2022 Annual Recap

2022 travel plans were severely disrupted by the unprovoked Russian aggression against a sovereign European state and the ensuing genocidal Russia terrorism against Ukraine. Nonetheless: 50 unique countries and territories (44 UN-member countries), over 120 border crossings – so quite a few countries multiple times. 6 new territories/non-UN countries 87 flights on 31 different airlines, 30 train rides, 10 ships and boats, 37 car rentals (23 self-driven and 14 with a driver) – 29,000+ kilometers driven. 512 FB albums posted with 30,000+ pictures! Have you seen them all? Many already are (and the rest will soon be) available on travel2unlimited.com. And to the recap. The year began in Kiev, Ukraine – peaceful, snow-white, and with a lot of unhealthy but ooh-so-delicious food. The first exploration of 2022 took us to the Caribbean island-hopping – first a full in-depth touring of Barbados and tasting the famous rum, then circumnavigating the verdant island of Tobago, followed by the larger sister island of Trinidad with its iconic red ibises, tar lake, and beaches. Next touchdown was in Guyana, with historic Georgetown and crushing up river on Essequibo River. Quick reload in Florida, USA, and we were off to a long two weeks of a road trip around Colombia – from Medellin to coffee triangle and beautiful coffee towns, down to Popayan and idols of San Agustin. Then up along the dry side of the Andes through the only Colombian desert of Tatacoa with bizarre cacti and red soils, and further to the monolith of Piedra de Penol and the colorful town of Guatape. Next country was Cuba and the beautiful Havana with its four squares, amazing food and loads of antique cars everywhere. This is when all further plans abruptly came to a stall when one senile maniacal mentally-disturbed and COVID-compromised tyrant decided to start a war in the middle of Europe – imperialist dictatorship of Russia invaded democratic Ukraine. Germany became the new base of operations/home for the next half a year. From here, we explored all around – the blooming tulip field in Netherlands, a loop through Denmark, spectacular old towns and village in Poland, especially Wroslaw. It was Germany that was the most in-depth explored – Dortmund and castle towns in North Rhine-Westfalia, Hanseatic cityscapes of Hamburg, Scooter concert, Luneburg & Lubeck in Schleswig-Holstein, and endless beautiful landscapes of Thuringia with wildflowers, forests, and historic towns. The trip to explore Norway is definitely going to go down as the most memorable of the year, and not because of all the waterfalls, fjords, stunning panoramas and wooden churches – it was the 22km hike to Trolltunga, standing on one knee on the edge of the abyss, proposing and (after she recovered from a total shock of unexpectedness “what the @&$@ is going on?”), hearing a “yes”. Surprise mission a success! Ireland was next with Dublin’s quays, whiskey, and Guinness. Spain and Sevilla followed, and then it was the spectacular Algavre coast of Southern Portugal in all its natural stunning splendor. Changing the sunshine of Portugal for rain and fog of the UK, it was island hopping through three island archipelagos in the North Sea – the Orkney Islands with prehistoric monolith stones; the Shetland Islands with surreal landscapes, ponies, stunning beaches, craggy headlands, and puffins; and finally the Outer Hebrides with iconic lighthouses and green mountains of Lewis. A cherry on top – the Scotland’s capital of Glasgow. For something completely opposite, we headed to Ibiza with its sleepless nights, best deejays, best clubs, and the combination thereof. David Guetta’s “Future Rave” show was a total masterpiece, not least for the B2B with the Ukrainian deejay duo of ARTBAT. Next was once-in-a-life time expedition from Svalbard across the northern Atlantic to the Eastern Greenland. Everyday was surreal – walruses and whales, icebergs, snow and glacier-carved mountains, polar bears in ice, musk oxen inland, spectacular Arctic flora, and strenuous long hikes. A landing on the holy grail of traveling – the island of Jan Mayen – was an absolute jewel of the Arctic adventure – a volcanic black island where very few have ever landed (besides military and scientists). Next came the US state of Maine (lobster overload and northern forests) and Canada with five eastern provinces: New Brunswick with the world’s highest tides, Prince Edward Island with its red sand beaches and lighthouses, Nova Scotia with historic towns and seascape vistas. Ontario delivered Niagara Falls, Toronto Tower and the changing foliage in Algonquin Park (camped here!), plus the Canadian capital of Ottawa. The French speaking Quebec didn’t fail to amaze with its two history-laden cities of Montreal and Quebec City, as well as Cape Tourmente with forty thousands of migrating snow geese. After too much Arctic ice and Canadian rain, we switched for some heat and desert sun in UAE/Dubai and Kuwait, with all their man-made architectural wonders and skyscrapers. A bit of hopping around the outlying Greek islands of Corfu and Chios – two very culturally different corners with medieval history and traditions. Israel and Palestine came next with the total religious insanity of Jerusalem and its four quarters, the dry landscapes of Judaic Desert and lost monasteries, and the dual stories of Hebron. After a brief stop in Cyprus and some scenic coastal towns and views, it was the in-depth exploration of Lebanon next. From the stunning temples of Baalbek to ancient cedar trees to the stunning waterfalls and valleys, to impressive shore scenery and ancient archaeological sites – Lebanon packs a lot into its tiny territory. How do you top that? With Syria! The country is much safer now and many more sites in and beyond Damascus can be explored. We visited the ruins and amphitheater at Bosra, Homs, Hama, the imposing crusader castle of Krak de Chevalier, and even went deep into the desert to see the ruins of Palmyra. And the Syrian (just like Lebanese) cuisine is to die for. Change of continent and we are in Africa – Sudan. The Sudanese adventure was absolutely awesome – a large loop through the north of the country and along the Nile with loads of archaeological sites at Old Dongola, Kerma, Tumbus, Jebel Barkal, El Kurru, Nuri and many pyramids. Sudan has more pyramids then Egypt! The Meroe pyramids are a sight to behold at sunset and sunrise, desert sands semi-covering the ancient thousands-year old structures – absolutely surreal and one of the most spectacular panoramas in the world! Especially if you camp right in front of the pyramids. South Sudan was an immersion in the real Sub-Saharan Africa – we camped at the Mundari cattle-herder camp surrounded by giant cows and bulls, burning cow dung ash, kids milking cows, and a long list of insane traditions and ceremonies. A cross-continental flight took us to Dakar in Senegal with fashionable and colorful Senegalese, busy fish markets, mosques, and the bizarre brutalist monument of African Renaissance. Guinea was next, fresh from its recent coup, and we did a good exploration of the capital city of Conakry (one of the most insane fish markets in all of Africa) and the islands offshore. Ivory Coast followed with a loop journey through the central part of the country, the largest church in the world in Yamasoukro, and endless cocoa plantations, markets of Daloa, and morel. The Goli traditional dancers were an absolute highlight! (Just posting these pics now, the rest is still to come, stay tuned!). Next came an overland adventure through northern Ghana, Togo, Benin, and down to the Benin’s coast and capital city. Along the way – traditional villages and clay houses, many authentic local markets, and beautiful landscapes. In Abomey, the Royal palaces where interesting and the voodoo market was shocking and mind-blowing at the same time. And finally it was East Africa’s turn. A brief visit to the Somalia and semi-autonomous region of Puntland and then exploration of the small country of Djibouti with its salt lakes, volcanic fumaroles, beautiful beaches, canyons, and everybody chewing the narcotic khat. Ethiopia became the last country of 2022 with the Martian landscapes of Danakil volcano and surreal otherworldly features of the Dallol Depression, Afar tribes, the historic city of Harar with its medieval fortress and narrow streets, feeding the hyenas, and many local markets. At the opposite end of Ethiopia, it was the country’s old capital of Gondor and the stunning high altitude national park of Simien Mountains with its thousands of gelada baboons and even the super rare walia ibex (we saw nine of them). It will be several weeks before I am done posting 2022. Thanks to everyone who made our adventures possible, all the new and old friends we met and stayed in touch with a long the way! On to 2023! Victory and piece to Ukraine, Hague to Russian leadership and all war criminals. And new adventures to us! #travel2unlimited.