by Beverley Glick
Now that I have reached what is politely termed A Certain Age, I require more from my holidays than a nice hotel that’s within spitting distance of a beach. Nothing wrong with sunbathing, of course, but these days I’m much more interested in having an authentic, memorable experience with professional types who don’t mind getting stuck in to a bit of adventure.
I first encountered a small group of such people on my first walking tour with Ramblers Worldwide Holidays in the foothills of the Apennines in Tuscany. While they were all superbly well-equipped for the terrain with stout hiking boots, rucksacks and poles, they were anything but po-faced and serious – in fact they were exceptionally good fun and warmly welcomed this solo novice into their fold.
The great thing about a Ramblers tour group is that you know everyone else will be well-travelled and happy to share tips about what not to miss.
You are also guaranteed to have an engaging expert leader at your beck and call who will be able to introduce you to exciting things off the beaten track while making sure you see the best of local culture, history and landscapes — and get to sample some tasty cuisine.
That’s why, when I started thinking about exploring more of the world on foot, I went straight to Ramblers Worldwide Holidays. The company has been providing great-value walking holidays for 66 years now, but there’s much more to it than that.
You can book cruise and walk, rail and walk, pedal and walk, hutting, trekking and bird-watching holidays too. Age isn’t a barrier and holidays are carefully designed for different abilities, ambitions and interests. Ramblers’ clients travel solo, with a partner, a group of friends or fellow enthusiasts.
And what a choice of destinations – there are more than 250 holidays on offer in more than 65 countries. So where to begin? I’ve already visited South Africa and absolutely loved it but a friend had recommended Namibia, with its vast, empty landscapes and abundant wildlife. On the 19-night walking holiday in Namibia, I’d get to visit Etosha National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves, which boasts 114 species of mammal including the rare black rhino, the black-faced impala and the cheetah. By contrast, the tour also visits stunning Sossusvlei, an arid area of beautifully coloured dunes.
I’ve also been to China but had the urban experience rather than the rural one, so the itinerary that appeals to me is Sichuan Province – the Kingdom of the Giant Panda. I’d get to revisit Beijing, the Great Wall and the Summer Palace before flying to Chengdu, then Jiuzhaigou and the Nine Villages Valley — an area of outstanding natural beauty with sparkling lakes and endless forests. Then there’s a whole day to explore the Bifengxia National Park, one of a handful of places where you can see beautiful giant pandas.
I also feel that I haven’t seen enough of New England, so the 14-night holiday that takes in Salem — home of the 17th-century witch trials — Boston, Mount Washington and Vermont is very attractive – especially in September when the autumn colours will be at their most beautiful.
If I’m really going to go for it, though, then the only option would be the life changing 28-night Australian Grand Tour. As they say, there’s only one way to visit the land down under – and that’s to do it big. Starting in the cultural centre of Melbourne, the tour visits Adelaide – gateway to Kangaroo Island – then Alice Springs, travelling along the Western MacDonnell ranges to Glen Helen, where the tour follows the famous Larapinta trail on foot.
Then it’s on to iconic Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) before continuing to Darwin to explore the extraordinary rock formations and vast landscapes of the Kakadu National Park.
After that we can snorkel or dive in a remote part of the Great Barrier Reef before flying to Sydney and visiting the remarkable Blue Mountains. Whatever I choose, I can rest assured that I will be in the capable hands of an experienced leader and in the company of like-minded explorers.
Ramblers Worldwide Holidays offers affordable long-haul travel with no hidden extras and a range of special selection hotels – and with AITO’s protection I can book a holiday with absolute confidence.
When you have reached A Certain Age, having that confidence is extremely important — along with the promise of an astonishing set of stories and images to bring back home.
Whichever holiday you choose, in these days of digital photography you should take more than one memory card for your camera and take pictures of everything. Remember, it costs nothing to delete unwanted photos — but it is expensive if you need to go back to get the missing photo.
To book your next adventure with Ramblers Worldwide Holidays please call 01707 33 11 33 now or visit www.ramblersholidays.co.uk