The Magazine  

ISSUE 151, APRIL 10, 2018




Launching authentication!

Today, NomadMania is very pleased to launch a new feature of our website which we hope will, in the long term, increase our credibility considerably. We are talking about authentication, whereby users are labelled as ‘known’, and therefore, presumably, trusted and bona fide, to the website. We have pre-authorised a few travellers we are familiar with, and these have received a badge – yet another one – by their name, this time with a green ‘tick’ mark. Do not confuse authentication with verification: the latter involves verifying that a traveller has been to the countries or regions he claims to have been to; whereas authentication is a means to ascertain the identity behind the traveller. We will pilot this system over time and will eventually create some features that are only open to authenticated users, in order to encourage all of you to come forward and confirm that you are who you are. This includes travellers who may have chosen to register with a nickname, which is acceptable as long as the administration of the site is aware of the identity of the traveller. Our effort and concern about authentication arises largely due to the William Baekeland fraud which took us all by surprise; though admittedly, he would probably have passed authentication with flying colours. Nevertheless, we believe that it is a positive step toward creating a more cohesive community. Those of you who have not received an authentication badge next to your name can contact us through the website and we will get back to you and explain what you can do to get your profiles authenticated - it's really much easier than you think and much faster than verification!

Meanwhile we promised you the results of our ‘Favourites’ survey, and here we start a summary of the findings in general, which we trust you will find enlightening and somewhat amusing as well. We have decided to reveal the answers in three parts (newsletters) as there is so much information we don’t want to overload you. We will launch another survey in May, when our presentation of these results is complete, with a more ‘academic’ subject once again, revisiting the thorny issue of what constitutes a visit.

Your favourite place in the world
Literally loads of responses here. Greece was mentioned 3 times, as was St. Petersburg (Russia). Japan got two mentions as did Paris. Then we have everything imaginable, from Laos to ‘Eua island in Tonga, from a cosy home in Dorset to Greenland landscapes, from Stockholm to Chile and from The Okavango Delta to Decani Monastery in Kosovo. Chitwan National Park and Lo Manthang in Nepal are also favourites as are Tasmania, Galiat in North Ossetia-Alania, Finland, Banff, the South Pole, Galicia in Spain, Bangkok, Mainz in Germany, Laos, South Georgia, Venice, Patagonia, Zermatt/Matterhorn, Victoria Falls, Pitcairn, the Isle of Skye, Palawan in the Philippines, Baia dos Porcos in Fernando de Noronha, Wanaka in New Zealand and Lviv, Ukraine. Conclusion: The world is certainly full or favourites!

Your favourite travel-related book
Lonely Planet got 10 mentions, so is the hands-down winner even though it does not imply a specific book. The other responses are extremely varied so here are some worthwhile ideas for all of us: Ryszard Kapuscinski - Travelling with Erodotus, William Dalrymple - From the Holy Mountain, Alastair Bonnet - Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities and Other Inscrutable Geographies, Graham Holliday - Eating Vietnam, Uros Krcadinac, Marko Djedovic and Lazar Pascanovic - Bantustan and Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. Two of you mentioned the 'travel guide' about Molvania, a country that does not exist and which is a parody on travel guides!

Your favourite travel-related website
Ok, we’re a little embarrassed here as many of you mentioned NomadMania, for which we are eternally thankful! A traveller who obviously speaks Chinese mentioned the portal Mafengwo, the biggest travel site in China; another noted for flight searching; the blog El Rincon de Sele;; for tracking flights. Tripadvisor got a few nods as well.

A traveller you know personally who you admire
Our very own members Michael Runkel (twice), Artemy Lebedev (twice), Frank Grosse-Oetringhaus, Jeff Shea, Geri Winkler (who is our interviewee today!), David Langan, Fabio Cao, Kolja Spori, Lawrence Williams, Torbjorn C PedersenAntonio Aguilar and Joao Paulo Peixoto along with his wife Ana Lisa all got mentioned, as did our founder Harry Mitsidis. Some of you noted you admire nobody in particular. One traveller admires his ex-wife which we found very noble indeed. Other names that were mentioned are: Dr. Peter Nicolaus, Sergey Zharov, Bruno Rodi, Nicholas Rapp (website:, Grigory Lapshin, Wojtek Dabrowski, the late Rauno Ekholm, and also our members Peter & Kay Forwood.

A traveller in history or public figure you admire
In this category once again Artemy Lebedev was mentioned and in fact by far the most times – five, beating out Ibn Battuta or Marco Polo who also got a number of mentions! Our very own number one ranked Jorge Sanchez was also named. Michael Palin, Amundsen, Alexander von Humboldt, Paul Theroux, Jacques Cousteau, Captain Cook, Alexander the Great, Benjamin of Tudela, Neil Armstrong, Miguel de la Cuadra, Ida Pfeiffer (one of the first women travellers), Che Guevara, Clemens Forell (who walked from Chukotka to Bavaria as a German prisoner of war on the run), Adolf Erik Nordenskiold, Reinhold Messner, Fred Burnaby (author of ‘A Ride to Khiva'), Thor Heyerdahl, Herodotus, Alma Karlin, Alfred Russel Wallace and Masa Munsa of Mali were all given a nod – if you have heard of them all you must be a walking encyclopedia!

Thanks again to all of you who participated in this survey and gave us such a wonderful palette of answers. Part II comes next time!


National Parks - Yankari Game Reserve, Nigeria
Continuing our presentation of various elements from our Series, today we feature one from our National Parks Series, the relatively known but extremely undervisited Yankari in Nigeria. Located in the central-north of the country, largely in the state of Bauchi, Yankari is not the largest but is certainly the ‘flagship’ National Park of Nigeria and is not small either, almost the size of Luxembourg. Covering a considerable area, it allegedly features quite a variety of flora and fauna, including lots of elephants. However, the reality here is rather different for the visitor.

Getting to the entrance of the park is not too difficult assuming you have your own transport: a paved road will take you to the entrance of the park (around an hour's drive from the town of Bauchi) where, after paying the entrance fee, another 40 kilometers is needed to get to the lodge area. Though the infrastructure is there, the whole set-up is in a state of disrepair and when we visited, we were the only people there and took the staff by surprise. The lodges themselves are not badly built and with some better care could develop into a pleasant place.
The ‘safari’ itself is, however, incredibly disappointing. Elephants are nowhere to be seen, and apart from warthogs, the occasional antelope and some birds, the only animal you will get more than enough of are the countless baboons as well as tse tse flies which seem very persistent in the bush. There is also little natural beauty, and even the river is tired-looking. It’s rather shocking to discover such a lack of sights given this is supposed to be a flagship park.

The compensation does come in the form of hot springs which are really clear and enjoyable, and which, due to the lack of any visitors, you will have all to yourselves. Given that Nigeria is not really known for its beaches and its fun activities by the sea, this pool comes as a very welcome surprise in the heat, and there are trees around the pool to ensure shade. Just make sure those cunning baboons don’t get to your clothes or you could be in for a nasty surprise…


Geri Winkler

A unique and brave traveller joins us today - Geri Winkler from Austria. He is the first insulin-dependent diabetic to reach the summit of Mount Everest and, as far as we know, to conquer all 193 UN Countries. Read more about him in his wikipedia entry.

Geri, tell us something about your early years and Geri the non-traveller.

I was born and grew up in Vienna, Austria. I studied mathematics and became a High School teacher in Vienna. In Austria we have 9 weeks of vacation in a row during summer time. This gave me a lot of possibilities to travel. A couple of times I used the possibility to take a Sabbatical which gave me much more free time. As a teacher, a Sabbatical means you take a whole school year off.

In 1984 I became Type 1 diabetic. This means I have to inject insulin every time when I am eating or drinking carbohydrates. Additionally I have to measure my blood glucose level 5-7 times a day by taking a drop of my blood.

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

My first long distance trip took place in 1983 when I could afford a flight ticket for the first time. Then every year I had flights to different destinations in the World. In the first years I always had the Lonely Planet guides in my backpack. Soon I discovered a good method to find the most interesting places.

I took a map and the Lonely Planet guide and compared them. To those regions not mentioned by the Lonely Planet guide I had to travel - and really travelling there were the most interesting parts of my travels. With this way of choosing my travel destinations I experienced a lot of fascinating months on the road or on a hiking path. That does not mean that I ignored every place mentioned by travel guides but I think I have found a good combination of sights and very remote (not mentioned) places.

In front of a Himba hut in Angola.
Tell us about the moment you decided that you wanted to be a ‘country collector’.

Most of the countries in the World I have travelled to more than once. I never decided to be a country-collector. I am mostly interested in climbing mountains all over the World in completely different regions, in hiking trekking routes or in discovering countries with my bicycle. When I climb a mountain, I also want to explore the nature and culture of the region around the mountain.

I have climbed the Seven Summits and in 93 countries I have climbed to the highest point. In many more countries I have tried to do so or have climbed one of the major mountains of the country. When I climbed Mount Everest I started my ascent at the shores of the Death Sea in Jordan, the lowest point on Earth. From there I went all the way, more than 8000km, to Nepal with my bicycle. Then I continued on foot to the base of Everest where I joined an American Expedition and climbed to the top.

Carstensz Pyramid, another one of the Seven Summits, situated on the island of New Guinea, I climbed within one week. But I stayed half a year on the island, most time trekking to remote Papuan villages. In this area the people were much more fascinating than the mountain.

Having visited every country in the World was more or less a side effect of my interest in climbing mountains. In 2016 I realized that I have travelled to almost every country, just 11 countries missing.  At that time I had a surgery in my left leg which meant that I could not climb for a while, but I could continue to travel without doing hard exercise. So I decided to visit the 11 remaining countries. I completed that 10 months later in September 2017 by entering the Republic of Congo.

Do you prefer solo travel or with someone else?

I prefer to travel with my wife Sylvia, sometimes with my son or friends, but I have no problem to travel solo and I did it a lot of times. I don't like to travel in organized groups.

What has been the most useful item you've ever brought with yourself?


With his wife Sylvia at Laguna Quilotoa in Ecuador.
What travel scams have you heard about?

I have been travelling for almost 50 years. I have heard of hundreds of different travel scams. Personally I was always lucky and did not have any bad experiences except one stolen pair of trousers which was hanging on a line to dry. And of course, there is the corruption of policemen, mostly in Africa. In general I refuse to pay the bribes, but sometimes I am not patient enough - if the amount is very small and I can accelerate the procedure by paying, I sometimes do so. Of course I shouldn't!

Traversing a crevasse on Mount Everest.
What is the oddest place you have ever spent the night?
Let me mention two places!

The first one is the Freeport Copper Mine or Grasberg Mine in the Indonesian part of New Guinea. I had crossed this huge territory three times, always illegally. 25 years ago it was a weird place, a HiTec area surrounded by a Stone Age society. 15 years later the Stone Age has disappeared and the mine had left a ruined environment where human rights were completely ignored. The real owner of this territory, different Papuan tribes have been forced to leave the area long time ago and are currently not even allowed to cross the mine territory.

The other place is the waste disposal site on Fongafale Island, the most populated island of Tuvalu. The island is 12 kilometres long and 10-400 metres wide. As the people cannot get rid of their waste, they started to dispose it on the northern tip of the island. 7 years ago this waste disposal place had already a length of 1,5 kilometres and is continually growing.
If you were condemned to one national dish for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?

Spaghetti bolognese.

Crossing Baluchistan on the way to Nepal.
And our last question is the one we always ask - if you could invite four people to dinner from any time in human history, who would you invite any why?

I would invite Jesus and Buddha. Additionally I would invite my wife and my son because I want to have my family around while talking to those two great people.

In a Somba home in Benin.
The photos in this interview are from Geri's personal collection and we thank him for sharing them with us at NomadMania!
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