If you were given a free plane ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Ethiopia or Nepal – mountains, trekking, culture and somehow never been to either!
What’s the best thing about life on the road as a tour leader?
Learning! About life, the world and different cultures through the people that I meet- group members, people we work with and other local folks. All sorts of things from the more serious issues through to quirky and the downright strange.....
Have you got any packing tips for a travelling life?
Go light and wash often.
What do you never leave home without?
Hope and an open mind.
On tour what has made you stop in your tracks and go “Wow!”?
‘Wow’!! – we ‘Westerners’ are blessed that we are able to travel so easily- so many people of this world do not have the opportunity and maybe don’t get the chance to go further than the nearest village/town/city never mind another whole country!
For us with the fortune to travel - every place has its own ‘wow’ factor if you really look.
The sights that always get me though are the stars, especially the shooting ones, and the sunrise high up on the summit of Kilimanjaro. WOW – every time!!
What’s your top tip for travelling responsibly?
Be open and talk to people – and more importantly, listen to what they have to say. Leave assumptions, especially those borne from the media, at home. See what is really there.
If you had to eat just one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Apples – many varieties exist and they keep the doctor away.
If you had the chance to start a new country with your own rules, what would be your first rule?
Everyone has to spend at least 30 minutes singing and dancing every day – creates a positive, happy mood
What was your proudest moment as a tour leader?
I am always really pleased when people go home feeling that they’ve had an amazing experience on tour. But I am always especially proud when I’ve helped people to push beyond their comfort zones and realise their abilities and strengths – something to really take home.
What was your funniest moment as a tour leader?
Ah – so many! Many are unprintable – well, I wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone – especially myself! But a recent one that made me giggle was the tree full of Chupi bats spotted on a recent camping safari that were really my knickers hanging out to dry. (Chupi is the Swahili word for panties).
Hellen has recently been leading tours for us up Mount Kilimanjaro and she asnwered a few extra questions for us on her experience of this..
What is the view from your office?
If I’m lucky it’s the shimmering glaciers of Kibo (Kilimanjaro’s summit massif) looking up and billowing clouds below. If I’m unlucky it’s a foggy view of the boots in front or sometimes even just a foggy view........
What in your opinion is the best thing about the job?
On Kilimanjaro – everything!! The great outdoors, the fresh air, the unique landscape that changes often, even within a day’s trek, the local crew who work exceptionally hard and are great fun, especially when we all join in for a bit of a singing and dancing.
Seeing sunrise on the way to the summit – it is truly one of the most beautiful and unusual sunrises you’ll ever see.
Describe the funniest event you ever witnessed with a group?
On Kili – that is probably Tim (from the Explore office) explaining to the guides why he has to wear glasses...
What is the best place to visit in your country and why?
Kili of course!!! ‘Cos it’s there and it’s beautiful!! - ‘nuff said!
Describe one of the local customs in your country?
It’s a tradition here to say ‘pole’ to people when they have completed hard work or had an accident or problem. It’s usually translated to English as ‘sorry’. But its real meaning is much broader and deeper – it acknowledges the burden and shows empathy and respect to the person affected.
At first, years ago, I misunderstood this, taking the direct ‘sorry’ translation and thought that at the end of a day’s trekking the crew were saying ‘pole’ to me because they thought I looked really knackered and was struggling rather than showing kindness.
What do your customers often forget to pack and what other recommendations would you have?
Enough sweets !! Bring more sweets, especially sours and liquorice ones. Oooh and chocolate biscuits, they are good for altitude! Seriously though, glove requirements are often underestimated for summit night especially if using walking poles (Recommended).
And, back to the sweets, for summit night glucose based products (tablet form or mint cake), are ideal as they are easily digested but must be without any kind of stimulant such as caffeine (makes your heart beat faster and it’ll be working hard enough anyway, thank you very much).