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Belfry Meeting, Friday 8th February - Frances Taylor's Exotic Holidays

by Pat Ashworth

It was good to see that the audience comprised so many people who had obviously enjoyed the Les Arcs holiday and were sufficiently energised to come along to a Friday night meeting after a week back in the real world.

We have had some good presentations by club members, who have both skiing and non-skiing tales to tell. As an example of non-skiing holidays, Frances gave us a useful guide about what to expect when trekking in the Himalayas, visiting Africa and the Galapagos Islands.

We saw slides of different modes of transport, different kinds of tracks, various camps, some scary looking bridges and river crossings that required helping hands and piggy backs, vast loads carried by porters and yaks., and a great variety of scenery that was not quite as I had envisaged it - both soft and barren landscapes, including views from the Everest base camp.

We saw pictures of local people and their economy - crops and a water mill, living accommodation, a rustic game of cricket and a good sample of the Buddhist temples, mani walls, prayer wheels and flags.

Some of the treks are at a very high altitude. People can work hard on being fit before they go, but the ability to cope with high altitude did not appear to be related so much to fitness as individual constitution. Frances feels that you can only find out by experience whether you are able to cope with altitude. Tour organisers account for people's susceptibility and are well used to people having to turn back.

Food was varied. One trek produced very good pizzas. Vegetable curry is common. Chickens are often transported in baskets and killed en route, and the occasional goat is usually pretty tough.

The slides Frances showed of two trips to Central Africa, one in the 1980s and one in 2000 to see the eclipse in Zambia, gave us a picture of the wildlife; transport by canoe and boat on the Zambezi and 4WD; the magnificent Victoria Falls and the eclipse itself, which was an amazing experience.

The Galapagos Islands are volcanic-a nature reserve with iguanas, pelicans, boobies, crabs and rare gigantic tortoises that dwarfed Frances. Tourists are accommodated on various sizes of tour ships and whilst on the island must only walk on designated paths.

Frances said that she did not have David Attenborough's skills or equipment. Nevertheless she gave us a well thought-out picture of what to expect on the type of holidays she described, that left me feeling that there were lots of opportunities to visit parts of the world in a way that is both exciting and as safe as possible, if reputable companies are used.

Thank you Frances for such an interesting evening.