“For me, this was the best experience I’ve ever had.”

Share this page on: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest A group cheering and waving near Mt Cook.The crew from Andrea’s ‘Kiwi’ trip celebrating at Braemar Station.

Over the last twenty years or so we’ve been honing our skills in adventure travel. We started with a group of three guests on a trip around New Zealand’s South Island in 1996, and have progressed to taking groups to nine different countries on four different continents. As kiwis we are famous for our hospitality, we love welcoming people, taking care of people, and sharing in experiences with people. When our guests finally arrive in New Zealand, they’ll often pop into our office in Queenstown mid-trip, because like us, friendships are so important to them. We love being able to put a face to the voice we hear on the phone before the trip!

A group poses for a photo at Active Adventures HQ.A group of Active adventurers meet Lynette and Fiona at Active HQ in Queenstown.

That hospitality, and the sharing of experiences with new visitors to any of the countries we travel in, are the reasons we love doing what we do. And it’s guests like Andrea Rudolph (recently returned from New Zealand adventures) who help us to remember that: ‘Not only was the scenery breathtaking and the tour well run but our fun loving adventurous group made it even more special. Even the experienced travelers in our group felt it was the best tour they had ever been on. It’s been difficult to settle back into my ’normal’ life after such a life-changing experience.’

We find that guests on our adventures, because they always share common interests (adventure being just one!) really buy in to this idea that sharing the experience makes it so much more powerful. The willingness to be honest and open with one another about your life, and your achievements, and even your regrets, adds another dimension to the experience in a way that we find difficult to put in to words.

Andrea wrote some lovely comments about her South Island Explorer trip the ‘Kiwi’. On top of that she also took the time to write an awesome poetic review about the trip, here’s some of our favourite bits:

Active Adventures had everything planned

For a ‘better than average’ trip to Kiwi land

Our fearless leaders, Rachel and Koru

In every instance knew what to do

prepped us on schedules and weather every day

And tried hard to make us listen to what they’d say.

Koru told myths of Maoris and war

His tales were creative and never a bore

He showed us plants like the silver fern

This land is so varied there’s a lot to learn.

The Hector’s dolphins near the beach were rare

They amazed us by doing flips in the air

At the wildlife center we saw kiwis being fed

And heard how they’re kept safe till they’re bred.

 Braemar gave us bright stars at night

Sharing toilets and co-ed showers was also a delight

We ran through the hills, and drank lots of wine

Singing old songs and jingles, it was divine.

New Zealand is perfect except for the sandflies

Which bite all our legs as they drop from the skies

They even dare follow us into the van

Where we smash them on windows as fast as we can.

I tried really hard to write something clever

To celebrate our group and the best trip ever

Though our journey is over and we’re all back home

We can laugh and remember when we read this poem.

So when our guests return home, from adventures in New Zealand, South America, Nepal, or Europe, they return home with a warm fuzzy feeling that never wears off. And it’s that warm fuzzy feeling, and those unforgettable moments that so often lead to our guests travelling with us again: ‘I’ve spent lots of time researching my next trips. I will definitely go on the Iguana trip. and I will definitely keep checking your website for new trips I can take in the next several years.’ And when those guests take the time to write such amazing comments as the ones Andrea sent us, that warm fuzzy feeling is transferred to everyone involved with Active Adventures, and reminds us all why we love this job.

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Journey through Sahara

Crossing the Sahara

A journey on Mauritania’s infamous iron ore train

When I happened to be young I would pore over nationwide Geographic mags and imagine adventures such as this — train hopping through the Sahara Desert on a single of the world’s longest trains.

I had dreamt of oceans, regarding the sand, the noisy clattering noises of train, the cold, the wind, the scorching sun. The not known smells and appears for the desert, and all the discomfort that matches it.

That visceral experience ended up being precisely what we got once we slithered night and day through the vast uninhabited wilderness, resting over Mauritania’s infamous iron ore train. Our unconventional 700km journey took united states all the way through the Sahara to reach the coastline, in which we were looking for a location of forgotten shipwrecks and not known surf.

I have always been enthralled by the notion of train hopping and possess a particular desire for the Sahara Desert. As I began researching this unique nation, we became a lot more fascinated. Very few individuals travel inside area of the world and also less have also been aware of Mauritania — quite astounding considering that its territory is twice how big is France and uses up a big portion of north western Africa.

Our journey started in the money of Nouakchott, from where we travelled north by having a surfer to hop on the Mauritania Railway. We in the pipeline to ride the 2.5km long train from a tiny town called Choum, located south associated with iron my own in Zouerat, toward the slot of Nouadhibou on Atlantic shore. My aim was to try to capture the nature of adventure and exploration as we passed through this incredible desolate landscape.

For me, adventure is not concerning the destination, but concerning the challenges, difficulty and unavoidable beauty undergoing getting here.

From Nouakchott we worked our way through inside, on what can scarcely be called roads. On a single particular day the weather and conditions have a change for the worse and a desert sandstorm begins to form beingshown to people there. I’d stopped to take some photographs and before we knew it, the wind found quite a bit therefore began to rain.

Within seconds, the sky darkens additionally the winds increase to what we guess is just about 150km/hr. The stinging and blowing for the sand behave as sandpaper and is so intense that i’m like my uncovered skin is starting to be removed.

We quickly find ourselves pinned to the side of our vehicle, as we try to find some shelter and reprieve. If the wind dies straight down and we are finally able to rise straight back inside the truck there are bits of shattered glass everywhere. Our right back screen has entirely imploded therefore the inside is wet. Our guide, who had been looking forward to united states in the back chair, has cuts throughout their body from cup. Due to the fact storm settles we resumed our journey north through wilderness, anxious to obtain the next unanticipated change of occasions.

Once we finally reach Choum, we’re told that the train usually passes through sometime into the late afternoon. As we settle in and wait within the dust by the songs, a couple of families showed up using their goats and containers of various goods. The youngsters run around as the parents make supper and tea on little fires. Since the light for the day descends plus the sun dips below the horizon we resolved eighteen some rest. As soon as the train finally arrives, its six hours later and long after midnight. We grab our gear and wait for the train to slow nonetheless it doesn’t actually stop. We run alongside the automobiles holding the iron ore, illuminating the ground ahead with your headlamps.

We now have no idea just how much time we must access it therefore we quickly pick a car and climbed up among the ladders, throwing our gear and ourselves into it as fast as possible. Without warning the train sees rate once again.

We you will need to obtain a feeling of our surroundings but find yourself making a makeshift bed to get some sleep on the heaped mounds of jagged iron ore that fill our car. At night time, the desert temperatures fall considerably and I also wear all clothing i need to try and get a small sleep. Almost any sleep is difficult not merely because the train is incredibly loud, but because its huge size implies that whenever it does increase or decreases speed the cars hammer together violently.

Dawn brings with it the realization your dirt through the iron ore has seeped into our clothing, staining everything a rusty red hue. The abrasive dirt gets every where, therefore we wear ski goggles to safeguard our eyes and put scarves around our minds to stop us from breathing it in.

Because the sun gives us heat, we keep an eye out throughout the vast Sahara wilderness taking in the endless sand and arid plains. Relentless winds have actually endlessly recast the undulating dunes for the inside leaving a stark beauty.

The Mauritania Railway acts not only as the single connection between remote places plus the nation’s just major shipping slot, Nouadhibou, but as free transport for locals wanting to travel from remote communities towards the shore. The hours pass slowly together with conditions rise inexorably becoming a blistering, sweltering heat. In a few ways, there clearly was small to see along the way except several really small homes and dead camels wasting away near the songs.

Fundamentally, we reach the coastline and pull into Nouadhibou station, in which we go out looking for not known surf and a huge cemetery of lost shipwrecks. You can find land mines peppering the landscape here, therefore usage of the coastline is a delicate task. In recent years, most of the shipwrecks have now been dismantled and offered with regards to their steel but there are still some fascinating rusting ship skeletons found.

From shipwreck graveyards my fascination leads me personally to invest time with all the Imraguen fishermen in Banc d’Arguin National Park. It is a world history website because of its normal resources and fisheries. The Imraguen individuals have maintained their age-old lifestyles, based nearly solely on harvesting the migratory fish populations using old-fashioned sailboats.

The Imraguen fishermen still utilize conventional techniques which are unchanged given that they had been first recorded by fifteenth century Portuguese explorers.

One thing that shocks me personally is the fact that fishermen cannot swim. The evening I get to their town, locals tell me this 1 of fishermen has dropped from his boat and is believed to have drowned. A day later we assist the community search for his human anatomy however it is never ever discovered. It appears amazing in my experience why these people live their entire everyday lives by the sea and spend each and every day fishing, but still do not know how exactly to swim, nearly as though cultural superstition prevents them from wanting to learn.

As my journey wraps up I reflect on our experiences. I recognize that this adventure is those types of unusual times in life if the objectives of the fantasies and reality converge, as well as your adventures perform away better yet than you imagined.

This article initially appeared on Maptia and it is republished here with permission.