I’ve just done the one-hour Hop A Tour Australian Wilderness Experience virtual live event with Matthew Urmenyhazi and thoroughly enjoyed it.
While most of Matt’s tours are booked out well in advance, I happened to be the only guest on tonight’s tour.
Crocodile Dundee, seafood barbies, and the Opera House
Matt is about as Australian as Crocodile Dundee, seafood barbies, or the Sydney Opera House. He’s dedicated his whole life so far to exploring the Australian wilderness and to sharing his deep insights gained as tour guide and in many other ways.
From the first moment there is no doubt that this dude knows his stuff inside out and could do the tour with his eyes closed. It also takes only a few seconds for his quirky, hilarious, and pleasantly rough sense of humour to shine through.
All pics incl. feature pic and the video (c) Hop A Tour, Ltd.
A story about when he suffered a red back spider bite many moons ago turns into comedy gold right away. He had been leading a group of kids as a scout leader through the Blue Mountains at the time.
Deep insights and a fair bit of banter
The tour spans a wide variety of topics from many different angles. Matt taps into the amazing wisdom and knowledge of the Aboriginals, shares a few survival hacks, talks about the first European settlers, the work of the park rangers and fire department. You don’t just hear about the fascinating flora and fauna of the Berowra Valley, but also about Matt’s personal experience roaming the woods as a kid. He talks about Australian culture in general, there are bits about food and plenty of other topics. Nothing sounds scripted, it’s more like a casual chat among friends, with a fair bit of banter thrown in on top for free.
Plenty of interaction
The situation will be slightly different with a bigger Hop A Tour group, I’m sure, but I liked that there was plenty of interaction. Matt engages a lot with the members of his tour group. Turned out his best mate since childhood is also called Stefan, like me. He’s of Polish descent, not German. When I mentioned that Ellie grew up in Concord West, he pointed out that Berowra Valley is a mere 20 minutes’ drive from there. I had not remembered the name of the national park, but turns out Ellie and I had passed by its edges several times. Ellie’s brother doesn’t live far from there with his family, a bit closer to the ocean.
Pristine wilderness half an hour from Sydney’s CBD
During our next visit to Sydney we’ll make sure to spend at least half a day exploring the valley. I had no idea that landscape like this exists so close to the capital. We usually hop on a train to the Blue Mountains, which are a bit over two hours away by train.
Perfect HD Quality
Throughout the tour, Matt and the moderator made sure that the live footage is of a perfect quality. The pics and the youtube video included here do the tour no justice. Their quality is very low compared with the top quality I witnessed while following the tour live on my screen.
The Hop A Tour guide and the moderator constantly adjust the settings to the environment, zoom in and out, dim the exposure or increase the saturation. It comes in handy that Matt is also a nature documentary film maker. I’m usually a tad suspicious when experiences are being described with the overused term ‘immersive.’ However, there is no better word to describe this one. Everything feels very much as if you were there on location, hiking up and down the cliffs, into the caves, through the forest. Whenever the wildlife doesn’t show up as expected, Matt pulls out some photos from his pockets to make up for it.
I’ll be back for more
For USD 13.99 this tour is an absolute bargain. The expenses Hop A Tour incur are much higher than for a traditional tour in person. You have the same expense for the tour guide and organising everything. In addition to that you have to have a moderator, a high-tech website, cameras, audio equipment, lots of IT in the background, to make the experience as seamless as it was. I will book more tours with Hop A Tour soon. 5 out of 5 in my book.