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The Independent Travel
A nice, easy walking holiday abroad, please

We'd like a "soft" walking holiday abroad - nothing too healthy or spartan, and not walking in groups.

J Pugh

London

The leading specialists in independent walking tours is Inntravel (01653 628811) who allow you to travel light - (your baggage is transported for you each day) at your own pace, with very detailed maps and points of interest all marked.

You pick your own standard of walking - the walks vary from gentle rambles to challenging walks over high mountains. And what spurs you on is the thought of the delicious meals (local cuisine) at the little and very comfortable traditional inns where you'll be staying at the end of the day. And even "softer" - if you want to duck out on the odd day's walking, you can accompany your baggage in the company's vehicle.

A Short Walk in Spain's Andalucia is a Grade 2 itinerary with some challenging sections, and follows the old drovers' and smugglers' paths through the spectacular little white towns (the pueblos blancos) in and around the Grazalema National Park. Overnight stops are in exquisite little Zahara, in Benaojan, Grazelena, El Bosque and the strange town of Ronda. You also have the option of visiting the UNESCO-designated "rare Biosphere", a reserve within the park with ancient species of pines - access to this is usually wlth a guide.

The week's tour costs pounds 355-pounds 392 self-drive in your own car or pounds 560-pounds 677 by air. Both include half board and picnic lunches. The walk can be combined with other Andalucian stops.

Among the really gentle walks, The Hills and Vineyards of Alsace (from pounds 415), The Chateaux of the Laire (pounds 451), and The Great Glaciers of Switzerland - which can be tailored to requirements (from pounds 351); a new Italian walk this year in the Apennines between Bologna and Florence is a Grade 2 itinerary and costs from pounds 285 self-drive, pounds 498 by air, for a week.

Sherpa Expeditions (0181 577 2717), as its name suggests, specialises in both independent and escorted walks worldwide. Many of the firm's destinaticas are in Europe, with new routes for 1998 including an eight-day self-guided walk through Gascony, visiting a plcturesque but little known region dotted with bastides, dovecotes and watermills, between the Pyrenees and the Garonne Valley. The cost is pounds 625 all season, which covers flights, halt board accommodation in old but comfortable farmhouses, inns or 3 star hotels.

Unusual walks include a walk around the Canary Island of La Gomera (pounds 652), King Ludwig's Trail in Bavaria (pounds 629), the Zagoria villages in Greece's Pindos Mountains (pounds 595) and the slightly more difficult walk following Robert Louis Stevenson's "Trail in the Cevennes" (pounds 672) . The Scottish author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped crossed the Cevennes in the autumn of 1878 with his donkey Modestine, which he later immortalised in the travel classic "Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes".

Headwater Holidays (01636 813333) also offers a selection of independent and guided walks as well as cycling and canoe holidays, specialising in France and intotoducing Greece and Cyprus this year. Many of them are based at a single hotel or centre rather than moving from place to place.

A fairly simple Upper Creuse walk in relatively unknown area of little rivers, old Abbeys, priories and chateaux costs pounds 248 for a week's half- board travelling by car, from pounds 409 by rail. On A Walk in Mallorca (pounds 497- pounds 678) you stay at a single hotel in the resort of Cala San Vicenc and strike out each day from there into the Boquer Valley, famous for its birdlife, to the old monastery at Lluc, the Formentor Peninsula, and Polienca.

Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.

I want to take my morris dancing team to Portugal

Next Easter I plan to take a morris dancing team to Portugal to perform (and relax in equal measures). Anyinformation on flight deals to Oporto and available accommodation for 16 to 20 people (three children under 10)?

Duncan Moss

Manchester

The travel editor replies: It is always worth enquiring about group deals when travelling in such large numbers. British Airways Group Sales (tel: 0990 332266) and TAP Air Portugal (tel: 0171 976 5366) deal with group air fares to Portugal, if you are making the payment on one credit card.

If you intend to make individual payments then you will need to go through a tour operator. Each of these airlines have affiliated tour operators; try Caravela Tours who can be contacted on 0171 630 5366 or British Airways Holidays (01293 723100). For a group of twenty, the latter would offer one week B&B three-star-hotel accommodation with return flights from Gatwick for pounds 485 per adult and pounds 455 per child, with one adult travelling free. But remember prices rise over Easter.

Where to bungee jump?

I wonder if you could advise me as to where in the UK might be suitable to make a bungee jump and whether there are any organisations specialising in this kind of activity. It's my 40th birthday in March and I fancy celebrating in alternative style.

K A Weston

Northampton

The travel editor replies: What a commendable way to spend your 40th birthday. There are several places where you can bungee-jump, though given that you do not plan to go to New Zealand (the natural home of bungee- jumping) one of the better-known centres in this country is the UK Bungee Club (Tel: 0171 720 9496) which offers jumps in London for pounds 35, plus pounds 15 membership and insurance for the first jump. If you are interested by the way, they also offer catapulting, which is basically bungee-jumping in reverse (and it only costs pounds 25 plus pounds 15 insurance).

No medical authorisation will be required, you will be relieved to hear, until you are 50.

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