left is held, then slowly released; my mind empties and just for an instant I am sure there is nothing in there to impede this sensory concoction and feeling of elation.

I made it. I have walked where Edmund Hillary walked sixty years ago on his way to the top of the world.

The pile of prayer flags on the cairn, some rather tattered, others put there recently, mark the end of the line for us. In the distance, by the edge of the icefall, we can see a few remaining brightly coloured tents belonging to this season’s climbers. It's the end of the season and many have already left, the few remaining are in the process of packing up.

We’ve been watching helicopters constantly flying backwards and forwards today ferrying those prepared to pay the money back to Lukla. There are many though who can’t afford the luxury and we’d been passing them on the track for the last few days, stopping them to ask how they’d gone.

Most of them had made it to the top. Their sunken eyes told the story, they were weary, they wore the marks of the struggle they’d gone through, but their sense of achievement was evident. Without exception they were humble and, unless we asked, they weren’t about to shout about what they’d achieved.

Our major hurdle today are the yaks, loaded with gas canisters, tents, refrigerators, and climbing equipment, taking the dismantled camp back down the mountains. We constantly stop and press ourselves into the rocks on the inside of the track to allow them to pass.

Our ears are now attuned to the distant clang of the bells they wear around their necks and our eyes search for safe passing spots long before we meet them.

From our vantage point here at Base Camp you can’t see Mount Everest, she’s hiding behind her neighbours, but there's the Khumbu Glacier that I’d come to know from watching many a documentary about Everest and those who attempt her daunting challenge.

I'm sitting on a rock at Everest Base Camp thinking about where I am and what I’ve just achieved, and tears start to prickle behind my eyes.

In two months’ time I turn sixty, no doubt there will be celebrations with family and friends and there will be food and drink and general merry making, because that’s what my family does for birthdays. And I’d have a great time.

But this moment encapsulates for me my journey through those sixty years. It shows me that whatever I’ve done and wherever I’ve been throughout my life has given me the desire, the strength, and the perseverance to succeed.

Prasant, my trek leader, walks over, bends down and gives me a hug, he realises what this means to me.

I look up from the hug and grin at Meryl who is just crossing the ridge to join the rest of us. She’s found something extra within herself, she’s grabbed onto that extra bit of strength and she’s made it.

Time to leave my rock. The solitary bit is over, there are hugs and high fives all round as we celebrate.

Jenny, my fellow trekker, clutches her mobile phone in her hand and dials the number that will connect her to her seriously ill father thousands of miles away in Scotland. She did this trek for both of them.

Photographs in their dozens will remind us all in the years to come.

We’ll close our eyes and we’ll be back here, on this sunny May morning standing here at Everest Base Camp in awe of what we’ve done.

Book cover - How the hell did i get here?
This is an edited extract from How The Hell Did I Get Here? by Pamela Lynch. Pamela’s memoir recounts her two treks through the green foothills of the Himalayas to the grey monotone moonscape of Everest Base Camp and the time when the major earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, 2015. Purchase a copy at www.pamlynch.com.au.


About the author

From her journeys in Nepal, Pamela Lynch transformed from the shy, young mother of years gone by, to the confident trekker, author and motivational speaker of today. Pamela trekked to Everest Base Camp with World Expeditions in 2013 to celebrate her 60th birthday, a journey which became an impetus for change within herself and her outlook on life. Two years later she returned to take on a more challenging trek, heading over the Cho La Pass to Everest Base Camp.

 

Inspired to experience your own milestone adventure? View our range of Himalayan treks >

Your ultimate African safari guide

If you’re planning a long awaited and highly worthwhile safari trip to Africa, you might have noticed there are about as many locations and safari styles as there are breakfast cereals on the supermarket shelf. After all, being such a large continent, Africa is made up of strikingly different and diverse countries, cultures and environment, with each region offering a stunning array of scenery, landscape, culture and, of course, animals!

Gazelles on an African Safari

There are plenty of safari options to choose from: from the sprawling, wildlife-rich landscapes of Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, to an authentic safari experience in the majestic parks and reserves in South Africa, to trekking the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda in search of mountain gorillas. Yes, that’s right, contrary to what many believe, no two safaris are the same, and you can get a whole different experience depending on where you go!

From regions rich in diversity, or places fun for the whole family, or parks and reserves that are a photographers dream – or even the classic safaris guaranteed to give you a good time, we’ve got you covered.

Flamingos on an African Safari

Perfect for first timers: Kenya

Why? Perfect for first timers, Kenya’s long-standing reputation in the safari scene is built upon its diverse wildlife, wide range of safari options for all budgets, and, of course, the fact that seeing the Big 5 is fairly likely!

How? With over 26 different safari parks and reserves, Kenya has a huge range of different safari options, which mean a higher likelihood to see the animals you want. To get the best introduction in the Safari scene, find a safari that incorporates the Masai Mara and Nakuru. These classic safari parks are home to the Big 5, and with opportunities to see the wildebeest migration and flocks of flamingos depending on the season.

Combine these parks with somewhere like Amboseli, which are a little off-the-beaten track, and also feature the Big 5.

Zebras on African Safari

When? To avoid the rainy seasons, we suggest travelling between December and February, or June to October for prime viewing months.

While you’re there: A fantastic addition to your trip is to set aside a week or so to climb Mount Kenya. It’s the second highest mountain in Africa, with only one-tenth of the climbers that Mount Kilimanjaro has, and even more picturesque than Kili with an opportunity to spot wildlife.

Highlights: Huge herds of wildebeest and zebra cross into the Masai Mara from July to September. Also there’s nothing better than watching flamingos perched on Lake Nakuru while the sun sets. Or keep an eye out for the Masai Mara’s black-maned lion. The males can grow up to three metres long, and are fairly common in Southern Kenya.

Next stop? If you’re still hungry for adventure, consider making your way to Tanzania’s Northern Circuit or South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

Elephants on African Safari in Namibia

Best for photographers: Namibia

Why? Known for its desert habitat, the harsh environment of Namibia forms one of the most stunning backdrops for a unique and different safari. Though animal populations are smaller, the sightings are hugely rewarding, particularly with the contrasting colours of the land, sky, salt plains and waterholes. In essence, it’s a photographers dream.

How?  The 13 vastly different parks and reserves provide a number of safari options. We recommend spending a couple of days at Etosha National Park, renowned for its excellent wildlife viewing during the dry season, as well as Sossusvlei, home to incredible giant red sand dunes.

When? You’ll no doubt take some incredible photos year round, however if you are particularly interested in wildlife viewing, head there between July to late October.

Rhinos on an African Safari

While you’re there: Be sure to take some time out to visit the famous Skeleton Coast – a majestic stretch of beach strewn with rusted shipwrecks and bleached whale bones. For one of the most impressive natural beauties Namibia has to offer, head to Fish River Canyon – you won’t be disappointed.

Highlights: Keep an eye out for the elusive black rhino, hordes of gemsbok and of course, the endearing meerkat.

Next stop? Take a flight to Madagascar, once labelled as the world's most photogenic country with one of the world's richest ecosystems that boasts 90% of the known species of lemur. An encounter with the majestic mountain gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda is one of life's most amazing experiences. Or if interested in other photographic opportunities, the dramatic mountains and fascinating tribal groups of Ethiopia will be sure to delight.

Cheetah on African Safari

Best for families: South Africa

Why? Aside from the huge bonus that South Africa is malaria-free, you’ll also find South Africa has a huge range of additional activities that can make for an incredible varied holiday. The family-friendly game reserves, beautiful beaches and vibrant cities make it a perfect destination to get your safari fix along with a truly South African holiday experience.

How? Kruger is the flagship park, not only because it has a huge variety of wildlife, but also because it’s the size of a small country. You’ll see the Big 5 in large numbers here, but ensure you stay long enough to get the most out of this beautiful area.

When? Unlike some of the other parks, you can take a safari in South Africa year round. Whether you love or loath summer, keep in mind that between November and March it's the hottest and sunniest months to visit.

African Safari WIlderbeest

While you’re there: Don’t miss a trip to Cape Town, home of the famous Table Mountain! Other must-visit areas include the African continent's most southwesterly tip at the Cape of Good Hope, a nostalgic trip to Robben Island, and a journey along the stunningly beautiful Garden Route. For those short on time, a Cape Township tour is a great introduction to this pleasant, intriguing and ultimately inspiring town.

Highlights: Without a doubt, seeing the Big 5 will make for a unforgettable trip with memories to last a lifetime. Marine life lovers will also be captivated at Boulders Bay, home to a colony of penguins.

Next stop? A trip in Africa is never complete without visiting Tanzania, home to the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro. Also consider Namibia, famous for its desert landscape and incredible photography opportunities.

African Safari Lion

Best for diversity: Tanzania

Why? In a nutshell, Tanzania is the top wildlife destination in Africa. The wildlife-rich areas of the Northern Circuit, Serengeti and Ngorogoro Crater offer a classic safari that is almost unbeatable with regards to diversity of animals. As an added bonus, the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro is a perfect backdrop for photographers, and the annual wildebeest migration is not to be missed.

How? A spare two weeks can get you into the Northern Safari Circuit, which will take you through the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks.

When? If you’re busting to see the annual migration, head to the northern areas of Tanzania between May and July and late October to November. Otherwise, you won’t be disappointed with the Serengeti from December to February or May to October – it’s absolutely teeming with wildlife.

Wilderbeest on African Safari

While you’re there: Why not climb Mount Kilimanjaro - the tallest freestanding mountain in the world? Also, Tanzania’s ultimate coastal island is Zanzibar – renowned for its stunning beaches and historical “old town”.

Highlights: The Serengeti’s annual migration is an unforgettable sight and not to be missed. Just picture: two million wilderbeest and zebra blanketing the African plains.

Next stop? Take a trip along the lush waterways of the Okavango Delta or a walking safari in Botswana. For a completely different vibe, visit the stark saltpans of the Kalahari, recognised for its moon-like landscape. Or combine with the Masai Mara in Kenya, and the mountain gorillas and golden monkeys in Rwanda for an unforgettable East Africa safari experience.

Giraffes on African Safari

Why you should avoid Mongolia's Eagle Hunting Festival

As part of our continued drive to ensure our adventures adhere to the strictest standards of animal welfare, we have removed the eagle hunting festival from our Mongolia program.

The decision was taken in consultation with World Animal Protection, the leading organisation that assists in our company’s comprehensive Animal Welfare Code of Conduct.

Although it is not our place to pass judgement on the long-held cultural tradition of eagle hunting in Mongolia, it is our place to remove tourism activities from our program that do not adhere to the principals of animal welfare,

World Expeditions Responsible Travel Manager, Donna Lawrence, says.

"The eagle hunting festival is a spectacle for tourists and the welfare of the eagles and their prey at the festival does not adhere to the universally accepted ‘Five Freedoms’ of animal welfare on which our animal welfare Code of Conduct is based."

Although the concept of the eagle hunting has cultural origins, the festival was first conceived in 1999 with the purpose of boosting tourism, according to World Animal Protection Senior Wildlife and Veterinary Advisor, Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach.

“The festival is a comparatively new event designed to attract tourism and the commercial aspect of the festival has unfortunately led to negative impacts on the welfare and the conservation of the eagles.”

A local eagle hunter, Mongolia |  <i>Cam Cope</i>Eagles are often used for hunting in Mongolia's steppe. Image: Cam Cope

How to experience Mongolia responsibly

Mongolia's expansive landscapes, rich history and cultural diversity makes the country a unique and magnetic place to explore. From the remote corners of the Gobi Desert to steppe grasslands, here are ways you can still enjoy your big adventure with a small footprint:

 •  Encounter diverse nomad communities and stay overnight in a family's ger, a circular felt tent used by nomadic people, for a fantastic cultural experience. In line with our Thoughtful Travel practices, we provide opportunities for travellers to interact with local people, so that knowledge is shared and the culture is understood and appreciated.

 •  Catch a performance of traditional Mongolian folk dance, music and throat singing in Ulaanbaatar

 •  Don’t miss the Naadam Festival, the country’s biggest annual party, where you can experience traditional costumes, dance, music, food and religious ceremonies, as well as watch local men and women compete in a huge two-day tournament of the country’s traditional sports.

 •  Camp under the stars in the open steppe and mountains on a fully supported trek. This is a great way to avoid overtourism hot spots, to immerse in nature and to seek a more remote adventure.

 •  Travel to remote frontiers by bike or on foot and learn about the nomadic culture in Western Mongolia. Know that the carbon footprint from your trip in Mongolia will be offset at no additional cost to you to support Positive Impact Projects that protect wildlife and help provide clean energy for communities. 

 •  Get back to nature and discover the Altai Mountain region, tracking and spotting wild mountain goats.

 •  Visit Khustain National Park, home of the takhi (Mongolian wild horse), or the Terelj National Park for horseback riding or a day hike. Instances where horses and camels are used, make sure they are hired from local people who manage the care and welfare of the animals. Our programs adhere to these as per our Animal Welfare Code of Conduct.

 •  Explore the ruins of Karakorum, the 13th century capital of Genghis Khan's Mongol empire and a significant city in the history of the Silk Road. It is set in the beautiful Orkhon Valley.

 •  Visit a wealth of petroglyphs, standing stones, and grave sites from the ancient past.

 

 

Authentic and realistic insight into Mongolia's open spaces and nomadic lifestyle lend themselves to an unforgettable outdoor experience. View our Mongolia adventures >

Published 19 June 2019.

Traveller stories: Vietnam to Laos by bike

Cycling close to 500km, it was 10 days of encountering locals, soaking in the tranquillity of the countryside and immersing in the enchanting village life of Laotians. Getting there by bike added to a fun and rewarding experience, but it did prove to be strenuous at times. (Thankfully a support vehicle was nearby which we used to our advantage!)

Here are my day-to-day accounts from my two-wheel adventure from Hanoi to Luang Prabang.

Day 1: Hanoi, Vietnam – a welcoming dinner

After a short briefing with our World Expeditions tour guide, Hang, we left for dinner in the home of a local family who lived near the central rail station in an area once heavily bombed during the war. The food was excellent and copious – spring rolls, cha ca fish (a Hanoi speciality), tofu, fried chicken, and something a bit like dolmades, as well as some home brewed rice spirit.

Our host clearly loved entertaining visitors (our guide translated), where they played their homemade instruments and sang for us. It was a real treat, and a taste of things to come.

Cyclists geared up and ready to set off from Hanoi to remote villages |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

Day 2: Hanoi to Ba Vi National Park – leaving the bustling city behind

We were fitted with our mountain bikes with its 27 gears and set off at a fast pace following Hang along the dyke road through a populated area of Hanoi. Not surprisingly, we had two close calls – one where we were almost side swiped by a motorbike coming from a side street, and another where one of the cyclists knocked a bamboo tray of food out of the hands of a woman walking out of a doorway without looking.

In no time at all, we left the busy part of the city behind and continued towards the west on the main road. We passed through a village known as a carpenters’ village. It seemed quite flat, but as we were going mostly along the banks of the Red River, it was a continuous and gentle incline. It was so nice to be outside Hanoi, but the landscape was flat and not very inspiring. The villages were interesting though.

We stopped for lunch in a village café, enjoying noodles and vegetables. Kristen, my fellow traveller, demonstrated her adeptness at communicating with locals and very soon had the owner of the restaurant ready to marry her off to a local! The owner’s late husband had served during the war and had been absent for 10 years as he was exposed to agent Orange, the aftereffects of which were evident in one of her four sons.

We continued the almost flat road for approximately 55 kilometres until we reached a national park. Though it was a pretty steep climb!

It was five kilometres up to head to our accommodation located inside the park, but we managed about one and a half kilometres before putting our bikes on the truck and driving up the rest of the way. The Ba Vi Resort (a popular pick for the locals in the wet season) was set in a backdrop of beautiful trees, but the resort’s French/Soviet style was dated.

Day 3: Ba Vi to Da Bia – a scenic reservoir and 60km of hard biking

We drove down the hill and along a busy road to the river, where the truck and van let us set of on our own two wheels along the river for about 20 kilometres, before hopping on a little long boat to cross the river. We climbed from the boat landing up to a village and then continued our way – mostly uphill. It proved to be a very hard day with lots of hills and we were not well prepared for them, but the truck and van were there to support us, and we took advantage.

Biking around a reservoir that reminded us of Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand, but with no tourists or tourist facilities, I felt that we were truly isolated and remote. It was lovely to pass friendly villagers with young ones greeting, ‘Hello’. The biking was hard but scenic.

Enjoying scenic water views in isolated parts of Da Bia |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

After about 60 kilometres of hard biking, everyone got in the van as we were at least 20 kilometres away from our night’s accommodation, a home stay next to a huge reservoir. Here, we were amongst the Muang people and stayed in a typical Muang house – wooden, very open, on stilts with living downstairs and sleeping upstairs. Dinner was cooked by the family and consisted of a variety of dishes – fish (deep fried and overcooked), tofu, chicken pieces, vegetables, French fries, squash and rice.

Staying at a traditional Muong house by a host family |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

The home stay was in a lovely location, but the sleeping floor upstairs was a little cramped. With another tour group, approximately 13 people slept in a room, with mattresses laid on the floor under mosquito nets. Roosters seemed to crow all night, and of course there were snorers.

Day 4: Da Bia to Pu Luong – a valley carpeted in rice fields

We started the day with an hour’s transfer in a long boat to the other side of the reservoir, enjoying the stunning scenery of layered hills, which looked blue in the hazy light and passed an island where locals were harvesting tapioca.

Boat transfer across the river to cycle Laos' backroads |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

After the boat ride, we climbed up and up as we left the reservoir behind. We reached the top of the hill near a busy town and intersection, from there we headed downhill for about four kilometres along a busy road before turning off into a paradise of limestone karsts, rice paddies, and tidy villages of wooden houses on stilts.

We were led by Hang along small country roads, through villages and rice paddy borders, and passed communal clothes washing and bathing areas.

We stopped at a wooden house and Hang organised for us to be invited in. Our host was a 91-year-old woman who sat ably on the floor. Her teeth were lacquered black, but her eyes were bright, and she seemed alert.

Her home where she lives with her husband, daughter and grandchildren had a big room upstairs for sleeping and a kitchen area to the side with an open fireplace for cooking, but no running water inside nor a fridge. There were two TVs in the big living/sleeping area though.

After our village and rice paddy detour, we arrived at Mai Chau. Cottages were hemmed in the hills, with many shops selling souvenirs and restaurants aplenty – and tourists.
We stopped at a bar with a lookout over the karsts and rice paddies and had drinks – a beer and a mango and papaya smoothie (with a taste of condensed milk).

Then we were off again. Initially we went on a cross country track past some cows, hotels under construction and a cement works, however we then got back onto a very muddy country road where there was some road repairs and trucks. We knew the last part of the day was a long climb, so as soon as an ascent started, we decided to stop biking and take the van. It was indeed a long climb and very high.

At the top, we travelled on our bikes again for a great descent through villages to our remote resort for the night, part way down the mountain.

Our accommodation had a dining area – all open, a swimming pool and numerous cabins for sleeping. It also had an extraordinary view of the mountain hills. Our cabin was like the home stay – upstairs in a wooden house on stilts and a common sleeping room, but much more spacious with curtain dividers and the toilets and showers were closer to our accommodation and more numerous (four toilets and four showers). The design of the bathrooms and the cleanliness was impressive. After showering and washing some clothes, we had a drink with Hang. It seemed strange and was sad that our Vietnam leg of the tour was almost finished.

Day 5: Pu Luong to Vieng Xai, Laos – the hidden route through scenic landscapes

After a reasonable night’s sleep – no roosters but a bit of snoring – we got up for our last day of cycling in Vietnam, taking off with speed. We had 20 kilometres to do for the day and Hang was under pressure to get us to the border by midday.

The first part, of about seven kilometres, was downhill through magical sceneries of villages and layers of karsts above a mist. Such a pity to go so fast. The remainder of the journey was relatively flat but fast – we must have been doing about 25 kilometres per hour.

Saying our goodbyes to our truck driver, who had been super helpful and cheerful, we hopped in the van for the border.

The drive is about 2 hours, but it took longer due to some roadworks. Once we made it to the immigration border, we had our passports stamped and bid adieu to Hang and our van driver. Hang is a terrific guide and it was sad to say thanks and goodbye.

We then crossed no man’s land – a long walk over a bridge with about 200 metres on each side. I was worried that the Laotian immigration wouldn’t be open, and we would be stuck in no man’s land, but an official came running across to the office when we appeared and started the process of organising our visas on arrival. This took about 15-20 minutes, after the payment of $36 USD each – one dollar more than anticipated as it was the weekend.

We met our guide, Lee and driver, Mr Sit and made our way to Vieng Xai on the worst road I’ve ever experienced. We were remote – almost no villages, but the road was so rough due to lots of landslides.

That night we went to dinner at the local Indian restaurant run by a Bengali man and his wife. The food was excellent and enjoyed a nice change from noodles, eggs and fried rice. We had aubergine curry, fish curry and dahl, topped with an excellent cardamom rice pudding dessert.

The owners had been in Laos for 10 years after his mining job finished, running the restaurant in an old wooden shack. The husband’s eyes lit up when I asked about the Indian cricket team currently playing in Australia. I was overwhelmed at their bravery and persistence. It was sad to leave Vietnam and the Vietnamese team, but we were ready for our Laotian adventure.

Day 6: Vieng Xai to Sam Nuea – exploring Cave City

We toured the caves used by the Pathet Lao (The red army of Laos) during the bombing by the Americans. It was a great tour, highly informative and distressing at the same time. More bombs were dropped on Laos by the Americans than were dropped during the Second World War! The Laotians called it the secret war. Today still, one Laotian dies per day from unexploded ordnances.

Cave tour in Vieng Xai |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

We visited three caves: that of the Red Prince, that of the army commander and future prime minister, and the infantry cave. The last one was enormous, with three big bomb craters outside. The first two had lovely gardens with lots of begonias, frangipanis and fig trees.

After our tour, we got fitted for our bikes and took off. Our first day of biking in Laos was a ‘rest day’, so we had only 35 kilometres to do, but it was hard biking. We got to our destination early afternoon and had lunch in a cafe near the bridge. The hotel was nice – quite new, lots of shiny tiles and interesting decor.

I spent the afternoon exploring the area, walking through the market, and went across a rickety pedestrian bridge to find an ATM and the Vietnamese restaurant which had been recommended. More fried rice and two big bottles of beer came to approximately $10.

Day 7:  Sam Nuea to Muang Hiem – entering Laos’ ethnically diverse area

Post-breakfast – which was eggs (oh yes, more eggs), a bit of cheese, 3- in-1 coffee, bread rolls and bananas – we had a quick tour of the market. Dead rats and squirrels for sale.

Local village markets in Laos |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

We had a huge distance to cover this day – mostly by driving. The biking was challenging, very mountainous but beautiful. The best part was passing through villages and all the children waving and saying ‘sabadee’.

We stopped for lunch on the side of the road at the top of a pass, sitting on the ground and having noodles, salad with a coconut milk sauce and barbequed eggplants. The team ate buffalo bits (tripe and bones bits). They travelled with their own rice cooker, and like all Laotians loved sticky rice.

Lunch stop en route to Muang Hiem |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

We arrived in our guest house about 5pm and it was away from the main street and overlooking some fields. It was okay, but it had the usual dodgy plumbing of Southeast Asia where some of the waste from the sink went onto the floor.

Across the road we had dinner – more fried rice, eggs and beer. The owner’s children were in a corner watching nursery rhymes in English including ‘Jingle Bells’. We sang along and it was a nice reminder of Christmas back home.

Day 8: Muang Hiem to Muang Viengkham – local encounters

This was another long day of biking and long-distance driving. We passed more mountains, villagers, buffalo, cows and villages. We were getting tired. The scenery was still special though and the villages remote and poor.

The villagers were fascinated by our bikes, especially Kristen’s as she uses cleats.

After a lot of hard biking, we got in the van to finish the distance to the night’s accommodation on rough road. We arrived at a nice, clean guesthouse with a decent bathroom guesthouse at about 5pm. We had dinner cooked by the guesthouse owner, a very elegant Laotian woman. The food was good, but it was the usual noodles and eggs – and Laotian beer.

Day 9: Muang Viengkham to Nong Khiaw – the best mountain scenery and a luxurious night’s stay

We started our day with lovely breakfast on the terrace outside our rooms, enjoying fruit, green soybean cakes and rice flour omelette with a sweet sauce.
I have to say, today had the best scenery of the trip, but also had the longest climb of about 30 kilometres. We set out thinking that we would do as much as possible after all we had done well in the hill climbs the previous day.

We amazingly managed 25 kilometres. I was so pleased and wish I’d persisted and finished it.

Just before we finished, I had two little boys on their way home from school at lunchtime running up the hill beside me and at one stage pushing me by hitting my back wheel.

Taking a break while chatting with the locals |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

Lower on the mountains, we were among the Kmeu tribe. Higher up, we were back among Hmong people, who do not have windows in their houses due to the high altitude. Both tribal groups live in wooden houses on stilts.

Our lunch stop at Hmong had some interesting sights, including a young girl carrying a few dead rats on a string. There were some for sale in the shops too.

After lunch, we took off downhill and stopped at a spectacular lookout over the surrounding mountains.

Enjoying stunning vistas before heading into a small town in Laos |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

As we got closer to our final destination for the night, Nong Khiaw, a popular tourist destination. The environment changed – more traffic, better houses and some swimming pools for tourists.

Driving up to our accommodation at the Viewpoint Hotel, World Expeditions certainly saved the best for last – we were in luxury! It was a new hotel with a spectacular vista of the river, town and mountainscapes. We enjoyed happy hour in town and went to an Indian restaurant, the Chennai, for thali. The local Lao Lao whiskey helped us walk easily up the hill to get to our hotel (or maybe we were just really fit after all the biking).

Day 10: Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang – the final day

We headed off for a 60-kilometre ride before lunch. My bum and hips hurt after the exertion of the previous day. The ride was simple though – down a valley, close to the river and undulating.

Taking in stunning views from above |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

We had coffee in a café near the turn-off to the main road that goes between Laos and Vietnam. It was clear that we were back in civilisation with enormous trucks on the road.

After our 60kms, we stopped at a roadside restaurant and had some exceptional noodles – one that the team had bought at a market and some really spicy handmade pho. We then said goodbye to our truck driver and our bikes, and with Mr Sit and Lee, we continued to drive by the river, Nam Om towards the Mekong.

The road was a mess as the Chinese are building dams along the river, including near Mr Sit’s childhood home. Many houses and villages will be lost to the flooding.

We arrived at a weaving village, Ban Nayang, and went straight to our long boat to cross the Mekong to visit the Pak Ou cave (which means mouth of the river). The caves are interesting but the boat ride on the Mekong was magnificent, especially when it was close to sunset.

Mekong River crossing |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

At Luang Prabang, we were driven to our accommodation and said our sad goodbyes to Mr Sit and Lee. What a magical journey and what a privilege to access villages and locals in remote Laos!

Words and photos by Sandra Hopkins who travelled on our Hanoi to Luang Prabang by Bike trip in December 2018. Follow more of Sandra’s recent travels at her blog.

Tanzania's plastic ban: what travellers need to know

As of June 2019, plastic bags are not allowed in Tanzania, as the country steps up in the global movement against single plastic use.

Special desks will be designated at border posts and airports for travellers entering the country to surrender their plastic bags. The strict government initiative hopes to cut down on plastic waste in the country and to help preserve the natural beauty of Tanzania.

The United Republic of Tanzania released a notice for travellers wishing to visit the country that "all plastic carriers, regardless of their thickness, will be prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used in Mainland Tanzania."

Visitors must avoid carrying or using plastic carrier bags for items in their suitcase or in their hand luggage. However, ziplock bags specifically used to carry toiletries are permitted as they are expected to remain the permanent possession of visitors and to not be disposed of in Tanzania.

When you arrive into Tanzania carrying items in a plastic bag, customs and immigration will confiscate the bag. We suggest bringing a few cloth carry bags or stuff sacks (which pack down to nothing) from home to store your personal items and laundry.

Tanzania is not the first African country to take a step towards removing plastic bags.  It follows Kenya, Mali, Cameroon, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, South Africa, Rwanda and Botswana, all of which have already either banned plastic bags completely or now charge a tax on them.

The plastic waste issue for African countries is serious.  At one stage, it was suggested South Africa had named the plastic bag its national flower, since there were so many bags littering their landscape.

This situation is not new and many countries across the globe are slowly following suit. So far, 65 countries have imposed bans and another 31 countries impose a tax per bag.

The Earth Policy Institute estimates that a trillion plastic bags are used throughout the world each year.

Fast facts: the plastic issue

Plastic bags are made from polyethylene, which almost always comes from some form of fossil fuel.  Although shopping bags are recyclable in the short term, many pollute our landscapes and waterways, blocking drains and sewerage pipes and killing marine animals. Longer term, plastic bags never break down fully, remaining micro plastics, which release toxins into the environment, to be ingested by animals and entering the human food chain. 


How to reduce your plastic use when you travel

Countries around the world vary in their commitment to ban plastic bags, but you can make a difference to the war on plastic bags when you travel. Travel with reusable bags, so when you are offered a plastic bag you can politely refuse. Consumer sentiment cannot be underestimated in the drive to minimize plastic. Read these eight ways to avoid plastic use when you travel.

Another action that can make a difference is to collect plastic bags that blemish the natural landscape and end up in waterways, removing them from the environment and finding a responsible method of disposal, such as a recycling plant.

World Expeditions' 10 Pieces program has been encouraging trekkers in many destinations to collect paper and plastic litter from trails.  Since February 2018, on Mount Kilimanjaro, for example, more than 110 trekkers have volunteered to participate in the program with plastic bags being the number one item collected.

Litter that is collected by trekkers is carried off the mountain by porters and handed over to National Park Rangers for proper disposal. The initiative has even encouraged other people on treks to follow suit in picking up rubbish.

A small effort can collectively make a huge difference by placing the issue at hand in the spotlight by helping educate mountain communities on the negative consequences of litter for the benefit  and the health of their animals and people.

Written by Donna Lawrence, the Responsible Travel Manager at World Expeditions.

Inside the first class yacht Solaris: Galapagos cruising

Chartered for the Galapagos Islands in January 2020, experience first class cruising as you explore the most exceptional and remote landmarks of the island's archipelago, including Bartolomé (for spectacular panoramic views), the 'cathedral' rock of San Cristóbal and Española Island's iconic blow hole, in comfort.

The first class Solaris yacht boasts private facilities, air-conditioning and ocean views in every cabin, as well as full board meals and free use of snorkelling gear for your outdoor water adventures.

Inside the cabins

Swipe to view more images.

Triple, double and single cabin rooms on the main deck and upper deck

Double cabin 1 on the main deck of Solaris Double cabin 1 on the upper deck of Solaris Double cabin 7 on the main deck of Solaris Single cabin 6 on the main deck of Solaris Single cabin 5 on the main deck of Solaris Single cabin 6 on the main deck of Solaris Suite cabin views aboard Solaris Suit on the upper deck of Solaris Suite cabin views aboard Solaris Triple cabin 2 on the upper deck of Solaris

Bathrooms views in suite cabin rooms

Bathroom views aboard Solaris Bathroom facilities aboard Solaris Bathroom views in the Suite Cabin aboard Solaris

Limited to 16 passengers, the vessel provides a more intimate nature experience with ample space to relax and enjoy the scenery – from the luxurious sundeck to the outside bar, or from your spacious cabin.

On-board social areas

Indoor social lounge, bar and dinning room

Lounge area aboard Solaris Lounge views aboard Solaris Lounge area aboard Solaris Views of the bar area aboard Solaris Dinning Area view aboard Solaris Dinning Area aboard Solaris

Outdoor shaded rested area

Shaded resting area aboard Solaris Shaded resting area aboard Solaris Shaded resting area aboard Solaris
 

Sundeck space

 
Beautiful views on the sundeck aboard Solaris Sundeck views aboard Solaris

Timed to experience the best of the archipelago – including when its wildlife is most active, join this exclusive charter to the Galapagos Islands in January 2020.

Exterior views of Solaris

Everest Base Camp Trek FAQs

Planning on trekking to the base of the world's tallest mountain? Here is a great starting point.

Whether you want to know when is the best time to go, how fit you need to be on trek or want a clear overview of trip inclusions, find answers to our most frequently asked questions from our adventurous staff, guides and mountain experts right here. So, sit back, dive in and start planning the trek of your lifetime.

Jump to a section:
How difficult is the trek? How many hours a day do you walk?
Is it very steep?
Do you need good shoes?
Do you have any training programs for the trek?
Do many people have issues acclimatising?
What happens in case of an emergency?
What is the accommodation like?
What is the food like on the trek?
Where can I have a shower?
Where can I charge my phone on the way?
Where is Wi-Fi available?
When is the best time to trek to Everest Base Camp?
Do I get to stay overnight at Everest Base Camp?
What is the average size of the group?
How big is the staff crew?
15kg isn’t much, how do I pack lightly?
Can I take my own down jacket or sleeping bag?
Can I leave my excess gear in Kathmandu?
Is it culturally appropriate to wear shorts or leggings?
What else can I do in Kathmandu? Can I do any other short walks?
Why do I need to tip, can’t it be included in the trip price? What is the process for tipping?
Where can I exchange my money?
With so many trekking companies around, how do I choose the right one for me?

How difficult is the trek? How many hours a day do you walk?

The Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek is very achievable for people who are prepared to put in the work prior to departure. The trek is exactly that: a walk. There are no technical elements to the journey, just one foot in front of the other; the key is not to rush and to take your time.

Staff tip: “If you are positive and know you are going to trek for 14 odd days, then you can push your body. Often trekking difficulty is 70% mentality.”

Our Everest Base Camp & Kala Pattar trek is graded moderate, meaning that you generally won’t exceed eight hours of activity in a day. Some days can vary from 4-5 hours a day to just 2-3 hours, however, there will be sections where you are challenged. If you do the training you go into the trek positive, that’s more than half the battle.

Everest Base Camp trek informationCrossing a bridge on the way to Everest Base Camp

Is it very steep?

For our Everest Base Camp & Kala Pattar trek, travellers should be comfortable with occasional rough terrain, but expect long steep climbs. So, some days could include ascents and descents of 500 metres or more. Remember: speed isn’t important, stamina, confidence and continuity are.

Do you need good shoes?

Yes! And don’t forget quality socks. Happy feet equal a happy trekker, so seek out an outdoor and gear store that will help you get well-fitted, suitable, durable and comfortable shoes that’ll last in the long run.

The Australian gear experts at Paddy Pallin shared their recommendations on choosing the right hiking boots in this blog post.

Do you have any training programs for the trek?

We don’t specify detailed training programs as it is difficult to recommend a general program that applies to everyone. The training you should do to prepare for your EBC trek depends on your current level of fitness and any medical conditions. We suggest that you exercise a minimum of five times per week, an hour each time, doing activities such as hill walking, cycling, running and strength work.

To get a general idea of how to prepare for a trek, this trek training guide with advice from high altitude mountaineer Soren Kruse Ledet may come in handy.

 
 

Do many people have issues acclimatising?

Altitude sickness can vary for each individual; however, we’ve found that including carefully timed acclimatisation days scheduled into the trek has helped trekkers acclimatise.

Nevertheless, during the acclimatisation process, you may experience some of the following symptoms:
 • Headache
 • Tiredness
 • Disturbed sleep
 • Loss of appetite/nausea
 • Shortness of breath
 • Cough
 • Palpitation
 • Swelling of the hands and face

All our group leaders have extensive first aid training and we urge you to communicate with the group leader at all times should you believe you have any symptoms in order that we can effectively monitor you.

Some tips to consider include taking your time, trekking at a slow and steady pace, and staying hydrated are important in reducing the effects of altitude sickness. Our trek leaders continually monitor travellers and ensure everyone is drinking plenty of fluids – continually replenishing drink bottles with clean drinking water, providing morning and afternoon tea, and offering juice for some electrolyte kick.

Read more about the importance of hydration at altitude from Dr Ross Anderson, the medical advisor for World Expeditions.

Staff tip: “Hike high, sleep low. This saying is one our leaders and guides follow when trekking at high altitudes. Our treks are structured so that you ascend slowly, allowing acclimatisation to occur.”

What happens in case of an emergency?

There are limited medical facilities on the route, but our guides carry a full medical kit and are trained extensively on how to use it. We also carry portable altitude chambers, which are useful if someone is suffering from AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) but cannot be evacuated due to bad weather.

Emergencies are dealt with by the guide, who must pass a medical course each year. This course is run by our UK-based doctor who travels annually to Kathmandu to run the training course.

The safety of our travellers and crew is our number one priority. If a fellow trekker in your group needs to descend, then an assistant guide would go with them. We have lots of support staff on the trek, so the person descending would be well looked after, and won’t impact on the rest of the group’s experience. In a serious case, evacuation would be by helicopter.

What is the accommodation like?

You’ll want to make sure you have a good night’s sleep when on trek and our eco campsites provide the comfort, warmth and privacy for a tranquil camping experience with – paired with superb mountain views.


Inside our standing height tents are off-the-ground beds with clean mattresses and pillows. At the campsites, you’ll have composting or flushing western-style sit-down toilets, hand basins, and a windowed dining room with eco-friendly heating.

The nights in our private campsites will be complemented by nights in our hand-picked eco lodges that align with our responsible tourism practices. These lodges use a mix of cow/yak dung/solar and generators for power.

Everest Base Camp private Eco Camp - World ExpeditionsOur private eco camp at Dingboche

What is the food like on the trek?

You’ll have a full-time personal cook and assistant on-hand to prepare a creative menu under strict hygiene standards using almost all fresh ingredients. There’s always plenty to go around and you can help yourself to seconds or even thirds!

 

Every day is different but here is a sample of one day’s menu on the trail.

Breakfast: Tea served in your tent, coffee or hot chocolate, porridge or a grain cereal, toast with spreads, eggs (fried, omelette or boiled) and tomatoes, boiled water.
Lunch: Juice, potatoes, cucumber and carrot salad, cheese and gherkins, chapatis, pizza, canned tuna and meats, fresh oranges and bananas, boiled water.
Dinner: Soup, steamed vegetables, rice, fried chicken, daal, spaghetti, chocolate cake, fresh apples, tea or hot chocolate, boiled water.

Unlike most companies, World Expeditions includes a full meal service as part of the trip price that lowers the risks to you and safeguards your health.

 

When is the best time to trek to Everest Base Camp?

The trekking season for Everest Base Camp runs from mid-September to May. October is traditionally the most popular time for this trek, when the views are great, and temperatures are not too extreme. But we also get many travellers enjoying the colder winter season (Dec/Jan) when numbers on the trail are lower and skies are clearer for that Instagram-worthy photo.

We always get a lot of interest in our treks over Christmas and New Year’s, as it is an exciting way to spend the holiday season and minimises the days you need to use from your holiday allowance. If you trek during the winter season, you need to be prepared with the right clothing for potentially low temperatures, but we provide good quality down jackets, down sleeping bags and fleece sleeping bag liners to keep you cosy.

Everest Base Camp trek information by signboards, Nepal HimalayaEverest Base Camp trek information: turn right to the camp

As you head towards March and April, the temperatures get warmer and you’ll be in the thick of the activity at base camp as the big expeditions get ready to summit. While some days can be a little hazier (in the lead up to the monsoon period) with cloud build up often in the afternoon, usually the peaks are clear in the morning.

Every month of the trekking season has something to offer in Nepal, so it can be difficult to choose when to go. You can read our in-depth post on the pros and cons of trekking for each season.

Do I get to stay overnight at Everest Base Camp?

Our Everest Base Camp trek does not stay overnight at base camp. To sleep at base camp requires special permits which are very expensive. Instead, you stay at Gorak Shep where you walk into base camp for a day trip.

Where can I have a shower?

Some campsites and eco lodges have hot showers at some facilities in the Everest region, which are powered by hydro or solar panels. These locations are: Ghat, Namche, Deboche, Dingboche, Lobuche, Dole, Machhermo and Gokyo. A small cost of between 300‑650 Nepali rupees is payable to utilise this service, subject to availability.

Most, but not all, World Expeditions trips in the Everest region visit one of more of these locations. Refer to your itinerary to see which campsites you’ll be visiting on your trek.

Where can I charge my phone on the way?

Some accommodations have charging stations available for small electronic devices such as phones, cameras and battery packs, but will often come at an additional cost should you wish to use the power. This can range from 200-600 rupees, depending on how far you are from the power grid.

These following locations have electricity available:
 • Ghat
 • Monjo (Not at our campsite, but you can charge in nearby tea house)
 • Namche
 • Deboche
 • Dingboche (Not at our campsite, but you can charge in nearby tea house)
 • Lobuche (Solar charging facility)
 • Gorak Shep (Solar charging facility)
 • Lukla

We recommend you consider purchasing portable power banks or solar chargers for phone charging.

Yaks in Namche Bazaar on World Expeditions Everest Base Camp trekYaks in the streets of Namche Bazaar on our trek to Everest Base Camp

Where is Wi-Fi available?

You can get Wi-Fi access at Namche, Dingboche, Lobuche, Gorak Shep and Lukla. Again, some locations may charge a small cost for its use.

What is the average size of the group?

Groups can vary between 6 to 16 travellers, who are typically are a mix of individuals, couples or friends travelling together who have a shared interest in outdoor adventure and nature. Ages differ from people in their 20's up to their 70's from all nationalities. The Everest Base Camp & Kala Pattar trek is a highly popular trip with all dates guaranteed to depart.

How big is the staff crew?

You will typically have a main guide, plus four assistant guides, a sirdar (who manages the porters), porters, cooks and camp hands that join you on your Everest Base Camp trek.

15kg isn’t much, how do I pack lightly?

While we’ve increased the check-in allowance for our travellers from 10kg to 15kg on internal flights to Lukla, choosing between carrying an extra pair of trekking pants or a solar charger can get tricky.

Choose lightweight and quick drying clothing, stick with one good outer layer and warm jacket and balance that with enough base and inner layers. You’ll be surprised to find how many days you can wear a quality base layer or a pair of hiking socks.

Staff tip: “I encourage people to ditch the many toiletries and products. Take one biodegradable soap that can be shampoo, body wash, hand wash, and laundry wash all-in-one. I used a biodegradable shampoo for this (an organic brand that was affordable from the supermarket) and it worked great. I have dry sensitive skin and I use it at home as well. Also, there’s no need for makeup or hairspray, go natural, it’s so liberating!”

While you get 20kg all up (15kg check-in and 5kg hand carry), keep in mind that your provided kit bags – which include a down jacket, sleeping bag, liner, and the bag itself – comes in at around 5-6kg and should be counted in the above allowance.

Staff tip: “Lay out your items, cull it back, then cull it back again – just because it fits, doesn't mean you should take it.”

Read more gear tips from our blog.

Can I take my own down jacket or sleeping bag?

Yes. When collecting your World Expeditions kit bag, let your trek leader known that you have your own down jacket or sleeping bag and they will remove the provided gear from your kit bag.

Can I leave my excess gear in Kathmandu?

Yes. You can leave your other gear and luggage bag at our World Expeditions desk at the Radisson Hotel, which will be safely stowed away.

Is it culturally appropriate to wear shorts or leggings?

Dress modestly. For those who wish to wear shorts, make sure the shorts cover your knees. For those that are comfortable in leggings, have a long top over them.
Remember, we are guests passing through these villages. Local people may feel embarrassed, for themselves and for you, if you dress inappropriately.

Staff tip: “Just because you see other people wear a particular clothing item a certain way doesn’t make it okay. Foreigners trampling over local etiquette and making it “okay” by sheer numbers does not make it acceptable.”

A pre-departure kit is provided when you book with World Expeditions which list cultural considerations.

What else can I do in Kathmandu? Can I do any other short walks?

You can visit other places in the Kathmandu Valley like Patan, Bhaktapur, Kirtipur, Dhulikel or Chitwan (for a wildlife safari) – we can help arrange this. If you’re after a walk, you can head to Nagarkot or Langtang.

Read our 10 things to do in Kathmandu blog post for some ideas.

Everest Base Camp trek information - start in Kathmandu, NepalYour Everest Base Camp trek will start and finish in Nepal's capital Kathmandu

Why do I need to tip, can’t it be included in the trip price? What is the process for tipping?

Tipping is generally expected and culturally prevalent in Nepal; this includes in Kathmandu and on your trek. It is a gesture to personally thank the local people for their efforts and service.

If your group thinks that the local staff have done an outstanding job and you wish to demonstrate your appreciation, then a tip from the group would be greatly appreciated. At the end of the trek, your leader will collect what you wish to give and will distribute it fairly amongst the crew at a final evening celebration where each individual crew member is acknowledged and thanked.

 

On trek, your leader and staff receive a good living wage for Nepal and are paid on completion of the trip. We don’t include tipping in the cost of the trip because if we did and paid it on your behalf, the crew would not regard it as an expression of your satisfaction. A tipping guideline is provided in your pre-departure kit.

Where can I exchange my money?

There are a number of stores you can exchange money just down the street from the Raddison Hotel in Kathmandu. You can also choose to exchange your currency in Thamel.

For those leaving from Australia, you can only exchange your AUD or USD currency to Nepalese rupees (NPR) in Nepal. The Nepalese Rupee is different to the Indian Rupee, and the Government of Nepal has banned the import, export and use of 500 and 1000 Indian Rupees notes in Nepal.

It is important to note that it is difficult to convert your NPR back to foreign currency, and you will not be able to exchange NPR once back in your own country. Many places in Nepal may not allow you to change currency back, so it's best to exchange the amount you will require for your time in Nepal. A budget guide is provided in your pre-departure kit.

There are also ATMs available for use in main cities including Kathmandu, Pokhara and Namche; however, ATM fees are applicable, which may be in additional to what your card or bank provider may charge.

With so many trekking companies around, how do I choose the right one for me?

Some factors to consider when booking with an adventure company include:

 • Do the company’s values, such as its sustainable travel practices and porter welfare, align with mine?
 • What are their trek inclusions? Are meals provided? Do I have the use of a down sleeping bag?
 • What are their facilities like?
 • How well do they handle altitude sickness and other medical emergencies?
 • How experienced are they trekking in this destination?
 • How do they treat their staff, crew and porters?
 • Do they represent the best value for my money?

One of the keys to World Expeditions’ success in running Nepal treks since 1975 is our team in Kathmandu. Our Nepalese guides are real experts who have all worked with us for many years. Another unique aspect of our treks is that you stay in our exclusive and private eco campsites where food is freshly prepared using local produce, you sleep on a real mattress, and have a heated dining room to enjoy your meals with some of the best views.

 

We offer excellent value for money (with no hidden costs!) as we include virtually everything you need on your adventure. This ranges from a trek pack with a down jacket, sleeping bag and sleeping mat; meals on trek; internal flights within Nepal and much more.

Besides the Everest Base Camp & Kala Pattar trek, we have many other treks in Nepal too, such as lower altitude treks in the Annapurna region, remote treks to Gokyo Ri and the Renjo La and even a specially designed trek for people over 55s.

For even more details, we suggest you download the Everest Base Camp & Kala Pattar essential information guide or get in touch with our team of travel experts around the world.

Information last updated on 27 May 2019.

Visa changes: Where to Easily Travel in 2019 & 2020

A number of recent visa changes, revisions and extensions mean that travel in 2019 and 2020 will be easier for many Australian, US, Canadian, New Zealand and British passport holders. Madagascar, Oman and Egypt are among the latest countries to adopt e-Visa systems, with a number of destinations introducing a visa-waiver policy for certain citizens.

  • Madagascar visa update

For all nationalities: Visitors to Madagascar can take advantage of the new Tourist e-Visa option that the country has now introduced. Available for passport holders of all nationalities, applications for the e-Visa can be made at www.evisamada.gov.mg at least three days (72 hours) before travelling to Madagascar and up until six months before departure.

At the end of the online registration, applicants receive a landing authorisation, which must be either printed or saved at a smartphone in order to be presented at the designated e-Visa counters upon arrival.

The e-Visa allows for a single entry to Madagascar with a maximum duration of 90 days. Depending on the length of your stay there are three options available: US$37 for up to 30 days; US$45 for up to 60 days; and US$55 for up to 90 days.

  • Brazil visa update

For Australian, US, and Canadian passport holders: The Brazilian Government has waived the need for visas for Australian, US and Canadian citizens from June 17, 2019. Visitors can enter Brazil visa-free for stays lasting up to 90 days, which can then be extended up to 180 days every 12 months.

For New Zealand and British passport holders: For New Zealand and UK citizens they still remain able to enter Brazil visa-free with a 90-day tourist stamp on arrival.

  • Pakistan visa update

For New Zealand passport holders: Pakistan announced the introduction of visa on arrival in a bid to open up the country to the world and boost tourism. The new, tourist-friendly policy applies to travellers from 50 countries, including parts of Europe and New Zealand. 

For Australian, Canadian, UK and US passport holders: Citizens of 175 countries will be able to obtain visas electronically, including Australia, Canada, the UK and the US.

You can view the list of countries for a tourist visa on arrival at the Pakistan government website.

  • Egypt visa update

For Australian, British, US, Canadian and New Zealand passport holders: In an attempt to speed up the process at border control, Egypt introduced e-Visa services last summer for 46 countries, including the UK. Tourist e-Visas are valid for a maximum of three months. 

A single-entry tourist visa costs US$25; multiple-entry tourist visas are also available for US$60. Visit visa2egypt.gov.eg for more information on the e-Visa process.

  • Uzbekistan visa update

For Australian and British passport holders: As of 1 February 2019, British and Australian holidaymakers no longer need a visa to enter Uzbekistan. As part of its drive to facilitate international tourism, the country introduced last month a visa-free regime for a period of 30 days for citizens of 45 countries, including the Australia, the UK and Ireland. 

For US passport holders: The United States is one of close to 60 countries whose citizens can apply for an Uzbekistan e-Visa.

  • Oman visa update

For Australian, British, US, Canadian and New Zealand passport holders: For 71 nationalities travelling to Oman, they must now get an e-Visa before visiting the Arab Sultanate. Applications for an ‘unsponsored visa’ can be made through the Royal Oman Police portal at evisa.rop.gov.om.

  • Vietnam visa update

For British passport holders: First announced in 2015 and originally valid for only one year, Vietnam’s visa waiver policy has been so successful that it keeps being renewed; the latest extension, announced last year, allows visa-free travel until 30 June 2021 and is valid for single-entry stays of up to 15 days. 

For British National Overseas passport holders, they are not eligible for the 15-day free visa exemption.

  • South Africa visa update

For British passport holders: Last December saw a welcome U-turn in the heavily criticised entry policy for children, making the country once again much easier for UK families to visit. The previous rules required parents to carry original birth certificates for children, as well as certified letters from non-travelling parents.

  • India visa update

For British passport holders: Announced last month, the duration of stay in India for holders of e-Tourist Visa has been extended to one year, with multiple entries allowed during this period. The number of airports where the e-Visa is applicable has also been expanded, to 28, with the addition of two more designated airports.

Information correct as of 21 May 2019.

With more destinations accessible to you, why not start planning your next trip? View adventures >>

Travellers stories: Climbing in Bolivia

In early 2018 I was looking at different options to extend my climbing skills. I actually had Alaska’s Mount McKinley and Nepal’s Ama Dablam peaks on my radar. Then I saw a climbing itinerary in Bolivia that would involve climbing four mountains in three weeks.

Each ascent would vary in technical difficulty and include more advanced ice climbing than what I had experienced in Nepal. To top it off, the mountains were all highly accessible, all within a few hours’ drive of La Paz. This was perfect and after being edged on to ‘go for it’, I was in!

On 15 July I headed to Santiago in Chile and then on to La Paz the next day. La Paz is at an elevation of 3600m and the neighbouring city of El Alto at 4000m. Comparing it to my hike in Nepal, it took us a solid 10 days of trekking to reach these altitudes!

After a couple of days in La Paz we headed to Lake Titicaca (4000m) to further acclimatise and learn more about the fascinating history and culture of the high Andes.

Having booked on a group expedition with World Expeditions, unfortunately no one else signed up for this trip, so they offered me the option of having a private tour. I could see the pros and cons of this and, after weighing it up, decided to go ahead.

The team

Having a dedicated guide was great. Rudy was my cultural guide for La Paz, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana and the Island of the Sun and his knowledge was exceptional.

Jose (otherwise known as Chapaco) was my mountain guide for Condoriri and Huayna Potosi and, finally, Juan was my mountain guide for Illimani.

Celebrating a successful Huayna Potosi summit with a stunning sunrise |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

For all my time in the mountains, we were also joined by Pancho, our fantastic cook (who also assisted in climbing on Illimani).

Ramiro was our main driver as we spent many hours driving between climbing regions, mostly with Jose, Pancho and Ramiro singing along to the latest Bolivian hit songs.

Enjoying an al fresco lunch with the scenic Condoriri Valley as a backdrop |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

Condoriri Valley

After a few fun days sightseeing around Lake Titicaca, it was time to make our way to the mountains. Our first destination was Condoriri Valley.

Panoramic views of Bolivia's Condoriri Valley |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

The night before arriving in Condoriri, we had been in Copacabana and an enormous storm had lashed the town – plunging the hotel into darkness for many hours. When we arrived into Condoriri, the storm was still present. We made the hour-long hike to base camp through a hail storm.

The next day more snow was falling but nonetheless we set off for our first summit, Pico Austria or sometimes called Cerro Negro. What would have been a straightforward hike up to 5,350m became more challenging as the conditions worsened with heavy snow falls. We made good time to the summit (3.5 hrs) but found the return difficult and slippery due to the snow conditions.


Snow fell all afternoon and that night gale force winds battered my tent. However, the next day, the winds calmed to reveal beautiful clear skies.

We spent a few hours on the glacier undertaking some basic alpine skills training, including abseiling into a deep crevasse, where you could hear a stream flowing deep below.

Alpine skills training in Bolivia's Condoriri |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

We met several groups coming off the glacier after having attempted to summit Pequeño Alpamayo. Most had been turned back due to the deep snow on the glacier. One group had taken eight hours to reach Pico Tarija.

We set out at 3am for our summit attempt of Pico Tarija (5320m) and then Pequeño Alpamayo (5379m). The night was beautiful and clear with no wind. It was an hour to the glacier and then two and a half hours to the summit of Pico Tarija.

The first summit on the Bolivia mountaineering expedition. At the top of Pico Tarija (5320m) |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

It was hard going in calf-to-knee deep snow. We were also the one group on the mountain this morning, which was unusual as we had watched multiple groups over the preceding days make their way up the glacier.

Being the only people on the mountain was a really special experience.

Pequeño Alpamayo

From the summit of Pico Tarija we had to climb down a steep and rocky path to a snowy ridge that would connect across to Pequeño Alpamayo. The climbing was exposed but incredibly beautiful as first light appeared over the Andes. From here, it was a steep and exposed climb to the summit that we tackled as three to four separate pitches.


At 9:30am we reached the summit and were rewarded with spectacular views over the range – with Huayna Potosi (6088m), our next objective, clearly in sight. We struggled through waist deep snow on our return and finally reached camp at 11:30am. Despite the tough conditions, we had made good time and had a great adventure.

I had been pushed well and truly out of my comfort zone on the steeper and more exposed parts of the route.

Summit sucess! Mountaineer at the top of Pequeno Alpamayo (5425m) |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

Jose did a great job in keeping the climbing safe and improving my skills and confidence at the same time. The next day we headed back down the valley to meet our car. It was another stunning day as evidenced by the photos. Huayna Potosi After a night in La Paz, we headed out to Huayna Potosi base camp.

Huayna Potosi has alpine refuges at both base camp and high camp, which means no tents were required. However, you needed to be comfortable with communal living and sleeping.


While it was only two and a half hours from base camp to high camp, it involved an ascent of 800 metres which was very steep and involved switch backs up a rocky and snowy ridge. For the last one and a half hours into high camp we used our crampons.

The camp itself was wedged on a rocky ridge just before the start of the glacier. Where the refuge at base camp had been freezing cold – constantly caught in the shadow of the mountain – high camp was exposed to direct sun and was akin to a sauna.

I spent the afternoon in the refuge talking with the other climbers (the first time I had met other English-speaking climbers on the trip) and relaxed ahead of the summit push early the next morning. Jose and I decided to leave last out of the high camp refuge. Most groups left between 1am and 2am.

We headed off at 2:30am (although had originally planned to leave at 3am) in perfect conditions – clear skies, compacted snow on the glacier and no wind. There were at least 10 other groups on the mountain. We moved quickly up the glacier and overtook half of the other climbers by the time we reached the steeper headwall.

We kept moving quickly and were soon making our way up the final steep switch backs to the summit. We had to slow down on the last stretch to the summit as we were too early for sunrise!

As it was, we were the second group to summit that morning and had to wait 20 minutes on the summit for the sun to rise, but it was well worth the wait! First light and then the arrival of the sun was unforgettable.

We watched the shadow of the mountain stretch over Lake Titicaca, catching thick clouds hanging over the Amazon rainforest to the East.

The descent was equally as spectacular, with the early morning sun and clear skies highlighting the glacier features that had been hidden in the darkness of the early morning ascent. Walking down the glacier, Illimani (6438m) – our final objective – loomed large in front of us.

The descent from Huayna Potosi |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

Illimani

After a rest day in La Paz, we were on our way back to the mountains.

The drive to Illimani base camp was an adventure in itself. Bolivia has the dubious title of having the 'Most Dangerous Road in the World' and I could see how. The dirt road to Illimani wound its way across steep valleys and ravines, linking the small villages that farm the fertile slopes of the mountain.

Illimani is an imposing mountain, clearly visible from most parts of La Paz. After four hours of bone rattling dirt roads, we finally came to base camp – a beautiful open meadow sitting below the steep rocky ridge where high camp sat. Alpacas, lamas, sheep and horses all grazed in the meadow surrounding base camp.

Tent views from our camp in Illimani |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

From base camp, it was a hard day's hike to high camp – called the Condors Nest. From base camp (4600m) we made our way to 5000m for lunch after two hours of solid hiking. The next 500m of elevation gain involved a very steep ascent up a rocky ridge.

After over two weeks of climbing, there is no doubt that this was hard going. I arrived at high camp at around 3pm. The setting for high camp was spectacular and definitely worth the effort. Condors and falcons were playing in the updrafts surrounding high camp – which is wedged between a rocky cliff and the glacier.

It was evident from high camp that the route to summit was going to be very steep, straight out of camp!

Settling down at Illimani high camp |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

On our way to high camp, we had met three groups returning from their summit attempt, who had all turned around at 'La Bola' – the final steep headwall. The ice on the headwall was very hard, making protecting it difficult.

One group had also felt the cracking of the glacier near the crevasse at the base of La Bola. This didn't bode well for our own summit attempt.

We headed off at 3am and, as expected, it was steep and hard going right out of camp. The conditions were very icy. I became very familiar with the Spanish word 'hielo' – icy. Juan and Pancho protected several short sections which were icy and exposed.

After three and a half hours we reached c.6100m and was just below the La Bola headwall. We decided that it would not be safe to attempt La Bola in these conditions and so we reluctantly turned around, just 300 metres from the summit.

Views on the climb up Illimani |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

We returned to high camp at 8:30am and, after a short rest, started the steep descent to base camp. In total, we had ascended 750 vertical meters and descended 1850 vertical metres in 10 hours.

Despite not reaching the summit of Illimani, the views had been spectacular, and it had been a real adventure.

Words and photos by Anthony Bohm who completed the Summits of Bolivia expedition in July 2018. Read more about Anthony's adventure travels at his blog www.bohmadventures.com.

6 reasons to go cycling in Kerala

The trip highlights for this active Kerala holiday included words like palm-fringed beaches, pilgrimage towns, masala dosa, ancient forts and active fishing ports. And as all of that was going to be explored by means of a cycling holiday, Elisabeth in our London office was very keen to go on the Goa to Kerala Cycle trip in South India.

Off she went in October last year and the trip turned out to be a fantastic experience with lots of positive aspects such as cycling in Goa, the temple of Murudeshwar in Karnataka and Kerala’s ancient forts & serene beaches. That’s why in this article, she wanted to share with you what this South India trip is like.

So here we go with the top 6 reasons to take a Kerala cycling trip, in no particular order:

1. Backroads for Quiet Cycling

The Goa to Kerala cycling trip is mainly on the backroads of southern India along stretched sandy beaches and palm trees and through quiet (fishermen) villages. We heard birds chirp, cicadas sing, and passed the occasional sleepy dog by the roadside. We would cycle in the shadow of palm trees or through green rice paddies, passing vibrantly decorated temples, mosques and churches.

2. Interaction with Local Indians

Several times during our bike rides, we would be welcomed by the local team that had prepared some snacks, fruits and cold drinks for us. These little breaks from our cycling were fantastic opportunities to meet and chat with some of the local people. By nature, the Indian people seem very curious and it was great to chat with them, hear about their life and talk about the fact that we were on a 2-week South India cycling holiday – an idea quite alien to them!

3. Sea Breeze

The trip follows pleasant backroads along the coastline from when you start cycling in Goa and then via Karnataka all the way down to Kerala. There’s a lot of variety on these paths and plenty to see along the way. The sea breeze, sound of the Arabian Sea, seagulls and occasional beach hut are other great aspect of this cycling trip.

4. Slow Pace

As all of us in the group were on this Kerala holiday to have a pleasant time and because the cycling distances were very manageable, none of us ever felt rushed to finish the day. There would be plenty of time to take pictures, visit a school, and explore interesting sites such as ancient forts and temples.

5. Cover 3 Different States

Ahead of the trip I wasn’t really aware of the three different states (and how different they actually are) that we would cover on this cycling adventure. From Goa, where the majority of the population is either Hindu or Roman Catholic and the political influence is cultural nationalism, we cycled to Kerala, where besides the large Hindu population a big portion is Muslim and there is a strong communist presence. We could clearly observe the change while cycling south and this definitely added to the variety of our South India trip.

6. See the Real India: day to day life, away from all other tourists/travellers

Perhaps the biggest reason to go cycling in Kerala is the fact that it is basically entirely free from mass tourism. There were no particular highlights on the trip, which you could say was the actual highlight. We were taken to quiet fishermen’s towns, stopped at local eateries to be sat eating side by side with the regulars, and explored ancient cultural sites that we only had to share with the occasional local visitor. The route really allowed us a glimpse in local daily life of South India.

 

Inspiration for Kerala Holidays

 
 
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