Well done Mark, I think you're putting the unpopular opinion forward very calmly and sensibly. I'm not able to be too sanctimonious about off road driving - I do quite a bit (although mostly abroad) for my work and can understand the thrill of it. However, the occasional good walk on the Cherhill Downs has been marred by trail bikers, and I do have issue with the behaviour of some off roaders. I regularly walk the Ridgeway trail which is supposed to be part of a scheme whereby 4x4s stay off it in bad conditions. There are signs to this effect at each point where the track crosses other roads. I often see 4x4s careering along when conditions are wet muddy, or otherwise totally unsuitable. If a group cannot self regulate then outside restrictions will ultimately result. I guess its the old story of a few idiots spoiling it for the rest of us, and goodness knows that holds wether you're a walker, runner, MTBer, biker or whatever.
The Grauniads net jetters have won a competition to send them around the world for free. In return they write a short column each week in the Travel Section. I've read quite a few of these, usually in disgust. The comments made about New Zealand were not the first time I smacked my hand to my head and thought 'who are these people?'. The columns are regularly nothing but a list of moans - it makes you wonder why they bothered going travelling in the first place. Shame on the Grauniad's judges - they picked a couple of right dunces. Now of course if they'd like to pay me to go to New Zealand.....
As usual I think Joan as put it perfectly. I regularly go away with Explore etc (although there is one company who I now wouldn't touch with a bargepole. This is because I have limited time and my job involves setting up complicated trips abroad so when I'm on holiday I want someone else to do it! I also enjoy the group atmosphere. I'd love to have the time to go independent, but am too busy to carefully plan an itinerary. Of course if I had your contacts things might be different! Good for you - you'll have a great time.
Great piece Jon. Good for you for going it alone and, better still, the fact that you do your best not to diss the organised treks. Due to time constraints I often go with organised tours and get sick of people telling me I'm not a proper traveller so good on your for not resorting to that old chestnut! It is a sod that they took all the space at the last campsite though.