Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is usually a once in a lifetime experience but for some Explore tour leaders it's a regular activity! Heather McWalter spent last summer leading tours up Africa's highest mountain.
"Life as a tour leader is about living life for the moment, everyday is an adventure and life never feels like it's passing you by, I really believe for me it is the best job in the world. Last summer I was lucky enough to be leading groups up Kilimanjaro, to have an office on the highest mountain in Africa was very special. But for me a big part of being a tour leader is sharing these experiences with others and the group experience with Explore is fantastic, especially when this summer on safari someone brought a bottle of Malt Whisky to share around the evening campfire!"
If you were given a free plane ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Lhasa, I’ve been to Tibet before but only for 1 week. I would love to spend more time trekking in the remote regions and do the sacred circuit of Mount Kailash with all the pilgrims.
What’s the best thing about life on the road as a tour leader?
You can never get bored, every day is different even when I do the same tours, this can be because of changing weather and seasons but more likely due to the different people and personalities that come on each tour.
Have you got any packing tips for a travelling life?
I pack my things in small dry sacks, firstly so my clothes always stay dry but also it’s easier to find things. Every sack is a different colour, it keeps everything more organised.
What do you never leave home without?
My running gear, I love to get up in the mornings and experience first light and the locals getting to work. Sometimes I can get some of the group to come out with me, but normally I’m on my own.
On tour what has made you stop in your tracks and go “Wow!”?
Many things, probably on every tour I’ve done there’s a moment of thinking ‘there’s nowhere else I’d rather be’. Often it will be breathtaking scenery, or when the group are interacting and having fun with local people, like when we had a tug of war in Mongolia, the group against the local crew and Nomads.
What’s your top tip for travelling responsibly?
To remember that we are the visitors, and therefore shouldn’t try and dictate how things are done, ‘just because its different, doesn’t mean it is wrong’. One of the best things about travelling is experiencing the new customs and cultures.
If you had to eat just one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
As long as there are chillies in it, I’m happy.
If you had the chance to start a new country with your own rules, what would be your first rule?
Every person has to smile to at least one stranger everyday. This always breaks down the barriers between people.
What was your proudest moment as a tour leader?
Always when people accomplish a walk that they thought they wouldn’t be able to do, from summiting Kilimanjaro to walking up the steps between villages in the Almalfi coast.
What was your funniest moment as a tour leader?
In Italy after the first night’s meal one of the group asked if ‘tomorrow can we go to a restaurant that doesn’t only do Italian food’. Brilliant!
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