23rd December 2019
Seasons Greeting to everyone and an especially warm welcome to those who have subscribed to the ExperiencedTraveller.com. It has been a busy year – summarised in my Christmas Letter.
A Christmas Letter
This past year I have been from one extreme to another – camping in Kenya to wallowing in luxury on Kiawah Island in America. My trip to Kenya was inspired by a conference on conservation. I was invited to take part in a conservation project being undertaken in the Enonkishu reserve a part of the Masai Mara National Park. I stayed in a tent for two weeks. One of my neighbours was a hippopotamus living in the river just a few yards from my tent. Fortunately, he only emerged once while I was in residence and believe me, the earth moved.
At five o’clock every morning I had to walk two hundred yards from my tent to the ablutions block to shower and get ready for breakfast at six. After breakfast we would set off to undertake our survey of animals. When we got back to base we had to enter the data we had collected and clean and check the vans. It was a busy schedule but a few clashes between laid-back Americans and super-efficient Germans livened the place up.
While I was there I learned how to drive a four-by-four vehicle and soon discovered that the driver’s seat was the most comfortable place to be rather than bouncing around in the cage on top of the vehicle so that is where I spent most of my time.
Kiawah Island is a private island near Charleston in South Carolina. It was amazing. I stayed at The Sanctuary a five-star hotel. I took up the offer of a round of golf on one of its five golf courses, cycled along the ten-mile sandy beach and spent a morning in their luxurious spa. In between these activities I enjoyed some great meals in their different restaurants and glorious early morning walks on the beach.
My sojourn on the island was followed by a few days in Charleston. We stayed in a very modern hotel featuring all the latest technology. In order to open and close the curtains I had to switch the television on, find the right screen and click on the right icon. Only problem, when I clicked on the close curtains icon all the lights went out! The town itself is delightfully old-fashioned with beautiful traditional houses lining narrow cobbled streets.
This year was also my first year of working as a tour manager for the tour operator TravelEyes. This company was founded by Amar Latif who is blind. As he had difficulty getting tour operators to let him book holidays with them he set up his own company. This company organises groups of sighted travellers and visually impaired travellers. As the tour manager it is my job to pair each visually impaired traveller with a sighted traveller who acts as their guide. I am always impressed and humbled by the way our visually impaired travellers, some of whom have been blind from birth, throw themselves wholeheartedly into the holiday. Since I joined them I have done short breaks to Rome, Copenhagen and Lisbon. I also spent a week exploring the island of Corfu and the town of the same name.
I am still working as a tour leader with Solo Holidays and recently led a group of independent travellers on a trip that featured four countries, Montenegro, Croatia, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. I thought it was a brilliant trip but some of my clients were not so impressed. There were a few hiccups such as our bus driver being a non-English speaking lorry driver who did not know the area nor did he know how to use a sat nav. Result, we got lost a few times. Eventually, after several requests, I managed to get a new driver who knew where he was going and spoke excellent English.
I have also been travelling around England reviewing hotels and exploring some of our lovely towns like Sherborne in Dorset and Southampton in Hampshire. The latter has a very interesting old town and the hotel I stayed in was actually set into the medieval walls. I loved exploring these walls. Southampton was getting ready for Christmas and I went back into town in the evening to watch people skating on the ice rink and browse the stalls in the Christmas market.
Early in December I spent a week skiing in “Madonna di Campiglio”:“https://experiencedtraveller.com/journal/2015-09-06-madonna-di-campiglio-the-origins-of-a-mountain-resort in the Italian Dolomites. It started well – blue sky, bright sunshine and perfect snow. After that it was all downhill – through mist, rain and snow for five days. I took on the challenge and skied every day bar one. I emerged somewhat battered after flying over a bank I did not see through the mist – but triumphant. I will be spending Christmas in Vienna and celebrating the New Year in Kiev. Future plans include more skiing in the Italian Dolomites but this time back to the resort of” Folgaria”:https://experiencedtraveller.com/journal/2016-03-27-folgaria-a-fun-place-to-ski-in-italy and a city break in Paris.
Wishing you a lovely Christmas and all the best for the New Year.