Interview by Everett Potter
This month, we’re giving away an amazing bike trip in Italy with ExperiencePlus! (you can enter here). Rick Price and Paola Malpezzi-Price founded the company that would become ExperiencePlus! in 1972, an eternity ago in the world of adventure travel. Italy was and is their specialty, but today the company offers biking trips to two dozen destinations and is owned by their daughters, Monica Malpezzi-Price and Maria Elena Malpezzi-Price. I caught up with Maria Elena at the Adventure Travel World Summit in Kilarney Ireland last fall to ask her about ExperiencePlus! and its continuing role as an adventure trailblazer.
Your parents were adventure travel pioneers when they founded ExperiencePlus! in 1972. What do you and your sister do to keep their original vision alive, even as you deal with a new generation -or two-of travelers?
From the beginning, and still today, the emphasis has always been about combining the advantages of a bicycle, a human powered vehicle that is independent so you can start and stop when you want for photos, gelato, coffee and more gelato. The two wheeled pace is slow and yet you can travel significant distances.
What we find has changed is how people decide where to go and when. We have developed shorter and longer tour options for most of our trips. Most itineraries now have a 7 or 8 day option and a 10 – 12 day extended option so that we can accommodate different needs for different travelers. We also find that more people want to just travel with their friends or on their own schedule so we found ways to easily set up custom dates or private trips within our schedule. There are certainly differences in the newer generations but we find that ultimately the desire to explore and the delight people have in exploring by bike hasn’t changed that much.
You’re based in the US and your sister is in Italy. Is that a competitive advantage when it comes to planning and running trips?
We definitely find that having a solid base in North America, where most of our travelers come from, and then another headquarters where most of our trips are operated helps us in terms of logistics, staffing, trip development and overall quality control. It actually mirrors how we grew up, part time in the United States and part time in Italy and so for us it seemed like a logical way to maintain our “split identities.”
What is the most under rated ExperiencePlus! destination for biking?
Northern Argentina, around the Salta area, is likely not on the top list of cycling destinations for most people, but we have found a fabulous combination of diverse scenery, breath-taking landscapes, friendly and welcoming people, good roads and great food. We started running trips in Chile and Argentina about 10 years ago and although we don’t offer as many dates as we do in Europe, we are seeing an increase in interest. They are great “winter” destinations for those of us in the Northern hemisphere and although they have a slightly different character than our European trips, the beauty of the regions and the interesting history make up for that. After all, if we can pedal the vineyards in Italy and France, why not Chile!
For riders who’ve done some of the classic rides in France and Italy but want that special mix of old Europe, great food and scenic countryside, which destinations might you suggest?
I’m partial to our cycling tours in Spain because in my days as a tour leader I spent most of my time there. Whether it is our bicycle tour in Andalusia (a harder trip), or pedaling the Camino de Santiago, or our easier Catalonia tour north of Barcelona, Spain always seems to surprise people with its history and interesting food.
Another destination is Germany. Germans travel by bike more than almost any European nation and so their own network of roads and streets and bike paths are incredibly friendly to cyclists. Our bike tour in Bavaria often receives high praise from longtime customers who have cycled all the “classic” destinations because of its picturesque towns, great routes and good food. The trip follows Germany’s historic “Romantic Road” and in fact, it has even been called by some of our senior guides – who are not even German! – as one the prettiest tour that we have.
You mark your routes with chalk dust? Who came up with this great idea? Does it really remove the need to look at a map?
Our father, Rick Price, came up with this idea in 1986 or 87. It is considered by many of our travelers’ one of the biggest advantages of traveling with ExperiencePlus! Anyone who has cycled in a local charity ride or even just with a group of friends knows the feeling of having to navigate with a group of cyclists.
Imagine a family road trip when your GPS is broken and you aren’t sure whether you should go right or left at the next intersection. There are multiple opinions, arguments and the feeling like you are just going around in circles. Our arrows take all of that anxiety away and truly allow for people to ride at their own pace and they do in fact remove the need for a map. Of course, Rick was also a geographer and so we still provide very good marked maps for every day! The arrows are “chalked” each day by one of our tour leaders who rides out in front, usually an hour or two before others leave. They are not permanent and they aren’t paint. One of the beauties of the arrows is that we can really take people on small tiny back roads that would otherwise be hard to explain with cue sheets or with maps.
Any new destinations for 2015 or 2016?
One of the key design principles we work on for all of our itineraries is that people can ride from point A to point B without getting into a vehicle unless they want to! In fact, the allure of being able to say you cycled from point A to point B is part of what gave way to our ExpeditionPlus! trips in 2006 when we first ran a tour from St. Petersburg, Russia to Istanbul, Turkey. Since that first Expedition trip we have developed other continental scale 30+ day Expeditions and almost every year we design a new one. Our 2015 Venice to Kalamata Expedition tour sold out within 2 weeks. For 2016 we are reimagining the Eastern European expedition, this time from Tallin, Estonia to Istanbul, Turkey and we are also looking at a Scandinavian or Rhine River to Danube River Expedition.
Most cyclists don’t fall into the “I want to cycle 2000 miles over 30 days” camp and most of our trips are perfect for the recreational cyclists. So we have designed some exciting new tours that are meant to more of an introduction to cycle touring, called Sightseer Tours. These tours still include cycling every day but they also have more options for half day activities off the bike and the cycling is on quiet roads and bike paths. For 2015 we have two such trips: a Veneto and Lake Garda tour as well as one along the Loire Valley in France.
And where are you off to next?
I’m headed to Italy in February for a conference and to also have some meetings with our guides and guide selection as we plan for the season. But in April I’m very excited to be on our inaugural tour in the Alentejo in Portugal. My sister Monica has some plans to go out and scout some new tours, either in Southern Italy or the new bike and barge tour. We seem to never have a shortage of places to go, just a shortage of time!
Read a blog post from Rick Price about the founding of the company.
If you want a new bike this spring, look no further than the versatile BMC GranFondo GF01.
I got a chance to road test this bike this year for several months and hundreds of miles, and it is the real deal. Most importantly, it is a great fit for all kinds of riders: from hard charging racers to leisurely touring to charity endurance events, on dirt roads or pavement. There are lots of high quality road bicycles on the market from many manufacturers, but I don’t know of another model that does so many things so well.
We’re thrilled to be giving away the Czech Republic & Austria Bike Tour, a six-day ride from Prague to Vienna Along the Danube, with Backroads, the World’s #1 Active Travel Company, and Adventure Collection.
This six-day trip starts in captivating Prague, with its glorious architecture, music and cafés. Then you trace the gentle contours of the Bohemian landscape on two wheels. Absorb firsthand accounts of the Communist era. And delve into enchanting cities including Tábor and Český Krumlov, a fairy-tale town with a medieval castle looming overhead and a warren of cobblestone streets. Roam through Austria’s Wachau Valley wine region and stop in at a heuriger. Even find the castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned. Last stop: romantic Vienna.
HOW TO ENTER & WIN
For a chance to win this Czech Republic & Austria Bike Tour for two with Backroads and Adventure Collection, just fill out the form below. Multiple entries are welcome, so come back and enter once a day through April 4, 2014. Complete details and rules are below. The winner will be notified by e-mail on or about April 15, 2014.
Important: Please adjust your spam filter to enable receipt of e-mails with the domain EverettPottersTravelReport.com, so that we can notify you if you’re a winner. Good luck!
This prize is for one (1) six-day (6) Czech Republic & Austria Bike Tour for two (2) people (sharing) with Backroads and Adventure Collection
What’s Not Included:
The winner can choose any scheduled trip departure for the Czech Republic & Austria Bike Tour during 2014. If the winner is unable to travel in 2014, they can redeem the prize on a scheduled trip departure in 2015.
No credit will be extended for unused portion of the package. Package may not be redeemed for cash, resold or transferred. Gratuities are not included. Airfare not included. The total cash value of the prize is approximately $7,196.
ITINERARY: CZECH REPUBLIC & AUSTRIA BIKE TOUR
DAY 1 Explore Tábor, a 15th-century enclave sitting atop a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside Stroll the cobbled streets of its lovely Old Town, lined with colorful homes, open-air cafés and artisan vendors A clever maze of tunnels lies below the streets, which in times of danger were used to shelter its citizens.
DAYS 2-3 Český Krumlov, a charming 13th-century town with twisting lanes and red-tile roofs where most of the buildings are designated cultural monuments Pedal across the hills of Bohemia, through tranquil farmland and Holašovice, an impeccably preserved World Heritage-site village In Český Krumlov, behold views of ornate 13th-century Krumlov Hrad, the second-largest castle in the Czech Republic Dive into Czech history with Helena, our local friend and historian Gather at a local pub for a pint-sized taste of Czech culture.
DAYS 4-5 Discover two intriguing countries and cultures in one trip Czech treasures make way for Austria’s beautiful Waldviertel, draped in forests and rolling fields of barley and wheat – a great place to pedal Bike along the fabled Danube River and through Wachau Valley vineyards Visit Melk, whose magnificent Baroque abbey is perched high on a rocky promontory A local oenologist invites us over for a private estate tour and tasting of famous Rieslings and grüner veltliners.
DAY 6 Austria’s picture-perfect villages with onion-shaped church steeples Soak up the views from the Dürnstein’s castle ruins, where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned Say goodbye in vibrant Vienna, an enchanting place to extend your vacation.
Visit Backroads for more info
REVIEWS FOR THIS BACKROADS ADVENTURE
“I really can’t say enough positive things about the trip and the two leaders. Simply put, it was one of the best experiences of my life. I don’t know one person who can claim to have experienced a new culture on such a wide and intimate scale. Add the great people on the trip, the food, my birthday gift and the 800 some odd pictures I took…well, I’m already looking at my next adventure with Backroads. Outstanding!”
Jeff Dalton – Annapolis, MD
“I loved this trip. It was really a great experience all around. I loved the blend of athletic activity, with cultural and historical information. The guides are truly amazing people. The people were very nice and lively and intelligent. It was a great first Backroads experience.”
Hilary Thomas – New York, NY
“This was a tremendous experience. The leaders were outstanding, the van/bike support excellent, the destinations and accommodations terrific. I felt safe knowing that someone had my back. Also, it was a great blend of fitness and leisure, while also fulfilling my need for learning about new cultures. Overall, this will go down as one of my most memorable vacation experiences. Thank you!”
Marjan Panah – New York, NY
Tom Hale, founder of Backroads and Adventure Collection, possesses a passion for two seemingly divergent interests – business and back roads – which he has powered into the world’s most successful active travel company.
Armed with a Masters in Environmental Planning from UCLA, Hale was six months into an environmental planning position in Las Vegas when the back roads called. A middle-of-the-night inspiration to start a bike touring company motivated him to pedal 5,000 miles alone through the West, all the while formulating plans for his new business. Settling in Berkeley, Hale washed fondue pots by night and built his fledgling travel company by day. In true entrepreneurial fashion, he did it all – designed the itineraries, maintained the bikes, led the trips, produced the catalog. His first trip – a bike tour of Death Valley – attracted four guests (one of them his mother.) Fast-forward 35 years of nearly consistent growth to 2014.
Today Backroads annually hosts thousands of guests on biking, walking & hiking and multisport trips worldwide. Their 183 trip itineraries showcase the best lodging, dining, cultural attractions – and of course back roads -in destinations from California’s Wine Country to classic settings in France, from the pampas of Patagonia to the hill country of Thailand. Backroads is staffed by some 135 people in its Berkeley headquarters and regional offices in Utah, Canada and France, and also employs approximately 390 Trip Leaders worldwide. From the beginning, Hale has strived for and succeeded in offering off-the-charts trips, believing that the world is best experienced up close and under one’s own power. Backroads success is largely measured by an exceptionally high rate of repeat guests – on average about 80% become repeat and referral guests. Visit Backroads at www.backroads.com.
ABOUT ADVENTURE COLLECTION
Adventure Collection consists of 9 dynamic adventure companies:
Adventure Collection member companies are experts in the activities they offer. These include cultural exploration, bicycle touring, hiking, walking, expedition cruising, safaris, general touring, mountain biking, heli-skiing, heli-hiking, mountaineering, rafting, sea kayaking, river kayaking, wildlife and nature cruising, camping, horseback riding, rain forest exploration and ecotouring, snorkeling, fly fishing, llama trekking, sailing, golfing, and more. Visit Adventure Collection at www.adventurecollection.com.
COMPLETE RULES: BACKROADS AND ADVENTURE COLLECTION Giveaway
Presented by EverettPottersTravelReport.com and BACKROADS AND ADVENTURE COLLECTION
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN
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3. Random Drawing/Odds. One (1) winner will be selected in a random drawing from among all eligible entries received during the Giveaway Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. Drawing will be conducted by EverettPottersTravelReport.com on or about April 15, 2014. By entering the Giveaway, you fully and unconditionally agree to be bound by these official rules (“Complete Rules”) and the decisions of EverettPottersTravelReport.com, which will be final and binding in all matters relating to the Giveaway.
4. Prize. The prize will be given to one (1) winner. This prize is for one six-day CZECH REPUBLIC & AUSTRIA BIKE TOUR for two (2) people (sharing) with BACKROADS AND ADVENTURE COLLECTION. The winner can choose any scheduled trip departure in summer 2014 or 2015. The winning prize is valid through BACKROADS AND ADVENTURE COLLECTION’s 2014 season, which ends in September 2014. If the winner is unable to travel in 2014, they can redeem the prize on a scheduled trip departure in 2015.The prize is subject to regular booking policies and availability.
What’s Not Included:
Winner’s certificate is for (2) two people sharing the same accommodations. No credit will be extended for unused portion of the package. Package may not be redeemed for cash, resold or transferred. The prize may not be sold on eBay or any other auction site. Otherwise, the offer becomes invalid.
The total cash value of the prize is approximately $7,196.
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Boston takes its biking very seriously. When I lived in Cambridge, there were four bike shops within a three-block radius of my apartment. Just on Mass Avenue, I saw bikers with suits going to work, bikers with backpacks heading to school, and crazed riders who just seemed to enjoy weaving in and out of the car traffic. Needless to say, road biking is more than just a sport in this town, it’s a mode of travel. The 17.1-mile Charles River Bike Path runs from the Museum of Science along the Boston side of the Charles through the Esplanade to Watertown Square. The trail then crosses the river to the Cambridge side on its way back to the Museum of Science. Be on the lookout for Harvard, MIT, and BU crew teams that make their way up and down the Charles. Yet, it’s that iconic image of a single sculler slicing through the water, backed by the red-brick bridges and white steeples rising from the Harvard campus that locals and out-of-towners alike find so alluring. It’s like a waterbug skimming the placid surface of a pond, a tranquil setting in the midst of the urban buzz.
By Everett Potter
When I hear the words “bike tour,’ I usually think of a week of cycling in Provence, Vermont or Napa Valley. I picture relatively easy riding, incredible scenery and great food and wine, neatly packaged into a six-night trip by an adventure travel company.
What the words “bike tour” don’t conjure in my imagination is a four month trek from Cairo to Capetown or a 2,700 mile ride from Paris to Istanbul. These are rides where your mind and body are tested and where strenuous riding is often the rule, as are deep cultural encounters you’re unlikely to have on a six-day pedal.
The company that offers such extraordinary adventure experiences is Tour d’Afrique and I learned about them from a guy named Shanny Hill, whom I met at the Adventure Travel World Summit in Lucerne, Switzerland last October.
Shanny is the Project manager for the Toronto-based company and we recently had a chance to speak about the groundbreaking trips that his company offers.
EP: How did Tour d’Afrique Ltd begin?
SH: Tour d’Afrique Ltd was conceived in the late 1980’s when Henry Gold, the company’s Founder and Director, was managing an international NGO that delivered humanitarian assistance to disadvantaged communities in Ethiopia and other African countries. His original concept was to produce inexpensive, rugged mountain bikes in Africa, for Africans, as a low cost solution to local transportation needs, and to market this new bicycle by organizing a cycling race across the continent – the Tour d’Afrique.
While the mountain bike project did not take off, the pioneering vision of the Tour d’Afrique proved irresistible. In early 2002 Henry and Michael de Jong began the preparations in earnest, undaunted by enormous skepticism and the mountain of logistical challenges to be overcome, and, on January 15, 2003, thirty-three cyclists saddled up at the Pyramids at Giza and started pedaling south. Four months later, with Table Mountain and Cape Town in sight, they celebrated the realization of their dream and the establishment of the Guinness World Record for the fastest human powered crossing of Africa.
Since then our unique little company has grown, in leaps and bounds, through many trials and tribulations. The Tour d’Afrique has been recognized as the world’s longest and most challenging stage race. Following in its spirit, several more continental and sub-continental cycling expeditions have been undertaken,
All told more than 800 intrepid souls have now completed one of our epic trans-continental rides. Through our Foundation, and the donations of many of our clients, more than 2000 bicycles have been distributed to health care and community development workers in Africa and India.
EP: Give us an example of some of your trips and their length.
SH: Here are three of our upcoming trips. The North America Epic is just as it sounds – an epic cycling ride across all of our great continent from Anchorage to Mexico City. The intrepid cyclists from all across the globe will cycle 7,000 miles through Canada and the USA, and then along stunning Baja Peninsula before returning to mainland Mexico to cycle the final leg into Mexico City. This epic journey under human power takes 4 months and gets underway in Anchorage on Independence Day.
The Orient Express Cycling Expedition follows in the spirit of the luxury train line that once crossed Europe from Paris to Istanbul. But this is no luxury tour of Europe. We will be pedaling our way through each day and each town – covering 60 miles each day and staying in campsites and 2 and 3 star hotels to rest our heads in some of Europe’s hotspots – like Ulm, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. This 2,700 miles journey takes 6 weeks during July and August. We arrive in Istanbul on August 25 after a ferry ride down the Bosphorus Strait. We take advantage of Europe’s rich history, wonderful cycling routes, explore its great cities, and its fabulous countryside scenery, at a pace much slower than the Orient Express trains of the past.
Our inaugural Bamboo Road Cycling Expedition will become the mother tour of South East Asia. This truly trans-continental trip will take participants from the metropolis of Shanghai, thru southern China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and then ending in the city-state of Singapore. For several years now, SE Asia has been a popular destination for cycling tourists, and we want to offer a grand tour that can encompass a great deal of the region in one tour.
EP: Who’s going on these trips, how many riders, what are their ages, and how experienced are they as riders?
SH: The people who are participating in our tours are from all walks of life it seems. From nuclear physicists, to truck drivers, and teachers, they have many varied professions. Though we typically have 60 to 70 % males on our tours, we are increasingly seeing more and more women participating and more and more nationals from all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada, and the USA. We have also had Brazilians, Egyptians, South Africans, Taiwanese, and many other nationals from emerging markets.
The skill level and experience of our participants is also quite varied. We have serious racers, and fit seniors, to first time cycle tourists who come on our tour and treat it as their own weigh loss program. Participants are as young as 18 and have been as old as 71. We do our best to accommodate all that wish to participate with staffing, cooks, and support vehicles working to create a framework built to give them the best chance at completing each day’s ride.
EP: How about accommodations and meals?
SH: Most of our tours are a mixture of camping and simple hotels. Our new tour of South East Asia, along with a few others, are all hotel or indoor accommodation. We choose simple and practical hotels when staying indoors. While camping in some of our more remote locations in Africa and Asia, we do some rough camping where our support trucks, and the water and supplies they carry are all that we have to sustain us for the night.
We do not compromise on is food. We have used trained chefs on many of our tours, because we know the importance of a tasty and nutritious meals at the end of a long day of cycling. You don’t ever want to have a hungry cyclists on a tour.
EP: Are there guides along for the entire ride or do I need to be proficient in map reading and another language or two?
SH: We have tour support staff that help create a framework of support. The style of our tours means that we also expect the participants to be involved in the process and involved in making the tour a success. This can mean that the participants will be using maps at times to double check the directions given by the tour leader, helping the chef chop vegetables to prepare for dinner, or helping others in the group with their bags perhaps. The idea is that on an expedition of this nature, its necessary that staff and clients work together as a team.
With that said, we do provide a great deal of staff support – with most of our longer expeditions having a full time medic, chef, bike mechanic, drivers, and tour leader.
EP: What sort of training regimen is required for these rides?
SH: We send out training tips to our registered riders. The most common thing that interrupts riding on tour is soreness. Sore knees, sore backs, sore butts…. The best way to combat this is to ride regularly in the run up to the tour. At a minimum we suggest you start some dedicated training 3 months before the tour starts.
Riding at least three times a week for a minimum of two hours each time. This could be in the form of cross training or bike rides at a steady pace. This will get you to the tour start with a base of fitness and well adjusted to your bike.
EP: You’ve got five levels of difficulty –easy, moderate, average, challenging and hard. How hard is “hard?”
SH: Good question. Hard can be very hard.
If I think back to my toughest days on one of our tours, it would be in Northern Kenya – part of the ‘Meltdown Madness‘ section that is rated as hard. Picture yourself riding in the rocky desolate landscape of the Dida Galgalu desert for 60 to 70 miles in 100 degree heat with no shade over a terribly rutted road. Now picture doing that for 5 days straight.
The truth is that this section described here has actually recently been paved and we may soon drop the rating down a notch to ‘difficult’
There are other examples I could come up with, but the truth about these ‘hard’ sections is they are often the most memorable, and people who at the start of a tour were struggling through the easiest of stages, find themselves stronger and more determined and ready to face these hard stages halfway through the journey.
We also have many sections with much lower difficulty rating, and so the ratings scale is definitely worth checking out.
EP: Tell me more about the North American Epic.
SH: The North American Epic was redesigned for 2013 to become a truly unique and truly trans-continental tour. In 2011 it was an west to east tour – from San Francisco to St. John’s, Newfoundland. This was a good route, but not quite exotic enough for our taste, and not truly a crossing of all of the North American continent.
Now with the new route from Anchorage to Mexico City, participants can see a line on a map stretching all the way across our continent. With many other tours being offered across the US or Canada from West to East, this tour give people a chance to cover the continent North to South.
Interestingly, those that have already signed up to participate are not North Americans, but people from all across the globe that want to come here and experience these places from the seat of their bicycle. They are from Norway, Britain, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa to name a few.
All the tour dates, details, and prices can be found here: http://tourdafrique.com/tour-overview/?t=north-american-epic
EP: Can you do parts of the North American Epic, if you do don’t have time for the entire journey?
SH: Of course. All our expeditions are split into 2 and 3 week segments to allow people to be part of the experience while not committing to the long time require to complete the whole expeditions. The North American Epic is split into 8 tantalizing sections. With names like ‘Land of the Midnight Sun‘ and ‘Alaska Highway’ and ‘Canyonlands‘ interested cyclists are sure to find a section that suits their interests and timeframe.
We have had some people do a section at a time and eventually completing one of our trans-continental tours over the course of several years.
EP: Any new trips planned for Tour d’Afrique?
SH: Yes, we always have new projects in the works. The Bamboo Road Cycling Tour described earlier is one, and in 2014 we will start where that tour left off and launch the Trans-Oceania from Singapore to Sydney, Australia – crossing the outback and cycling through Adelaide, Melbourne on our way to the big finish at the Opera house in Sydney.
And, with the completion of this tour, we will have completed all the tours we needed to be able to offer the 7 Epics Challenge – a global cycling challenge for the truly crazy cyclists. A series of 7 supported cycling epics that touch every corner of the globe.
Visit Tour D’Afrique for more info
One of the best things about attending the Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) every year is that I get to meet people who run small adventure travel companies from all over the globe.
Now wait, this is not as absurd as it sounds. If you live in the United States, as I do, and you’re interested in adventure travel, you probably know about Backroads, Butterfield & Robinson, Duvine, Ciclismo Classico and The Wayfarers. And maybe O.A.R.S., Mountain Travel Sobek and R.O.W.
These are all estimable companies. But I’m talking about small companies that may operate in one region or even a single country. Run by locals who have top notch operations and can offer you a terrific trip at a terrific price. They not only speak the local dialect, they may well have grown up there. And they can provide you with an insider’s view of the countryside no matter what sport you’re attempting.
At last October’s ATWS in Lucerne, Switzerland, I met and spoke with dozens of such operators. Here are three that I thought were standouts:
I love Japan and I have always wanted to see more of the countryside on foot. Enter Oxalis Adventures., an English company with one foot in Japan (so to speak) that offers such walking tours. Their signature trip is the “Nakasendo Trail,” which is four days of walking on a 12 day trip that covers Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara. But for fitter types, they can take you off the beaten path on the “Kumano Ancient Trail,” a nine day trip with five days of moderate to strenuous walking on the sacred KiiPeninsula. The trip is priced from 2,145 UK pounds, (about $3,354) http://www.oxalis-adventures.com/
Vagabond offers small group adventure tours of Ireland. This is a world away from the “tour” of Ireland that your parents or grandparents did, the classic mad dash in a bus from Donegal to Waterford with time for tea in Dublin in between. Using specially designed Land Rivers, Vagabond does tours like the six day “The Edge of the World,” which visits the Dingle, Beara and Iveragh (Ring of Kerry) peninsulas, with hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and sea kayaking (additional charges for some of these activities). The price is E1039 (about $1,411). They also offer a variety of other tours, including an eight day “Wild Irish Rover” tour that covers the southwest and west of Ireland and a seven day “North by Northwest” tour of the country. For those with limited vacation days – i.e. most Americans – the shorter tours are a godsend. http://vagabondtoursofireland.ie/vagabond/
SpiceRoads Cycle Tours
This company’s motto is “See Asia by Bicycle” and this strikes me as a great idea. “Riding Regal Rajasthan’ is a 12-day trip through one of India’s most colorful areas while “Cycling Sikkim’s Tea Trails” is a rugged trip for those who really want to explore one of Asia’s most remote countries. But no destination in Asia is hotter right now than Burma, so I’m intrigued by their “Burma Adventure,” a 14-day trip that goes to Bagan, Mandalay, and the shores of InleLake. Priced at $3,550, it would be an amazing way to see this extraordinary Asian kingdom up close.
By Steve Jermanok
This past month, I had the good fortune to bike along the Lake Michigan waterfront in Chicago, alongside the Charles River in Boston and Cambridge, by the shores of the Bow River in Calgary, and around Stanley Park in Vancouver. I loved that all of these scenic rides were on bike trails, not having to worry about car traffic. Sure, I savor pastoral rides on the backcountry roads of Vermont, cruising on two wheels through the rainforest of Costa Rica, or biking past the coffee plantations on the Big Island of Hawaii. But I also enjoy riding in cities. The chance to pedal over the Brooklyn Bridge, with views of the Statue of Liberty in the background. Or heading north towards Navy Pier with the majestic Chicago skyline creating the perfect panorama It’s hard not to be impressed.
The 9 km ride around the Seawall of Stanley Park can be done in less than an hour. Yet, by the time you stop at the world-class aquarium, see the selection of totem poles, and dine on sablefish (a tender and rich Northwestern whitefish) at the classic Teahouse for lunch, the day is over. Riding under towering Douglas firs and along the rocky shoreline, you’ll also stop numerous times to take pictures of the bay. On my last ride around Stanley Park two weeks ago, we spent a good chunk of time being entertained by the sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium. Less than 15 minutes later, we were watching river otters in the wild dining on crabs along the Seawall. Another unexpected find in a city of unexpected finds, the reason why I return to Vancouver as often as I can.
Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life.His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World, due out late 2010.He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.