About Francis Tapon

Francis Tapon

Francis Tapon is half Chilean and half French and he was born and raised in San Francisco, California. He's been to over 80 countries, but he keeps coming back to this magical city because he loves earthquakes.

He spoke Spanish at home, French at school, and English everywhere else. He can get by in Portuguese and Italian, barely survive in Russian and Slovenian, and speak a few other languages.

Francis has an MBA from Harvard Business School and co-founded a successful Silicon Valley company that did robotic vision. He left his technology life to walk across America four times. He has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, and in 2007, became the first to do a round-trip on the Continental Divide Trail. In 2009, he was one of the finalists for the California Outdoors Hall of Fame, which "features nominees who are world-renowned for their skills and who have helped inspire thousands of others to take part in the great outdoors."

Francis has written a couple of travel books including The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us and Hike Your Own Hike: 7 Life Lessons from Backpacking Across America. He also produced a 77-minute video about his CDT Yo-Yo.

Latest Posts by Francis Tapon

On Hiking Across Madagascar

May 11, 2016 by  


This month, I plan to walk across Madagascar.  I’m guesstimating that it will be a 3,000 km (2,000-mile) trip from its northern tip to its southernmost cap point. That’s about the same distance as the Appalachian Trail. The main difference is that there is no trail.  In fact, nobody has ever walked across Madagascar, so there is no continuous trail.

Maps are mostly useless since they are either outdated or lacking in detail. Therefore, I’ll be winging it most of the way.  Because the vegetation is often dense (especially on the east side, where I plan to spend most of the time), I will have to road walk often (since bushwhacking is far too slow). Although I dislike road walking, few roads in Madagascar are paved and there is little traffic anywhere.

Photo credit: www.iexplore.com.

As a result, I expect that most roads will be dirt and deserted. Potholes won’t discourage my feet and they will keep the cars from cruising by too fast. Resupplies should be easy since villages are plentiful. The main downsides is that the food will be monotonous and not too nutritious. One of the hardest sections will be near the start of the hike: climbing the tallest peak.

Although Madagascar’s tallest peak is only about 2,800 meters high (less than 10,000 ft), it doesn’t have a proper trail to the summit. Moreover, it is surrounded by wilderness. Translation: it will take at least one week to traverse it.

I’ll be taking a break on July 9-13 to fly to Mauritius to reset my visa (Madagascar limits you to a 90-day visa). Otherwise, I will be hiking most of the time.

The red line on the maps is an extremely vague desire.  I will make significant deviations from the red lines according to conditions on the ground, which will include safety, national parks, permits, private property, and authorities.

Hiking Across Madagascar Map

Put Those Hiking Boots on & Head to Tenerife

December 13, 2015 by  


Mount Teide

Tenerife’s landscape creates perfect terrain for hiking with mountains, coastal paths, secluded villages and volcanic geology to offer. Hiking in Tenerife has long been popular amongst Europeans, yet you’ll find seclusion as you explore some of the remote parts of the island.

So get your walking boots on and find out about the best spots to get roaming on your Canary Island trip, with our guide to hiking holidays to Tenerife…

Teide National Park

The volcanic, lunar-like landscape of Teide National Park provides the backdrop for a hiking experience not unlike exploring Arizona or Utah. Gnarled volcanic rock formations and mini canyons characterise the landscape with mountains rising up into often clear blue sky. There are a number of well-marked hiking trails around the park with a printed guide available at the entrance. Rock formations such as the Roque Cinchado make for interesting hiking terrain and scenery.

Mount Teide at Sunrise

Mount Teide stands 3,718 metres tall at the centre of the park and is the highest mountain in the whole of Spain. Many hikers make it their ultimate challenge to reach the summit of the mountain by sunrise. The reward of stunning views over the volcanic landscape of the island and ocean beyond make the early start well worth it. Of course, you will need a good level of physical fitness, map or guide and torches to attempt this climb. Those who begin to feel very out of breath should descend as thin air can cause problems. Pre-dawn temperatures can also be very cold, even in summer.

Lighter Hikes

Alternatively, you can hike the final stretch to the summit of Mount Teide after taking a cable car the rest of the way up. From the end of the cable car the hike to the summit takes around an hour. Montana Blanca, the park’s third highest peak is a much easier walk and still offers very rewarding views, so this is a good option for people seeking a more moderate hike.

Coastal walks

The island’s entire coast is ringed by hiking trails and many of these are of easy or moderate difficulty. Try Los Crisitanos to Las Galletas for nature reserves and stunning views. Lush pine forests and secluded beaches make hikes from the main resorts in the south of the island very rewarding.

Guide Recommendations For Tanzania and Uganda

January 8, 2015 by  


AAAfrica.net Augustine and Francis

Augustine (the man on the right) has 20 years of guiding people (mostly Americans) throughout Tanzania (especially around the Arusha region).

Augustine’s Adventure Africa is a great guiding company with vehicles and the knowledge to entertain and inform you about the wonders of the Seregeti, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and far beyond.

Francis on top of KilimanjaroJust like AAAFrica.net is a class act for safaris, AfricanZoom is the best outfitter to take you to the roof of Africa.

What makes them special isn’t just the professional service, knowledgable guides, and friendly attitude, but it’s also their inspiring leadership.

Maggie Samson founded the company and is the only woman who has climbed all 8 routes up Kilimanjaro.

It’s hard to find anyone who has done that.

It’s extremely unusual in the male-dominated guiding business in Tanzania.

Moreover, she is a member of an organization that looks after the welfare of guides and porters, who are often mistreated by unprofessional trekking companies.

Therefore, if you’d like to climb Africa’s tallest mountain, you should consider AfricanZoom.

Lastly, both companies go into each other specialties. For example, AfricanZoom leads safaris and AAAfrica.net leads mountain climbs.

Although I’m sure they are both competent, I would advise sticking with their specialities.

Finally, I’ll also mention Gane and Marshall, who are the best guides for Uganda.

Check Out This African Bucket List

August 14, 2014 by  


Three times the size of the United States, the continent of Africa is especially diverse. Trying to comprehend the hundreds of languages that are spoken will keep visitors/tourists occupied indefinitely. Accord this vast continent, there are 10 spots of interest worth singling out.

1. Luangwa River Valley

In southern Africa, Zambia offers guests one of the best natural life havens on the continent and likely the slightest went by The Luangwa River Valley is in eastern Zambia, hours far from the fringe of Malawi. The region is home to Luambe and North and South Luambe National Park. Untamed life in these districts is the same species discovered somewhere else on the continent. They include predators, for example, lions, panthers and cheetahs, groups of elephants, rhinos, hippopotamuses, mandrills, galagos, hyenas, wild canines, kudus, hartebeests, topis, aardvarks and crocodiles. Stops in the waterway valley range from comprehensive foundations to hike lodgings.

2. Nkwichi Lodge, Lake Niassa, Mozambique

Nkwichi Lodge works best with the Manda-Wilderness Community Trust to ensure the 120,000 hectares. Nkwichi utilizes locals, encourages sustainable improvement and gives rural training to the group. The sun based fueled lodge’s eco-accommodating filtration framework channels light black sand and water, and the toilets drain into eco-composting pits that inevitably serve as the mulch for future trees.

3. Timbuktu, Mali

Timbuktu is in the Republic of Mali in western Africa. Simply inside the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, the city is joined by a 20 kilometer trench to the Niger River, the third biggest stream in Africa. Timbuktu is extremely popular as a wellspring in the spread of Islam all through western Africa and as a core of learning. Today, the city is in steady battle with the Sahara as the desert grows southward. Everything except the section street is secured in the sand. However, the city still figures out how to inspire. Most structures are made of mud. Neighborhood tradesmen examine as understudies for a long time to take in the craft of sculpting mud. Mosques and dwellings are assembled after the short rainy season.

4. Elsa’s Kopje, Meru, Kenya

As the sole cabin in Meru National Park, Elsa’s Kopje diminished its ecological footprint by running on LED and vitality saving globules, sun-powered force and renewable or dead sourced wood for timber. Elsa’s Kopje likewise backs neighborhood schools; in the previous year alone the camp raised $10,000 to backing the 340 kids and educators at URA Gate grade school through course readings and school repairs.

5. Leshiba Wilderness, South Africa

Spotted on an isolated mountain top in the Limpopo Province, this stunning cabin is independent, and runs on sun-powered boards and boreholes, and depended on their enclosure for crisp produce. The Permaculture arrangement was built to investigate new farming methods and furnish staff members with crisp produce.

6. Zanzibar

Zanzibar, an island off the shore of Tanzania, is a genuine heaven. Once utilized for slave trading, the heart of Zanzibar is the compositionally astounding Stone Town. Stone Town’s winding, slender back streets and blend of Omani, Indian and East African structural planning are deserving of investigation. Little, clean, decently outfitted lodgings might be had here for shabby too. Occupants and guests much the same dive upon the waterfront daily to revel in the open air fish grill and to taste the crisp pressed sugar stick juice. For the dauntless, take a dala-dala, a transport truck, and head north to Kendwa Beach for some peaceful, shoreline nights under the stars.

7. Serra Cafema, Kunene, Namibia

Placed on the banks of the Kunene River, close to the wonderful Namib Desert, Serra Cafema is one of Africa’s outmost camps. It is claimed, worked, and packed by the indigenous Himba individuals, one of the keeps going semi-itinerant individuals on earth.

Kunene, Namibia

8. Thebes

The old Egyptian city of Thebes, now advanced Luxor, is gathered with sights of interest. Don’t miss the Karnak sanctuary complex and Hatshepsut’s Tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Guests to the Valley of the Kings can see the necropolis where King Tutankhamen was covered and additionally numerous different pharaohs, monarchs and persons of honorably. Likewise, adjacent is the amazing Hatshepsut’s Tomb, a gigantic stone sanctuary cut straight into the strong rock of the mountainside out of appreciation for the female pharaoh. Finally, an excursion to visit the astounding Karnak sanctuary complex is an unquestionable requirement. Considered the finest illustration of aged religious construction modeling on the planet, the site is involved by monstrous arches, sanctuaries, churches, study ranges and the amazing Hypostyle Hall.

9. Mombo Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

This camp is involved in multi-stage preservation exertions, for example, the Botswana-Rhino-Reintroduction Project reintroduced the white rhino to the Okavango Delta. This camp utilizes distinctive ethnic gatherings to captivate with the neighborhood group. The camp has reduced its carbon footprint through sun based force, thermodynamic springs, rainwater harvesting, and latent ecological building design.

10. Casablanca, Morocco

Located in northern Morocco, Casablanca makes for an interesting redirection either alone or as a break from an occasion in southern Spain. Casablanca can appear a bit rundown in a few places yet at the same time offers numerous interesting sights. Walk around the old medina to view its distinctive construction modeling and also the stately and luxurious Hassan II Mosque are flawless approaches to use a couple of hours. At dusk, walk around the port to view the anglers and bobbing pontoons might be relaxing.

Contributed by Amelia Verona who is a Passionate blogger.

Top 8 European Festivals For Your Calendar This Summer

May 31, 2014 by  


Summer is fast approaching and festival season is beginning. There is no better way to make the most of the sunshine of the months between June and September than packing your shorts and sunglasses, and jetting off to one of Europe’s many different festivals. When people think about festivals, they are most likely to mention the well established ones like Glastonbury or the Isle of Wight Festivals.


We have gone and found those festivals that are off the beaten track. It’s not just music festivals as well that we have found, there are a number of exciting and cultural events in countries like Germany, Italy and France, as well as unique festivals in the UK.

You might be travelling across the continent by car, train or even bike. No matter how you’re getting about, there’s no excuse not to take a detour and indulge in the festivities that a festival brings. The atmosphere, the food, the drink and the people, all gathered in unison with an aim – to enjoy themselves and have a good time!

You could choose to stay in Britain and don your wellies, before dodging the English summer rain, wading your way through the mud. But with travel relatively cheap and efficient these days, you could be rubbing shoulders with festival goers in cities, towns and fields across Europe in a matter of hours. So, without further ado, here are nine wonderfully different European festival options for 2014!

1. The EXIT Festival

Young Serbians just wanted to exit out of Yugoslavia’s civil war, so they created the EXIT Festival to do that. Today, it’s one of Europe’s biggest summer bashes.

2. The Garden Festival

Eastern Europe is becoming an increasingly popular travel destination, and Croatia is no exception. The Garden Festival takes place in the stunning coastal town of Tisno and is now in its ninth year. This year the electronic music event takes place between the 2-9th of July and is blessed by its location on the shores of the crystal clear Adriatic sea. The glorious sunshine in the daytime is mirrored by cooler evenings, but one thing’s certain, the party never stops!

There is boutique accommodation available for all, including villas and glamping facilities. There are boat rides available and the soundtrack for the week comes from a plethora of underground house and techno DJ’s such as Craig Richards, Leon Vincent and Axel Boman.

And if you don’t want to leave (and who would) the Garden Festival is followed immediately by the Electric Elephant festival. EE is another similar music festival, and another reason to kick back and enjoy the summer sun in Europe.

3. Festival of Cycling

If you’re looking for a festival idea which is a little closer to home, you could head to the Festival of Cycling, which coincides with the Tour de France.

From the 4th – 6th July, Harewood House, which is North of Leeds, will be turned into an all out cycling fanfare. There is room for camping, and festival goers can enjoy lots of live music throughout the weekend! There will be a purpose built cycling circuit so all visitors can get in on the act themselves, even challenging Olympic medalists the Brownlee brothers in a time trial.

4. San Fermin

Each year, the town of Pamplona in Spain turns into one non-stop fiesta. Pamplona is world famous thanks to these fiestas and is most well known for the running of the bulls, which was immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises. This year, San Fermin begins at midday on the 6th of July, everyone in the city dons red and white clothing and the fun commences. The Bull Run is something everyone has heard of, and is an event that we should all go and see! The historic town of Pamplona is beautiful all year round, but the chance to visit during the fiesta should not be turned down.

5. I’Primi D’Italia

If food is more your thing, you might want to try out the I’Primi D’Italia 2014. Throughout the event, you can wander about and taste all the delights that Italian food has to offer. The market in Piazza Della Repubblica is a hive of activity during the three day festival which runs between the 25th and 28th of September this year. You can travel by train to Perugia.

6. Wife Carrying World Championship

Now for something a little different. If you happen to be in Sonkajarvi region of Finland between the 4th – 5th July this year, you should head to the world famous Wife Carrying World Championships. The event started in 2014, and is deeply rooted in the local history of the area. The aim is to carry your wife (if she’s over 49kg) over a course of exactly 253.5 meters and the competition has been won by Taisto Miettinen during the last five years. You might even want to enter yourself into the competition!

7. Jazz in Marciac

If Jazz is more your thing, head to the Jazz in Marciac festival which takes place over a three week period in the town of Marciac in southwestern France. This year it is happening between the 25th of July and the 10th of August. Over the years, the event has become a model for rural development centered on a cultural happening. Each year there is a fusion of jazz legends and up and coming talent who take to the stage through both the day and night.

8. Oktoberfest

If you are after something a little louder, you could head to the Oktoberfest in Germany. The event is held annually in Munich, the 16-day celebration has been held since 1810 and is an important part of Bavarian culture. Each year, the event runs from late September through to the first weekend in October and more than six million people attend from all across the world. If you fancy a winter break, you could choose to be one of them!

Oktoberfest is amazing because all the beer that is served is local to the Bavaria area. All of the lager must meet a certain strict criteria of being brewed within the city limits of Munich.

Guest post by Rachel Jensen

Defining the Role of Women in Morocco

May 20, 2014 by  


Download my first radio dispatch from Africa for WBAI radio in NYC.

It’s a 7-minute (7 MB) report on the role of women in Morocco.

Notice the woman in this Moroccan tent is away from the men in the corner. Francis is in the corner with Soufianne.

Notice the woman in this Moroccan tent is away from the men in the corner. I’m drinking tea in the corner with Soufianne, my cameraman, who is wearing an orange sweatshirt.

On Safety Traveling to Eastern Europe

March 28, 2014 by  


With the recent news about Ukraine and the Crimea, you might be scared to go to Eastern Europe. Don’t.

You can even be safe in Ukraine, but in this guest post, Jenny Corteza focuses on far away Eastern European lands….

In early 2014, a lot of travelers are asking if Eastern Europe is safe for travel. I’ve been to the area and I wanted to let you know what I think.

Even if you read a lot of other travel blogs and keep up with the recent news in the region, it’s still a good idea to get advice from someone who knows the area well.

And I do because I’ve traveled there frequently over the past two decades of my life – both for business and pleasure.

Staying Safe in 7 Eastern European Countries

Here’s a list of some of the various countries you might travel to as well as some notes of mine on what you should do to make sure you stay safe at all times.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina – If you’re not familiar with the Bosnian war of 1992-1995, you need to remember one thing – a lot of landmines are still in the area. If you travel to rural areas, make sure you stay on paved roads if at all possible to avoid any unnecessary dangers.

  • Bulgaria – Sticking to the tourist areas is the safest, of course, but if you’re like me and like to stray from the beaten path, make sure you pack your common sense and use it at all times. The big thing is to be aware of what’s going on around you.

  • Croatia – Anyone who loves old stone walls is going to enjoy time spent in certain areas of Croatia. A good idea is to NOT go during peak season in June and July. If you wait until there are less tourists around, you’re going to be safer.

  • Airport

  • Poland – Warsaw is generally safe, but if you do go out at night, make sure you avoid the locals who are drunk. You can find these types in all cities of the world, of course, but there’s something about Poland that makes you want to be a bit extra safe.

  • Romania – Try to avoid dimly lit areas of the city if you’re out and about at night, but overall you’re not going to have any trouble with people in this country if you’re a tourist.

  • Turkey – If you’re going to be in the southeast portions of the country, you’ll want to be a little bit more vigilant. Beyond that, Istanbul is generally safe for travelers if you follow common sense.

  • Montenegro – Remember the number 122 if you’re in Montenegro and get into trouble. You might also use your mobile phone to dial 112, which is the international distress call number. It’s a good idea to have this on speed dial on your mobile.

As you can see, there are a lot of great countries to visit in Eastern Europe, but you really need to make sure you pay attention to the small details so you can ensure your safety – even if you travel alone like I do.

My Eastern Europe Safety Pack

Here’s a breakdown of what I like to keep with me at all times when I’m backpacking or cycling through Eastern Europe.

Beautiful Baltic women

  • Extra Clothing – When backpacking, you want to keep your pack light, of course, but make sure you have at least a couple changes of clothes available at all times.

  • Rain Jacket – If you plan to be outdoors frequently, you want to make sure you have a way to protect yourself from the elements. A waterproof jacket will keep your hands free at all times.

  • Mobile Phone – Having a mobile phone is a necessity these days. Just make sure you check with your wireless provider before you leave to make sure you have coverage and won’t have to pay outrageous fees.

Eastern Europe Travel in 2014

The same might not have been said just a few short decades ago, but a lot of Eastern Europe is now a lot safer for travel. If you’ve been thinking about going, you shouldn’t let a few bad stories stop you from experiencing all this region of the planet has to offer. Whether it’s the natural beauty of the landscape, the majestic and ancient castles, forts and towns or the people themselves, there’s a lot that Eastern Europe has to offer travelers of all ages.

Guest post by: Jenny Corteza


Adventure Travel Tips: Be Prepared When the Weather Turns

February 8, 2014 by  


StrattonThere’s much to be said for the old Boy Scout maxim, “Be Prepared.” But being prepared doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve got every piece of gear in your pack you could ever need.

Sure, it would be nice to have an ax when you’re 50 miles into the 100-Mile Wilderness and wanting to build a fire, but carrying the ax may actually leave you less prepared for the 5,000 feet of elevation change that you plan to traverse the following morning.

Figuring out the give-and-take of what’s appropriate to bring along on an extended trip is always a work in progress, but it’s one where paying attention to those who have gone before can truly payoff.

That holds especially true when preparing for wet weather conditions in the wilderness. Nothing spoils a trip faster (or forces a premature return home) than extreme discomfort caused by wet conditions.

Despite a childhood spent backpacking and traveling (including several Scout weekends spent hunkered down in driving tempests), I’ve still had to learn a few of these lessons the hard way. Even worse, I’ve watched fellow travelers that I’m responsible for ignore my admonitions, leaving me to pick up their slack (or carry their stuff) when the going gets tough enough to prove me right.

Here are a handful of my most memorable learning moments when it comes to staying dry outside:

1. Keep Your Sleeping Bag Dry

Stratton gear

Remember the soldiers’ adage to “keep your powder dry?” The same goes for your camping gear.

Hiking in the rain can be fun. Honestly, I enjoy the closeness and personal reflection that comes with walking through a downpour or a constant mist — there’s less to see and it’s more difficult to converse with fellow travelers, so it’s a chance to focus on each step.

That said, part of the fun is knowing that at the end of the day, I have a warm, dry sleeping bag to slide into. Without that assurance, hiking in the rain can be miserable.

The take away? Always put a plastic trash bag into your sleeping bag stuff sack, and stuff the bag into that. In addition, use a large bag inside of your pack. It’s a simple and inexpensive step, and it’s more effective than expensive pack covers for keeping water out.

While leading a wilderness trip in Maine in 2006 with 10 high school aged students, one 13-year-old ignored me on this point (I was even providing the bags). Of course, the trip leader (me) got to sleep with a sopping wet bag that night, and I learned my lesson to double-check my fellow hikers packs as well.

2. Ditch the Sponges

Along the same lines, cotton is generally smart to avoid while traveling. Before stuffing your gear into your pack, lay everything out and consider what the heaviest items are and whether or not they are necessary.

On the same trip in Maine, I audited each of my campers’ packs before hitting the trail, removing blue jeans and any other cotton clothing that could potentially soak up water and not dry in wet conditions. One student (a different one than before) snuck his jeans back into his pack — a decision he regretted four days later when he wasn’t allowed to leave them (soaking wet) by the side of the trail.

3. Tarp Smart

Most quality backpacking tents now include the option of a footprint that protects the tent floor, as well as providing an extra waterproof layer between sleeping pads and wet dirt. Many people, however, still utilize a thicker tarp, especially when car camping. It’s a great option, but it can backfire if the tarp is allowed to overlap the bottom of the tent.

Why? Because creating a waterproof layer underneath your tent loses its value if you funnel water on top of it. It seems like an obvious tip, but I’ve seen countless weekends ruined (mostly at music and arts festivals with novice campers) by forgetting to tuck a tarp’s overlapping sections underneath the tent. Nobody wants a waterbed when they’re camping.

4. Refresh Your Waterproofing

Stratton's gear

Even the most high-end tents eventually lose their waterproofing capabilities, especially when they’re stored rolled up in their bags for long periods of time. Fortunately, most of this can be restored. I use Nikwax products to restore the seals along my tent seams and coat my tent walls, but there are plenty of options on the market that work well.

Once a year, make a point to set up your tent and give it a waterproofing once-over. You’ll be grateful that you did the next time you’re hunkered down in a three-day torrent. Nobody likes the phantom drip leaking through their tent wall!

5. Keep Lines Taut

It may look like the most beautiful clear night at sunset, but you never know when rain will roll in at 4 a.m. In the dark and amid heavy rain is not the time to secure your tent’s rain fly. Take the extra three minutes to stake it out properly so that rain will funnel away from your tent instead of pooling up and dripping through.

6. Carry an Umbrella

I used to scoff at the advice to carry an umbrella while hiking. It seemed like extra weight. But in fact, an 8-ounce model can pay for itself in weight by replacing a rain jacket and sunscreen. I’m now a convert, and am grateful for Francis articulating the many reasons it’s a worthwhile addition to your gear!

What’s your worst rain-related camping or travel story? Have you ever had to come home early due to ill preparedness for wet weather?

Guest post by Stratton Lawrence, who is a freelance travel writer and all around outdoor adventurer.

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