Category Archives: Customer Stories

Stories from our trips written by customers

Customer Story: Cycling Colombia

What is great about cycling holidays, is that they are always accompanied by a sweet sense of achievement when you complete the journey. And this is especially true on our fantastic (but challenging) road cycling holiday in Colombia. Our Customer Competition winner, Aileen Jamieson, just had a chance to experience it all first hand! Read her full story to get a real sense of what it’s like to cycle in Colombia…

‘I had never heard of Saddle Skeddadle before, but suddenly an advert appeared on my Facebook after I had been searching for “warm winter cycling destinations”. Desperate to get away from the snow and icy conditions in Scotland, the Colombia Emerald Mountains trip in February seemed like the perfect getaway. I booked the trip 3 months in advance, giving myself plenty of time to get fit (or so I thought). Winter came early in Scotland, and so I reluctantly joined a gym and became best friends with a Wattbike. I convinced myself that there was no way that I would be the slowest cyclist on the trip…

Prior to flying to Colombia, I chatted a few times via email with tour leader David Hall which really helped me with my planning. I arrived in Bogota a few days early to acclimatise and hiked up the Montserrate mountain, smugly looking down on the others who had taken the cable car. I felt fit! The next day all the other Skeddadlers arrived, unpacking their bike boxes and talking about all the epic trips they had done and races they had won. I started to worry. These people looked serious!

The first day in the saddle soon arrived and we were all excited to get on our way. The sun shone, the arm warmers soon came off and the adventure began. Each day started and ended with a climb, and I have never experienced anything like it. I soon learned that everything is achievable if you ride at the right pace and take your time. There was no benefit in racing to the lunch stops as service in Colombia is very laid back, so the food never arrived until after the last person had appeared anyway! The back-to-back challenging rides soon took their toll on me and by day 5 I was worn out. I made the decision then that the support bus was there for a good reason and there was no shame in taking a boost for a few miles. That opportunity came on the morning of day 6, when there was a particularly steep climb (with 16% grade). Another rider and I hopped into the bus and took the opportunity to enjoy the view and take photos of our team as we drove past them. It was the brief respite I needed, and at the next coffee stop I got back on the bike and re-joined the group. It’s amazing how a small boost like that can improve your day considerably, and the drivers Tito and Oscar were so fantastic it would have been a shame not to have spent some time with them!

After a rest day in Medellin, we were all keen to get riding again, and once more the ride started with a long climb out of the city. I noticed the locals use a cable car and wondered if perhaps I was missing a trick somehow! The next day had a particularly steep descent, with rough surfaces and tight bends. I am not a confident descender in these conditions, so I decided it was time to take the magic bus again. Somehow it felt less of a cop-out taking a bus downhill than uphill, and again it gave me far more opportunity to view the beautiful countryside scenery than I would have managed had I been focussing on the road. It also gave me the chance to meet some of the local police who were happy to have their photo taken with me, a memorable moment for sure!

Once we had left the mountains the temperature started to soar to over 35degC. This is why I came to Colombia – to work on my tan lines! The roads were also much flatter and considerably easier. I finally felt like I was on holiday. When we arrived in Cartagena at the old city walls there was a mixed feeling of pride in completing the journey and sadness that it had come to an end. An epic adventure that I will never forget, with a group of amazing people who I intend to stay in touch with and meet again on the next Skedaddle adventure!’

Feeling inspired? Find out more about our Colombian road cycling holiday, our most ambitious and exciting road trip to date!

Customer Story: Discovering Sri Lanka

Located in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a diverse destination with an amazing range of experiences for such a small island. Whilst we could chat for hours about the beauty of this part of the world, we thought on this occasion we will let our customers do the talking! Here’s a story from Sam Crooks, who recently headed here with us, to give you a flavour of the trip…

‘It was the turn of the New Year in 2017 and as many of us do, I was googling holidays as a way of escaping the January blues. Looking for something a bit different I’d been searching ‘active adventures’ and was surprised to see that The Guardian recommended a company, Skedaddle, that was right under my nose on Newcastle Quayside – how had I not come across this before? It was a sign!

I was soon lost in the trip notes of the cycling adventures, longing after the scenery they describe with my mouth watering at the thought of Asian cuisine but I couldn’t shake some niggling worries – I’m not a cyclist (at least not your typical Sunday ride kind), will I fit in, will I keep up? How many consecutive days in the saddle? I’d also never travelled on my own in this way before.

Running along the quayside one day a friend kindly reminded me of a saying, “it’ll be a good experience or a great story”… The next day I found myself sat with the dashing Mr Andrew Straw in Skedaddle HQ talking sunsets and Sri Lankan cuisine over a free coffee! Andrew set my worries at ease. Despite what people may believe it’s not all about the bike! The bike has a key role but it’s as much about travel – experiencing a country, meeting new people and making great memories (at least that’s what I took away from our chat). Within a few days I was signed up.

Sri Lanka is a country of beauty! The tagline, ‘beaches and backroads’ was exactly what we got – and everything in between. We cycled our way from Chillaw through rice fields, wound our way up some cheeky climbs to the tea plantations, and back downhill through National Parks, sugarcane fields and cinnamon plantations, finishing on the coast in Mirissa.

There are so many highlights from the trip but some of my favourite moments included taking in the views from Sigiriya Rock, having to abandon a day of cycling 10km earlier than planned due to a wild elephant being in the road, randomly meeting a local cycling champ and stopping off for a cup of tea and a savoury do-nut as the weather was building to a cyclone!

Off the bike we saw wild elephants, crocodiles, monkeys and an array of birds during safari, learned about Buddhist philosophy through visiting temples and enjoyed the contrast of city stays and beach huts. Don’t get me started on the plentiful, delicious food; I’ll be here all day!

So Sri Lanka gave a lot but the cherry on the cake was the group members and the guides. Our local guides were just brilliant. Whether on foot, on the bike, playing paparazzi or driving the bus they had our every need catered for. Full of fun, energy and keen to help us learn about and enjoy Sri Lanka we couldn’t have asked for more. The group itself were a font of travelling knowledge and experience, I enjoyed learning of people’s lives and their travelling tales and who knew how creative we would become at getting our cycling kit washed and dried for the next day!

So, if you’re reading this as a first time ‘Skedaddler’ and you have some of the niggles I had, just go for it! You could have an amazing experience too. And if you need any more recommendation or persuasion, I’m now signed up for Swaziland in September!’

Feeling inspired? Lush beaches, awesome scenery and amazing wildlife await you as we check out the ancient temples, tea plantations and lush forests during or cycling adventure in Sri Lanka.

Customer Story: Cuban photo diary

Our Customer Competition winner,  Janet Brown, recently headed to Central America for a Cycling Adventure on the ever fascinating island of Cuba! Janet was so impressed with this photogenic destination that she sent us her insightful overview of the two weeks on the Caribbean’s most vibrant island full of cycling, history, cigars and old cars…

‘As a keen photographer, I worked out that a cycling trip to Cuba was the best way to see the country, and the only way to get my other half there!

Cuba didn’t disappoint. The cycling was quite challenging, as there were a few long climbs, some cheeky climbs, and loads of undulations. We were mostly on a mixture of dirt and tarmac roads with little traffic. Our ensuite accommodation was all excellent, varying from small casa particulares to all-inclusive holiday resorts. The food was tasty and plentiful, with the choice generally being chicken, pork, beef or fish.

Finishing a ride with a beer, mojito or pina colada was a bit different to my usual mug of tea! Oh, and the photography was almost too good, with landscapes, people, horse-drawn carts and classic cars at every turn of the head.

We visited many places important to Cuban revolutionary history, with expert knowledge from our Cuban guides (Lazaro in Havana and Andry on the tour). Almost a year to the day after the death of Fidel Castro, we visited his burial place in Santiago de Cuba. 

After a circular ride on the first day, we set off from Santiago de Cuba, and rode along the coastline, heading west to Niquero over 3 days. We were a small group of 6 people, and there was quite a difference in speed on the climbs. However, with our leader Tony’s support, we pulled together and tried to help each other cope with the ups and downs.

Back on the revolutionary trail, we headed towards the Sierra Maestra, where Fidel Castro developed his hidden headquarters. Having cycled along their southern slopes, we were now heading for the northern side.

Cycling through rural farmland, we could have been travelling at any time in the last 2 centuries!

On our first non-cycling day, after a steep ride in a jeep, we trekked the last few km to Fidel Castro’s Comandancia de la Plata. This command HQ was established after a year on the run in the mountains, and was never found by Batista’s soldiers. The fridge can still be seen here in Fidel’s hut, which had several escape routes.

After a transfer from our hotel in Camaguey, we rode into Trinidad, probably my favourite place of the whole trip. A morning’s short ride to the beach was followed by time to wander around and enjoy the cobbled streets and classic cars in town.

Our final destination was Viñales, a land of limestone outcrops known as mogotes, and another wonderful area for cycling, as well as being famous for organic tobacco production. Visiting a tobacco grower, we were persuaded to try the Cuban cigars, and several of us bought them to take home. So what if I gave up smoking in 1981!

When we booked this trip, it had seemed like a good idea to finish up with a day in Havana, but we were woken by strong winds and torrential rain. Undaunted, we set off on the circular HabanaTourBus, ending up in the Café Paris for pizza, cubatas (dark rum version of a cuba libre) and Cuban music.

The return trip along the seafront Avenida de Maceo, otherwise known as the Malecón, was rather exhilarating on the open top of the bus.

And those cars? They really are amazing!’

Feeling inspired? If you would like to head to Cuba, we have two fantastic trips you can choose from!