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If 2012 and 2013 could be called the “Year of India” and the “Year of Asia” in the life of anjči, respectively, then 2014 is so far coming to resemble a “Year of Southern Hemisphere”. See for yourselves why – my travel plan for 2014 is laid out chronologically below. These are only the highlights, remember!
(1) Weekend in Gdansk, Poland (March). Some of you will remember my short trip to Auschwitz and Krakow in Poland last year. While the former was educational as much as the latter was pretty, I froze to near death traipsing around in the snow and temperatures far too much below zero for my liking for hours at length – but my interest in Poland was decidedly rekindled.
With that in mind, it escapes me why my visit to Poland’s principal seaport – Gdansk – has, too, been booked in the midst of winter. Perhaps my famous female logic was the culprit? All I know is that I will have two entire days to explore the city I have long since first wanted to visit. Expect a lot of heavily photoshopped images of twilight setting in on the Gdansk Bay, frozen locals and the inside of Gdansk’s many churches. Where I will have stopped to pray, of course – NOT to get warm.
(2) Easter break in Argentina (April). My first stop in the southern hemisphere in 2014 will be Argentina where I plan to spend 10 days carrying around a big poster with “Falklands are ours” written across. Just kidding – my visit will be anything but political. I have only been to Rio de Janeiro on the entire South American continent to date (and even that was a long weekend), so there is a lot of catching up to do with the rest.
Five domestic flights and one double border crossing with Brazil await me in Argentina – after some quick tango and steak action in Buenos Aires, I plan to fly south to enjoy the solemn calmness of Patagonia before transferring to the colonial gem of Salta and the stunning Iguacu Falls in the north. The time will be tight but skipping sleep might help to stretch it.
And everybody knows that the Falklands are ours, anyway.
(3) Cape Town to Windhoek overland (May-June). I will have barely spent a month in Europe when the southern hemisphere will start calling again. It is for a very long time that I have wanted to set my foot in Namibia. One of Africa’s youngest sovereign nations and, with its 2 million people, second only to Mongolia in the world’s lowest population density, Namibia is not even in the Top 10 of the most visited African countries, receiving an average of 1 million visitors a year – despite its breath-taking landscapes and wildlife.
I will begin with a few days in the picturesque Cape Town in South Africa before embarking on an overland journey covering the highlights of Namibia: Fish River Canyon (the world’s second largest), Walvis Bay with its stunning sand dunes, Spitzkoppe mountains with their rugged granite peaks, fabulous Etosha National Park famous for game viewing, Namibia’s many tribal villages – and much more. Let’s just hope I learn to pitch a tent quickly enough and do not poison any fellow travellers with my amateur cooking.
(4) Summer break in Karpathos, Greece (June-July). I continue my yearly pilgrimages to the country I once called home, the unforgettable Greece. This year’s summer destination was decidedly the most difficult ever to select – each Greek island to me is unique and there are still many to choose from. On one hand, I had a wonderful time in the Cycladic archipelago last year and would not mind sticking to one of its islands. On the other hand, it can be fun getting off the beaten track towards the more remote Dodecanese.
I have looked far and wide before settling on Karpathos. Second largest Dodecanese island, Karpathos does not feature in your usual “Greek islands to visit before you die” bucket lists. Indeed Karpathos’ most typical summer visitor is sooner a descendant of its original islanders than a clueless package-minded holiday maker from the continent. After some research, I finally managed to locate Karpathos in somebody’s “Unnoticed Greek islands” list, bulked with the likes of Nisyros and Kastelorizo. I salute you who have heard of those.
(5) Besseggen ridge hike, Norway (August). Norwegian friends will have noticed that my travel activity to their country has subsided. At its peak, I used to travel to Norway as often as 5-6 times a year: while I will likely never beat this personal record, there are still many corners of Norway I plan to discover.
One of them is the mountainous Jotunheimen National Park with over 250 peaks rising above the height of 6,000 feet, including Norway’s two highest, Galdhøpiggen and Glittertind. No, I do not plan to climb either – what I’d like instead is to get a good view towards them from a third spot. I have chosen Besseggen, one of Norway’s most popular mountain hikes allegedly attempted by 30,000 people every year. The hike reaches the highest point of 1,743m above sea level and offers, at its highlight, a breath-taking view over Gjende and Bessvatnet lakes – in emerald green and dark blue colours, respectively. Let’s just hope the ground to stand on is firm enough there.
(6) Weekend in Lyon, France (October). Did I not promise to dedicate more travel time to France? Last year brought three trips to France, the trend I am eager to continue. So far I have only planned one though; nowhere else than the country’s beautiful second largest city of Lyon.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Lyon apparently also boasts the title of France’s gastronomic capital. While the most remote village in France would likely seem a gastronomic capital to anyone living in England (like myself), I am curious to see what the hype is all about. Lyon’s world class Renaissance architecture aside, I fear that this visit may turn out to be anything but cultural – unless one ranks food part of culture, too. I better start brushing up my table manners right now.
(7) Hong Kong to Okinawa to Taiwan (November). My 2013 may have featured seven Asian countries – but, come November, I predict in all likelihood that I will be missing Asia again. My previous plans to visit Hong Kong were put to a brutal stop by a certain Icelandic volcano; here is hoping that the skies will be ash-free for my companion and I to embark on what I like to call a peripheral Asian escapade.
After a few days of shopping action in Hong Kong (I like to buy silk for cheongsam dresses – I am primitive like that), we will set off for the secluded Japanese island of Okinawa, continuing swiftly to Taiwan before returning to Hong Kong. The trip was actually my boyfriend’s idea: only those of you who know me well will understand the importance of being able to offer an itinerary yours truly will remotely like. He might just be the right guy.
(8) Exploring Chile and the Falkland Islands (December). 2014 must be the first year I enter having already made up my mind about the winter break. No, it isn’t going to be New Zealand – while I certainly hope to jet half-way round the world to see the kiwi-land later, this year it is the turn of Chile. On my third visit to the southern hemisphere in 2014, I will travel from the capital city of Santiago to the eerily beautiful town of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile’s Lake District around Puerto Montt, Torres del Paine National Park with its stunning glaciers, the remote Punta Arenas and, possibly, get a small glimpse of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago.
My biggest reason for visiting Punta Arenas though is its air link to the place I have dreamed about for years – the unassuming, unknown and ignored Falkland Islands. I have no good excuse to go there except for the eeriness of visiting a British territory so far overseas. There are only about 3,000 people on the Falklands (of which half are British military), greatly outnumbered by their half a million sheep. That makes about 170 sheep per permanent resident; New Zealand with its miniscule seven can go rest.
And what next, you ask me? I would be happy if 2015 brought visits to more of my dream destinations. The immediate ones on my mind are Iran, the Andaman Islands, Bhutan and New Zealand. Let us just wait and see.
Happy New Year again, and safe travels to all.