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NomadMania

  The Magazine  


ISSUE 157, JULY 3, 2018

 

 

INTRODUCTION AND NEWS   

Our first meeting in Moscow!

We are absolutely delighted to announce that our first NomadMania meeting took place in Moscow on July 1. It is no accident that we chose Moscow for this first, as Russia is the country from which most of our members originate - this is the result of the active blog posts of our prominent Russian member Artemy Lebedev. Joao Paulo Peixoto, in Russia to follow the Portuguese team around its football matches, was the formal host of this event, joined also by Artemy and also our co-host Artem Tkachev. It appears the invitation, even though it was entirely non-commital, was well received, with 9 NomadMania members showing up, all of who were promptly authenticated. We are sure that this meeting at the Cafeterius Cafe in central Moscow was an interesting event for many of these travellers who had never met each other before - NomadMania hopes to continue creating community everywhere in the world with many more such meetings but we depend on all of you for that! A special thank you to all those Russian travellers who decided to join this event. Большое спасибо!
To this aim, we are launching our Authentication Meetings calendar, which will be visible from now on our first page. You have to be logged in to access this, and you also need to have completed your profile somewhat. Here you will find details of the next scheduled meetings. Remember, anybody who has been Authenticated can host a meeting wherever you are, so we are waiting for more volunteers to come forward. All volunteer Authenticators will be posted as Ambassadors on our Partner Page - we will have that ready by the end of July. So please contact us with a specific date and time for a meeting, and try to find a suitable place as well; the only expectation is that you commit  to that place and time so that travellers can know you will be there.

Meanwhile, we are, as promised, launching a new Mini-Series per week for the rest of July. We have so far introduced Caves, Zoos and Lighthouses and today we launch Aquariums. We will continue with one launch per week for the next four weeks. Do remember that we expect to expand each one of these Mini-Series to 281 elements - or possibly 381 - but this first launch is more like a 'taster' for all.

NomadMania's second trip - following the one to Mali in May - was successfully held from June 15 to June 20. Seven brave travellers took the plunge in one of the hardest regions of the world, the Pacific Ocean. In the next few issues of our magazine, we will be elaborating this trip, as the regions visited are all among the most obscure and little known. So follow us on our adventure and thank you all once again for being enthusiastic about NomadMania!

NOMAD MANIA EXPEDITION TO OCEANIA

Pre-planning, Days 0 and 1!
This trip will be told in three installments and we start at the beginning which was, in fact, more than a year ago. Tony Nguyen, then operations manager of Coral Sun Airways based in Kiribati, contacted us following a suggestion by our member Luis Amaral who had used the airline to fly privately around Oceania. Tony proposed we create an itinerary which could appeal to our travellers. Our founder Harry Mitsidis opened the maps and started searching for destinations which would make a reasonable package. There were many constraints of course - since it would mean chartering a plane, the trip had to be quick enough to make the cost tolerable; there were limits to the range of the aircraft which was a Beechcraft King. A big constraint were immigrations/customs issues - while Rotuma would have been great, it would be impossible to clear immigration there and backtracking to Nadi in mainland Fiji would be impractical; Nauru was also rejected up front as being too complicated due to the regime there - they preferred not to land there. After many email exchanges, an itinerary was presented which would do the following in 6 days: Tarawa (Kiribati) - Kanton island (Kiribati - Phoenix islands) - Wallis (French territory of Wallis and Futuna) - Futuna - Wallis - Espirito Santo island (Vanuatu) - Santa Cruz/Temotu province (Solomon islands) - Gizo (Solomon Islands) - Honiara (Solomon islands) - Majuro (Marshall islands) - Bikini (Marshall islands) - Majuro - Tarawa.

This was an extremely ambitious plan in a part of the world notorious for unreliable air connections, general inefficiency and a slow pace which was very incongruous with the need to see as much as possible rather fast. Seven passengers could be taken and, rather surprisingly, the combined uniqueness of Kanton - which has no scheduled service at all and is more than a thousand miles from anywhere else - and BIkini island - site of nuclear testing - seems to have sold the trip at once, despite a rather heavy price tag.

Fast forward a year, to June 14, when all the passengers met at the airport in Nadi, Fiji, for a scheduled flight to Tarawa, where they would be greeted by the owner of the airline, Jeff Jong, who would also be the pilot. Things had gone all but smoothly in the last weeks prior to departure, with a technical problem casting a doubt on the whole trip which had been meticulously planned. Finally, this problem was solved in the nick of time, and, arriving in tropical Tarawa, all passengers were eager to explore on what would be a free day before the flight to the unknown.
Tarawa atoll : the Kiribati parliament, a remainder of a WWII bunker and a North Korea-style ferris wheel...
June 15, 04.00 am: an early check-out from the hotel for a scheduled departure at 05.30 for the long 5-hour flight to Kanton. There was excitement and trepidation in the air, but Jeff's composed and reassuring demeanour made all feel that this was certainly going to be a successful adventure. And just as the first light was visible outside, the plane took off from Tarawa airport, flying due east.

Kanton atoll is the only inhabited one in the Phoenix islands, which are one of the three major groups making up the state of Kiribati. The population on Kanton does not exceed 60 people, who live in incredible isolation. The airport is a remnant from WWII and is still operational but there are only charter flights on very rare occasions - Jeff said this was the first flight into Kanton 2018, making it all the more unique for both the travellers and the local population.
The runway of the atoll appeared in the distance after hours over just sea. And soon enough, all the passengers were off the plane and free to roam around as they wished. Kanton was rather strange in appearance, with more discarded metal than anything else; left bunkers from WWII, shrubs and an exceptionally warm welcome from the locals, who organised a picnic lunch at the airport for the unique event. There doesn't seem to be any real village, just a collection of ramshackle dwellings, mostly right next to the airport. 
Photos of Kanton atoll, a dot in the Pacific.
After the picnic, composed of lobster meat among other delights, the passports were stamped out of Kiribati by the lone police officer on the atoll. And soon enough, the plane was up in the skies again, heading south, crossing the Equator, and ready for something completely different - a piece of France.

Wallis and Futuna is probably the least known of all the dependencies of France. Composed of three islands, this destination was planned into the itinerary mainly for a visit to Futuna, heralded by some as a hidden gem. Wallis, which is relatively easily accessible by scheduled flight from New Caledonia and Fiji, was a convenient and necessary stop for immigration. However, all was not smooth at all. Upon landing in Wallis, the local authorities rather aggressively approached the plane saying they were not expecting it at all, and it was sheer coincidence the airport was open in the first place. A few minutes of awkwardness followed before it became apparent that the ones who messed up were the authorities in Paris, who had given full permission to the aircraft for the flight, times noted and all, but had 'forgotten' to alert the local airport about it. Given there are only about 4 charters to Wallis a year, the Parisians must have felt this was all rather unimportant. The local head of aviation was more than accommodating following this mess up. A further mess was that the organised transport to the hotel had left the airport when the passengers did not show up on time. So a wait of half an hour ensued until the vehicle was called back. The final straw was the hotel vehemently rejecting credit cards and euros too - the official currency here is the Polynesian Franc and that is all they would accept. Apart from making it rather obvious why there is no tourism industry in this place, this meant that, after a tiring day, the group was forced to go to the only ATM on the island of Wallis and try its luck getting local cash out. This proved to be somewhat of a memorable and long lasting occasion, as half the cards were rejected, and it appeared only one French, one Polish and one Russian card had any success at getting cash - the American and British cards were entirely out of luck here, spat out by the French cash machine with disdain. This communal experience bonded the exhausted group of seven who quickly realised that currencies would be one of the bigger problems of the trip - until the Marshall Islands which mercifully uses the US dollar.
It was dark already and everyone was wrecked, sweaty and in need of rest. The tour of Wallis was scheduled for the next morning at 05.30 to make the most of daylight before departing for Futuna.

More about the next days of the trip in our next Newsletter...

INTERVIEW WITH A NOMAD

We are delighted to host a traveller from one of the smallest European countries - Luxembourg. Pauline has just hitchiked by boat across the Atlantic - an adventure truly worth hearing about!

Tell us something about your early years and, background story and Pauline the non-traveller.

Hola, thank you very much for having me!

In my years before travelling, I happily grew up in the tiny country of Luxembourg. But already for my studies, when I was 18, I left my country. Studying abroad is quite a common thing in Luxembourg as the country is very small. As Luxembourgish people are fluent both in French and German, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to universities.

I decided to head to Brussels, where I lived and studied during 3 years. While residing in the Belgian capital I explored the surroundings as much as possible: Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp... I really had a weak spot for the Flemish cities.

After Brussels, I decided to do my Master in a German-speaking country, thing of getting to know the German study culture better. My studies took me to Passau, a cute, pretty town in Lower Bavaria. As it’s nestled between the Czech Republic and Austria, a whole area of unknown towns and hiking trails opened up to me. The triangle of Passau, Linz (Austria) and Krumlov (Czech Republic) is a natural gem and I can only recommend it for laid-back holidays amidst nature.

My Master’s program in Passau included 6 months with their partner university in Malaga.  I met my present fiancé during that time. I decided to pause my studies for half a year and moved with him to Madrid. That’s when I got hooked to life in Spain. I finished my studies, moved to Barcelona as it was super hard to find a decent job in Madrid at that time. After all, these were the years of Spain’s worst economical crisis.

After a few months in Barcelona, I finally found a job in Madrid and could move in with my boyfriend. I was working in tourism and finally I had something that I could call “a base”. Madrid is a great city for expats and boasts many day trip excursions and hiking options in its close surroundings. Toledo, Avila, Chinchon, Segovia… all of them are picturesque little town with an impressive medieval, Roman and/or Moorish heritage.

After 2 years in Madrid, we decided that it was about time to see something new. We decided to try our luck in Luxembourg: professional and salarial perspectives were much more attractive than the ones that we had in Spain at that time.

But before moving all our stuff to Luxembourg, we decided to do something a bit crazy: hitchhike a boat and cross the Atlantic ocean.
 

Tell us a story from your first travels that has great impact on that who you are today.

I didn’t get to travel a lot while I was a kid…

I think I got my passion for traveling from the side of my mother. Her father, thus my grandfather, was a diplomat and he used to work in different European cities. That’s when he and his family got bitten by the wanderbug. My mum ended up traveling a lot:  Egypt, Israel, San Francisco etc. and I noticed her passion when she talked with us about her travels. Suddenly she became much more alive when talking about her experience as a female traveller. She passed away a few years ago, just when she was making plans to travel again and see all the things she could never visit when she was raising me and my sisters. Since then, I noticed that my desire to travel became stronger: you need to make the most of your days!

You are the author of ‘Paulina on the road’, tell us more about that.

I started the travel blog while I was looking for a job in Spain. People often reached out to me, asking me about restaurants to eat out, day trips from Madrid, things to do in Malaga etc. On top, I travelled so much during these days, that I started forgetting names of places I visited or restaurants where I had the most delicious lunch ever!

In order to fight oblivion and help other travellers out, I created “Paulina on the Road”. “Paulina”, the Spanish version of my name, combined with the English “on the Road”, should evidence the fusion of the English and Spanish language. Indeed I am still writing in English and Spanish.

During the first 2 years, I was writing short stories about every city I visited. Now, I focus much more on my niche which is slow & sustainable travel in less known destinations. The process of finding my niche came slowly and nowadays I only write about things that are respectful with the environment. Thus loads of articles are about hiking, sailing, traveling off-season...

Do you prefer solo travelling or with someone else?
I like both! But I definitely don’t like to travel in large groups… unless you can agree on having loads of free time and meet up during the evening to share experiences.

I love the freedom of when you’re travelling solo. You’re so much more aware of your surrounding. Some situations and encounters only happen when you’re travelling solo. It’s also a great feeling to do just what your gut says. My favourite solo trips were a road trip through Portugal, hiking on Sao Miguel, Azores and a trip to Bosnia.

But I also enjoy travelling with my fiancé. He’s definitely the best travel mate I could wish for. He’s as passionate about traveling as I am and I love how he pushes me to overcome my limits. Without him, I would never have finished some of the 7-hours long hikes we did in Cape Verde.

I especially appreciate to travel with someone when it comes to food. I hate eating alone!
Tell us more about boat hitchhiking.

The boat hitchhiking thing was only a crazy idea at the beginning. I read about it on some travel blogs. And I couldn’t believe that this would be possible. But dreaming is about making the impossible, possible.

We started taking sailing lessons and learned all about sailing seasons, where the main marinas are etc. There were definitely a lot of things I ignored about the world of sailing boats.

We spent 1 month in the capital of Tenerife, looking for boats to cross the Atlantic. Finally we found one to sail over to Cape Verde. We spent almost 2 months on the archipelago before sailing out with a French-Canadian couple and their cat to Barbados. It definitely was the experience of a lifetime.

It took us a lot of endurance and conviction to find a boat to cross and once you’re on the boat, you’ll learn a lot about human interaction. Imagine being in the middle of the ocean with 3 people you never met in your life before!

It also made me realise that I can travel with the bare minimum (1 backpack for 6 months) and that I want to pursue my dream of sailing.
 

What was your most embarrassing travel moment?

Hmmm… difficult to say, as I always try to push those experiences to the back of my mind. I am a very good displacer…

When I think of my most embarrassing travel moment then it’s probably that day we lost the key of our rent-a-car in Costa Rica and had to rely on the help of the locals. We probably lost the key during a swim in the ocean and then we had no access to our backpacks. Thank God, los Ticos, the people from Costa Rica, are so warm-hearted. The lady from the rent-a-car arranged dinner and accommodation for us . Of course we paid everything back to her as soon as we got our backpacks back. But we’ll always be in her depth.

What is the oddest place you have ever spent the night?
I have 2! Does that count?

First was a very cheap hostal in Mindelo, Cape Verde which apparently also functioned as brothel… We didn’t know when booking, but you’d could hear the noises all night long!

The second one is definitely when we crossed the Atlantic ocean. Never did I see so many stars, all so bright meanwhile the fluorescent krill is following out boat.
If you were condemned to one country for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?

Oh that’s such a hard one! I am hesitating between Andalusia and Trinidad & Tobago. Both have fantastic people, the best, fresh food ever, an impressive cultural heritage and gorgeous beaches.

Finally, our signature question - if you could invite four people to dinner from any period in history, who would you invite and why?

Oh, I never got asked that question...

  1. Michelle Obama: Role Model. I’d try to convince her to run for presidency
  2. James Dean: so handsome and dauntless
  3. Walt Disney: a pioneer, a visionary
  4. Malala Yousafzai: despite her young age and her tremendous past, she’s a fighter and campaigns for the key of success: the right to education.
The photos in this interview are from Paulina's personal collection and we thank her for sharing them with us at NomadMania!
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