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Southern India & Captivating Kerala

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] Traveling to Kerala is not for the faint of heart, however it is absolutely worth it! In September 2016, Keri and I braved the journey to Southern India to attend the Kerala Travel Mart. We were fortunate enough to be invited on a tour beforehand, taking us from Bangalore to Cochin for 10 days. We arrived into Bangalore after 30 hours of travel. We were immediately surprised at how modern it is. As Bangalore is the tech hub of India, the majority of the population is a younger, richer generation. Bangalore also happens to be the beer capital of India, so for our first night, we went to a craft brewery for dinner. We got a flight of beer, which made Keri extremely happy, and the most delicious lamb chops and prawns. After our stay in Bangalore, we headed south towards Mysore, which was previously the capital of Southern India. We visited some sights around the area, including a massive monolithic statue at the top of many stairs, and the Mysore Palace. After our visit to the palace, we went to the market in town. The market was wonderful – we were the only foreigners there, and they had everything from scented oils to jewelry to fruit and veggies. Just outside the market, as we were waiting to head back to the hotel, a group of 10 elephants came down the street. Turns out they were the royal elephants, practicing for a parade that was happening the next day.… Read More »Southern India & Captivating Kerala

Fumbling Around Tuscany

Tour leading is an amazing way to see the world. For sure. It is not without its challenges however. I’ve had many mind-blowingly incredible experiences with a smattering of terrible ones. When asked about my most difficult tour leading experience, I have the same reaction – I pause, tilt my head to the side and smile as snippets of 75+ countries, countless groups, and a myriad  bizarre tour leading moments flash before my eyes. One of my favourite travel tales? Leading a walking tour through Tuscany…blind. Not the kind of “blind” that we use in the industry for doing a tour for the first time, but “blind” as in extremely visually impaired. I had just finished leading a tour in Spain and was on my way to Italy to lead a walking tour through Tuscany. My flights seemed simple enough – Seville to Madrid then Madrid to Rome. Now as much as I like to fancy myself a savvy traveller, I am self-admittedly a terrible packer. I sometimes get a bit lazy when I pack and just toss everything in my checked bag. When I’m on the ball, I pack a carry-on bag with all the essentials such as important documents, guide books, glasses, lipgloss (yes, it’s important), change of clothing, jacket, and extra contact lenses. In this instance I’d been so busy with my group in Spain, that I was not on the ball and therefore didn’t take the extra 5 minutes needed to pack my carry-on well. I… Read More »Fumbling Around Tuscany

Terrorism, Nepali-Style

“Good morning, sir. I am Maoist terrorist. Please give me twenty thousand rupees.” These are the words that greeted Cal, the first of our trekking group to emerge from his tent, as soon as he popped out his head. It was a crisp October morning and we were camped in a field in Eastern Nepal, three days’ walk from the nearest road, snow-covered peaks glimmering in the distance. It was 2003 and the country was caught in the depths of a vicious Maoist insurgency and equally brutal government counter-insurgency. We were trekking through Maoist-controlled territory, so we had known that we may encounter their forces, but we never imagined it would be quite like this. The words had come from a small, unassuming man wearing a vest; he looked more librarian than terrorist. Who knows how long he had patiently stood outside our tents, waiting for us weary trekkers to rise. He was accompanied by a scrawny boy, perhaps fourteen or fifteen years old, who carried a machete. He didn’t hold it like a weapon, though; it was harvest season and he was probably on his way to work. For a pair of self-proclaimed terrorists, they weren’t very intimidating. Cal composed himself and woke Bhim, our trekking guide, and the rest of us. We all, terrorist and boy included, sat in a circle and drank tea together while Bhim and the terrorist calmly negotiated. In the end it was agreed that each member of our group, along with the few… Read More »Terrorism, Nepali-Style

Experiencing Sisterhood on a Surf & Yoga Retreat

I bobbed in the ocean, sitting on my board, breathing heavy from the paddle out past the break. I already felt like giving up, but my eyes were zeroed in on the horizon, squinting away the sunrise. My brain was on overdrive. This one? …
Travel Blog Entry & Photos by Sherry Ott

Bhutan Travel Increases Your Happiness

Nicola and I had the incredible opportunity to visit the Kingdom of Bhutan, a tiny Buddhist country tucked in the heart of the Himalayas, in July of 2017 as guests of a very gracious local host. He created a custom Bhutan adventure just for the two of us. Although both Nicola and I have visited many countries in Asia, Bhutan stood out as truly unique. For starters, it is the only officially buddhist country in the world, there are no traffic lights, its architecture is traditional and cohesive, temples and Dzongs (fortresses) adorn even the most remote regions of the country, it boasts dramatic landscapes, and the people are incredibly friendly. It is also a land where wealth is measured not by traditional economic measures, but rather by a happiness index. How awesome is that? With its stunning scenery, welcoming people and fascinating culture, a visit to Bhutan is guaranteed to increase your Gross Personal Happiness. Bhutan is a fabulous country for hiking ranging from day hikes to multi-day treks. While we were there, we hiked almost everyday, although none of our hikes were terribly difficult. One of the most extraordinary things was that we encountered virtually no other travellers on our hikes, even along some of the more popular trails. We did encounter monks, farmers, students, and so many mellow dogs. Pristine mountain lakes, rice terraces, precariously perched temples, imposing glaciers, and some of the world’s most endangered species await the visitor in the mountainous amphitheatre of the Himalayas.… Read More »Bhutan Travel Increases Your Happiness

Trekking with the Mountain Gorillas

Want to Trek to See Gorillas?” Of course you do. Contact us for a once in a lifetime experience of trekking to see the majestic Mountain Gorillas. Need some inspiration? Check out our Kenya & Uganda Wildlife itinerary. [/vc_cta][vc_column_text] Nicola‘s advice when Gorilla Trekking? “Try not to get sat on by a 550lb Silverback!” It had been an hour and a half of trekking through the jungle of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. It was a beautiful jungle, thick with bamboo shoots and a tall canopy above us, nestled beside the stunning backdrop of several volcanoes. The terrain was getting rougher, the incline getting steeper, and the trail getting muddier from the recent downpour. Our guide was using his machete to hack through the thicker parts of the bush, when suddenly he stopped us. As we approached the clearing, we could see the gorilla trackers who had gone out hours before us to find them. “This is where we will get ready to see the gorillas, they are close. Take out your cameras and leave everything else here. As we started getting organized, someone from the group whispered “I can see them!” and so it began. We quickly dropped our things and made a mad dash towards the gorillas. “Follow me” said the guide, and off we went. Mountain Gorillas are one of the most endangered species in the world. There are only around 850 of them left, and they’re all found deep in the jungle spreading throughout parts of… Read More »Trekking with the Mountain Gorillas

Top 5 Peruvian Dishes

My first backpacking trip to Peru was when I was 20 years old and an idealistic vegetarian on a $20 per day budget. That’s $20 per day for everything – transportation, hostel, sightseeing entrances, and food. Being a vegetarian anywhere is South America is a challenge but particularly when you are on a super tight budget. This all being said, my first introduction to Peruvian cuisine was very lack-luster and involved mostly potatoes (of which there are some 4000 varieties), avocados, quinoa (ancient protein-rich super grain), corn, and runny eggs. Needless to say I did not return home after my first foray to South America and rave about Peruvian cuisine (though I did rave about almost everything else). Oh how times have changed. I am no longer a vegetarian. I do not travel on a $20 per day budget. I have been to Peru at least a dozen times. I love Peruvian cuisine. Over the past decade and a half my love affair with Peruvian cuisine has become very potent but apparently, I am not the only one. Peruvian cuisine has recently received an immense amount of attention in the culinary world and is becoming increasingly popular worldwide. Modern day Peruvian cuisine is a melting pot indigenous dishes combined with nearly 500 years of Spanish and more recently African, Japanese, Chinese, and Italian influence. Peruvian cuisine is varied in colour and texture, extremely fresh, and mildly spicy. From the seafood-rich Pacific, to the fertile Andes where potatoes, corn and tomatoes… Read More »Top 5 Peruvian Dishes

Argentina Travel – Yerba Mate Culture

Since my first adventure to South America many moons ago, I have been intrigued by this mysterious herbal beverage that is sipped through a metal straw. Frequently consumed and shared in parks, on buses, trains, and even on horseback by gauchos, Porteño hipsters, bus drivers, families, and groups of friends alike. What is this substance? The only thing that is shared like that in Vancouver isn’t a beverage. Yerba mate is more popular than coffee yet not found on any menu. It took a couple more visits to South America until I got a taste of yerba mate culture and was invited into a mate circle. I’ve been hooked on the green stuff ever since. What the heck is yerba mate (yer-bah mah-tay)? Perhaps one of the most incredibly nutritious, invigorating drinks ever. It packs the same amount of punch as coffee (without the jitters), has the health benefits of tea, and the nourishing euphoria of chocolate. The leaves of the rainforest mate tree (holly family) naturally contain plenty of caffeine, heaps of vitamins and minerals, amino acids plus a plethora of antioxidants. It is widely consumed in South America, particularly in the southern parts of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Originally harvested by the Guarani people in the sub-tropical forests around Iguazu Falls, people have been drinking this unique beverage for centuries. Yerba mate culture is so ingrained in some societies of South America, particularly in Patagonia, that I’m convinced babies come right out of the womb… Read More »Argentina Travel – Yerba Mate Culture