with great people!
Roaming Exotic Places
in the Search of Nature and Culture
Tours for Curious Travelers
with a Special Eye on Mushrooms
I have been traveling to Tibet and Southwest China during mushroom season for many years doing research on mushrooms and their role in rural livelihood. Having been asked repeatedly to take people along to share this incredible experience, I designed my first eco-tour and have been taking people along since 2005. Having worked as a tour guide in Tibet for several companies since 1997, I personally "suffered" from passing by some of the most exciting sights on a trip. I would have loved to simply walk through an old-growth forest or a flower-covered meadow and have substantially more time to explore than the typical ten minutes toilet stop or the 45 minute sack-lunch stop before moving on to the next town. And, why not dedicate a whole day to a nature walk with a picturesque picnic while still enjoying Tibet's incredible cultural sights?
Thus, when I design tours I allow plenty of time for enjoying and exploring nature. Out in nature we often meet local people whose lives are profoundly dependant on their environment. Surprised to encounter foreigners deep in their woods, they are excited to meet us and chat. This said, cultural treasures also get their fair share of attention on our tours especially when traveling in Tibet with its unique ancient spiritual culture, which makes Tibet such an intriguing place. Tibetan Buddhism is one of the main attractions that keeps me returning to Tibet for over 25 years now. In the Tibetan areas we only work with Tibetan guides, hire Tibetan drivers and use as much as possible Tibetan hotels and restaurants. Furthermore, 10% of our profits - be it from the Amazon or Tibetan tours - are donated annually to NGOs addressing environmental, social and cultural issues in these regions.
Having traveled in Central America since 1987 and finally making it to South America in 2005 I fell in love with it. In 2010, I teamed up with Fungal Jungal's Larry Evans for our first joint MushRoaming tour to the Amazon region in Ecuador. For many years now Larry has been escaping harsh Montana winter's to South America to study its mushrooms. Our tour was very enjoyable and we had a great time to explore Quito, the Ecuadorian Andes and especially the Andean Amazon (link to mushroom and wildlife photos from that journey). Since 2012 we have traveled annually in Bolivia and we will return to the Bolivian Amazon that impressed us all with its pristine richness of flora, fauna and funga. After having visited friends in Colombia in 2013, the following year we did our first Colombia tour traveling between Bogota and the Pacific. In 2015 we dropped the Pacific coast and went instead to the historic Villa de Leyva region blessed with beautiful oak forests. Also the same year I organized my first Tyrolean Alp tour, which was very special to me, since I started out mushroom hunting there as a little kid. Another shift is that I will do many of my tours now on biannual schedule, it was just getting to much going to all these places every year.
Although our journeys have a focus on mushrooms, we do not miss the forest for its trees. We are not traveling to these remote exotic destinations like the tropical rain forest to limit our curiosity to fungi. Everybody enjoys nature in their very own way and everybody brings their own knowledge and interests. To enjoy the beauty of mushrooms does not take any scientific expertise, though background knowledge makes one appreciate some details otherwise easily overlooked, but to share those details is one of the functions of our team of guides. However, all that is really needed to enjoy nature's beauty is to take a moment to look and appreciate. And once we start looking at something a bit more closely, naturally similarities and differences emerge and we are curious and start to wonder why. Another important factor for participating in an eco-tour is that many questions can be answered right when we look at organisms. However, also many questions arise no one in the group has answers for or even previously considered, often based on all the different backgrounds and experiences participants bring to such a journey. Anyway, crucial to enjoying an eco-tour is that participants do not get bored when we take our time poking around in the rain forest looking for mushrooms, marveling at busy ants and weird looking spiders, checking out unknown fruits and strange flowers and then drop all, because some wildlife is spotted or a cool flock of birds shows up.
However, some people prefer to be on the move in the rain forest and we can facilitate that too. The lodges we are using always offer their own guides and then we just split up and a part of the crew will hike to a destination like a cliff and the others can be investigating a small spot where there is no end to discovery of interesting mushrooms like insect-parasitizing Cordyceps or small, but gorgeous wood decayers like Favolaschia. And then there is the people into photography, that wish to take photos of these jewels of nature.
Maybe a word on group travel. Honestly, 25 years ago when I was backpacking in Asia and the Americas I would neither have thought that I would join a group tour nor imagined that I would organize group travel later in my life. I thought neither could there be spontaneity in group travel - and coincidence is such a key factor to have a satisfying and profound travel experience, nor would one be able to enjoy traveling with a group of strangers. Well, strangers they might be in the beginning, but so far every MushRoaming tour have turned a group of strangers into a true fellowship, a "fungal fellowship" as I like to call it. Everyone contributes to the group experience, people have such diverse backgrounds and know so much and are willing to open up and share. Each trip I learn a great deal from all the fellow travelers. I have made many true friends this way and many past participants return for more trips and also many participants keep in contact with other travelers.
I used to joke how I should have done market research before starting MushRoaming, since I might have found out that most mushroom and plant hunters love the enjoyment of finding free treasures in the forest and are not willing, or able, to afford trips to exotic destinations. However, MushRoaming is a baby of my passionate love for nature and travel and not a product of market analysis. Seven years into it I realized that I am extremely lucky in regard of the type of people MushRoaming attracts: curious, smart, and easy to get along with people who are great in tolerating a bit of dirt in the woods and handling, if necessary, discomfort of traveling in remote areas. No one gets much caught up with the challenges of exploring new territory, since everyone is so eager and open to take in new experiences and enjoy the wonders of nature and travel.
Furthermore, having been guiding for awhile I have learned that even if there is an itinerary one must be open to catching the precious magic moments, which are a key element of any meaningful travel experience. Travel without openness to the magic of the moment, as offered by many corporate tourism outfits, is no true traveling. Each MushRoaming tour is a fresh and vivid experience and a unique adventure, for many a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
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Last edited on Wed, November 21, 2018, 11:47 am