Zachary Moses is Man About World’s Newest Correspondent

Zacahry Moses

Zachary Moses, our Director of Marketing & Adventure Tour Development was recently invited to become the newest Global Correspondent for the online “Man About World” magazine. You can read more about it by clicking here!

Previously Zachary was recognized by Travel Agent Magazine as one of the top 30 young travel professionals in the country, and currently works as a Travel Writer, Marketing Director and Tour Developer for HE Travel, the world’s largest and most prestigious land-based gay tour operator that brings together the heritage of Hanns Ebensten Travel and Alyson Adventures.

Zachary has also been recognized by the NTA (National Tour Association) for his fresh marketing ideas, and was selected to serve on a panel of young professionals who are working together to further the success of this important travel industry association. Zachary also writes a column called “Man About Town” in Q Magazine about inbound gay travel to Key West, Florida. He thrives on reaching out to a diverse audience to offer insights about gay travel, gay lifestyles and gay adventures, both close to home and around the world.

Need help figuring out your next gay travel destination? Going on a gay honeymoon, and looking for the best gay vacation package? Traveling solo and looking for a congenial group? Give HE Travel a call at 800.825.9766 and tell them Zach sent you!

“Man About World” magazine is a new digital gay travel magazine published for the iPad. iPad users can download “Man About World” magazine from the Apple App Store.

Posted in Alyson Adventures, Essays, Florida Keys & Key West, HE Travel, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, Writings, Zachary Moses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amazon Woman: Creation of a New Adventure in the Jungle of Peru (Part 3)

This is Part 3 in a series. Click to read Part 1 and Part 2.

Day 4: Birding, Fishing, Hiking, and Daring each other to eat things we found in the Amazon Rainforest

We met at 4am and went down to the dock for a birding expedition. The morning was misty and cool and the river was eerie.

4-misty boat blog

We left behind the lights of the lodge and saw the long drooping nests of Oropendola birds and heard their beautiful calls, which sound something like electronic water droplets. I couldn’t get good audio on my camera, but I found a video on youtube, on which the bird calls are pretty close to the kind we heard. We saw a sloth high in a tree (photo courtesy of Myron’s zoom lens). No matter how long we watched, it never went very far.

4-dawn collage blog

We came back to the lodge for breakfast. Here are two of my favorite regional foods: Juanes (chicken and rice wrapped in bijau leaves) and Granadilla, a type of passionfruit.

4-typical breakfast blog

Michael shot this photo of a cute (in a bedraggled sort of way), little love-dog who lives near the lodge. His name is Soco Troco, which someone told us means Underbite. He sat snuggled up to my knee while folks booted up for today’s jungle hike. I loved the friendly little dogs of Peru!

4-soco troco blog

After a leisurely boat ride, we came to our hiking destination, where we all hopped off the boat:

4-fishing excursion blog

And were greeted by another (arguably) ADORABLE dog, a Peruvian hairless that I wanted to keep! My friends will recognize me in this photo, even though they can’t see my face, because I can always be found talking into dogs’ faces exactly like this.

4-hairless dog blog

This area of the jungle was hilly, with some different vegetation from what we saw yesterday.

4-hike sara roots blog

And frogs disguised as leaves.


Michael dared me to hold a spider carcass (which I didn’t), so I dared him to eat it (which he didn’t, because he’s a chicken).


Our guide cut a vine for us to drink the clear liquid inside. Most of us were brave enough for that. It tasted like coconut water and was very refreshing! We came across a huge rope swing, and took turns getting pushed out over the hillside and giggling like children.

4-rope swing blog

After the hike, we went piranha fishing, which, like all fishing everywhere, turned into this:

4-fishing blog

In the afternoon, we took another muddy hike, closer to the lodge, to visit a healer who distills medicines from local plants. Here our guide Nixon shows us a few species. We sampled an aphrodisiac liquor, and Scott tried to steal the whole bottle, but the medicine man was too savvy.

4-medicine plants-photo by MV blog

Michael got a picture of the local boys playing soccer.

4-soccer blog

At dusk, the lodge owner turned on the waterslide, and we had dangerous fun. Like going down backwards, upside down, and as a train, even after the sun went down. This was some of the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time.

We were tired tonight, but nobody quite wanted to go to bed after dinner, so we spent our last night in Peru playing Sapo, a national pastime!

4-sapo blog

Day 5: Seeing the Mighty Amazon River (and a pink dolphin!)

After breakfast we turned in our boots:

5-hike boots blog

And embarked upon our boat ride out of La Selva. During our time in Iquitos and deeper in the rainforest, we saw so much boat traffic on the river (some carrying barrels, produce, and families; taxis; little kids; and even boats that seemed impossibly small).

4-boats collage blog

We motored out to the point where Rio Momon joins the Huge Amazon (you can see the color difference here). We were thrilled to spot a pink river dolphin (which are rare in this area of heavy boat traffic), but I didn’t manage to get a picture.

5-amazon blog

What an amazing trip. HE Travel is putting together a tour through the Amazon Rainforest and will invite you next time we go!! Here’s a picture of our fun and funny group, on the beach at the zoo near Iquitos. Thanks for a wonderful trip everyone!

5-group blog

Back (L-R): Scott (HE Travel’s Director of Client Services), Myron, Sara (author), Carlos, Michael, and Eldon. Seated: Estela, Kuniko, Betty, and Sara. In front: Jovana, Claudio, and Fiorella

A note for those bringing back a blowgun from Peru…Put it in Michael’s checked bag. Make him explain it to the Customs Agent. He’ll need a good excuse as to why a single guy is carrying a wooden weapon, carefully wrapped in a white sundress.


-Sara Moses

HE Travel Media Assistant

You can also read Sara’s account of her 2012 adventure in the Grand Canyon HERE.

Posted in All Welcome Tour, All Welcome Tour, Alyson Adventures, Amazon, Essays, Fam Trips, FIT, Group Tour, HE Travel, Men's Tour, Multi-Sport, Sara Moses, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, Women's Tour, Writings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amazon Woman: Creation of a New Adventure in the Jungle of Peru (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a three-part series. Click HERE to read Part 1.

Day 3: Entering the Rainforest

This morning we gathered our belongings and set out for the port, where we had a bit of time to kill before our boat arrived. We saw more grilled and roasted meats for sale, and a few things I wasn’t nervy enough to try. Like these grubs.

3-grubs blog

When our tiny boat arrived, we hoisted our camera bags and purses and clambered aboard single file, so as not to capsize the whole thing! There’s my colleague Scott at the back, because he isn’t getting out at our first stop…

3-tiny boat blog

On the way to our rainforest lodge, we visited a wildlife rehabilitation center commonly called the Snake House. I’ve told you how Scott feels about snakes, and there were several others who simply were NOT entering this place, no matter what! So they missed holding the sloth! (This is an optical illusion, Kuniko didn’t actually kiss it!)

3-snake house sloth kiss blog

And they didn’t get to see this little bitty monkey catching and eating wasps!

3-snake house monkey blog

And the folks on the boat didn’t get to see this juvenile anaconda wrap itself around my neck! I don’t have a photo of the first snake I held, a boa constrictor, which tried to bite my face (unsuccessfully, as I had a good grip on its head). Even after that, though, I wasn’t going to miss the chance to hold this gorgeous river dweller. The sight of this photo makes poor Scott gag.

3-snake house anaconda blog

The Snake House fellow held the head while Michael and I stretched the snake out to admire its length. Our coordinator, Claudio, took a deep breath and dared to touch the anaconda’s tippy tail. Then he shuddered and giggled and ran away. I was really proud of him, especially after I failed to hold that rhino beetle on the Day 2.

3-snake house group blog

We cruised along and all stopped to visit the Bora Tribe, a family group that lives upriver, but comes daily to perform for visitors and educate travelers about their culture. Here is the chief, in their glorious gathering hut.

3-bora hut blog

The kids were adorable, and my traveling companion, Fiorella, won their favor by showing them the pictures she took of them with her iPhone. The Bora women all wore these hand-beaded tops, made entirely from seeds and fibers found in the jungle, and colored with plant-based dyes. I bought one for myself, and Scott joked that I was likely the only tourist who had ever purchased one who could just wear it around town (Key West sees ALL kinds of everyday costumes).

3-bora women blog

We arrived at our gorgeous lodge, with bright, airy (fully screened-in) private cabins for each of us. The big dining room featured an observation tower and great views of the grounds, forest, and river.

3-observation tower blog

There were so many beautiful types of flowers and mushrooms on the property. This photo is a collage, and is not to scale.

3-flower collage blog

We put away our things and geared up for a Rainforest hike. The lodge loaned rubber boots to those who didn’t bring any, because the ground is soggy. Carlos thinks Scott looks dashing!

3-hike scott boots blog

I have a fascia injury, so have to wear my own special shoes. So I just taped my foot tight, and braved the mud. Eldon and Myron were sweet and escorted me across a big puddle.

3-eldon carry sara blog

Then Eldon went above and beyond and carried Luis across!

3-hike luis and eldon blog

We walked to the village where the Jibaro Tribe lives. Myron shared this photo of the chief’s hut.

3-jibaro hut blog

The chief showed us his handmade blowdart gun. The darts were made of palm frond spines with a bit of cotton fluff wrapped around the ends. For hunting, they would be dipped in a toxic plant extraction, or frog secretion. The chief demonstrated the shooting technique by hitting the small wooden dummy squarely in the gut (looking closely, you’ll see his name is Chulla Chaqui, the demon shape-shifter).

3-jibaro dummy

They offered us a chance to try, and I hit the mark with both darts! So after much debate about airport security, I decided to buy one for Zach. I bought the nicest one they had for sale, decorated with anaconda skin and puma fur, with a hand-beaded strap. I felt very tough traipsing through the Amazon Rainforest, face painting courtesy of the little girls of the Jibaros.

3-hike blowgun sara blog

After a delicious dinner, several of us went out on a night cruise, away from any habitation. We turned off our motor and had 5 minutes of silence in the moonlight, though I wished for an hour. I’ll never forget the sounds of the frogs calling to each other high in the trees, and the insects clicking and squeaking across the wide river. Michael took this photo of the impenetrably dark  forest at the water’s edge.

3-night cruise blog

Then it was off to bed to get plenty of sleep before our 4 am bird-watching boat ride the next morning!

To be continued…


-Sara Moses

HE Travel Media Assistant

You can also read Sara’s account of her 2012 adventure in the Grand Canyon HERE.





Posted in All Welcome Tour, All Welcome Tour, Alyson Adventures, Amazon, Essays, Fam Trips, FIT, Group Tour, HE Travel, Hiking, Men's Tour, Men's Tour, Multi-Sport, Sara Moses, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, Women's Tour, Writings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Amazon Woman: Creation of a New Adventure in the Jungle of Peru (Part 1)

Back in April, my colleague Scott and I were sent to Peru to work on developing two new tours in the Amazon Rainforest. I was chosen for this expedition in order to create our new Amazon Woman tour for lesbians, and Scott was sent to get perspective on a new Amazon cruise for our gay male groups. We would be traveling with other travel professionals, all interested in exploring this special part of the planet and finding great spots that our clients will love.

A week or so before the trip, Scott and I drove 100 miles to the Upper Keys in order to get our yellow fever vaccinations. This was nerve-wracking, because neither of us likes needles, and we were really working each other up over the big bad shot! Scott called me a big baby so I said “ladies first” and giggled. The nurse didn’t get my joke and pricked me first, before I could introduce Scott as Bonita Bitch, one of the legendary Key West Bitch Sisters! (She’s the pretty one).

Key West Bitch Sisters

Later in the week we made the gorgeous drive up the Keys again, this time all the way to the Miami Airport (MIA). I love this rainbow window at MIA. We stayed the night at the airport hotel to take an early morning flight out.

Sara and Scott at MIA


Day 1: Miami to Iquitos

Scott and I met our coordinator, Claudio, and several members of our group and boarded our COPA flight to Panama  City, Panama, where all the men in the airport were handsome and sharply dressed and the women had on their tallest heels. At the Panama City airport we met the rest of our group and continued on together to Iquitos, Peru in the early afternoon.

Flying over the Amazon as we approached Iquitos was breathtaking. Serpentine rivers wind through lush greenery that extends as far as the eye can see. It appeared that the jungle had no end.

Winding River in the Amazon Rainforest

Our hotel had arranged a group transfer from the airport; our other option would have been the mototaxi, the main method of transportation in Iquitos. Many families have scooters; we saw very few private cars but thousands of mototaxis.


We checked into our hotel on the town square, and an afternoon storm rolled in and right back out.

Iquitos town square

Two of our traveling companions, Eldon and Myron, went exploring local shops. They stopped at the esplanade overlooking the Itaya River:


They came upon a parade:

iquitos parade

And many beautiful birds:


Everyone returned to our hotel in time to enjoy traditional Peruvian cocktails, Pisco Sour and Pisco Cocona. We unanimously agreed that the drink, remarkably, did not taste like coconut. It took three whole days of hilarious discussion to finalize our understanding that COCONA is not COCONUT. You’ll have to imagine a chorus of ten people revisiting the popular argument (cocona? coconut? cocona! no coconut?). Thoroughly warmed up from three rounds of Pisco, we walked together along the esplanade overlooking Belen (the Floating City), where kids were playing soccer in the fading light.


Dinner was at a restaurant that uses filtered water for all cooking and washing purposes, features triple-washed greens and freshly caught fish, and takes pride in serving no illegal or endangered species. The waiters were all good-looking young men who promised to meet us later at the disco! Several members of our group walked to the disco and secured the curtained private room at the top of the stairs, with a direct view on the front door. Scott and I were breathlessly looking for our waiters to arrive, but alas, we ran out of steam before the club really got hopping, and our group went back to our hotel for the night.


Day 2: Military Men, Manatees, Monkeys, and a Mermaconda!

Every Sunday in Iquitos there is a display of military presence, where all branches are present for a flag ceremony, the singing of the national anthem, and stirring speeches. The roads surrounding the town square are closed to vehicles, so our tour van was delayed. This gave Scott the full opportunity to collect photos of his favorite troops.


And a double-take zoom shot of the gentleman on the left!


We met our van around the block and headed to the outskirts of town to the manatee rescue and rehabilitation center. This was our first introduction to La Selva (“the jungle” – how locals refer to the Amazon Rainforest). Just before hopping over a giant tree root, I realized that it appeared to be moving, and I stopped and stepped back. Two lines of leaf-cutter ants were determinedly harvesting the huge tree, taking leaves to their home 20 ft away. I took this video after our group moved on, so that the sounds of La Selva could be heard.

The staff at the manatee center are committed to educating local people about the plight of the manatees, which are endangered because they are delicious, apparently. Our local guide explained to us that all edible animals in populous areas here are slaughtered and eaten, and this is resulting in lowered populations of manatee, sloth, monkey, and pink dolphin. We took turns feeding the manatees, which are bristly and gentle, with suction cups for mouths. I was the only one who pet the loveable and lump-covered puppy who wandered around the reserve.

2-manati-puppy 2

We headed next to the zoo, where we saw several varieties of monkeys, some parrots, a few wild cats, and even the gift shop’s pet rhino beetle. I tried to hold him, I really did. Really. But I just COULDN’T. Eldon and Michael were more courageous.

2-zoo-rhino-eldon2-zoo-rhino beetle

We caught glimpses of the captive Paiche, gigantic river fish that patrol the moat of the monkey enclosure, rippling through the murky water like sea-monsters and avoiding the camera. We also did not see a real Chullachaqui, though a few guests said later that they had nightmares of this shape-shifting goblin who sneaks into villages and steals people’s mates.


Carlos and I enjoyed lunch at the Zoo’s beach. I couldn’t resist helping Michael eat that haunch of roasted alligator!

2-zoo-alligator lunch

It was delicious, as are most meats roasted this way, I imagine.


We then switched to a hotel across town with a great pool area. My suite was bigger than my Key West apartment! Dinner tonight was at a kitschy restaurant that featured Peruvian takes on American cuisine (or maybe vice-versa?). I had pancakes for dinner and Scott had a beer in a wooden box.

2-scott beer

I mocked Scott because he is afraid of snakes and wouldn’t even sit near this painting of the mermaconda.


Upstairs at this restaurant was the Iquitos version of Margaritaville, complete with a Bourbon Street sign and a McCain/Palin campaign poster.


When we returned to our hotel for the night, we all checked our email and finished up any business, because we really didn’t know what level of technology to expect once we left Iquitos to enter the Rainforest the next day!

…to be continued.

Sara Moses

HE Travel Media Assistant

You can also read Sara’s account of her 2012 adventure in the Grand Canyon HERE.



Posted in All Welcome Tour, All Welcome Tour, Alyson Adventures, Amazon, Fam Trips, FIT, Group Tour, HE Travel, Men's Tour, Men's Tour, Sara Moses, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, Women's Tour, Writings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Contrasts of the Canyon

R. Darin Hollingsworth


The Grand Canyon experience is difficult to grasp, particularly without the perspective of having been there. When you try to communicate in words or pictures, neither can really capture the spirit of the place. Since planting my feet back on solid ground I have told so many people that my heart and mind easily drift back to the sights, sounds, smells, memories and friendships of that adventure.

I have said to many that the Canyon is a study in contrasts. The river is powerful and gentle, loud and quiet – rapids and flat-water. There are “white knuckles and three buckles” and on the same raft a few minutes later, a temptation to fall asleep on a side pontoon or in the “tea room” in the middle of the raft. There is the blistering heat of the desert and the cold splash of a rapid or the cool relief in the shadow of the Canyon walls. The rock walls are beautiful with layers and shapes and colors, yet harsh and at times frightening as you traverse them. Side canyons are secluded bu

t wide open, and breath-taking attractions are hidden in the openness. Darkness blankets the interior of the Canyon as night falls but looking up at the rim of the Canyon, the narrow strip of stars or perhaps the moon are brighter than you may ever see anywhere else.

When you experience the trip with a group of strangers there are the contrasts among them as well. There are: singles and couples; familiar and unfamiliar. There is time for aloneness and for wonderful revelry of the collective. There is the contrast from our normal reality of frequently being identified by “what you do,” as opposed to being identified simply by where you like sit in the raft or how adventurous you are on a hike. There is also the replacement of “where do you live” or “who inspires your interior design” with questions about whether you want your bed roll in proximity to the “groover” or the “kitchen” or near the water for the magnificent sound of a rapid and the touch of a cool breeze.

The river guides are another source of distinction. In simplest terms you have the contrast of the Boatman (the professional river guide) and the Swamper (assistant, selected by the Boatman). Another obvious contrast is between the jobs and lifestyle of the passengers and the guides’ spirit for their outdoor work and the life of the Canyon.

Among the things that present less contrast are the friendships inspired by the SHARED experience. Watching raftmates face new challenges and provide affirmation to one another with laughter and lightheartedness creates such an amazing common understanding and familiarity. Having guides who share their hopes and dreams and favorite passages from Canyon-inspired literature fills you with something that you feel both compelled to share and to hold on to tightly, at times almost selfishly.

As you journey down the River, even in the presence of all of these contrasts, you quickly attain commonality with these heart warming guides and your new friends, and any contrasts that may have existed now only serve to punctuate a new kindred spirit that has developed among you.





















Posted in All Welcome Tour, Alyson Adventures, Arizona, Grand Canyon, Guest Blog, HE Travel, Men's Tour, Men's Tour, Multi-Sport, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, USA, Women's Tour, Writings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loire Vacation

A bike was the perfect way to see France’s romantic Loire Valley.

When I told my friends I was going on a five-day bicycling tour of the Loire Valley in France, they laughed. They knew what kind of shape I was in: ten pounds overweight and not a toned muscle in my body. I was determined to prove them wrong. Did I?

Yes, more or less. The brochure assured me the route was “flat and gently rolling.” It was, and anyone with just a little training prior to departure can travel France’s beautiful backroads with relative ease. But I soon learned I hadn’t trained enough. No matter: after the first day I found my bike legs. If I and the 72-year old gentleman who pedaled with us can do it, anyone can.

Alyson Adventures has put together several unique tours of Europe and the United States. Designed specifically for gay men, lesbians, and their friends, this year’s schedule includes six bike trips in France, a hiking trip in the Swiss Alps, and a mountaineering experience up Wyoming’s Grand Teton. Two are for gay or lesbian singles only. Next year, for starters, they’re planning a lavish trip to Australia for Mardi Gras.

France is never lovelier than in May and June. Some of its most pleasant scenery is southwest of Paris in the Beauce, France’s breadbasket. I felt at times as if I’d entered a Cezanne. Dotted with hilltop chateaux, country homes, ancient churches and quaint villages barely touched by the 20th century, it’s the perfect retreat from Paris’ hectic pace and high prices. Add rich cuisine, a variety of cheeses and desserts, and fine wines — most of it covered by the cost of the tour — as well as the warm camaraderie that our group developed, and you have the perfect vacation experience.

Our route took us from Orleans to Chateaudun, Vendome, the hill country to the west, and Blois. The area is filled with castles and country homes both large and small. Most of them are open to the public.

One of the more forbidding is at Chateaudun. Begun in the Middle Ages, it’s currently in a state of disrepair, but about to get a facelift. Its most unusual feature is the dungeon, located next to the main kitchen. What torment prisoners must have experienced chowing down on moldy bread while sumptuous meals were being prepared just inches from their noses: one of history’s more delicious tortures!

The prisoners at Meung’s chateau would have envied them: they were thrown into wells (called “oubliettes,” or forgotten places) and tossed scraps. More prisoners would be added from time to time, but the daily portions kept the same, giving new meaning to the term “survival of the fittest.” Oddly enough, the castle grounds are among the most beautiful in the area.

Of course, Chambord is a must. Reputedly designed, in whole or in part, by one of our own, Leonardo da Vinci, it’s perhaps the most magnificent French castle of all. You don’t have to go inside to appreciate its beauty: a well manicured lawn and an impossible roofline of turrets are wonders in themselves. Unlike many castles, it’s filled with antique furnishings — much of it original. Don’t be turned off by the thousands of American and Japanese tourists traipsing about: there really is a good reason for them to be there.

The picturesque chateau at Blois, on the western edge of the city, is also a must see. It comes complete with its own historic murder: the 1588 assassination of the Duke of Guise by associates of gay King Henry III. It’s also well-furnished and boasts a nice line of gargoyles — actually downspouts — on the exterior.

Ironically, the high point of the trip, for me, wasn’t a castle but the small town of Vendome, which must be one of the loveliest towns in France. Sitting astride the winding “little” Loir, it’s clean, well-scrubbed, and beautifully landscaped with picturesque streets and languorous squares. The walk along the river is relaxing. Vendome boasts a fine chateau above the town and a lovely cathedral, but the town itself is the main attraction: the nicest surprise the tour had to offer.

It was at our hotel — the Hotel Vendome, what else? — that we experienced one of the most exquisite meals I’ve had in some time. The main course was tender cod layered with finely minced tomatoes and mushrooms and topped with a lightly-baked cheese crust. It literally melted in my mouth. My only regret was the last bite: I wanted more. A selection of local cheeses and a marvelous apple tart splashed with a light caramel sauce made the meal one to remember. One hopes that the chef isn’t tempted to move to the big city: Vendome would be much the poorer.

Some of Alyson’s bike trips are more strenuous than others, but physical preparation is recommended for even the flattest. Besides hotel accommodations and the services of guides, the price includes most meals. The rooms are comfortable, if not quite up to current tastes in wallpaper.

There’s plenty of time for sightseeing. In case you get lost, or your bike chain breaks — as mine did one day — Alyson provides ample backup. You needn’t fear becoming a stranger in a strange land as long as you stick to their suggestions for emergencies. (I didn’t, but that’s another story!)

The company strives to have not more than fifteen or so people on any one tour. We had eight, which was very comfortable. A printed itinerary is provided; cyclists may easily follow it at their own pace. Although it proved to be way too detailed and could have been streamlined, it didn’t detract from my overall satisfaction.

Do you need to learn French? It helps. The French — like Americans, actually — will open up if you make an attempt to speak their language. Our arrogance towards the French — inherited from our British ancestors — is easily returned. Fortunately, non-Parisians are in general much friendlier. But for the French-deficient, as I was, both of our guides — Ed, an American who runs an Italian restaurant on the Isle St. Louis in Paris, and Veronique, a tres charmante artiste — were, thankfully, bilingual and steered us around the culture’s more intricate corners with ease.

The author wrote the above account of his Loire Valley bicycle trip for a local newspaper in 2002. We are reprinting it here with his kind permission.

Posted in France, Guest Blog, HE Travel, The Gay Travel Blog, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

NTA Conference & Ethiopian Tourism

By Zachary Moses

Recently I was asked to serve with the Young Professionals Advisory Group of the NTA (formerly called the National Tour Association), and HE Travel CEO Phil Sheldon was appointed to the Small Business Advisory Task Force. Our company is currently the only gay tour operator that is a member of the NTA. Earlier this month we met with the other members of our groups near Washington DC.

The mission of the Young Professionals advisory group is to bring fresh new ideas to the NTA, to help the organization to grow larger and to expand its influence on the international travel scene. It was an honor to be asked to serve in such a prestigious position.

When we attend national conferences, we are often invited to visit nearby attractions so that local tourism organizations can show us what the region offers our clients. Below is a photo of Phil (on the right) and me at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate .

Zach and Phil at mount vernon

Later during the conference, our NTA group was invited to attend a special dinner at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC. (Here we are outside the Embassy).

Ethiopian Embassy

We met Ambassador Girma Biru, who showed us wonderful hospitality and introduced us to the many wonders of Ethiopian Tourism, a land often written off as being a troubled region where everyone is poor and starving. During a delicious traditional meal, the Ambassador put to rest some outdated stereotypes that cause harm to the Ethiopian image.

We were served stewed and curried meats and vegetables with a sourdough flatbread called injera, made from teff, the smallest grain in the world. The gravies and meats are customarily eaten with torn pieces of flavorful injera instead of utensils.


The people we met at the Embassy were warm and friendly. Some of them had flown in from Ethiopia just to meet our NTA group, and the images they showed us were amazing. Did you know that the oldest known human ancestor was found in Ethiopia? Or that Ethiopia is the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant? It is also home to the largest monolithic obelisks in the world.


In Lalibela, there are 11 temples hewn in the reddish-pink volcanic scoria rock. Each is unique in style, and they are among the largest monolithic structures in the world! In another part of the country they even have active volcanoes that look like the gates of hell, surrounded by boiling salty seas.

Ethiopian Coffee

We have a wonderful evening enjoying the hospitality of the Ethiopian Embassy, which included sipping Ethiopian coffee that had been roasted right in front of us over coals (a fire hazard?), and speaking with their several professional tour operators. I now have my newest idea for an HE Travel adventure tour: Return to Ethiopia: the Birthplace of Humanity.

After the conference, I met my brother who lives in DC and took him to an Ethiopian restaurant so that he could experience this wonderfully different cuisine. He loved it and vowed to introduce it to everyone he knows.

cherry blossom

We then made our way to the Jefferson Memorial, where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom and said to be at their peak … and inside we found one of the greatest minds of all time.


Thomas Jefferson … Frozen in Carbonite.

Posted in Airline Flights, Alyson Adventures, Ethiopia, HE Travel, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, Writings, Zachary Moses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Designing a Gay Patagonia Tour (Part 3)

By Zachary Moses

This three-part series follows Zachary Moses as he develops HE Travel’s Adventurous Gay Patagonia Tour. Click to read PART 1 or PART 2.

Day 7: Horseback Riding and Kayaking Among Icebergs

getting ready

No gay Patagonia tour would be complete without a beautiful horseback ride through the crisp morning air with Paula, the general manager of our lodge. I can be seen in the picture getting ready for my ride.

We had three gauchos with us, who kept egging our horses on until they reached an exhilarating speed. It was amazing, with our horses at a full gallop and the wind racing by as our nimble horses navigated the twisting trails! We rode up a lush mountain and had stunning views of the three jagged peaks of Las Torres del Paine (The Towers).  Today, I wore my bike shorts and my butt thanked me for it. Note to self: bike shorts, aka horseback riding shorts, are recommended for all guests.


My back had been a little sore from riding for too long the other day, and I was reluctant to get back on a horse, but Paula insisted that my back was sore because I had never used those muscles before and that the best thing for me was to ride again. Paula also insisted that the horses here were much better horses and that I would have a much smoother ride. She was right! Within 20 minutes I was feeling much better, and I was now certain of who would be providing the horses for our tour.


My colleague (and frequent tour director) Jim Laughlin and his partner John own a horse ranch outside Chicago. Jim told me that as good as his horses are, they would never have tolerated the ground conditions that these horses put up with. The ground is covered in rocks and boulders and the horses of Patagonia were unperturbed. Jim says that his horses would be hanging back and whimpering at the idea of all these rocks chipping their hooves.

group kayak

After we returned to the lodge, we grabbed our luggage and made our way to the other side of the national park for a kayak tour on Gray Lake, a cold body of water fed by a massive glacier.


The lake was full of gigantic crystal blue icebergs. Their color was the most amazing blue I’ve ever seen, surely intensified by the peach sky and gray water. It was raining, but we were in wetsuits with rain coats and no-one was uncomfortable. Our paddles even had special neoprene gloves built right into them to keep our hands warm. Jim and I tried to make some video recordings of our experience but the wind kept messing up the audio. We couldn’t quit comparing the lake and icebergs to a giant glass of Gin and Tonic. So we simply twisted and turned among the icebergs until the wind howled too fiercely and we reluctantly left this magical lake and paddled back to shore.


Our evening ended at a hotel that was designed to look like an eclectic retelling of a sheep ranch. It was very avant-guard: inside, it looked like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. I kept expecting Jor-El to start talking to me through glowing crystals.

We were given a tour of the hotel by the hotel manager, who looked like Helena Bonham Carter. Everyone agreed that she was super-hot. And, also … she might be crazy, like Helena’s character in Fight Club.

During the tour, she was passionately obsessing over the building. I interrupted to compliment her beautiful hair and she blushed and lost her place. After she regained her composure, she showed us the incredible spa facility, of which she was especially proud.

On the way back to the main building she said that we would now meet the woman in charge of tour excursions, who by the way had shockingly similar hair. Very seriously, she said “If you compliment her hair as well, I will know that you were lying to me.” I told her that I was sure that even if this other woman could create an amazing excursion, it was not possible that her beauty could compare. “Such a gentleman,” she said, and then told Fabian in Spanish what a Casanova she thought I was. HA! Casanova!!

I made sure not to compliment the other woman’s beautiful (and yes, very similar) hair … but only out of fear for my safety. For the rest of the tour I only complimented the men.

Day 8: Final Day and Departure to Home

Puerto Natales

This morning we decided to scrap our excursion plans from the night before and instead ride our bikes into Puerto Natales. It was the right choice to get to know this town a little better, since we will want our guys to spend their last Patagonian night at a four-star classic hotel right on the waterfront here.


We saw the entire city of Puerto Natales, which is actually the only town within a very large area. There was a really cool fishing dock, and great little shops. We had amazing coffee, and hit a fancy little chocolate shop. I also got some seriously great gifts for my loved ones.


I was very sad for the trip to be coming to a close, and I can’t wait to go back with our guys in January, 2014. This is going to be one of our best tours yet! Here you can see how much leg room I had on the plane – along with a meal during our 3-hour flight. I like SKY Airlines in Chile!

This research in Chile led us to develop an exciting gay Patagonia Adventure, launching January 2014. For pricing and a detailed itinerary, click HERE!

If you missed my earlier blog posts about our Patagonian research tour, Find Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE.

Posted in All Welcome Tour, All Welcome Tour, Alyson Adventures, Biking, Chile, Fam Trips, HE Travel, Hiking, Kayaking, Men's Tour, Men's Tour, Multi-Sport, Patagonia, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, Women's Tour, Writings, Zachary Moses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Designing a Gay Patagonia Tour (Part 2)

By Zachary Moses

This is Part 2 of a three-part series about developing HE Travel’s Adventurous Gay Patagonia Tour. To read Part 1 CLICK HERE.

Day 4: Enter the Estancias


After waking up to a beautiful Patagonian dawn we got up and had breakfast in our hotel. I ordered carrot juice that was mixed with grapefruit… don’t try this, bleh, what a horrible combination. Later, our driver came to fetch us, and we made our way deeper into Patagonia to visit our first estancia (the local equivalent of a ranch).

coffee shop

The drive was not nearly as long as yesterday’s and we also had the opportunity to stop at a local handicraft shop. I found a fantastic painting of a naked demon with a bag on his head. We cracked all kinds of hilarious jokes about the local demons being so ugly that they had to be represented with bags on their heads. At some point someone made a crack that the bag-covered demon would be an improvement over the guys we had flirted with in the bar.

opened sky

As we continued toward the estancia, the clouds opened up for an amazing view of the iconic peaks of Torres del Paine with the three towers exposed. When we got to our estancia, a ranch larger in acreage than Belgium, we quickly changed so that we could go out for our first session of horseback riding.


The views were absolutely stunning. The horses were fast and in great shape. The Gauchos are real cowboys, just like the American cowboys used to be (and as I am sure some still are). These guys don’t commonly deal with tourists, and had no interest in babysitting us, so our guide let us do pretty much whatever we wanted. We chased cows and sheep all afternoon. At one point my horse and I snuck up on a hawk. When the hawk noticed me, it flipped out! Have you ever seen a fierce bird of prey run along the ground like a chicken? It was hilarious!

I had some trouble at times getting my horse to go where I wanted. He really wanted to follow with his nose buried in the rear end of the Gaucho’s horse. That was also where the lead horse wanted us to be. Whenever I would pull ahead, the Gaucho’s horse would get upset and walk in crazy circles until my horse returned to its proper place.


Back at the lodge, we were taken on a fascinating walking tour of our tiny corner of the estancia. This is a working ranch, and we watched how they process wool: the same way it was done a hundred years ago. There is not a lot of money in producing wool, so this practice is mainly maintained for tradition.

Tonight we had dinner at the estancia’s restaurant and proceeded to stay up way too late… again.

Day 5: Into the Heart of Torres Del Paine 

Our next lodge was about an hour away from where we started. My butt was soooo sore from horseback riding. I’m not used to sitting in a saddle – the last time I rode a horse, I was 12 years old. I was not looking forward to sitting in a van on dirt roads for an hour. Luckily  we were using a new van with excellent suspension. We stopped for a panoramic view across from the cliffs, and observed several condors flying overhead.


When we arrived at the lodge, it reminded me of Park City, Utah, with a Chilean flair. The owner and manager themselves came out to meet us. We made plans for dinner, then prepped ourselves for a hike to a nearby waterfall. The drive to the cascadas took about an hour in pouring rain. When we arrived, we donned our rain gear and walked along a fairly easy, beautiful path. We were soaked, but having a blast.


Jim and I often fell behind as we paused to make funny promotional videos and take loads of pictures so we would have plenty to share with you, our loyal readers (and travelers). The guide kept glaring at us as we lagged behind making videos and goofing off, but each time she looked at us, we made a show of helping a really slow woman that was hiking with our group. The slow hiker was wearing a green coat that stood out amazingly, so we referred to her as the scary cat lady in green. (Because for some reason we were all just sure she had at least nine cats at home.) Today we were drawn to make a lot of videos based on bathroom humor. Why, when two grown men play with a camera, does it always devolve into bathroom humor? I’m not sharing these videos. Bathroom humor isn’t professional.


Back at the hotel, we had a lovely lunch with Sergio, the owner, and Paola, the general manager. At night we watched Sergio play his guitar, and I played some tunes myself.

Day 6: Trek to the Three Towers

alvaro hiking

Alvero met us this morning and we set off on foot from the hotel. The hotel is situated right at the base of the mountain, giving unparalleled access to the hiking.

chilleno lodge

The day started off beautifully as we climbed toward our first waypoint. However, the weather soon turned foul. I put on my raingear, and marveled at how rapidly the day had changed. About a third of the way up, we came to the Chillano refuge camp, where we had hot cocoa and socialized with backpackers. I sat for a while and listened to a group of Californians trying to explain to a girl from Spain about Mormons and Utah. I grew up Mormon, and can say that everything they told her was not true… But I was laughing so hard at their version, I decided to let it fly.

Shortly after departing from the refuge we entered an enchanted forest. The trees were covered in eerie mosses, and I kept expecting there to be Smurfs living in mushroom houses around every bend.

The mountains flanking us were massive, with waterfalls everywhere. The rainfall was creating hundreds of spontaneous waterfalls as well. Even with the cloud cover the view was awe-inspiring.


When we reached the two-thirds point, we could tell we were climbing into a snowy storm at the top. The next leg of the climb was across a field of giant granite boulders. When we reached the top, the towers were shrouded in clouds. The effect made for an amazing view. Below the towers is a green lagoon fed by glacial runoff.

at the boulders

The wind was up, so we climbed to a large boulder for a sheltered place to eat our lunch, then continued down to the lake. I found a beautiful condor feather floating in the lake. I reached to get the feather out, and the water was so cold that I felt like I had just placed my hand in liquid nitrogen. I swear if I had smacked my hand on a rock it would have shattered like glass.


Coming back down the mountain and into the forest, the scene was magical. Falling all around us were huge fluffy snowflakes. Jim ran out of water and we filled a container with fresh glacier melt-off. It was interesting to think that we could be drinking water that has been here for thousands of years.

When we returned to the Chillano refuge for more cocoa, the staff explained that a 2-km-long zipline is under construction, to fly hikers back down to the base of the mountain. I can’t wait to return in 2014!

Tonight we got drinks and went to another part of the lodge to relax near the huge, medieval-looking fireplace. Jim and Fabian talked for hours moving in and out of Spanish. I realized that I had followed about 90% of the conversation. My Spanish is really improving! All this world traveling is starting to leave its mark on me.

[to be continued…]

CLICK HERE for part 1

To read more about the tour inspired by this trip CLICK HERE!

Posted in All Welcome Tour, All Welcome Tour, Alyson Adventures, Biking, Chile, Essays, Group Tour, HE Travel, Men's Tour, Men's Tour, Patagonia, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, Women's Tour, Writings, Zachary Moses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Designing a Gay Patagonia Tour (Part 1)

By Zachary Moses

Last January I left on one of my most ambitious expeditions to date. A gay Patagonia tour; a tour at the bottom of the world. The last touch of greenery before the vast frozen white and deep blue landscapes of Antarctica. I flew on New Year’s Eve and practically had the airports to myself. While everyone was out partying, I was toiling over my “work”. I was one of just ten people flying on a 50-passenger jet (usually sold out) from Key West to Miami. In Miami the airport was a ghost town. Everything reminded me of Steven King’s made-for-TV-movie The Langoliers.

The flight from Miami to Santiago was practically empty as well, so I took one of twelve completely empty middle rows and stretched out to go to sleep. Nice!

Day 1 Arrival in Santiago Chile

"Sanhatten" The Financial District of Santiago

“Sanhatten” The Financial District of Santiago

The city of Santiago is bordered on the east by huge mountains that reminded me of the Wasatch Mountains back home, surrounding Salt Lake City.

I didn’t know what to expect of Chile, but I’ve always assumed that it was a third-world country. I couldn’t have been more surprised! The airport was super modern, and the city was very clean. We drove past what looked like some very poor shanty towns, but my driver explained to me that the residents there refuse to be relocated into modern houses, preferring their traditional way of life and the comfort of knowing their close-by neighbors.

Santiago, I learned, is home to a fascinating underground freeway which we rode through – very cool, very futuristic. There are palm trees all over the city. This surprised me, since I was traveling to frozen Patagonia not that far away (I thought), but then the driver pointed out to me that Chile is so long that it stretches from tropical to tundra along its length.

Food Platter

Assorted Local Fruits, Cheeses and Meats

The city of Santiago is really cool. It reminds me of a grungier younger version of Paris, without the iconic monuments. I had lunch in the garden of our hotel. I got the fruit platter, which was absolutely fantastic. The produce in Chile is really high quality. Apparently the fruit that they export to the US is not even the best fruit they produce!

I wandered around the city on foot checking out the views. This was what other people were doing as well. In fact, some guy nearly got in an accident trying to slow down and whistle at me…ego boost! I took some evocative photos and made a couple of promo videos.

Touring Around Old Santiago, Looking at Model of "Old Santiago"

Looking at Model of “Old Santiago”

At 5:00 Patricia and Fabian (our local ground operators) showed up to take me on a bike tour of Santiago. I’m used to Key West sunset times, so I figured this would be some quick, hour-long sunset ride. This was high summer in South America and the sun didn’t set until 10:30 pm, so the ride turned out to be 4.5 hours of really thorough touring. We rode all over the beautiful modern parts of the city as well as the quaint old downtown. Everything was empty and quiet because it was New Year’s Day. Normally 2 million people a day filter through the streets.

Enjoying Mote After a Long Day of Riding

Enjoying Mote After a Long Day of Riding

We rode up a mountain in the center of the city. At the top Patricia and Fabian bought me a Mote, which is a sugary drink made with rehydrated peaches and boiled wheat. When I bring our tour group through here, all our guys will have to try this Chilean specialty. From on top of the mountain we got the most amazing view of “Sanhatten” – Santiago’s high-rise financial district.

Day 2 Glacier Hike

Plums Collected From Old Tree in Town Square

Plums Collected From Old Tree in Town Square

This morning we drove 2.5 hours into the Andes Central Valley for a hike up to Morado Glacier. On the way, we stopped in San Jose, originally a mining town that was settled by the Spanish after discovering silver in the area. The Spanish would use the local indigenous people to harvest the ore for them. We stopped and picked plums in the town square before continuing on to our mountain range.

Dirt Roads Leading Into Andes Central Valley

Dirt Roads Leading Into Andes Central Valley

The smooth pavement changed over to dirt roads after a little way. There were huge trucks heading to the base of the volcanoes, where they mine gypsum out of the rock wall. We took a left and headed up an uninhabited valley. The mountain peaks became massive monuments in front of us. These are easily the biggest mountains that I have ever seen. On the way in, there were lots of road crews using backhoes to clear away dirt from recent mudslides.

Our Local Hiking Guide

Our Local Hiking Guide

We drove up as far as we could take the truck, and from there we hiked for two glorious hours through pristine mountains, before eventually rounding a corner to see Morado Glacier. I had not expected the huge lagoon and icebergs; it looked like pictures I’ve seen of Alaska. The glacier itself was amazing, with its huge wall of ice. I witnessed sections of the glacier breaking off and plunging down the mountainside.

Zach Washes His Hands In 10 Million Year Old Stagnant Water.

Zach Washes His Hands In 10 Million Year Old Stagnant Water.

We had a lovely lunch that our guide Alberto prepared for us: sandwiches, fruit juice, and chocolates. Alberto is a Spaniard now living in Chile, originally from Barcelona. We hiked down to the water’s edge and washed our hands in the icy water… It seemed so perfect and wonderful… until I had an allergic reaction to something in the glacial water, and suddenly my hands had rashes on them. I suppose it could have been that, or something I ate, or another lagoon that I washed my hands in… I should stop washing my hands in all these lagoons!

More Hand Washing Water!

More Hand Washing Water!

At the end of our hike we ate again (fresh bread, French cheeses, cured meats, wine, and more chocolate). I washed my hands in this lagoon, too, by the way.

So Much Better Than Peruvian Ones... Trust Me

So Much Better Than Peruvian Ones… Trust Me

On the way back into Santiago, we stopped and I had Chilean empanadas, which I far preferred to the Peruvian ones. So moist and tender. I want another one! (Of course the Peruvian ones I have had, have never been at any restaurants that are actually in Peru, so I may change my mind when I have a chance to try one in Peru itself!)

When I got back to the hotel, Jim Laughlin was there. He is one of our Tour Directors who also helps us develop new tours. We had gin and tonics (or Jim and Tonics, as Jim’s tour groups like to call them) then went out for dinner. We spent a lot of time talking shop and exchanging ideas. When we got back to the hotel, we both conked right out.

Day 3 Off to Patagonia.

Flying Over the Andes!

Flying Over the Andes!

Jim and I met Fabian at the airport, and we all checked in for our flights. We had coffee and chatted about our mothers forcing us to clear our plates (something none of us did today). Our plane was delayed so we sat in the airport chatting for a long time. The flight over the Andes was long and beautiful. They fed us twice, and we had to make a stop in Puerto Montt, but we stayed on the plane and continued to Punta Arenas.

Aren't His Eyes Just Lovely... *sigh*

Aren’t His Eyes Just Lovely… *sigh*

Our guide in Patagonia was Alvaro and he is beautiful. He’s rugged and handsome, and a lot of fun, with big brown expressive eyes…. And… oh right, expansive knowledge of the region.  We stopped at a penguin colony. I made a cute video, and got to see piles and piles of penguins. We then drove forever… Patagonia is HUGE!! The trees were really cool looking, all bent over and in one direction from the constant winds. We drove past Fire Island (not the gay one) that got its name from sailors who spotted fires that the indigenous tribes were burning, when they thought the place was uninhibited.

The Old Equipment inside the Singular Hotel

The Old Equipment inside the Singular Hotel

When we arrived in Puerto Natales I was blown away by the beauty of the town. The fields were full of wild flowers, and the houses were painted in vivid colors.  Our hotel for this night was The Singular, which was amazing – and indeed a singular hotel. This hotel is remodeled from an old textile factory, and much of the old equipment is still present. They have built glass rooms and glass bridges for guests to move throughout the hotel. We stayed up way too late after dinner watching the vivid eternal sunset evolving right outside the giant windows. The alcohol in Patagonia is poured steep. When you ask for a Jim and Tonic, they bring you a bottle of tonic to go with your 12 ounce glass of gin. But the real adventure begins tomorrow. Our guys are going to love Patagonia!

[to be continued…]

To read about the tour inspired by this trip CLICK HERE!

Posted in All Welcome Tour, All Welcome Tour, Alyson Adventures, Biking, Chile, Essays, Group Tour, HE Travel, Hiking, Kayaking, Men's Tour, Men's Tour, Multi-Sport, Patagonia, The Gay Travel Blog, Travel, Uncategorized, Women's Tour, Writings, Zachary Moses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment