Malawi making waves

Our tour Magical Malawi is a fantastic chance for travellers to discover this beautiful South East African country. Whilst we’ve known about this regions’s amazing Fairtrade organisations for some time, it’s great to see the world also wisening up to this destination too. Cue our latest media mention from the folks at the Independent, who have featured our tour to Malawi in their top ‘Adventure holidays’. Here’s what they had to say…

Tour operators are increasingly offering visitors the chance to meet local people and give something back during their trip […] Saddle Skedaddle is known for cycling holidays but new for 2016 is a bike-free, 13-day tour of Malawi visiting Fairtrade producers. The Malawi Meet the People tour (0191 265 1110;meetthepeople.skedaddle.co.uk) runs from 4-16 June and gives you the chance to meet Fairtrade coffee farmers and rice producers in their homes and see the real impacts of Fairtrade, as well as visiting national parks. The price of £2,445pp includes 12 nights’ half-board accommodation in locally owned guesthouses, guiding, transfers and donations to the producers visited. Flights not included.

Want to read the Independent article in full? Click here.

For more information about our holiday in Malawi, click here.

Mzuzu coffee in Malawi

Malawi is a little known gem in the heart of Africa, a small country of diverse beauty, friendly people and amazing wildlife. We spend our time in Northern Malawi viewing game and relaxing in one of the country’s incredible national parks before visiting smallholder farmers growing coffee, rice and peanuts. 

Mzuzu - Tenson_Mwenechanya_43550

Our first fair trade visit will be to the farmers who produce the delicious coffee from Traidcraft’s single origin Malawi coffee and we’ll enjoy a cup of coffee while learning about coffee production and the benefits Fairtrade has brought to the cooperative. Moving on to Karonga, we visit rice farmers who have been working with Just Trading Scotland and we’ll visit a school involved in the 90kg of rice ‘send a child to school’ project. We then spend a few days on the shores of magical lake Malawi before our tour draws to a close with a visit to Liberation’s peanut producers close to the border with Zambia.

Malawi (60) LiberationWe work with local partners in Malawi who help us develop our itineraries and provide local guides and logistics for all of our tours. Alongside keeping all of our travellers safe and comfortable, our priority is also to support the local tourism initiatives and businesses, and as we travel and we will visit communities engaged and benefiting from these projects. Our holidays run in June each year during the coffee harvest – the perfect season for travelling as temperatures are warm but not too hot and there is little chance of rain. Malawi is often known as ‘the warm heart of Africa’ and on this tour we can expect beaming smiles and welcoming handshakes everywhere we go!

Click here for more information about our Malawi Holiday and click here to request a tour dossier with a day by day itinerary.

Alternatively contact Lizzie for more information:
Email: lizzie@skedaddle.com or Call: 0191 2651110

A Wanderlust Win

Efrain Valles heads up a team of fantastic guides who lead our Meet the People Tours to Peru and we were delighted to hear Bill Bryson announce him as the overall winner of Wanderlust’s 2014 Tour Guide of the Year Awards.

AwardsWhether it’s the producers you visit or the guides themselves, we know that it’s the people that you meet on our tours that make our trips such a special experience and we’re always delighted for any excuse to celebrate just how fantastic they all are. Wanderlust are the only travel awards to focus specifically on recognising the contribution of tour guides and with the judging being made on the testimonials from previous travellers, this award means so very much to Efrain.

Efrain at Chicuchas Wasi(2)

Efrain guided our very first Traidcraft Meet the People Tour to Peru in August 2008 and has just completed his 12th tour with us this year. In 2012 Efrain came to the UK to run the London Marathon, a lifelong dream and a fantastic opportunity to raise over £5,000 for Traidcraft Exchange and a further £6,500 for Chicuchas Wasi in Peru.

Huge thanks must go to everyone who sent in testimonials about their tours to Peru with us and for those who were able to join us in celebrating with Efrain at the Awards ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society last month. He’s been overwhelmed by the level of support from Traidcraft supporters and we’ll all remember the massive cheer when his name was first announced at the ceremony!

Efrain wins a bursary of £5,000 which will be going to Chicuchas Wasi, a school providing an education for young girls in the Cusco region. It’s a charity really close to Efrain’s heart and we always make a visit to Ruth and the girls at Chicuchas Wasi during our tours and we are looking forward to hearing how they plan to spend the bursary money next year. You can find out more about Chicuchas Wasi on their website by clicking here and for further information about how to stay in touch with the charity and donate through the UK based Friends of Chicuchas Wasi then do get in touch with Lizzie at Skedaddle.

Although Efrain’s trip to the UK was short, he had a great time celebrating with many old friends and even had a little time to enjoy some of the sights of London:

Chased by a train!(1)

For more photos from Efrain’s Adventures in London you can visit our Facebook album here.

We’ve been delighted to see lots of coverage of Efrain and his award all over the British and Peruvian press. For those interested in seeing some of the articles, you can find more on our Facebook page or click the following links:

Wanderlust
The Guardian
The Telegraph

And for those looking to improve their spanish…
La Republica
Canal N

Frecuencia Latina

You can find out more about our tours to Peru by clicking here and to join our tours to Peru with Efrain and the team, chat to Hannah on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com.

Postcards from Western India

Penny and Dan joined a Meet the People Tour to Western India in February 2014, calling in at Mumbai, Kutch, Jaipur, and Delhi to name just a few! 

Here’s their five most memorable moments of the trip:

1. Lunch with a cotton farmer and his extended family on their farm in rural Kutch. We were greeted with music and flowers and treated as honoured guests, which made us feel humble.

Visiting St Mary's producers2. The opportunity and privilege to be welcomed by women embroiderers into their own homes in the poorer districts of Ahmedabad and Bhuj. It was a unique chance to compare our lives with theirs, to find out what is different in the way they live, and what is the same.

3. The holiday included not only the world famous tourist sights of the Taj Mahal and Jaipur’s Amber Fort, but also guided tours well off the well-worn tourist trail, along the back streets and slums of Mumbai, Agra and Ahmedabad. An endless supply of temples and monuments, cities and villages.

Group at Taj Mahal

4. Travelling by train, auto-rickshaw, and elephant through the most spectacular and diverse country in the world. Every second was spent gazing out of the window at something new and amazing (note, the elephant did not have windows!)

Painted elephant at amber fort nr Jaidpur

5. The many new friends we were reluctant to leave behind, and the new friends we brought back with us.

On their return, Dan and Penny created this short piece with video and images from their trip. We hope you will enjoy watching it as much as we did!

Find more details about our tour of Western India click here. Alternately contact Hannah in the office on 0191 2651110 or email info@skedaddle.com for an update on availability and more information.

Shop till you drop in Vietnam

Our tour in Vietnam is packed full of character and charm, so it’s great to see this tour featured  in a double page spread in The Guardian, thanks to journalist Liz Boulter. Didn’t manage to grab yourself a copy? Here’s a preview below…

Mai Chau paddy fields

It started with a tiny ceramic teapot and that led to a lacquered bamboo dish in a bright abstract pattern, then a hand-woven scarf. It was just the start of my tour of Vietnam, and I was already hooked.

I am not usually a shopaholic, but here not only did the prices appeal to my Yorkshire sensibilities – none of the above items cost more than £2 – but I could convince myself that this retail therapy was doing some good. There’s all sorts of tat on sale to tourists in Vietnam, much of it made in China. But I knew my spending would make a difference to local lives because I was on holiday with an organisation which makes that its mission.

Traidcraft, the people behind the British catalogues and gift shops, has teamed up with cycling-holiday operator Saddle Skedaddle (one of its founders used to work for Traidcraft) to offer trips to the developing countries the charity sources its wares from. The idea of Traidcraft’s “Meet the People” holidays (there’s no cycling on this particular trip) was to give people who were already part of the fair-trade movement – volunteering in shops, running stalls – the chance to see where products originated.

Even for those who’ve never been near a fairly traded fruit bowl, the tours offer a unique perspective, on people and cultures as well as sightseeing. (They also run trips in other Asian countries, and in Africa and Latin America.) Plus you get to shop till you drop, and feel good about it.

My teapot and dish came from a showroom in Hanoi run by Craft Link, a non-profit organisation that works with 60 artisan groups in northern Vietnam. Over tea and little cakes upstairs, we heard from manager Ms Tran and younger Ms Thuy all about its work finding markets for handicrafts as a way of keeping traditions alive and alleviating poverty. It’s not charity: they help groups for a couple of years, with training and financial support. And they always work with women.

Then we were let loose in the shop: our group of 15 Brits snapped up silk purses and scarves, bags, ceramics and jewellery. There was still more than two weeks of the tour left, but hey, a gorgeous little brooch won’t take up much room…

Want to find out more? Click here to read Liz’s article in full.

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Meet our fantastic guides!

All of our guides are fantastic ambassadors for their countries, keen to share their love and enthusiasm for their culture and history and always making sure you enjoy the very best trip possible.

Name: Efrain
Destination: Peru

Day 6 (4)

So proud of his country and heritage, Efrain recently brought a little bit of Peruvian culture to us when he joined us in the UK in April 2012 to run the London Marathon in full Inca Chaski dress. Running in the traditional dress of his ancestors, Efrain completed the marathon in 5 hours, 3 minutes and 32 seconds, raising just over £5,000 for Traidcraft Exchange.

You can see photos of Efrain’s journey to the UK to run in the London Marathon on our website by clicking here.

Click here for more information on our tours in Peru.

Name: Ranjith Henry 
Destination: India

Ranjith & Rani - cropped

Ranjith and his wife Rani, run Kolam Tours from their home in Chennai. Ranjith has been running tours with Traidcraft since 1990 and is a firm favourite and friend of so many who have travelled with him.

Ranjith is no ordinary tour guide. Happy to discuss and debate any and all subjects, and often leading the discussion about all that we see and do on the tours, Ranjith is determined to make sure that you make the most of your time discovering India, learning from the producers themselves about realities of life in modern day India. Prompting with the questions you didn’t even know you wanted to ask, Ranjith helps to challenge perceptions of India and every day occurences making every trip with him unforgettable.

You can join Ranjith on any of the following tours:
Southern India click here for more information
Western India click here for more information
Northern India click here for more information

Guide: Stephen, Suwadee, and Rosalind Salmon
Destination: Thailand

Suwade - cropped

Stephen, originally from the UK, first went to Thailand in 1972 as a volunteer and married Suwadee (pictured above) in Chiang Mai in 1975. They have lived in Thailand continuously for over 25 years, working and living in several different parts of the country. In 1992 they both helped start the ThaiCraft Association which they now manage alongside their daughter Rosalind and son Mark. ThaiCraft is a fair trade organisation partnering with nearly 100 craft communities in all regions of the country and their long-term relationships with the groups that we visit allows an insight into life in Thailand that few tourists will ever get to experience.

You can join the ThaiCraft family on our tour of Northern Thailand click here for more information.

Guide: Shamim
Destination: Bangladesh

Shamim - cropped

A fantastic ambassador for his country, Shamim facilitates and guides all of our tours in Bangladesh as we visit a variety of fantastic fair trade groups and communities.

With such a long and close relationship with Traidcraft, the producers and projects welcome all our groups as friends and Shamim’s welcome and approach is no different as he warmly welcomes us to enjoy and love Bangladesh as he does. Himself a fabric designer, Shamim has long been involved in the development and fair trade networks in Bangladesh and is a senior member of the National Crafts Council. As well as guiding us round the producers, projects and main sites of our visit, Shamim welcomes us for an unforgettable stay in a rural community of weavers and organic farmers very close to his heart.

Meet Shamim and enjoy Bangladesh on our tours in March click here for more information.

To check availability on any of the tours mentioned above click here.

For more information about any of our tours, or to chat through any questions please feel free to call Hannah in the office on 0191 2651110 or you can email us at info@skedaddle.com

Guide Efrain heads to London

We’re pretty proud of our Meet the People guiding team, who do an amazing job looking after all of our customers across the world. With such a variety of guiding characters in our range, we’re never short of fascinating tales about their adventurous lives! Product Manager Lizzie caught up with our Peruvian guide Efrain, who recently decided to swap the high altitude peaks of Peru for the chance to compete in the London Marathon…

Efrain at Machu Picchu

I first heard about Efrain back in 2007 when we were setting up our tours to Peru. I had asked our partners in Peru to send us some information about our new guide and this was their reply…

 “His knowledge and love of all things Peruvian,  his great sense of humour, his unflappable nature and his ability to deal with the vagaries of travel in the Andes makes him a popular leader highly in demand and his leadership experience will make this trip an truly unforgettable Peruvian adventure. His ambition one day is to compete in the London Marathon.”

It’s now 5 years later but we are finally there and Efrain has made it to the UK (his first trip out of South America) to run in the 2012 Virgin London Marathon, which took place on Sunday 22nd April, 2012.

It is not easy securing a place in the London Marathon as there are many more people who want to do it than there are places available. But we had been able to get one for Efrain through Traidcraft’s charity, Traidcraft Exchange. They had very kindly given Efrain one of their much sought after places on the marathon and in return we agreed to raise £3,000 to support their overseas development work. This raises much-needed funds for Traidcraft Exchange, a wonderful charity where we all know that the money will be used to help people in the developing world to improve their lives through trade.

For those of you who have travelled on some of our tours to India, Bangladesh and Kenya you will already have first-hand experience of some of the projects that Traidcraft Exchange are involved in, but you can also find more about the incredible work they do by clicking here to see Traidcraft Exchange’s website.

Having raised the necessary funds needed  – we want to thank everyone for all of their time, support and generous donations – Efrain managed to make his trip to the UK and complete his dream of running in the London Marathon a reality! Completing the run in an impressive 5 hours, 3 minutes and 32 seconds, it’s safe to say we’re incredibly proud here at MTP HQ. Here are a few photos from his journey to the big smoke…

sightseeing in London

Sightseeing in London!

Chicuchas Wasi Presentation

Efrain giving a presentation about his childhood and recent developments at Chicuchas Wasi (www.chicuchaswasi.org)

Joe Freeman low res

Efrain and a Samaritans runner at 25 miles – just 1 mile to go! (Thanks to Joe Freeman for the brilliant photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/joefreeman/6956878164/ )

Efrain ran the London Marathon for Traidcraft Exchange and you can read more about his story on his Just Giving site: www.justgiving.com/Efrain

During his trip to the UK Efrain is also raising money and promoting a local charity in Cusco which is very dear to his heart – Chicuchas Wasi. Donations to Chicuchas Wasi can now be made through UK charity Friends of Chicuchas Wasi using the details as follows:

Cheques can be made to “Friends of Chicuchas Wasi” and sent to:
Michael Tunnicliffe
5 St George’s Way
Kingsmead
Northwich
CW9 8XG

Or by BACs payment sent to
The Co-operative Bank
Sort Code 08-92-99
Account number: 65469806
Please send an email to Michael at mtunni@sky.com to let him know a payment has been made.

The charity is registered for Gift Aid so please indicate if your donation is eligible for this to Michael, either in your email or in a note along with a cheque.

Interested in fundraising for Traidcraft?

If you have been inspired by Efrain’s marathon run for Traidcraft Exchange then join the Traidcraft Team in one of their challenge events.

Visit www.traidcraft.co.uk/challenge-events for more info or call 0191 4976445

Guardian Green List 2011

Traidcraft’s Meet the People Tours are one of the UK’s top sustainable travel initiatives.

That’s according to this year’s Green Travel List from The Guardian. The list is an annual roll-call of green, eco-friendly and sustainable travel companies, including tour operators, and accommodation and transport providers.

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Organisations are nominated by the public and then a panel of eco-experts choose the most innovative – Meet the People was chosen as one of the top sustainable holidays.

Here’s what the Guardian had to say about us:

Witness spectacular sunsets over the Himalayas, then explore the ancient city of Kathmandu, take an elephant safari in Chitwan national park then chill out in the lakeside city of Pokhara. This is just one of the whistle-stop itineraries on Traidcraft’s novel sightseeing trips to developing countries. Other destinations include Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cuba, Peru and Vietnam. While exploring the country, you stay with the small-scale farmers who make fairtrade products.

Click here to read the Guardian’s article in full.

Click here for more details about how you can get involved in our worldwide tours.

GreenList2011

Navigating Nepal…

Meet the People traveller Judy Dixey headed to Nepal to discover the rich treasures and fascinating local culture that await those who venture here…

Many people dream of going to Nepal – some were dreaming when they were actually there, on the hippie trail in the ‘60s; some dream about trekking in the magnificent Himalayas or even taking a flight over Everest; some dream of finding themselves, or their god – Buddha was born in this kingdom at the top of world.

I was privileged to try out a very different kind of Nepal on a trip organised by Saddle Skedaddle on behalf of Traidcraft. Traidcraft is an essentially Christian organisation whose mission is to reduce poverty through trade. It is active in various developing countries throughout the world, empowering people to take control of their lives through working to produce goods which can be traded in the West – whether it’s food, crafts, clothes or homeware. All are produced under at least as good conditions as those demanded under Fair Trade regulations.

Our visit was entitled ‘Meet the People’ who are involved with Fair Trade and Traidcraft; and so we did. We met an inspirational man who’s at the forefront of an organisation – Get Paper Industries – which has drawn disadvantaged women into employment, making hand-made paper, or felt objects. We visited as they were working on a line of paper containers for The Body Shop; so when you next buy items from there, do take note of the little boxes they are packed in – they will probably come from Nepal. He also had the heart and wisdom to see that girls’ education is essential (currently 34% of girls in Nepal do NOT go to school) and to devise schemes to ‘trick’ that caste-based society to ‘Send your daughter to school’. The scheme is to pay 100 rupees (approx 75p) a week to the lower-caste families when their daughter goes to school; this encourages other higher caste families to feel they might be missing out. The notion of ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ works in Nepal too, so they send their daughters as well.

The company is also active in AIDS awareness, and it is also environmentally aware, so any machinery used is powered by solar energy.

Women at GWP

There is a major issue of young women being trafficked to India for the sex trade; GPI has initiated self-governing networks of girls to confront this issue – over 100 groups now exist of 15 girls, who can guard against the traffickers’ empty temptations of a better life elsewhere, through mutual support and information. They are also provided with the means of earning income and preventing their fathers or brothers from selling them to traffickers – they might be given a goat, which will have kids, and more kids; the goat is a speciality meat at festivals, so is highly valued. We met one such group in the back of beyond, up the most appalling track, which was only passable by jeep or on foot. The girls were meeting together, minuting their discussions and decisions and earning respect from the villagers round about.

GPI Anita Milan School

Our next visit in Pokhara was to the Women’s Skills Development Project, founded by Ram Kali Khadka in 1975. Over 11,000 women have benefitted from her energy and actions and the two shops on the Lake Side Road are packed with imaginative craft work from the 435 current members. They are learning skills such as dyeing, weaving and sewing; some of these are skills we lost 100, 150 or even 200 years ago; but they are useful skills in the context of the country as it is. How could you expect them to be learning IT skills, when there are constant power cuts, and the lighting is barely good enough to read by at night? Of the 435 women working for the Project, some are home workers; 35 are disabled, of whom 11 are blind.

We certainly filled our suitcases with masses of beautifully-made imaginative presents for home and families, very useful as we come up to Christmas.

But the trip wasn’t all serious visits to these projects. There was plenty of time to visit and admire a fraction of the temples and shrines for which Kathmandu has obtained the deserved soubriquet of City of Temples. We also described it as City of Chaos as the traffic is terrifying, there are no traffic lights and policemen in the middle of the road wave and blow whistles to gain some sort of order. Amazingly, we saw no accidents, and drivers squeeze their battered vehicles through tiny spaces, demonstrating significant skill and nerve. Everyone who is not in a battered vehicle is on a motorbike; usually the driver wears the helmet, while the pillion rider takes her life in her hands and doesn’t. Cows, dogs and chickens wander across the road with impunity and somehow survive. The potholes are such that I’ll never complain about those in Britain again!

We also travelled to the Chitwan National Park, where we saw rhino, elephants and deer; at one point a family of wild boar had an argument and charged across our path. We had a highly knowledgeable guide, Kumar, whose wild-life life had begun with 9 years in tiger conservation, and despite no formal education, had accumulated a wealth of knowledge to share.

Nagarkot

And of course, we did get up to see the sunrise. Rosy-fingered dawn did tip the peaks of the Himalayas in front of us, a few minutes before the sun itself actually appeared above the horizon. What an astounding experience.

Our guide, Prajol, had worked with Traidcraft and Skedaddle to ensure we had as rounded a view of Nepal as could be gained in the space of just under two weeks – and many of us have come back with a feeling of sensation- and emotion- overload which will take some time to unpack and process. There is no doubt that there is masses to do there, the infrastructure militates against swift improvement in living conditions, as does the Hindu acceptance of life as it is. But it is better to light a candle than rail against the darkness and that is what I did, in the Mahabuddha, the abode of a thousand Buddhas, in thanks for our visit and as a prayer for peace and enlightenment.

To see more photos visit ICN’s Facebook Page

Many thanks to Judy Dixey for this article and to the Independent Catholic News for allowing us to reproduce it here. To see the original article please click here

If you would like any further information about our tours to Nepal with Traidcraft then please click here. Alternatively, please call Hannah at Skedaddle on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com.