A native of Great Blasket Island on the Dingle Peninsula, Pól got a taste for guiding while helping his family ferry visitors back and forth from the mainland. “People had all these questions about the island,” he says, “so I began taking them around…talking about the history, the literature, the flora and fauna.” He was quickly hooked. An artist, musician, poet, storyteller, and folklorist, Pól loves bringing his passions to bear on the trail. “They perfectly complement my love of nature, my homeland, my language, and culture.” So what are his favorite spots to reveal to guests? “Both the Burren and Connemara are so magnificent,” Pól says. “To walk in these places—filled with resonances of the past, quiet, empty, yet filled with life—is a gift.”
A native of Genoa, with Piedmontese ancestry, Francesca’s profound knowledge of the region’s history, passion for nature, and enthusiasm for Italy delight guests. “I love people, love Italy, and love to talk!” she says. “My friends always joke about the number of words I can squeeze into a day.” You’ll be grateful for that talent when she’s revealing the geology of a region (her major in college), or sharing her family’s recipes for pesto, fish, or focaccia. “I always try to ‘transport’ my guests back in time,” she says. “I love talking about the ancient families and traditions of the small towns and castles, about the farmers and how they shaped the land.”
Having grown up exploring the woodlands of northern New England, Mark brings a special passion for naturalism to his trips with Country Walkers. “I’m fascinated by ecology,” he says, “and the ways in which people from earlier times lived in relationship with the land.” His zeal is easy to see: when he’s not highlighting the 150 wild plant species he’s tasted in the region, he’s sharing tidbits from the wilderness survival classes he teaches at Dartmouth College. His interests range to the profound as well. “I love walking through Vermont’s deep, cool hemlock forests, alongside a rocky stream bed,” he says. “That sound of the stream flowing over the rocks, the deep moss, the newly sprouted mushrooms—it really is like something out of a fairy tale!”
Guiding runs in the family for Juan Carlos, who first became interested in the field while watching his father lead trips. “His passion triggered my own,” he says. “I just had to follow in his footsteps. The man became my mentor.” Trained in his mother city of Cusco, Juan Carlos enjoys sharing his vast knowledge and love for his ancestral culture, as is evident from his enthusiastic smile and warm sense of humor. Though Juan Carlos loves introducing guests to the mysteries of Machu Picchu—“such an enigmatic, mystical setting,” he says—he has a special passion for acquainting guests with the rural villages of the Patacancha region as well. As he puts it: “The cultural wealth of these people, who keep ancient Inca traditions alive for centuries, is spectacular.”
Madeleine Bellcroft or “Maddy” is a woman of many talents and interests, having worked in the areas of culinary arts, conservation, and outdoor education before becoming a guide in her native New Zealand. She enjoys yoga, rock climbing, skiing, and kayaking and has endless stories to share as she has skied in Antarctica, taught English in Nepal, flown a helicopter, and cooked dinner for the King of Malaysia!