Tag Archive for Trek Transylvania

The Best of 2018 – from the Charity Challenge Leaders

Leaders are the heart and soul of any Charity Challenge event. They laugh with you, cry with you, push you to achieve things you never thought you could, and celebrate with you. It takes a very special person to be a leader on a Charity Challenge event.

Looking back on 2018, these are the moments that hold a special place in the hearts of the Charity Challenge leaders. Read on to find out from your favourite leader what made 2018 awesome.

Ian – Trek Transylvania

Trek Transylvania with Charity Challenge

Over the last 12 months or so I have developed something of a specialism for the Transylvania Trek – which is a great short itinerary challenge. In July 2018 I was delighted to be a leader on the Coppafeel “Trek Transylvania Challenge”, helping almost 60 challengers reach the summit of one of Romania’s highest peaks at 2200m – Batrana (The Old Lady). This trip offers spectacular views, picture-postcard alpine villages, acres of colourful meadows, friendly locals and rugged mountains, along the possibility of spotting brown bears, lynx, wild boars and wolves! Throw in a visit to Dracula’s Castle in Bran too and you have a very special challenge indeed – I love it!

John – Great Wall Discovery Challenge

China Great Wall Discovery Charity Challenge

In 2018, I was lucky enough to be a leader on the Great Wall Discovery Trek and what a great experience it was for me and the group. As with all Charity Challenge treks, you get to meet some amazing people doing amazing things for charities and this was no different. Not only did I get to meet some great people but I also got to trek on five different sections of the Great Wall with some incredible views. The areas we visited were steeped in history and at the end of our day we would arrive at our inn to see some great local culture and eat some lovely local food. It’s hard to say what my favourite day was as they were all amazing, but the final day does stand out; we stopped for lunch and the group congratulated each other on all of the hard work they had put in to complete the challenge, we all just took the time to look around and take in the amazing scenery below us and knew we had shared some experiences with each other that would make us friends for life.

Colin – North South Vietnam Cycle

North to South Vietnam Cycle with Charity Challenge

My favourite challenge during 2018 was cycling across Vietnam. The trip offered lots of diversity from the empty beaches, beautiful cities and lovely scenery. The history and culture is very interesting and the people are generally very friendly and welcoming. The cycling is really varied. Riding around busy cities with lots of other cycles and scooters is very different and entertaining. The riding along the costal roads can be very hard particularly with the heat and if you’re riding into a headwind. The 9kms of continual climbing up the Hai Van Mountain Pass is really challenging but a 10km descent on good roads is the reward for all your hard work. Overall a lovely country to cycle in and a place that I keep getting drawn back to.

Ray – Great Wall Discovery Challenge

China Great Wall Discovery Challenge with Charity Challenge

The most rewarding and challenging challenge I’ve ever lead has to be guiding “Blind Dave” as he is known as, on the Albion Foundation Great Wall Challenge in 2018. Guiding him up and down the steep terrain on the wall in all it’s states of restoration was a challenge within the challenge. He was an inspiration to us all as he tackled crumbling steps, the steep paths amongst thorned bushes and the slippery paved sections without so much as a single complaint. For most people this is quite a challenge but for someone with no sight just imagine how difficult it must have been for him. With his wife and family with us I learned a lot from them about guiding someone who is blind. Having to describe the paths and our surroundings also helped me take in more of the challenge than I have ever done on my previous two occasions. Our team of local leaders ensured everything went smoothly from checking into our rooms, organising each day on the wall and having that all important celebratory meal on the final night. It was a challenge I shall always remember.

Penny – Trek Patagonia 

Waking from a restless sleep, I was aware of my nose being numb from the cold while I lay warm in my sleeping bag. I had strongly recommended digging dig and getting up at 5am to enjoy the sunrise in this spectacular location. I hoped I had inspired the group enough but it was silent in the woods outside my tent. Best I get myself up so I struggled into several layers including hat and gloves and wandered across to the banks of the glacial and fast flowing Rio Blanco. Impressively the vast majority of the group stood transfixed staring with admiration at the austere and dramatic east face of Mount Fitzroy as the rising sun on the opposite ridge cast its spell onto the granite slab turning it first a pale pink to crimson and to amber before the daylight colours took over. This magical sight was further enhanced when the image was reflected in the pools of water on the edge of the river inverting and doubling the spectacle in front of us. We remained in silence, spell bound for several minutes before gradually moving off to prepare for our imminent climb further up the side of this awe inspiring peak to look down onto its hidden turquoise lake at Lago de Los Tres. An emotional, unique and very special experience never to be forgotten. Patagonia – challenging but unbeatable!

Richard – Madagascar Trek

The journey to the Andringitra National park in Central Madagascar is an epic one but the travelling is well worth it as the trek is spectacular. The first two days are spent meandering beside rivers gradually gaining altitude through small villages and farmland. This part of the area is rarely visited by trekkers, so we soon gathered small groups of locals who were pleased to show us their houses and exchange songs. By the third day the settlements are left far behind and we entered the mountains proper, for me, the best day was still to come. Summit day meant an early start after an interesting night listening to the thunderstorms rolling around the nearby peaks. A quick breakfast and then a tough trek up to the summit of Pic Boby, after the descent there was still another 4 hours of walking, but everyone pulled together and supported each other through the hard times. That 4 hours is spent traversing some of the finest granite landscape that I have ever had the privilege of seeing, it’s a hard day, a long day but truly rewarding and joining in with the porters singing and dancing is a real hoot.

Danny – Great Wall Discovery Challenge

China Great Wall Discovery Challenge with Charity Challenge

2018 was a year of contrasts for me on the Great Wall of China with scorching hot temperatures in May taking our trekking stamina to the limits and a bitterly cold wind on our last day in late October making things feel as though we were half way up a Himalayan mountain. But there were also plenty of elements of similarity between the two trips which undoubtedly helped contribute to their overall success, such as the dedication and professionalism of the local team. However, the biggest factor which always leaves me in awe is the shear grit and determination of the participants to push on through the Challenge particularly when they are at their lowest points in terms of energy and belief in themselves. It’s a pleasure to have played a small part in helping them to achieve their goals and an honour to see them battle through each day’s challenges and then witness their well-deserved feelings of elation at the end of the week. Truly inspirational!

Steve – Great Wall Discovery Challenge

China Great Wall Discovery Challenge with Charity Challenge

It’s been 4 yrs. since I began to work with Charity Challenge as an expedition leader and during this time I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited some amazing destinations Worldwide; sharing amazing experiences with some truly inspirational people. Personally; 2018 has been yet another unforgettable year! During September 2018 I travelled to China to trek parts of the Great Wall with a group of Challengers who were raising money for The British heart Foundation. For me, autumn time on the Great Wall is the best season to visit; the colours are truly breath-taking and the weather was perfect; which is always a welcome bonus! The team were great fun to be with. Clearly some were ‘out of their comfort zone’. However; we all worked together helping others who needed it, and having the help of our two amazing local guide’s Miko and Hastings, who were always on hand to entertain and impress us with their knowledge about the Great Wall, meant that we all had an unforgettable experience. I count myself very lucky to be able to help people realise their dreams and share in their success. Every one completed the Great Wall of China trek safely, with no dramas. Yes: there were some tears; tears of joy… after finally completing their amazing challenge in China!

Laura – Greenland

Arctic Circle Challenge Greenland

The Arctic Circle Challenge (to Greenland) was one of those truly life-changing experiences, where you live your days to the rhythm of nature and the walk ahead. We trekked 100km through the wilds of Greenland, rough camping in stunning remote locations. Each day held something new – surprise spottings of wild caribou, braving the glacial river crossings and trekking over mountain passes. The sheer scale and rawness of the landscape is breathtaking – one day we walked next to a lake that is 80km long. I was lucky enough to have the camaraderie of a truly amazing team – Go Yellow! And there is surely no better way to start a trek than being flown in to your remote start point by helicopter…

John – Everest Base Camp

Everest Base Camp Trek with Charity Challenge

When I was asked to lead a group to Everest Base Camp in 2018 I had to read the email twice! I couldn’t believe it. It was an amazing opportunity and I was thrilled to bits! Then 3 months later, I landed at Lukla Airport with 25 clients to begin what was a beautiful journey and an incredible challenge. We climbed through pristine forests littered with small villages and crossed glacial blue rivers on swinging cable bridges. As we climbed higher to Namche Bazaar, we felt the altitude and had to slow our pace whilst we acclimatised. But a slow pace was the perfect way to take in the scenery and the monasteries, to get to know my fellow adventurers and the local Sherpas. One day we stood and watched as three lammergeyer eagles circled one of the many shrines that we passed on our ascent, and we listened whilst the local guides told us stories of snow leopards living close to the path! We continued climbing higher, past 4000m then past 5000m.  Finally arriving at Everest Base Camp was very emotional for us all, we had all worked extremely hard to get there and there were plenty of hugs, a few tears and massive smiles all round! Despite all the hard work, on the way back down, I definitely overheard someone saying that they would do it again….

James Marriott – Kilimanjaro to Ngorongoro Crater Bike Challenge

Charity Challenge

I was fortunate enough to be a leader on the British Asian Trust’s ‘Most Exotic Tour’ for the third year running this year. In 2016 we tackled Rajasthan, in 2017 Cambodia, and now it was time to experience Tanzania. The portents were great as on the first day we had incredible views of Mount Kilimanjaro from the hotel. The highlight of the tour for me was the day spent cycling around Lake Manyara. We set off from our tented safari camp in Tarangire National Park and cycled down to the lake on the dry salt flats that surround it, spotting our first wildebeest and antelope in the distance and growing increasingly excited.  Cycling through a makeshift fishing village we saw flamingos parading on the lake shore and marabou storks flying overhead. As we continued around the lake we passed alongside herds of zebra, the odd ostrich eyeing us quizzically and then through Maasai camps, all before lunch. It was the quintessential East African experience, made all the more vivid as we experienced it on two wheels with every sense stimulated long the way – certainly a day I will never forget!

Lizzy – Great Wall Discovery Challenge

China Great Wall Discovery Challenge with Charity Challenge

One of my leading highlights of the 2018 season was in China, on the Great Wall.  Participants on open challenges come in all shapes, sizes, ages and levels of fitness and I find it particularly rewarding to help those who maybe struggle a bit more than average in achieving their goals. Marion was an inspiration to the whole group; despite suffering from a serious health issue she stoically plodded on, taking shorter breaks than the rest of the group so that she didn’t fall too far behind and regularly thought setting off whilst others were still enjoying a well earned rest. She was an absolute pleasure to lead, highly amusing and frequently kept us all in fits of giggles.  Anyone considering a challenge should go for it in my opinion. It will certainly be life changing!

Andy – Trek to Machu Picchu

Trek to Machu Picchu Peru with Charity Challenge

In 2018 I was lucky enough to be a leader on Trek Machu Pichu. The experience of trekking in a remote area of the Andes, and interacting with local people in the villages that we passed, really made this trip for me. The local team were fantastically supportive and I particularly remember after one long day battling the altitude we all reached camp to be served incredible fresh Peruvian nachos and mountains of guacamole.  Our last day of trekking was on the Inca trail and started in heavy rain and continued through thick cloud right until we hit the sun gate where suddenly the clouds parted and there was Machu Pichu directly below us. A magical moment.

Just can’t wait to make your own memories? Visit Charity Challenge to book your next challenge.

Valentine’s Day all around the world

It’s that time of the year again! For many people, St Valentine’s day can feel monotonous and commercial, all fluffy pink love hearts and cherubs, and teenagers sending each other Justin Bieber themed E-cards! However, outside of the UK and the US, there are still places where the festival of love is celebrated in more traditional, unique and frankly bizarre ways! So if you’re looking for inspiration for new ways to mark the ‘day of lovers’, then read on…

In Brazil, Valentine’s day is not traditionally celebrated on February 14th, since the nation is still in the throes of the Rio Carnival. Instead, they celebrate the “Dia dos Namoradas”, otherwise known as the “Day of Lovers” on June 12th, on this day a feast and parties are held to celebrate the patron saint of romance and matchmaking.

If your approach to St Valentines day mirrors Brazil’s work hard, party harder ethic, then you should check out our Brazil Trek and Kayak Challenge! This is one of our most unique and varied challenge – the combined elements of rainforest trekking and sea kayaking make this a very tough challenge! But on the completion of your challenge in Rio, you will definitely have reason to celebrate! And of course, what better place to celebrate with your Valentine than underneath a Rio sunset?

Romanians also don’t traditionally celebrate Valentine’s Day, they instead celebrate “Dragobete”, a more earthy rural festival on February 24th that denotes a celebration of lovers, spring and new life. It’s a day when traditionally “birds get betrothed” i.e. Start building their nests’, girls collect snow to melt for magic potions and children sing songs of spring. It is also said that if during a couple’s dance, one lover steps over the foot of another, then that lover will play the dominant role in the relationship! So if you’re planning on going out clubbing this evening to celebrate St Valentines, take note!

If you find these medieval notions of magic potions and rural living romantic, then you should defiantly check out our Trek Transylvania, where you and your beloved one could journey through rugged landscapes in a tough challenge that culminates in a visit to the enigmatic Dracula’s Castle.

China celebrates two Valentine’s Days, the first being the 14th of February St Valentines Day that we all know and love (or hate!). The second day of celebration of love is a little more unusual and falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar. This day – known as “Qi Xi” or “Magpie Festival” comes from a Chinese legend over 2000 years old – and is the ultimate story of star crossed lovers! Like all folk tales, there are many variations of the Qixi Festival legend, but the basic story is usually the same: Niulang – a cow herder, and Zhinv – a weaver girl who is also the daughter of the Goddess of Heavan, meet on earth and get married. When the Goddess discovers this she orders her daughter back to heaven. The cowherd followed her there and in anger the Goddess cuts a river into the sky – the Milky Way, thus separating the two lovers. But once a year, all the magpies of the world fly up to the Milky Way to bridge the river and allow the two lovers to meet.

To celebrate this day, lovers visit the Temple of the Matchmaker and pray for love, happiness, and marriage. Singles also visit the temple to ask for luck in love. It is also traditional for young girls to carve melons and offer up fruit to the deities on this day.

If legends of star crossed lovers inspire you, then take a look at our Great Wall Discovery Challenge, where you and your lover will have to overcome 1000s of steps to reach your destiny.

In Scandinavia, couples here will exchange “lover’s cards” on February 14, and like us, indulge in the commercial St Valentines day. But they do have a poetic and quirky card tradition known as the “gaekkebrev”, whereby the man sending this special card will write a rhyme for the lady to whom he’s sending it, but instead of writing his name he will sign off with a dot for each letter of his name. The puzzle is then for the lady receiving the card to guess the name of the sender. If she can guess correctly, her prize will be an Easter egg at Easter. But if she doesn’t guess, she owes the sender an Easter egg instead!

If this puzzling addition to Valentine’s Day brings out your competitive side, then check out our Dog Sledding Challenge in Sweden, where you’ll need to figure out how to successfully drive your own team of huskies, mushing over 200kms through beautiful, frozen landscapes. And as our Swedish Ground handler Jordana puts it “What could be more romantic than cuddling together on reindeer pelts by open fire whilst hearing the sleddogs howl to the northern lights and full moon!”

So there really is 100 different words and ways to say “I love you!”

Here at charity challenge, we think there is nothing more romantic or love affirming than taking on a challenge of a lifetime together – supporting each other up the mountains, sleeping together under the stars, taking in the most beautiful views in the world! You can see the top 5 list of Charity Challenges most romantic challenges here.

To see the many other amazing challenges we offer, you can visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news, please enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Tales from the Trek Transylvania, By Charity Challenge bookings Manager Carmel

As the Bookings Manager at Charity Challenge, I am usually busy helping to coordinate the bookings in the office and spend most my time in envy of our freelance leaders who get to meet inspirational Challengers and experience the treks first-hand. Not this August though, when I was lucky enough to take part on one of our best and toughest European challenges in the so-called ‘Transylvanian Alps’ of Romania.

Romania isn’t an area of the world I had visited before, although I’ve heard some really great things about the country, so I really had no idea what to expect from the challenge other than it was going to be tough… and when my group of 7 got through Heathrow airport and onto the plane with only a few slightly worrying bag searches (Ewen’s rogue tarot cards seemed to have caused a disturbance), I knew that it was going to be a good week.

I think our EU challenges have a reputation for being slightly easier than others, but this is a total misconception. On our overseas challenges there are always days factored in to acclimatize and overcome jetlag, whereas in Transylvania you enjoy 4 solid days of trekking sandwiched in between tiring flights and sightseeing. The first day after touching down in Bucharest, where we met our infamous guide Ion, who was to become one of the heroes of the challenge, the group was taken immediately to the bus and we enjoyed a sightseeing tour of the beautiful Transylvanian city of Brasov, which still retains many of the 14th Century architectural features as well as the slightly bizarre ‘Hollywood’ inspired sign, set high up in the mountains surrounding the town.

This challenge is made up of 4 days, of which two are sort of a warm-up and cool-down day but will be long, hilly and extremely beautiful, and the other two are very tough, with difficult ascents and descents throughout the day.  One of the great things about the challenge is that you barely see anyone else on the trails at all. In fact the first and the third days were a real opportunity to see the shepherd huts and rural villages that make the culture of this area of Romania so unique in relation to the rest of the country. Although we didn’t see many people, we certainly saw a lot of sheep – I’m always going to remember Adriana being split from the group by a herd of sheep and running through them, arms flailing, while the rest of the group took a break to laugh at her situation! (we were concerned, of course).

Although you do need a certain level of fitness to complete the challenge, it was a testament to the group that we had so many people of different ages, backgrounds, injuries (I’m thinking of you Vicki!) and everyone managed to push themselves out of their comfort zone and get a lot out of the challenge. Which is basically our aim! After 3 hours of uphill struggle on day two of the challenge, Andrew, who has the Brecon Beacons on his back doorstep as a training ground, said that it’s ‘probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done’. And Kevin, who had already booked a place to climb Machu Picchu next year, was glad that he had taken on Transylvania in preparation for the dizzy heights (pardon the altitude pun) of the Andes. But the great thing about this challenge, without a doubt (aside from the scenery!), is the help and support you will get from the guiding team in country throughout. Despite a discovery of a fear of heights at the top of the narrow and steep ridge, Xanthe got past it and to the summit with the help of one of our amazing mountain guides, Florin, who helped her through the rough patch without having to look down. Meanwhile Ion was helping to push and pull Vicki up the scrambling section as she had her hand in a cast. Massive respect to her for completing that part with only one hand – I’m still impressed and not sure how she managed it! The scrambling day is the last day and after reaching the summit of 1800m we were rewarded for our efforts with lunch and a fantastic view over Transylvania, stretching from the Bucegi massive to the section of Pietra Crailui that we had just ascended.

I mentioned something earlier about Ion being a hero… well after Katie had taken the descents so hard on her knees over the week, it was impossible for her to go on for the last 90mins of the trek. Ion carried her (sometimes literally) down the hill, beating the rest of the group, before returning to help the rest of us. He then drove us home, served us all dinner and left in the morning at 5.30am to take part in a mountain biking competition with Florin. And, digressing from the trek a little, he ended up withdrawing from the competition in order to help an ambulance find an injured competitor. What a guy.

So with thanks to the brilliant guides, and lots of spectacular photos to take home, I said goodbye to the group at Heathrow airport. Through our struggles, successes and overdose on cheese (three meals a day!) we’ve all had some interesting bonding moments and I hope that they take away some great memories of Transylvania.

Noroc! (Cheers)

If you’ve been inspired by Carmel’s adventure, you can find out more about our Trek Transylvania here. You can find out more information about all our amazing challenges on our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

The Hidden Gems Challenge Series – Trek Translyvania

Here at Charity Challenge, we are proud that our challenge portfolio includes the most iconic, classic and spectacular of treks from the adventure travel business, – namely “the Kilimanjaro Summit Climb”, “Trek to Machu Picchu” and the “Great Wall Discovery”, all quite rightly on half the nation’s bucket lists!

But we don’t stop at that. We also offer an entire range of more niche short haul challenges for those who struggle to pull themselves away from their day to day commitments at home, at work and (more often than not!) their footie team. These challenges includes treks such as our Etna Volcanic Adventure, and our Icelandic Lava Trek.

These treks aren’t always so high on people’s radars, but the way we see it, adventure travel is not just about fulfilling your lives’ ambitions, but finding yourself in a place you’d never have expected you’d ever be and finding out new things about yourself… And absolutely loving it! The challenges in our portfolio that are able to deliver this unique, and sometimes unexpected, amazing experience are what we refer to as our “Hidden Gem Challenges.”

Unfortunately, these Hidden Gems can be a little overshadowed by their aforementioned more famous sibling challenges. Which is a bit of a shame, as these short haul challenges provide just as big a thrill, and are a perfect fit for people who can’t afford to spend too long away from home and/or are perhaps taking their first step into the world of trekking and looking for something a little bit different. So, to celebrate these challenges, we have decided to write a special blog series, putting them firmly into the limelight. First up is an invigorating challenge that takes place in the borderland of European civilization – the Trek Transylvania.

There is a rustic and olde world feel to Trek Transylvania that is unique among our challenges. The trek takes place in Romania’s wild Transylvanian Alps, a quiet and sparsely populated region of the country. The first point of call when you touch down in Romania is Brasov city – a beautiful medieval city, which you pass through on your way to Bran Village, which acts as the home hub of this challenge.

The scenery around Bran is serene and rugged, pastoral, with atmospheric rocky ledges and specular mountain views. But, as our Transylvania Trekkers quickly find out, the trekking experience itself is anything but serene, Those picturesque rocky ledges are in actual fact rigidly sharp, uncompromising and frankly a bit of a nightmare to scramble over! The terrain is varied and unyielding, barely trodden and can be challenging to navigate. There are steep up-hills, perilous slopes, with the grassy landscape seeming to stretch on into infinity!

But intertwined are glimpses of Romania’s rich pastoral culture, as trekkers have the opportunity to talk with locals, sleep in small mountain villages and taste traditional food.

And of course, a trip to Transylvania would of course not be complete without a visit to the 14th century Romanian icon – Dracula’s Castle! A site loved by vampire lovers and vampire slayers alike, this beautiful castle was fabulously renovated in the 19th century by the royal family of Romania, but it is best known by Bram Stoker’s infamous novel of the same name.

So, in summary, Trek Transylvania is an ideal challenge for country enthusiasts, culture vultures, trekking heroes, people wanting to escape the city, vampire lovers and people after an ultimate, alternate and absolutely once in a lifetime challenge. The feedback that we get from our Transylvania Trekkers always speaks for itself!

I had the most amazing experience in Romania. The scenery was absolutely beautiful and the trek was challenging but so much fun.” ‘Chloe Fox’

it was the Challenge of a lifetime.’ Ilana Epstein

An exhilarating life changing  experience.’ Tanya Richards

Fall into those categories and inspired by the feedback? Then check out our Trek Transylvania challenge itinerary and departure dates here!

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