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What a time to be alive, eh?
Well now that it’s April 457th, we’re finally moving onto… May.
So, as you can imagine, I’ve been at home the entire month (since March 18th, actually). As I work in dentistry, I was kicked out of work for obvious reasons so it’s left me with endless time to work on other things, (that I needed to do, and just haven’t) ie: this blog. I’ve gotten a lot of old posts updated, I’ve gotten a lot of new posts written that will be coming out here in the near future, hundreds upon hundreds of photos edited, upcoming expeditions plotted out, and other ones postponed. Needless to say, I’ve been super busy throughout all the crazy happening out there. Not all of this is very exciting, but a couple of snippets are, so I’ll get to sharing those first.
Nicole & Matt’s Mildly Dangerous Adventures
As most of you who read my blog know, I’ve been co-running trips with Inertia Network for the last couple of years. A couple of trips back with Matt, one of the founders of Inertia I made a joke about creating a company called “Matt & Nicole’s Mildly Terrifying Adventures” (I’ve made cracks for years about my riskier trips being ‘mildly terrifying adventures’). After all, the first time we spoke Matt asked, “Where are you thinking would make for good expeditions/itineraries?”
Me: “Socotra. Hear me out. I visited in 2014…”
Matt: “No, impossible”
Me: “I know people there, I have contacts”
Me: “Okay, Afghanistan?”
Matt: “No, too dangerous, not enough interest”
Matt: “I knew I would like you. Difficult to market, but okay, let’s try it”
In July 2018 we took a group to Eastern Tajikistan, Xinjiang (Western China), and Northern Pakistan. By early 2019 I had pushed and pushed, and we finally ran a trip to Socotra and one to Afghanistan. And that is where this idea kinda started.
So in a long roundabout way, we’ve made a whole program under Inertia Network spearheaded by Matt Reichel and myself to show small groups some of these countries and territories deemed more difficult to travel for a myriad of reasons. It’s not for everyone, but there’s that small segment of the population that wants to go beyond media headlines to meet the people that live in these places every day, to hear their stories and learn about their cultures. That’s where we come in. We’ve been working on some wild itineraries over the last few weeks and have a few launched with tentative dates in 2021.
Mainland Yemen In-depth Cultural Exploration
Matt and I have both traveled to Mainland Yemen several times now. In early 2020 we ran a successful expedition again and were able to reach new destinations. In late February into early March 2021, we will be running a 15-day expedition to take a small group into Mainland Yemen to dig deeper into the country, forming connections and relationships, hearing tribulating stories of survival, experiencing different cultures in differing pockets throughout the country, and helping to support various women’s handicraft cooperatives, artisans, and education programs.
Of course, traveling in Mainland Yemen is no walk in the park. It does come with risk and itineraries can change at a moment’s notice. Please note that we do not post this itinerary publically for security reasons. If you are interested you can join our mailing list directly through Inertia Network.
Afghanistan Behind the Burka
This will be my fourth trip and Matt’s third back to Afghanistan, a country that’s been caught in upheaval for centuries, but more recently in the ongoing war. The goal of this expedition is to grasp a better understanding of Afghanistan’s situation past and present, and the issues, dynamics, cultures, and ethnic lines that make Afghanistan so complex and fascinating. Many westerners’ understanding of Afghanistan is based off of media headlines and the aim here is to get insight on what it’s like from the perspective of people who live this reality every day. As with other of our more complex trips, we don’t post our itinerary online publically. We will have a loose itinerary that we can send you privately, but know that these are approximate and can change or be rearranged day to day.
This trip will take place in May 2021 over the Eid al Fitr Holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. The trip will take in Kabul, Bamyan, Mazar e Sharif, Herat, and potentially Kandahar.
The Afghan Wakhan Corridor Trek
I had the opportunity to visit the Afghan Wakhan Corridor a few years back, thinking it would satisfy my curiosities about Afghanistan. Spoiler alert: It didn’t (In fact, it only made it worse!). However, I was completely blown away by this trip. This is the other side of Afghanistan, the one small sliver of the country that is deemed safe compared to the rest. This is the Wakhan Corridor, a geopolitical oddity. The corridor is a finger-like projection that separates Tajikistan and Pakistan and briefly brushes China.
A little history: The Wakhan Corridor is a political creation, dating back to the era of The Great Game, a time when the Russian Empire and the United Kingdom were vying for power in Central Asia. The Wakhan Corridor was split in half with the area lying north of the Panj and Pamir Rivers going to Tajikistan (then the Russian Empire) and the area south of the rivers to Afghanistan. The drawing up of the Durand Line followed, that essentially used the Hindu Kush Range as a natural line separating British India (now the Gilgit-Baltistan Agency of Pakistan) and Afghanistan.
Enough about the history lesson, this trek will take us on an over 170-kilometer roundtrip trek from Sarhad e Broghil, the last village accessible by road, deep in the Afghan Wakhan. Taking place in mid-September through early-October, we aim to reach the Kyrgyz who live in the Little Pamir around Chaqmaqtin Lake. This is one of our more active trips as it will require roughly 15-20 kilometers a day trekking at high altitudes (the highest point being 4,905 meters). We aim to begin the trip from Osh Kyrgyzstan and end it in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
A Trek Through Tajikistan’s Yagnob Valley & Fann Mountains
This is one of my most favorite corners of the world and the place I’ve spent the most time outside my home of Alaska, the mountains of northwest Tajikistan. We are combining two stunning treks for this trip that will tentatively take place on October 12-24, 2021, immediately after our Afghan Wakhan expedition mentioned above. From the capital of Dushanbe, we’ll load up and head north to trek for 4-days to the most beautiful lakes of the Fann Mountains: Kulikalon and Alovaddin. Following, we will transit across to the village of Margib to begin our 5-day exploration of the Yagnob Valley surrounded by stunning fall colors. The Yagnob Valley is home to a few Yagnobi families that still speak the Yagnobi language descended from ancient Sogdian, and practice many traditions that date back centuries.
Environment, Architecture & Art In Uzbekistan & Karakalpakstan
Uzbekistan has climbed the ranks, becoming fairly well known among travelers for it’s famed Silk Road cities and blue-tiled adorned architecture. Most visitors don’t dig deeper beyond the main sites, so that is the aim of this trip. We will visit the ancient cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva, but will continue on to explore the far reaches of the semi-autonomous Karakalpakstan region. Here we will learn about Karakalpak life and culture, visit the current shores of the Aral Sea as well as the old port city of Moynaq to get an idea of the environmental and economic devastation of the drying of the Aral Sea, due to poor irrigation projects, has lead to. We will also take time to visit the Soviet-created city of Nukus to see the life’s work of Igor Savitsky at the Nukus Museum of Art. The museum contains thousands of pieces ranging from Russian Avant-Garde pieces that were banned under Joseph Stalin’s USSR, artwork by Central Asian artists, as well as an extensive collection of Karakalpak art, handicrafts, and carpets.
The trip will begin and end in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent where we’ll have a chance to travel in one of the most beautiful metro systems in the world.
Trips We’re Working On Without Tentative dates
After traveling across the country in 2019 visiting the well known historical cities of Central Iran, as well as little-trodden gems off the radar of most I’ve decided to start putting together a group trip to explore Iran in 2021. I am looking to host this either in late spring or late fall and would include Tashkent, Esfahan, Yazd, Shiraz, Qeshem & Hormuz Islands, and the Persian Gulf Coast. We will run this trip in conjunction with a government-approved guide, so the trip will be open to everyone, including UK, US, and Canadian passport holders.
Iraqi Kurdistan 2021
After visiting Iran, I bounced across the border into Iraqi Kurdistan, a fascinating geopolitical hotspot. The Kurds have long suffered persecution and are among the largest of the stateless nations in terms of population size. In Iraqi Kurdistan, you’ll listen to stories of resilience and survival, of unique faith-guarded religions, and experience one of the most welcoming cultures in the world. This trip will include Erbil, Akre, Amedi, Gomi Felaw, Barzan, Lalish, Alqosh, Sulaymanieh, and more.
The Trek To The Arrigetch Peaks, Gates Of The Arctic National Park, Alaska
I was beyond excited to have put together my first ever expedition with my friend and adventure guide Kathryn from Backpack Alaska, in my home state of Alaska for August this year, but due to uncertainty surrounding travel due to the current Coronavirus pandemic we ultimately decided to postpone the trip until next year to take place in the late summer of 2021 (likely July-August).
Click here to read more about what this trip entails, where you can also find the trip update sign up form.
What I Published This Month
So aside from updating old blog posts and creating new ideas for trip itineraries in 2021, I managed to publish a few blog posts here too:
- A guide to Castelmezzano & Pietrapertosa, Italy
- The Sufi center of Tarim, Yemen
- Arrigetch Peaks tour info
- Off the beaten path Italy
- Shiraz Travel Guide
- Yemen-Oman border crossing at Surfeet
- Kashan Travel Guide
- Hiking to Reed Lakes in Hatcher Pass, Alaska
- Visiting Maharloo Lake, near Shiraz, Iran
- Camping in the Yemeni Empty Quarter
- A 2 day Yazd itinerary + travel guide
- Cairo Travel Guide
What’s Coming Next Month?
I have been working to try and get blog posts cranked out here and scheduled before I go back to work (probably in the next week or so), so you can expect to see pieces on destinations in Yemen, Iran, Italy, Alaska, Tajikistan, and Oman.
That’s all I’ve got for you all this month, thanks for reading!