For many reasons, the Nenets are one of the most fascinating cultures in the world. Perhaps the most striking thing being their ability to adapt their lives to the most challenging climate in the Northern Hemisphere, and a mutual dependence between communities and their reindeer. Much has been written about them, but very few people have had the opportunity to visit, and having lived with one of the Nenet families during the winter period, the Nomadic Tribe team uncovered 17 curious facts that you won’t often find mentioned in books. Nenets live on the edge of the world. Nenets inhabit the northern part of the western Siberian plain. This includes the ‘Yamal’ peninsula, which is surrounded by the Arctic Ocean, and in Nenet language means "the edge of the world". Nenets have lived with reindeer for one thousand years. Evidence of indigenous peoples being dedicated to the reindeer economy in the Yamal Peninsula dates back a thousand years. Nenets were originally hunters, but for centuries specialized in the domestication of reindeer, which created a bond in which they were mutually dependent on each other for survival. Nenets can recognize an individual reindeer in a herd of thousands. For most people, all reindeer look practically the same, but the Nenets can recognize individual animals among dozens of different types and within herds of thousands. In the Nenet language there is a different word to identify each and every one of those thousands of reindeer. Every Nenet family has a sacred reindeer. The sacred reindeer of each family cannot pull a sled or be sacrificed under any circumstances (the exception to the latter being when old age means they are no longer able to walk). The animal is treated like a member of the family and lives — alongside other pets such as sheepdogs —around their home throughout its life. The Nenets' entire existence depends on reindeer. Reindeer provide everything the Nenets need to survive. Their skins serve to cover their homes — the ‘Chum’ — and protect them from the cold. The Nenets' coats, boots and blankets are made from their fur, with the seams constructed using the animal's nerves. Bones are used to make utensils and sled parts, and of course its meat, which can be eaten raw, boiled or frozen, is a primary component of their diet. Their blood is specifically valued as a rich source of vitamins, and is drunk immediately after slaughtering the reindeer. Nenets use carved mammoth ivory to create utensils. Mammoths were giant woolly elephants that lived during the Pleistocene — some hundreds of thousands of years ago — in Siberia. When the thaw occurs, the permafrost uncovers the bones of these animals, which the Nenets then find when they take the reindeer to graze and carve into utensils and decorative elements. Even when it’s minus 50 degrees Celsius outside, inside the Chum, the temperature is still like summer. Chums are the homes of the Nenets. They are built by erecting a skeleton of fir wood posts and covering it in reindeer skins: a construction which can be assembled and disassembled in less than two hours. While outside temperatures of minus 50 degrees Celsius can be reached in winter, inside the Chum the thermal insulation of the reindeer skin keeps the temperature warm and pleasant by retaining the heat produced by the chimneys. Snow is the Nenets’ primary source of water. The Nenet women go outside the Chum with a small sled and a shovel whenever they need water. They collect clean snow which, on their return, is thrown into a saucepan over the fire on their return until it melts and — once cools — can be used as drinking water. Nature is the Nenets’ toilet. The Chums have only one very small open space, therefore there is no room for a separate toilet. If they have to relieve themselves, they go outside and walk a long way (until they are sure that no one can see them from the camp) and do so in the snow. Men must walk to one side of the camp and women to the opposite. As reindeer are attracted by the smell of urine — even from long distances — this activity can prove quite the adventure! The Nenets have no weekend. Taking care of the reindeer and making sure they have the food they need is a job that needs attention seven days a week. Nenets only rest from work once a year: at a festive celebration where families within the community get together to compete in sled races and participate in traditional activities such as reindeer herding and other events from their culture. Nenets are affected by climate change. The Nenets’ environment is one of the most severely impacted by climate change, as in the Arctic, the permafrost thaws faster and faster in the spring, meaning that each year it takes longer to freeze again in the fall. For this reason, herders have to modify their migration routes in search of snow, which is where the reindeer find their main sources of food. Reindeers find their food under the snow. Reindeer mainly feed on lichens that grow under the thick layer of snow. Their acute sense of smell allows them to track their food, digging holes with their snouts until they find it. In Nenet language these little holes, or pits, are called "kiekerö" and when the reindeer migrate to another place of pasture, to see thousands of them left on the snow plains is quite a sight. The Nenets spend long periods in total darkness. "Kaamos" is the period of time from November to January where, in the northernmost areas, the sun does not rise at all, making it a difficult time for the survival of both people and animals. The snow layers are thicker, meaning it is harder for reindeer to forage for food, and although today the Nenets use flashlights, it’s not hard to imagine just how much of a challenge this has posed over the past centuries. The only way into a camp is by sled. Nenets migrate from time to time, an activity which can take anything from a few days to an entire month depending on the food sources available to the reindeer. As soon as the lichen runs out, they have to change their area and to do so they cross their camps. For this reason, Nenet settlements are usually located where access is practically impossible. With no roads and a landscape covered in snow, the sled is the only viable means of transport, and the journey in can take anything from a few hours to several days. The Nenets have a great sense of humor. Nenet people spend most of the year isolated from any other type of civilization, instead living in their small social nuclei. In these periods, many hours of the day are spent inside the Chum, talking and sharing stories while they warm up, eat, and rest from their exhausting daily work. It is wonderful to witness these intimate moments in which the Nenets play pranks on each other and laugh out loud about the unexpected and often peculiar adventures of the day. Nenets eat up to six times a day. Living in such extreme temperatures and doing such hard, physical work causes the body to burn more calories than under normal circumstances, meaning that the Nenets have to stop working with the reindeer multiple times during the day to return to the Chum and recharge their energy. Their diet ranges from frozen fish — eaten raw — to reindeer meat, which is either eaten raw or boiled with rice and other staples bought from nearby towns on rare occasions in which they enter civilization. When they stray so far from their settlements that it is impossible to return home to refuel, the Nenets sacrifice a reindeer and eat it raw in order to continue working. The Nenet language is in danger of disappearing. Today, Nenents are required by Russian law to go to school, where the curriculum is taught entirely in Russian and there are very few lessons on the history and culture of the Nenets. This means that in order to learn the Nenet language, the family is the only resource. This means that Nenet children get used to speaking Russian before their own dialect and only the older generations continue to use it daily. For this reason, although the language is still used, it’s not difficult to see how it’s gradually being lost and might eventually disappear forever. NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM Plan your trip checking out the Nenets in our Tribes section. Photo credits / Javier Salinas
Spread across Kenya and Tanzania, the Maasai community is arguably the most famous and well-known tribe in East Africa. They have traditionally lived as semi-nomadic pastoralists around the Masai Mara and Serengeti National Parks on both sides of the border. For decades, foreigners have visited Maasai villages as part of safari packages and the tribe has perhaps one of the longest running relationships with the tourism industry. This relationship has been beneficial for the Maasai, but also contributed to many challenges, as whilst tourism can provide a sustainable alternative livelihood for villages, it can equally be damaging if not carried out in a culturally appropriate way. Before you decide to head to Kenya or Tanzania and visit a Maasai community, there are a few things to consider and bear in mind as you embark upon your adventure. Here are eight things you need to know. Avoid stereotypes and leave your misconceptions at home There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Maasai, and it’s easy to revert to stereotypes. We have all seen photos of the women wearing colourful beads around their necks and the tall, slim men jumping metres into the air. However, there is much more to the Maasai culture than the aspects made famous by tourism posters and National Geographic covers. The best thing you can do when visiting the Maasai, or any other tribal community in East Africa, is keep an open mind. We shouldn’t be bound by stereotypes that we have seen in the media, especially in tourist publications, which often reduces the Maasai culture to a few recognisable features (such as beaded jewellery and athleticism) when in fact there is so much more to the complex traditions and history of the tribe. Be willing to learn new things. You might find that some of your misconceptions are challenged or even changed as a result of the experience. Why it is important to travel with an ethical and responsible tour operator The most difficult decision when visiting a traditional tribe is picking an ethical and responsible travel company. Tourism is not a new concept for the Maasai community - in fact, they have been open to tourism for many decades thanks to their close proximity to the Maasai Mara and Serengeti National Park: the continent’s big safari game parks. For a long time, Maasai communities have seen the benefit of allowing visitors into their villages as a way to diversify their livelihoods beyond pastoralism and subsistence. Tourism represents a huge boost in income and opportunities for many remote communities, however some travel companies have gone on to exploit the Maasai for their own commercial gain: sometimes the money is not given back fairly to the community and often specific demands are placed on the villages in order to please tourists. You should always ask the company you choose to travel with about their sustainable practice, and the policies and projects they have put in place to protect the heritage of the community to ensure that tourism is mutually beneficial for everyone involved. Be aware of ‘display’ or fake villages One major impact of tourism in the Maasai areas around safari national parks has been the setting up of fake villages: villages built for show. Many safari packages take tourists to such places, where additional money is required to enter and exploits the tourists themselves as well as the Maasai people, who are in turn forced to portray a certain stylised show for visitors. By visiting the Maasai tribes using a responsible travel company you will not only have a more genuine experience at a legitimate village, but be sure that the community itself will also benefit from a more authentic connection with the tourists. Respect the Maasai traditions The Maasai are a very proud and traditional tribe that have maintained many of their ceremonies and ways of life for generations. This is perhaps the main appeal for us as outsiders to visit their communities and learn about the relationship they have cultivated and nurtured with the land in which they live, however it also means we need to be respectful of their practices not dismiss something as ‘wrong’ just because it is not something we would do in our own lives. For example, the Maasai are traditionally warriors — morans — and, in many of the remote communities, boys are still sent away for training to become a moran. This training involves hunting and surviving in the bush for weeks at a time, something we might consider cruel but is in fact an essential part of their tribal identity. It’s important we acknowledge and respect these different cultural practices and traditions. Show an interest in their culture One of the other key reasons people are interested in visiting the Maasai is to learn about the proud traditions of this fascinating tribe. Rather than simply using your short visit to take a few photographs, be curious and use your time proactively by asking respectful questions. The Maasai are very proud people and appreciate the chance to share their culture with foreigners. Take the time to ask them about how they live and perhaps think of questions that show you can relate to them. After all, travel is all about the cross-cultural connections and the sharing of knowledge and stories between people. Ask before taking photos or videos Taking a photograph to capture a memory is often an instinctive reaction when travelling. Although lots of of the Maasai communities are well accustomed to this, with many villages having a long-standing relationship with the tourism industry, you should still always ask permission before taking photos or shooting video footage: imagine if someone entered into your town and began taking photographs of your home, family and way of life without asking. It’s particularly important to ask the permission of parents before taking photographs of children, however as a general rule you should ask before taking anybody’s photograph. The Maasai are generally very friendly and most will be happy to oblige, especially if they’re dressed in traditional clothing, as this is an enormous source of pride for them. However, you should remember that older members of the community may not appreciate this, and it’s important to respect any villager’s decision to decline a photograph. You should also be aware that for the Maasai people their livestock is the backbone of their livelihoods and that traditionally, rearing cattle has been how they have survived. As a result, a family’s livestock is very sacred to them and taking a photograph of their animals can be seen as disrespectful or threatening, so always ask before lifting your camera. Don’t offer money or gifts One of the major concerns raised by the introduction of tourism into remote communities is the perception that foreigners are simply visiting for charity purposes. As we’ve mentioned, tourism can be a major force for a more sustainable and diversified livelihood for many communities, however the act of handing out money or gifts, although well-intentioned, can actually do more harm than good. One of the most valuable things about travelling is the ability to interact and exchange stories and knowledge across different cultures, and this can be lost when tourists take the opportunity to hand out sweets or money. Although you may feel compelled to give something, especially to children, this can promote begging and confirm the notion that foreigners are there for this sole purpose of charity. The best way you can give back to the communities that you visit is simply by being there and making sure that the travel company you choose to go with is doing the right thing in supporting the livelihood of the community. You can also help in other ways, such as purchasing local handmade goods which may support a family as well as the local economy. Be prepared for an adventure Many of the Maasai communities live in harsh, arid landscapes that are often quite far from large urban settlements, and you may notice that the villages don’t have access to many of the basic needs and privileges you take for granted. It’s okay to be a little confronted by what you see, however it’s important to do your research in advance so you are prepared for the adventure you’re signing up for. There might be certain things that you can’t fully prepare for, but it’s important to try where you can, and to be as adventurous as possible when you’re there. For example, one of the staples of the traditional Maasai diet is the blood and milk of a cow. As semi-nomadic pastoralists, this is how they have survived in harsh landscapes and it is often still an important part of their culture, especially when animals are slaughtered ceremoniously. This is likely to be troubling, even distressing for some outsiders, but by being as open minded and respectful as possible it will put both yourself and them at ease. It might mean stepping out of your comfort zone, but that’s often what travelling is all about. ELISA DONKIN Elisha Donkin is an Australian freelance writer and photographer, having written for Lonely Planet, Remote Lands, Matador Network and Travel Play Live magazine. You’ll usually find her in offbeat places, wherever there are mountains and always with a camera in hand. She also documents her journey on her blog, Going Somewhere. Going Somewhere blog Plan your trip checking out the Maasai in our Tribes section. Nomadic Tribe offers an ethical and sustainable experience to visit the Maasai helping protect their heritage and ensuring a mutually beneficial experience for both the tribe and the visitors. Photos credit: Elisha Donkin
Traveling teaches us to appreciate the world and its wonderful variety, but it can also be very polluting. We all must reduce our footprint and take better care of the planet to ensure that we do not cause irreparable damage to the only home we have. Furthermore, visiting an indigenous community means an additional risk to their environment, and therefore we must avoid at all costs endangering it to ensure the survival of the tribes. The next time you plan a trip, we suggest you put our tips for more sustainable travel into practice. A. Reduce your Waste and Recycle Make sure you have the lowest impact on villages, most of them are not equipped with an efficient waste management system. Whatever waste you bring to the village, like plastic bottles or candy wrappers, these often end up in fields, rivers, beaches and in the ocean. Make sure to bring back with you all your waste and dispose it where you are sure it will be recycled. Unfortunately, this option is often missing in some countries. If you bring a trash bag with you, consider participating to at least a partial cleanup of a beach, a forest or any other natural environment Bring your own bags, containers and reusable utensils, especially if eating on the go! Plastic bags are common in local markets and often ditched in rivers or buried under the ground creating all sorts of health problems for the communities and they are toxic for the planet. Consider taking a reusable shopping bag with you when you go shopping in local markets, and since plastics utensils and containers are the norm, consider reusable utensils sets in bamboo (very lightweight) and containers. This will dramatically reduce your petroleum-based carbon footprint. When you have the option, search for locally purified water in recyclable glass bottles. Sometimes, especially in the tropics, green coconuts are a great option to stay hydrated! It is low in calories, naturally free of fat and cholesterol, contains more potassium than four bananas, and it is extremely hydrating. It also contains easily digested carbohydrates in the form of sugar and electrolytes. Dispose of all types of sanitary waste properly. B. Conserve Water and limit Energy use The water you will have access to is a luxury for some of the tribes that you will visit, so make sure you don’t waste any. It is an extremely precious good and the communities will kindly share it with you! Energy is also uncommon in some areas, but when you have access to it, please make sure you limit your use of it! You can now travel using your own power or non-polluting power sources like solar powered cell phone battery recharger. C. Support Local Economies and Shop Carefully Invest in handmade goods: support the real local economy. What a better way to bring back with you a truly valuable reminder of your experience? Today, indigenous resistance to economic globalization and capitalism is essential for their survival so invest in some of the handmade local goods! This will help them, especially women which are often the handcrafters, to build a local economy and it will help families. This will also show them how much you appreciate their culture! If you come across markets selling wildlife or wildlife products, be conscious that these are often endangered species that have been captured in the wild and sold illegally. Seashells are now considered endangered and don’t be tempted to buy fur or leather. Travelers are considered to be inadvertently supporters of a growing marketplace for trafficking rare and endangered wildlife products as souvenirs. If you see it in a market it does not mean it is legal to buy it and these are often illegal to export or import. You will encounter serious fine at customs and be part of the trafficked at-risk species market, which is also dangerous for the global health according to the World Health Organization. This is a list of the items to avoid and to watch out for: “Antique” carved ivory tusk, coral jewellery, snake wine or reptile goods in general, tortoiseshell accessories, shells and coral jewelry, objects or medicine made from protected plants, fur from tigers, most spotted cats, seals, polar bears, and sea otters, live monkeys or apes, most live birds, including parrots, macaws, cockatoos, and finches, wild bird feathers and mounted birds, some live snakes, turtles, crocodilians, and lizards, certain leather products, including some made from caiman, crocodiles, lizards and snakes, some orchids, cacti, and cycads medicinals made from rhino, tiger, or Asiatic black bear. THESE ARE DANGEROUS FOR THE HUMAN HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT. If you want to do business with local companies or people engaged with the communities you will be visiting, please consider approaching sustainable businesses or association working toward the Sustainable Development Goals. Consider also donating to local foundations! D. How to respect the local Wildlife Do your research about the endangered species in the area you are travelling to and the overall condition of the flora and fauna. While hiking, stick to the path, going off the beaten path could mean you could step on protected or endangered plants. Do not feed wildlife, don't taunt them and keep a safe distance. Often times, doctors and hospitals can be hours away, so stay alert and be aware of your surroundings! Do not try to take wild animals home with you. Do NOT encourage local people to keep wild animals as pets and pay to have your picture taken with them. This is often an incentive to poach endangered species from the wild and obtain pets to display for tourists. Owners often lie about the true situation or aren’t aware. Reconsider riding elephants, drinking civet coffee, swimming with endangered animals and be aware of safaris. Try to visit a sanctuary or wildlife preserve area where animals are free in their natural habitat. Opt for sunscreen that are biodegradable and reef safe. This also applies to soaps and shampoos. The waste generated by your use of these products will soak in the soil, that we will be later drank by the local communities digging for water, or will end up in rivers, streams or in the ocean endangering their fragile ecosystems. Chemical ingredients in soaps and sunscreens are now banned from some countries since they jeopardize the fragile ecosystem of the reefs, its marine life or the soil. Make sure your sunscreen is reef safe and it does not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate which bleach corals, and your soaps are biodegradable. Make sure you are not packing with you involuntarily seeds, insect egg, and other living material that can also hide in your shoes. You may carry these plants to new locations unintentionally, and end up bringing invasive species to protected areas. E. How to lower your carbon footprint Opt for public transportation and sharing services, it will also add to your travels an incredible experience and you will interact with local people! Bikes rentals are often common and a great way to visit sites. If you are afraid of your carbon footprint while flying, try to choose a fuel efficient aircraft such as the Boeing 777 or Airbus 345. The Boeing 787 aircraft will be soon the best option, its fuel consumption will be 27 percent less than other similarly sized aircraft. NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM Cover photo iStock.com/AzmanJaka
As the popularity of indigenous tourism and the desire to learn about the “true” way of life of the natives increases throughout the world, we have to be more aware of how to make a positive impact on the communities we visit. Living with an indigenous tribe can be among the most life-changing experiences a traveler can have but you must avoid at all costs that your contact with the host communities supposes the vanishing of the authenticity that you seek so much. For this reason and to maintain the beautiful heritage that all indigenous peoples have left us throughout history, you have to follow some fundamental tips to preserve their lifestyle. Respect, Learn and Accept: Tolerance! Tolerance is at the base of universal human rights and respect of diversity, especially in the sharing of cultures! Live by the "golden rule": “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Cultural differences are the mix of race, ethnicity, gender, class, physical and mental abilities, religion and spiritual beliefs, age, and more. We must learn the ability to learn from the communities and treat people respectfully accepting their backgrounds. Remember to resist the urge to judge views that differ from yours and consider them wrong. Avoid imposing your own values, culture and stereotyping! Don’t push your limits, do your research and be prepared to face reality If you feel like some of the tribes might be too extreme, don’t push your limits! Some of our communities live in very harsh climates and locations, this could be a problem for you and it is perfectly fine not feeling too sure or at ease. Do your research before booking your experience and do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. Be ready to experience their reality with an open mind. Remember the cultural differences you might have, and don’t forget that some of them didn’t have access to some of the privileges you have been granted! Nomadic Tribe is working to protect its communities and to bring basic needs to all of them. If you want to know more about the actions we are taking to support the people we work with, stay up-to-date with the news in our Discovery section, and also follow us on our social media. Respect the Wildlife and be a responsible guest. When travelling to remote areas, it is easy to forget that some communities don’t have access to a proper waste management system. Whatever waste you bring to the village, like plastic bottles or candy wrappers, these often end up in fields, rivers, beaches and in the ocean. Make sure to bring back with you all your waste and dispose it where you are sure it will be recycled. Chemical ingredients in soaps and sunscreens are now banned from some countries since they jeopardize the fragile ecosystem of the reefs, marine life or the soil. Make sure your sunscreen is reef safe and it does not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate which bleach corals, and your soaps are biodegradable. If you’re hiking in the wilderness don’t leave any trace of you behind, vandalize anything (buildings, rocks, trees, etc), or remove objects from their natural environment. Conserve water, limit energy use and dispose of sanitary waste properly! For more tips on how to travel sustainable and how you can minimize your impact on the local flora and fauna, make sure to check our guide: “Ultimate Guide to Travel Sustainably to Indigenous Communities” Smile, learn basic words and communicate with hands Smiling is an international language! If you have the chance, learn some expressions and words in the local language, they will definitely appreciate the effort and it will show them not only how much you respect their culture but also how much you value their intangible culture. Unfortunately, tribal languages are more and more endangered and oftentimes, elderly members of the communities don’t see the point to teach them to new generations. When in need, speak with your hands or try facial expressions. Enjoy and be respectful with the traditional food! As you can imagine, tribal food can be very different from what you are used to! When invited, you should try the food members of the community prepare for you, especially to avoid offending them! If you have dietary preferences, always make sure to tell them explain the reasons and refuse politely. Help out! We know that our Nomadi are diligent travelers, and we know you are on holiday, however, to live a true experience with our communities, make sure to get involved in the daily life and help out your host community! Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and to show your skills, all while helping the tribes to build village’s huts or cook! Ask permission before taking a photo and be ready to show your pictures Consider this, how would you respond if someone was taking a picture without your permission? If you want to take a picture that will last you forever of the communities you will visit, remember to always ask permission, and if you want to take a picture of a young child always ask their parents. It is easy for people to feel exploited and disrespected, especially if we don’t value their privacy, the members of the community will surely appreciate your politeness! People love to see the pictures that talented travelers take of them, they are often extremely curious, so be ready to show all your photos! Furthermore, you should avoid taking pictures of members that ask you for money in exchange. Unfortunately, oftentimes this might be perceived as a better income resulting in people not taking care of the cattle or other daily tasks anymore. Do not bring gifts and avoid giving money It is hard to imagine that some children don’t have access to basic education, pencils or toys, but unfortunately this is the reality in many of our communities. Nomadic Tribe is currently working on different cultural and social projects to bring basic needs to all tribes involved. Make sure to visit our foundation page in the near future where you can donate, help our cause and learn more about our future projects. Many travelers usually feel like bringing sweets, clothes, books, and pencils to give to the children. However, this can do more harm than good since it can bring up community conflict and stimulate dependency and begging. If you feel like giving, it is better to invest in a reputable local organizations that is already engaged in social development programs for the tribe. Avoid giving any kind of medicines, it could be harmful for some members since they might be allergic to them without knowing it and it could jeopardize the power and position of local tribal healers Invest in handmade goods: support the real local economy. What a better way to bring back with you a truly valuable reminder of your experience? Today, indigenous resistance to economic globalization and capitalism is essential for their survival so invest in some of the handmade local goods! This will help them, especially women which are often the handcrafters, to build a local economy and it will help families. This will also show them how much you appreciate their culture! In general, never buy wildlife products! Explore, don’t linger! You are going to see some of the most beautiful landscapes in which wildlife is still quite untouched, make sure to take it all in and bring it back home with you! Have lots of fun, all while learning about diversity and cultural differences. NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM
Proverbs are the compendium of human wisdom, a form of oral literature through which the diverse cultures of the world manage to express their experiential existences in short and vibrant sayings. These spread from generation to generation, transcending peoples and languages. The immense intelligence and knowledge of indigenous tribes is reflected in their proverbs, showing us their relationship with the natural, social and spiritual environment, and teaching us their ways of life and values. Discover these 30 proverbs that have great cultural value, many of which are universal and could be applied to everyday life across the world… “When we show our respect for other living things, they respond with respect for us”. Arapahoe proverb “Those who lose dreaming are lost”. Australian Aboriginal proverb “Take only what you need and leave the land as you found it”. Arapahoe proverb “We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home”. Australian Aboriginal proverb “All plants are our brothers and sisters. They talk to us and if we listen, we can hear them”. Arapahoe proverb “Our first teacher is our own heart”. Cheyenne proverb “The land owns us”. Australian Aboriginal proverb "Seek wisdom, not knowledge. Knowledge is of the past, Wisdom is of the future”. Lumbee proverb “If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself”. Minquass proverb “Life is not separate from death. It only looks that way”. Blackfoot proverb “If you wish your merit to be known, acknowledge that of other people”. Eskimo proverb “It is less of a problem to be poor, than to be dishonest”. Ojibwe proverb “Do not steal, do not lie, and don’t be lazy”. Inca proverb “The one who tells the stories rules the world”. Hopi proverb “He who is unable to dance says that the yard is stony”. Masai proverb “A man or woman with many children has many homes”. Lakota proverb “Do not judge your neighbor until you walk two moons in his moccasins”. Cheyenne proverb “May you have warmth in your igloo, oil in your lamp, and peace in your heart”. Eskimo proverb “The land is a mother that never dies”. Maori proverb “Beware of the man who says he can see the truth of your life clearly. His eyes cannot see the heart of your heart for all the light of the Sun”. Inca proverb “Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it”. Ewe proverb “Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I may not remember, involve me and I’ll understand”. Native American proverb “May all happen to you as the happiness of a dream, and so it will”. Mapuche proverb “A brave man dies only once, a coward dies many times”. Iowa Proverb “Many hands make work light; Many ideas open the way”. Hmong proverb “Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you”. Maori proverb “When they cut down a tree in the jungle, a star falls from the sky”. Lacandon proverb “When the last tree has been cut down, the last river has been polluted and the last fish has been caught -only then do you realize that money can't buy everything”. Native American proverb “A good boss gives, he does not take”. Mohawk proverb “Thoughts are like arrows: Once released, they hit their target. Keep them safe, or one day you can be your own victim”. Navajo proverb NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM Cover photo Elderly men talking iStock.com/Ozbalci
The one who starts to travel, becomes a tripadic, something like being a drug addict, only that in this case what can hardly be renounced is to travel, always wanting to do it more frequently and to farther and farther destinations. And those places that I had previously seen unreachable begin to see them closer, more feasible, more likely and the world is getting smaller. If you are addicted to traveling, or you make parts of the "Knowmads, the workers of the future" ... You will probably feel identified with these signals (written by 50 travelers from my Facebook). And if not, it's time for you to join this addiction: The tripadictos feel that they can travel the whole world without stopping. They come and go, but they never come back. They discover the true meaning of the word LIFE: Traveling, knowing, venturing. They know that to travel you do not need to go far, just start to know the city where you live, your surroundings. They create a new version of themselves always: Problems become small, everything is surmountable. They have the certainty of arriving at their next destination, because they know they were born to travel. They recognize that they are one with the world, that they are made of the earth they walk on, of the places they walk and of the people with whom they can share a smile. They want to take advantage of everything, get excited about the simple things in life. They collect moments, memories, smiles and friendships. They understand what a foreigner is, who does not need visas or papers. They feel that everything is possible, that they are invincible, that the world is small but their dreams are great. They build their journeys like a puzzle with the memories of who they visited. They experience the pain of their routine soul that falls and moves into an adventurous skin. They share their dreams with other travelers and want many to know what they have already known. They learn that the most valuable thing in life is not measured in material possessions, but in experiences and friends. They understand that distances become short and impossible ones possible. Even when they repeat a destination, they know that the experiences they will experience will never be the same. They perceive the world in a thousand ways. They no longer feel comfortable within four walls. Their soul is free. They are always open to the unexpected, because they know that this is the best plan. They never stay in the same place for long, they recognize that life is short. They grow on each trip, ceasing to be what they were for a long time. They recognize themselves in all the places they visit. They undertake each trip to get out of the routine, to find themselves and know their soul. They repeat all the days they were born to travel. They have that ability to go home being the same, but feeling different. They feel that life is a journey and even when it is finished, it takes off in search of a new one. Every day is an opportunity to travel, so they can travel the whole world in 365 days. 27. They live the trips three times: when they plan it, when they do it and when they remember it. They have the ability to be surprised with each landscape, with each monument, with each smile of a local. Their mind is open, eager to always experience new things. They are fascinated with seeing, contemplating, smelling, breathing that which permeates life. They believe that the main ingredient for their next adventure is within themselves. Elos feed your soul with memories. They can be anywhere and be in all at the same time. They leave their comfort zone, to fly with their wings, their dreams, their illusions. They take every opportunity presented to them. In them flourish gardens of thought, with each trip, which they wish to share with the world. They are able to make decisions that they could not before, save money and risk crossing borders. They can teleport just by closing their eyes. They have the power to travel the world with nothing more than a backpack and their feet. They understand that it is necessary to get lost to find themselves. They realize that borders exist to be crossed. They treasure millions of stories in their minds. They enjoy an enormous willingness to try new flavors and discover beautiful landscapes. The magic of wanting to know new destinations invades them, a passion to break new ground. They are not foreigners, all the places are familiar to see what they imagined for a long time. They are the sum of the colors, landscapes, music, smells and people with whom he shared his trips. They feel they have little time for so much world. They differentiate between the beauty of dreaming and living dreams. They manage to feel something unknown and longed for by many: Freedom. 50: Their dreams are their fuel, their wealth is their album of memories.
Protecting the Himba people of Namibia is a must. We ought to work out ways to preserve the Himba culture and helping it thrive again. Traveling abroad to meet different cultures is definitely one of the main aspects of international tourism. However, before including the visit to isolated tribes such as the Himba people to your itinerary, it’s important to ask yourselves how you can travel responsibly to meet them without jeopardizing their habits, traditions and cultural heritage in general. Another thing that - as responsible travelers - you need to think about before traveling to distant lands to meet tribes is whether your visit can bring benefit to the local population. You should only embark on the trip if so. Make sure to read my post. In this post, I will suggest the best ways in which responsible travel can help protect the Himba people in Namibia. Before doing so, let me tell you how my group and I went about approaching the Himba people, and give you some background information the Himba culture. Namibia culture is a surprising mix of tribes and ethnicities, counting about a dozen ethnic groups. The most well-known tribes to international travelers are the Himba ones, probably because of their very interesting appearance and customs The Himba people live in the north-western part of Namibia. Many of them still live a traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle, sharing their very simple villages with their goats which are the main source of food and wealth in general. While Himba men spend most of their time outside of the villages looking after the cattle, Himba women are the ones in charge for the village, where they cook, clean up and look after their many kids. Himba women go topless, only wearing handmade, traditional jewelry and a pretty simple leather skirt. Other distinctive features are their hair, braided and covered in red mud and butter, as well as their skin, covered in a paste made of ochre, butter and spices. The Himba people are semi-nomadic and they move according to the rain. Whenever there are heavy rains, they will follow them. But heavy rains haven’t come in a long time and people as well as their animals are suffering. Tourists however can visit Namibia in any season. This means they can help - it is just a matter of picking the right way to travel. Himba people hardly have access to healthcare and they wish to receive medicines. This is a sensitive topic, because most of them can’t read and it wouldn’t be responsible to just leave medicines in the village: children could easily access it, and nobody would really know what they are for, making it very risky. Approaching The Himba People Of Namibia. There are many ways to visit a place and the idea is to pick the most responsible one, the one that supports the local community and doesn’t bring any damage. I visited Namibia with Nomadic Tribe, who handpicked a local operator working in a way that supports the local population in many different ways. During this trip I had the chance to meet Himba people in different locations, before stopping and camping at a Himba village for a few days to really get involved in the village life. During the 5-days-long journey all the way up to the border with Angola - where our small group of researchers was going to stop for the Himba village experience - we mainly stayed in the wild thanks to a local backup team, following a strict “zero-impact camping style, not leaving anything behind. For 2 nights we stayed in a self-catering, simple yet lovely lodge run by locals within the Orupembe conservancy, called Etaambura Camp. Not far from this lodge is a Himba village, so we invited the Himba chief of the area and his sister for dinner to ask them directly about their views on tourism. I can’t think of a better way to get right, unbiased answers! The Chief’s name was Uapenga and his sister’s one was Uatambauka. We sat together at the table of our lodge and after introducing each other we started asking questions. With the help of our backup team we were able to translate and understand each other. We were told that some tourists help and some others don’t, and that it’s important to promote responsible tourism: community campsites provide support for the Himba people, especially in the last few years with severe droughts. When we stayed at the Himba village we were told that only 1 person before us actually stayed there with the Himbas in history, and it was a National Geographic reporter. This doesn’t mean that the Himba people never see visitors, but sadly it means that most tourists are not truly interested in spending time with them. We were told that most of the time all visitors do is take photos and some of them even avoid physical contact with the Himbas, which they find offensive. During my trip to Namibia with Nomadic Tribe we aimed to meet the Himba people and get to know them as much as possible, spending some time with them and not just passing by to snap some photos - a shameful behavior also known as “human safari” - as most tours do. With the help of the local operator we achieved our goal in a way that not only didn’t bring damage to the Himba people, but also positively impacted their protection and culture, thanks to the right choices made in the preparation process. 14 Ways In Which Tourists Can Help The Himba People Of Namibia. People are different, not better or worse. Responsible tourism doesn’t have the presumption of “helping.” The goal is to positively impact the protection of the local culture and environment. If you really want to make sure you have a positive impact on the Himba people of Namibia as a traveler, there are a few things you can and should do. The following is a summary. First of all, make sure to pick an ethical, local operator, and even before starting the trip sit together, explain what you are expecting from your trip, and decide how to do it with the guide’s suggestions. Pick campsites or lodges that give back to the community. The money paid by each guest at Etaambura Camp - more than 6.000 Euros in 2018 alone - goes to the local conservancy which is run by locals who spend the money within the conservancy. Also, the Orupembe conservancy is owned by Himbas. In other words: make sure to stay in places that give back to the community. Approach your final destination slowly. Make sure to approach your final destination slowly, getting to know the territory first, its geography, understanding its history and gathering all the information you need about the local tribes thanks to your guide before actually meeting them. Think about landing in Namibia without knowing anything about the country and its tribes, and going straight to a Himba village for the night. Wouldn’t it be awkward, rough and too intense for both you and the Himbas? Would you even know what to say and how to act? The golden rule for gifting is to stick to things that are familiar to and needed by the Himba people. The village we visited was in need for durable pottery - some women were cooking in tin cans! - and containers in general, preferably not plastic ones for obvious reasons. Other things that the Himba people will appreciate are covers and fabric in general, against the cold desert nights. As for food, the best things to take to a Himba village are maize flour, rice and clean water. Buying local products helps local families, avoids unnecessary heavy luggage (hence extra C02 emissions) and makes sure that you find exactly what the Himbas would buy: familiar food. In case you’re wondering what exactly to buy, be reassured that a knowledgeable guide knows what is best to bring and what is needed at a specific time. You will also need the guide to help you with the shopping for translation purposes. Livestock is the main source of livelihood for the Himba people. You may think that it’s easy to have food when you have a flock of goats, but this is far from the truth. Animals must be fed, watered and taken care of, plus killing a goat a day would leave the Himba villages without any food source - not even milk - and this would lead to starvation. Ask your guide for guidance in buying a goat from a farmer nearby the Himba village. This will be an appreciated gift which will became the dinner for the whole village. Learn some Himba words. Going back to the language topic, I suggest you to learn some of the language before arriving to the Himba village - your guide will surely be happy to help you with that. What a huge pleasure it will be to make some conversation, although very simple, with the Himba people in their own language. They will be surprised and happy about it. Bond with the people. A responsible way to visit the Himba tribe or any tribe in the world should include some sort of bonding with the people, and most of all a lot of respect. Get close to them. Don't be afraid of touching the children, of holding them! Namibia is a wonderful country which is becoming more and more popular within the traveling community. In order to avoid the exploitation of certain areas make sure to go off the beaten path, where you will meet virtually zero other travelers. Not only this is pleasant as you will have the whole place to yourselves daily, but also with your “zero-waste” camping you know you will not be bringing unnecessary damage to the environment. As I have said before, the Himba needs medicines but many of them can't read. Make sure to leave yours to the manager of the lodge who knows the Chief personally and can read and bring medicines to the nearby villages only when needed. Also, make sure to recommend the manager to help the Himba people reaching the clinics if needed, as pills alone are not a solution. If you want to leave something to the Himba village please don’t let it be money. The Himba people have no currency and money doesn’t belong to their traditions. It is risky to give money because it may be used it in turn to buy things that don’t belong to their traditions either. Although it looks like a harmless and kind gesture please consider not bringing candies to the Himba children. They don’t need unnecessary sugar (like all of us!) so why bringing something so addictive to their lives? Try to avoid plastic wrapping as much as possible. There are no trash cans in Himba villages and all waste ends up directly into the environment - or burnt, which is not a good idea with plastic! Himbas are generally happy to be photographed, but it’s always good to ask permission before taking photos. This definitely falls under the “respect” category. Final tips on positively impacting the Himba of Namibia. To sum up, don’t force your vision, don’t “teach.” Travel is all about learning. You have the chance of learning from one of the most interesting tribes in the world. Listen to their stories, observe their habits. You may be one of the last lucky people to witness such a way of life so embrace it. Why? Because global warming may not affect our western life much, but it’s making a huge difference for people like the Himbas who depend on rains to live. The effect of our actions is reflected here. Be responsible, always. This post has been written by Giulia Cimarosti, an incredible photographer and travel writer who agreed to cover for me during Nomadic Tribe trip to Namibia. I wish to thank her for her incredible work and for all her insights. Disclaimer: Giulia was a guest of the Nomadic Tribe during her trip to Namibia and was thrilled to be one of the first to test this itinerary. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain hers. via @clautavani https://myadventuresacrosstheworld.com Photos Copyright: Giulia Cimarosti
Visiting a Berber village in Morocco is a must and whether you just go for a short time or, like I did, spend 5 full days hiking through the Atlas Mountains, you're bound to have an incredible time. The good news is going to the Atlas Mountains to visit the Berber tribes in Morocco is very easy. Amizmiz, one of the largest towns at the base of the Atlas, is just one hour drive and from there you can quickly get to the smaller villages. However, there are some few important things you should know about the Berber culture before you visit. In this post, I will explain everything you need to know before visiting a Berber village in Morocco and share a few tips so that you can make the most of your time during your visit. 13 Things To Know Before Visiting A Berber Village In Morocco The actual name of Berbers is Amazigh. The official name of Berber tribes in Morocco is actually a word which means "free people." The name Berber derives from the word "Barbarian" and in general the Amazigh don't like to be referred to as Berbers. In reality, the word Barbarian derives from the Greek "barbaroi" or the Latin "Barbari" and in the common use during the time of the Roman Empire it meant "foreigner" and was used to refer to anybody who was not from Rome, and not intended in an insulting way. The Arabs used it to refer to people who spoke a language other than Arabic. Please note I am only using the word "Berber" for purely simplicity reasons, and that I do not attach to it any negative connotation. They are more than 15 millions in Morocco. The Amazigh are scattered across Northern Africa, where they are more than 50 million, and around 15 million of them live in Morocco. Though most Amazigh also speak Arabic, in reality their language is Tamazigh, of which there are several dialects and varieties. The language was officially recognized with the new Moroccan Constitution in 2011, but to date no law that implements the changes and that pushes for the use of Amazigh in public life and education has been passed. On occasions, some people who have spent time in France they speak French - but in general you will need an interpreter and a local guide to be able to communicate with the Amazigh. They live a very traditional life. The Amazigh main source of income is agriculture and cattle farming. Most men are shepherd and move around with their animals in search of pastures. At times they are gone for days and even weeks with their animals. Women usually look after the children and the house. Both men and women wear traditional clothes and they are Sunni muslim. Though most Amazigh live in very modest clay houses with little comforts, with time some have managed to build bigger homes with modern touches. Electricity made it to this part of Morocco no more than 10 years ago, and running water at times is not a thing. A typical house consists of a kitchen and several rooms which are often scattered around an internal patio - one of them is a living room, with lots of stools and couches: this is where guests are welcomed. The bathroom is usually very modest and consist of a squat toilet and a sink (at times there's not even that). The most comfortable houses have a hammam, which is what the Amazigh use to traditionally wash themselves. They eat with their hands. One of the best parts of visiting a Berber village in Morocco is trying local food and eating with local families. The Amazigh don't use cutlery and dishes for their food, but typically eat out of the clay pot used to prepare the food - the tajine - scooping up the food with bread. When eating couscous they use a spoon. They don't drink alcohol. Since the Amazigh are Muslims, they don't drink alcohol so don't expect to see any wine, beer or liquor during your visit - whether for a day or longer. But tea is poured at any time of day. The one thing that is constantly pouring in Berber villages in Morocco is tea. It's not even remotely close in taste to what you may be accustomed to, and it is serious business here - the procedure to prepare a proper pot of tea is quite elaborate and the end result absolutely delicious. You will be able to try the typical mint tea or an even more fragrant tea with herbs. The Amazigh love their tea with lots and lots of sugar, but if you - like me - aren't a fan of the sweet flavor, you can ask to pour yours before sugar is added. People are very welcoming. The Amazigh people are incredibly friendly. Whether you visit one of the wealthiest family or one of the more modest ones, they will make it a point to welcome you with tea, snacks, and to show you around their house. On some occasions, they will even show your their best dresses and ask you to try them on, and then pose for photos with you. Amazigh children are absolutely adorable. Amazigh people have lots of children, and these are absolutely adorable and during a trip to the Berber villages in Morocco you'll have plenty of opportunities to interact with them. As soon as they realize there's a visitor in the village, they'll come running and make a show of their best tricks, engage you in a game of soccer, pull you by your hand to take you around the village and show you to their family and friends. They will be all smiles and hugs and will make your time even more memorable! They are just as concerned as we are about climate change. The Amazigh may live an isolated life in the remote villages of the Atlas Mountains, but they are not oblivious of the main issues the world is facing. On a conversation with a local shepherd in the village of Tizzga, it emerged that climate change is a major cause of concern, with people worried that with desertification and heat they won't have pasture for their animals and they will lose their means of livelihood. To the Amazigh, mules are a means of transportation. Mules are working animals to the Amazigh and when you'll visit you will notice that a lot of them are charged with weights or that that people ride them. Please keep in mind that using mules for work purposes is part of the local culture, and that these animals are nicely treated and well taken care of - it's in the interest of their owners to make sure that the animals are healthy and fit to work. Waste disposal is very much an issue. Although it is doing much better than its neighboring countries, waste disposal is very much an issue in Morocco, and even more so in the Berber villages of the Atlas Mountains where there is no garbage collection system. You may not notice if you just visit for a day, but there are large waste dumps close to the villages and people often set them on fire, with terrible consequences for the environment and their health. My hope is that policies to reduce plastic waste, as well as garbage collection and recycling policies are implemented as soon as possible. Berber villages in Morocco are actually very safe. We often hear people express their worry that Morocco is not exactly safe and people who have visited say that they have been victims of scams. I can't comment for the cities - I didn't spend enough time in Marrakech. But I can tell you that the Berber villages of the Atlas Mountains are absolutely safe and the people nothing but nice. As the Amazigh people of Morocco are usually Sunni Muslims, both Berber women and men are dressed very modestly, with women covering their head and men usually wearing a long sort of coat that goes all the way to their ankles. Although you won't be required to cover your head, it's definitely recommended to be dressed modestly regardless of the weather, covering your shoulders and chest, wearing long pants or a long skirt and avoiding anything that is too tight and revealing. Get an excellent guide. You shouldn't be visiting a Berber village in Morocco independently. This is not for safety reason: the villages are truly lovely places and the people are kind and welcoming. But the language barrier is such that unless you get someone that speaks the local language you won't be able to make much of what you see and experience. Importantly, you need not only to have a guide, but to have an excellent one that proactively talks to the local communities, that is willing to act as an interpreter, and that has a real interest in informing you about the culture and customs of the Amazigh people. This may seem like an obvious kind of tip, but I only too often seen guides that were not really interested in what they were meant to do, and this diminished the experience. Make sure to enquire locally for a recommended guide, or - should you decide to book your trip the the Berber villages in Morocco online - take your time to go through the reviews. As soon as you get to the first Berber village, you will realize that there are many children, and that these are just as curious about you as you are about them. They will run after you, pull you by your hand so that you can go play with them, show you with pride to their friends and family. In some cases, they will ask you for small things - pens, candies, treats. If you are thinking about bringing some presents for the children, enquire with your guide beforehand to get an idea of what may be some good options. In general, I do not recommend bringing anything such as candies, chocolates or other kind of snacks - for two main reasons: most of the time these are wrapped in plastic, and the kids will just throw the wrap anywhere they happen to be, a lot of children in this part of the country have teeth issues (I have seen a good deal with major cavities). If you don't have the opportunity to consult with your guide before visiting, consider bringing a book - something that they can read or that they can use to write and study. You can even donate books to the local school. Buy locally made souvenirs. You won't find many shops when visiting a Berber village in Morocco. You will however come across places such as women cooperatives where you can see them brushing and preparing the wool and even making carpets. These are really inexpensive and truly local souvenirs and buying them will certainly bring a small contribution to the welfare of the local communities. Make sure to carry some spare change and enough cash in case you have an opportunity to shop! One thing you will notice the minute you'll get into a Berber village in Morocco is how friendly people are - men, women and children will all smile at you, and you should do the same. It's the first means of communication and it's a nice way to break the language barrier. On an occasion I even had a woman hugging me - it came completely unexpected, and it was such a genuine gesture that I was truly touched. If you have time and want to have a more in depth experience of the Berber culture, you should consider joining a long distance hiking trip like the one I did. My hike was organized by Nomadic Tribe, a new tour operator which strives to allow travelers to have real and at times raw experiences with indigenous communities around the world, and to do so in a manner that is responsible and completely supportive of local communities. During the hike, you'll be able to appreciate the gorgeous landscape of the Atlas Mountains and you will be visiting various villages, with a chance of encountering the Amazigh people, visiting their homes (and in fact, sleeping in their houses) and sharing a bit of their daily life. Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Nomadic Tribe during my trip to Morocco and I was thrilled to be one of the first to test this itinerary. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain my own. Claudia Tavani https://myadventuresacrosstheworld.com/ via @clautavani
Traveling to Patagonia is many a dream, including mine. To be fair, it is such a spectacular place that even after having been there 3 times already, I hardly feel like my dream came true and I feel compelled to visit and again. This easily qualifies as one of my favorite places on earth. Patagonia is huge, very diverse and simply breathtaking. But traveling around Patagonia is easier said than done: the weather is unpredictable; the infrastructure often lacking, and the prices higher than a backpacker would hope for. Sure enough, before you plan to visit Patagonia you should do a bit of research so that you know what to expect. So, I have decided to put together a post that sums up a few facts and things you should know before you go there. 30 Important Things To Know Before Traveling To Patagonia Patagonia is huge Saying that you are traveling to Patagonia hardly gives a clear indication of where you are going. Patagonia is huge! First of all, it spans across two countries – Argentina and Chile. Only in Argentina, it comprises a whopping 5 provinces: Chubut, Neuquén, Río Negro, Tierra del Fuego and Santa Cruz. I recommend visiting both countries, if you have the time (Patagonia calls for slow travel, actually) and your budget allows it. A good idea may be flying into Buenos Aires and out of Santiago de Chile, and then moving around by bus to cover the shorter distances and by plane for the longest ones. It calls for slow travel The best way to fully enjoy Patagonia is by taking your time to explore it, to take in all the amazing views and landscapes it has to offer. Try to be as spontaneous as possible, letting your travel plans unfold little by little, so that you can make the most of the good weather – should you be so lucky to have a few days of sun in a row. And make sure to give yourself plenty of time to move from one place to the other: with such huge distances bus rides take a lot of time and easily warn you out. Just to give you an example, the ride from El Chalten to Bariloche takes a whopping 24 hours! But if you are short on time, planning is vital This almost contradicts what I have said before about slow travel, I know. However, if you are short on time but still want to visit Patagonia, careful planning is vital. This means taking a few planes to connect you from one place to the other (which will inevitably increase the price of your trip), or joining a guided tour where you let the experts do the planning job and you just have to plan what goes in your backpack. If you like the idea of sitting down while someone else organizes your Patagonia trip, and want to join a guided group tour, you may want to consider the following tours: • Patagonia Hiking: this is a fantastic tour, perfect for active travelers who want to be in nature for most of their time. It lasts 9 days with stops at a bunch of the most famous places in Patagonia. • Argentina Multisport: the perfect tour for very active travelers who like the idea of hiking, biking and even rafting. • Hike Patagonia In Depth: the name says it all. This tour is for those who want to spenda s much time as possible hiking. You’ll be spending a few nights camping. • Best of Patagonia: a 13 days tour hitting all the landmarks of Patagonia. • 6 Day tour of Patagonia: a short but sweet tour if you have limited time to travel to Patagonia. • Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego: the best tour if you also want to go to Tierra del Fuego and want to visit both the Argentinian and Chilean side of Patagonia. Especially for certain places For as much as you may want to be spontaneous and even if you have all the time in the world, there will be some places for which you will have to plan in advance during your Patagonia trip. Torres del Paine National Park is one of the highlights of Chilean Patagonia, but unless you have some accommodation booked (whether camping or staying in lodges) local authorities won’t let you get on trails such as the W-trek or the O-circuit (both multi-day hikes). In the high season, this means booking months in advance and it will often imply planning the rest of your trip around those dates. Border crossing is easier said than done One thing to keep in mind when traveling to Patagonia – especially if you want to visit both Chile and Argentina – is that border crossing in South America is not that straightforward. Even if you don’t need a visa, the process can be very slow. You will have to get to one border, line up to get your passport stamped out, move to the other border (which can be as far as 5 km) and get your passport stamped in. Border control is actually quite strict, especially in Chile, and your bags will carefully screened to make sure you are not carrying anything that may hinder the local flora, fauna and agricultural crops. Make sure not to carry things such as fruit or meat or dairy products if you plan to cross the border. I was stuck for a good hour when I crossed to go to Torres del Paine, because a German guy traveling on the same bus forgot he had an apple and a banana in his bag – for which he had to pay a hefty fine. Patagonia is pristine One thing you’ll immediately notice upon traveling to Patagonia is how clean it is. Not only the air is clear and crisp; but you won’t see any garbage aroundalong trails and in national parks, despite the fact that there are no garbage bins. Be respectful of the environment and always take a small bag to dispose of your garbage: make sure you contribute to the effort to keep Patagonia clean. You should be environmentally conscious Speaking of efforts to keep Patagonia clean, male sure to consider the impact of your actions and try to be an environmentally conscious traveler as much as possible. Always walk on the trails – you’ll often see signs that warn you that certain areas are recuperating. Never light fires in the forest. Fires started by careless hikers have caused incredible damage to Patagonia in the last decade (it was in 2012 that a massive portion of Torres del Paine burned down following a fire lit by a camper). Remember that the strong winds of Patagonia carry the fire far and fast! The views are incredible throughout Whether driving along the vast planes of Chubut, the windy roads of Tierra del Fuego, or along the peaks of the province of Santa Cruz, you can rest assured of something: when traveling to Patagonia, you will no shortage of breathtaking views. The wildlife is unique One of the biggest treats when traveling to Patagonia is the possibility of admiring the local wildlife. Guanacos – a wild species similar to llamas and alpacas – are found throughout Patagonia, from the vast plains of Chubut to the icy Tierra del Fuego. Depending on the season, you’ll be able to seesouthern right whales, orcas and sea lions in Chubut, as well as in Tierra del Fuego. Various species of penguins live on the shores of Chubut (the best place to see them is Punta Tombo) and in Tierra del Fuego. Other animals that populate this part of the world are pumas (though they are way more difficult to spot), flamingos, foxes and an incredible variety of birds. The weather is crazy The best time to visit Patagonia is the summer, between the end of November and the very beginning of April. Even if you may want to visit in the low season, you won’t have much of a choice: most businesses, hotels, restaurants, and tour companies and even bus routes only operate in the summer months. Trails are closed in the winter months, and often covered in snow anyways. You may be able to travel to Patagonia in the shoulder season, ie in October and in April and May, and enjoy it when it is less crowded. But before heading there make sure to double check if trails are accessible and if any hotel or hostel is still open. Provided that you are traveling to Patagonia in the summer, rest assured that you’ll get a good dose of the crazy Patagonian weather. On any given day, you may get sun, wind, rain and at times even snow. Needless to say, I wholeheartedly recommend to be fully equipped for sudden weather changes. You’ll be hiking most of the time (and should be prepared for it) Most people who travel to Patagonia go there to hike, and to be fair most of the incredible sites in Patagonia require a bit of an effort to get to admire them. Obviously, bus travel allows you to visit some of the most famous places such as Perito Moreno Glacier or Tierra del Fuego National Park, but for the vast majority, you need to hike. Needless to say, you should be prepared for all the hiking you’ll be doing. This means being actually fit – don’t attempt to hike to Laguna de Los Tres is the most exercise you’ve done in the last few months was lifting your pint glass. And it also means being properly geared for the hikes. You should build some rest days in your itinerary Hiking (and traveling in general) can be exhausting. Make sure to allow yourself a rest day between the longest hikes, to give your legs and feet a break. You can use those rest days to do other useful things such as planning the next steps of your Patagonia trip, looking for bus companies for your onward travel; booking guided tours with local companies; doing laundry (such a hard thing to do if you keep moving from one place to the other!) and – quite simply – relaxing before you head on to the next hike. Patagonia is actually quite expensive There is no other way to put it, really. If you are planning to travel to Patagonia, you should be aware of the fact that this is not a cheap place. Although access to the trails is free for the most part (you’ll be paying a fee to access Los Glaciares National Park, where Perito Moreno Glacier is located, and to visit Tierra del Fuego National Park), everything else will add up to the costs. Accommodation, food, transportation and – should you do any – tours in Patagonia are expensive. However, this should not prevent you from traveling to Patagonia. By all means, go. Just plan your trip smartly so that you can save a bit here and there. You should pick your accommodation wisely The best way to keep your costs down when traveling to Patagonia is by picking your accommodation wisely. The good news is that Patagonia offers a wide range of options for just about any taste and budget, with refugios(mountain huts); hotels; boutique hotels; chalets; hostels and even camping sites. Hostels, chalets and camping sites are obviously the best options if you have a small budget, especially because you have the possibility of cooking as well. However, keep in mind that Patagonia is becoming an increasingly popular destination and that places fill up quickly. Make sure to book in advance for a chance to get a spot in the cheapest places. It can be crowded – but never overwhelming As I have said before, Patagonia is becoming an increasingly popular holiday destination for nature and hiking lovers, and on a regular day you’ll find a lot of people on most trails. Yet, it’s such a vast place that you’ll hardly feel overwhelmed. Besides, most travelers visit Patagonia with only one thing in mind: hiking. This means you’ll likely encounter like minded people with whom to share your experiences and who you can join on the trails. Internet is hardly a thing Make sure to warn your family and friends before traveling to Patagonia, and to set an automatic out-of-office reply for your email. Internet is hardly a thing in many places around Patagonia. While in El Calafate you’ll easily get wifi in town, forget about in El Chalten. You may do your best by getting a local sim card; you may try hard to get online at your hostel, or when at a restaurant; and you may even be able to send the odd WhatApp message to your friends and upload a picture or two on social media if you are lucky. But really, by all means don’t schedule work calls or business e-meetings:internet is frustratingly slow in most of Patagonia, and chances are you’ll end up wasting your time trying to communicate while really, you should be out on the trails. But you’ll still need a power bank The lack of internet will keep your phone battery going longer than it normally would. The constant use you’ll make of it to take incredible photos will consume it. Make sure to take a good power bank with you, so you can recharge your phone on the go any time your battery is running low. You wouldn’t want to run out of battery when you need to photograph that impressive mountain, right? You should visit an estancia Estancias are farms used for cattle raising that can be found all over Argentina. Patagonia has some beautiful ones. Though some have now become actual tourist attractions where animal farming is only a minor part of the income, most of them are still fully working to raise the famous Argentinian beef and Patagonian lamb. A few of the latter ones are open to visitors. Try to find one of them, and make sure to visit. It’s a great way to learn more about the local culture and way of life, and about the hardship of living in Patagonia in the winter. You do need hiking boots Hiking boots are a must when traveling to Patagonia. You simply can’t head out on the trails with a pair of running shoes: you need something that gives you excellent ankle support, and that is water proof. If you are getting new boots, make sure to use them a few times before your trip and wear them in, so that they will be more comfortable. And socks Make sure you also don’t underestimate the importance of good hiking socks: they will keep your feet from rubbing against the shoes and blistering. In fact, you do need proper hiking gear Packing smartly is essential when traveling to Patagonia. Leave your fancy clothes at home, and only bring good hiking gear that keeps you warm and at the same time comfortable. You should bring a water bottle Water in Patagonia comes from glaciers and it’s absolutely safe to drink. Local authorities put a lot of effort in educating people to avoid practices that may cause contamination of rivers, streams and water sources and for the most part, you can easily refill your bottle at the river and avoid the use of plastic. On occasions, campers and travelers doing things such as washing their clothes or even something as simple as swimming or rinsing their bowls in the river have caused contamination with serious consequences for people drinking the water. By all means, avoid any kind of behavior that may cause contamination of the water: no swimming, washing dishes or clothes in the river! You should always wear sunglasses Sunglasses are a basic commodity in Patagonia. They will protect you from the sun, but most importantly repair your eyes from the ever blowing winds and from all the dust that these carry. Make sure to always keep a pair in your bag! And a hat or a beanie Make sure to pack a hat and / or a beanie for your Patagonia trip. You should go for something that protects you from the sun so – ideally – covers your forehead, and at the same time keeps your ears and head warm when it gets windy. You may not look stylish, but Patagonia ain’t a cat walk either. Remember to put on sun block Never underestimate the importance of sun block when traveling to Patagonia. Make sure to smother it on your face, neck, ears, chest and any other exposed bit. You won’t feel the sun so much, because it never gets too hot, but your skin definitely will and it will thank you if you protect it! Calafate berries are yummy El Calafate, the main starting point to visit Perito Moreno Glacier takes its name from a berry that grows in a small bush and that can be found all over Patagonia. You will see these bushes along the trails and can safely eat the berries. Mind you, they are so tiny that there hardly is a chance you’ll fill up on them! But an old saying goes: “Once you taste the calafate berry, you are destined to go back to Patagonia.” I guess I called it upon me… Actually, all food is good Speaking of food, you’ll be glad to know that during your Patagonia trip you are likely to have some really good food. Whether you opt for the typical asado (mixed grill) or go for the local trucha (trout), the ever-present milanesa(breaded and fried meat) or the home made pasta or lamb ravioli; you can rest assured that you’ll be having delicious food throughout. And beer Argentina and Chile are both famous for their wine, but while this will be ever present on any good restaurant menu, Patagonia is not a wine producing region. What abounds locally, however, is beer. In recent year microbreweries have been springing pretty much anywhere, and you’ll be able to reward yourself with a good pint of craft beer after any hike. El Chalten has a lot of small breweries (which is surprising for such a small village). In Ushuaia, head to The Birra and opt for a good pint of Beagle. Patagonia is safe Argentina and Chile are the safest countries in South America, and Patagonia is by far the safest region. You can travel to Patagonia safely, even by yourself. Chances are you’ll be meeting lots of other like minded travelers, and enjoy a chat or two with the very friendly locals. Yes, you do need a good travel insurance Regardless of how safe Patagonia is, of how fit you are for hiking, make sure to get yourself a good insurance before traveling to Patagonia. Some parts of it are truly remote, and in the unlucky event that something happens to you, you may have to be evacuated and this is very expensive.