Andean Trails UK office staff

Our UK office, and headquarters is based in Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland. However, all of our staff have lived and travelled extensively in South America over the last 20 years. Between us we share a wealth of knowledge and experience on this fascinating and amazing continent. We also travel back regularly to research and take part in established and new tours, which gives us first hand, up to date information on any queries or clarification you may have about your trip. Please feel free to contact us at any time with any questions you have.

We are: Kathy Jarvis, Kat Dougal, Alan Lyall, and Tom Shearman.

 

Kathy Jarvis

 

 

Kathy Jarvis

Having travelled around the world as a child, learning a real-life geography lesson, I’ve always had a natural curiosity about people from all corners of the globe – their families, their lives and their cultures.

Now I’ve turned that curiosity into a business, setting up Andean Trails in 1998 because I wanted to do something I truly believed in. I didn't fancy working for anyone else, and I wanted to be able to develop a business in the way I wanted to.

I spent five years leading trekking tours in Spain and the Andes and a couple of years writing about travelling and trekking in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru (with several guidebooks to my name), spending many months at a time off the beaten track.

My research took me to many amazing places that I would probably have never have visited otherwise, meeting a wide variety of interesting people, and seeing some beautiful villages, fascinating museums, landscapes etc.

Having got so much pleasure from seeing and learning about these vibrant countries, I wanted to enable other people to experience it for themselves. I believe in following my dream and it’s a privilege to help others follow theirs.

Travelling brings out the best in me: I’m self-motivated, organised and practical - a good combination when you’re making detailed plans for a complex tour or trek - and I’m pretty experienced nowadays at seeing what needs doing and getting it done.

I love having the freedom to go where I want and to do what I want, and I’ve certainly learned how to keep a level head when the unexpected happens. That came in handy when I was camping in Namibia and had a close encounter with a large elephant that decided to wander right through our camp kitchen as we did the washing up.

I believe strongly in having an ongoing, positive impact on the places we visit and the communities we are privileged to know well.

This is why Andean Trails supports a number of community projects in South America aimed at getting kids off the street and giving them a good education. We also help look after the environment we trek through by supporting the planting of native tree species.

When I can’t get to South America, I still enjoy the outdoors - only this time it’s the beautiful countryside on my doorstep. You may even see me running in the hills above Edinburgh as I train for my next triathlon.

Kathy's travel Q&As

Q. Item you never travel without?

A. Wipes, binoculars and a good book.

Q. Your favourite place on the planet?

A. The remote mountain areas of the Andean countries are very special places and hold happy memories (especially now I spend most of my time in front of a computer in our UK office).

Q. Your favourite travelling companion?

A. I travelled alone for many years, which was a good way to getting talking to locals, some of whom are now our local staff. Nowadays I tend to travel with a small numer of like minded friends and usually I’m accompanied by my young son who throws energy and enthusiasm into every new experience, and loves to mix with whoever he meets.

Q. Most memorable travel experiences?

A. Getting to the top of big mountains: Pisco, Ishinca, Cotopaxi, etc. I’m not a technical climber, so those moments are special and provide a fantastic sense of achievement.

Q. Favourite food from your travels?

A. I’m a big fan of Argentina’s steak and Malbec, especially after being out on Aconcagua on much simpler rations. The  soups cooked up by our Andean trekking chefs are pretty phenomenal too.

       

Kat's travel Q&As

Q. Item you never travel without?

A. A good friend of mine once told me never to travel without a washing line. Apparently it can be used for just about anything, strapping wood to broken bones, repairing backpacks, a make-shift jumping rope for local kids, marking the way when you get lost, roping up to your travel buddies on a busy market and who knows what else.

Q. Your favourite place on the planet?

A. I absolutely loved the Salt Flats of Bolivia as they gave me the feeling I was on a different planet altogether – the stark contrasts and the amazing landscape were just so absolutely stunning. I had never been anywhere else with a similar feel to it.

 But then there is also the Galapagos – which is a place that is hard to beat when it comes to “Once-in-a-lifetime” experiences.

Q. Your favourite travelling companion?

A. I have so many great memories of travelling with my sister. Later on good friends filled her shoes and now I am lucky to have a husband who has caught the travel bug, too.

Q. Most memorable travel experience?

A. Volunteering at an animal rescue centre in the jungle in Ecuador. There was no electricity and a waterfall as a shower – it felt like paradise. Working with locals meant I gained a great insight into their way of life and learned so much from them by seeing the world through their eyes.

Q. Favourite food from your travels?

A. Oh, I’ll have Argentine steak with chimichuri any day.

 

Kat Dougal

South America was my first travel love and it still holds a very special magic for me - there are so many different countries and the breathtaking scenery varies from jungle to high Andes, never mind the many different cultures.

But they all have one thing in common - open, warm and friendly people and a very laid back culture that I love. Because it is so big and varied I find new corners to explore every time I go – it never gets boring.

Volunteering at an animal rescue centre in the Jungle in Ecuador is my favourite travel experience to date. It was hard work but so very rewarding and some of the best months of my life. There was no electricity and a waterfall as a shower – it felt like paradise.

Helping reintroduce young monkeys into a protected forest meant I came up close with those beautiful and at the same time comical animals. Working with locals meant I gained a great insight into their way of life and learned so much from them by seeing the world through their eyes.

Travel brings everything and more to my life – travelling has definitely defined me and made me become a more independent and tolerant person. I have learned that others face much bigger challenges in life than I do, and yet manage to be happy despite of it. I have met so many wonderful and interesting people along the way and I always remind myself of these moments when I feel that everyday life is getting on top of me.

My sister ‘taught’ me to travel and I guess she was the first travel companion I had - starting with family holidays. I have so many great memories of travelling with her. In fact even before I joined her on her travels I was always fascinated by what she told me and the colourful photos she brought back from her trips. I blame her for my itchy feet and as soon as I finished school I started my own travelling career. Later on good friends filled her shoes and now I am lucky to have a husband who has caught the travel bug too.

Every journey is different, every country holds new and exciting adventures - the list of places to go is so long. I love the feeling of exploring a new country and culture, all the new impressions that come with it and that forever force you to challenge your views on the world. Travel leaves no room for prejudice and I learn so much about myself on every trip I take.

I love an active holiday, especially when I can put on my walking boots and taking to whatever hills I can find. I usually want my holidays to be as action-filled as possible but also always try to stay a few days in one spot to allow myself to soak up the atmosphere - you can’t beat spending the afternoon in a foreign place, watching the local life go by.

I love packing my tent and walking boots and heading to the Scottish hills with my husband or friends. Hard to find a free day in my social calendar, I like to be busy - dinners with friends, visitors from back home, weekends away.

Kat Dougal

       

Alan Lyall                                                                                                                                                                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alan Lyall

Travel is in my genes. I was born in Africa and before I could walk I was embarking on my first long trip, heading to Scotland.

The first trip I can remember was on an ocean liner from Southampton to Durban and watching the crossing of the equator ceremony. I was a toddler, terrified and yet fascinated. I think this first meeting with fascination for the unknown and unexpected is what hooked me on travel.

Growing up a geologist's son, I saw many weird and wonderful places. I have camped in ghost towns in the Atacama, cut sugar cane in the middle of Bahia, visited Puerto Williams in the Beagle Channel just after the Falklands war and been mistaken for a British soldier.

I lived and travelled around South America for almost 20 years and have seen much of the continent. But I know there are so many more places to explore and experience.

Many people see South America as one place and one culture. That is so far from the truth and the most important thing that I take from my travels in South America is the diversity in cultures, customs, peoples, geography and not forgetting versions of Spanish.

All of these experiences, although a cliche, made me realise that travelling broadens your horizons, opens your mind and makes one a more tolerant and respectful individual.

My adage is that my last trip has always been the best, therefore the next will be even better. To achieve this, I follow these rules. In the city, get a map and explore on foot. In the country, get a map and explore on foot. And then go where the locals go, drink where the locals drink, eat where the locals eat.

When I am not exploring the world, I love to relax in Edinburgh and venture around Scotland’s capital on my bike.

 

 

Alan's travel Q&As

Q. Item you never travel without?

A. Before leaving home I always check I have my passport, money, itinerary and house keys. Anything else can be sorted.

Q. Your favourite place on the planet?

A. San Pedro de Atacama, the place has a certain energy and magic all of its own and the skies at night look like someone switched on the Christmas lights

Q. Your favourite travelling companion?

A. My MP3 player.

Q. Most memorable travel experience?

A. Lying in a hammock at night in a jungle lodge in the Peruvian Amazon listening to the strangely orderly symphony of the jungle

Q. Favourite food, from your travels?

A. As a carnivore, the first thing I must have when I step foot in Argentina is an "Asado de tira". I start dreaming of it one week prior to my arrival.

 

Tom's travel Q&As

Q. Item you never travel without?

A. My secret man purse. I don't have a wallet, so cards, money, passport, all the important things that tend to get lost in my rucksack, all go into the man purse, and then into a secret man purse storage area for safety. Keeps me organised.

Q. Favourite place on the planet?

A. So far, it's Patagonia, for its incredible landscapes, weather and sheer vastness.

Q. Your favourite travel companion?

A. I've always travelled with friends and each one adds something different to the experience as we tend to travel to remote and isolated areas where local interaction is key. For cycling, it's Jim, for trekking it's Bryan, for everywhere else, it's my partner Elena.

Q. Most memorable travel experience?

A. I'll not forget being struck by lightning in Bulgaria in a hurry, but the kindness of a family in remote North Peru lingers. We had walked for days and ended up in a small village with no food or money. They took us in, fed us their only chicken, gave us a bed and blankets, and sent us on the bus out the next day.

Q. Favourite food, from your travels?

A. I love eating and have been fortunate to eat many tasty things. A ceviche in Peru, made with fish caught from the mountain river that same afternoon, stands out as a one-off dish, but ultimately three weeks in Thailand was simply food heaven.

Tom Shearman

As a child growing up in a small village in rural Gloucestershire, catching the weekly public bus to the metropolis of Gloucester fascinated me. I couldn´t believe the number of people, the cars, the things you could buy and the general vastness of the city.

Not the most romantic of starts, but it felt then like a huge adventure, and I hope I still carry that feeling with me to any new place I visit, be it city, village or countryside,

After the bus to Gloucester, my first big independent trip was a three month backpack around South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. We camped in game reserves, went rafting, had accidents and adventures and met some amazing people. It seemed such a fantastic way to talk to people and see stupendous things that I just knew I had to see and do more.

You never know what or who is out there. Once you break free of your routines at home, you can feel a greater sense of self, and I think that helps you enjoy yourself more and more and more. And the more you see and do, the more you realise that these differences are what help you to change and hopefully the best bits remain the same.

The things you have to work for while travelling - the confusing conversations and hand gestures, trusting your instincts – make you think about how you interact with people and environment, and can help you become a more patient, understanding and in ways a more rounded person.

I am getting more rounded as I love to eat and drink while away, but hope that walking, cycling, getting lost in cities, listening to local groups, visiting the countryside and the mountains, all helps to burn off the excess while I relax later on.

South America was always a distant dream, as I gazed at the mountains on my first globe, aged seven. When I got there for the first time, I first visited Peru and couldn´t believe the variety of cultures, people, colours, weathers, sceneries - everything just seemed so alien to me. The real life Andes, no longer a white streak forming South America’s backbone,  instantly hooked me and these have moulded most of my Latin America experiences after that initial visit. I love them.

Climbing Aconcagua was the toughest thing I have ever done, and falling into crevasses on the Patagonia Ice Cap one of the funniest things, once I realised that my safety rope and brilliant guide were to be trusted. A water bomb fight with a bus driver and the whole village, delaying the bus by 4 hours, also stands out.

I spend my free time in Barcelona reading, playing guitar badly, watching films, cycling, swimming and practising yoga. The exercise is needed as I am learning how to become a better cook as I love eating fine foods

Tom Shearman        



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