Babis Bizas is one of the most travelled people in the world. He was born in Arta, Greece, in 1954 and is known for having visited every country in the world. He has also been to both the North Pole and the South Pole.
What are three of your favourite countries, and why?
Antarctica is not a country. Everybody knows that. But it is the single most impressive place on the planet. The rock formations, the glaciers, the wildlife is beyond imagination. And the interesting thing is, the nicest places are 35-40 hours from Ushuaia, Argentina. No need to go the long, expensive expedition cruises from the Australian and New Zealand side. They spend many days at the open sea, and the sites are mostly for history fans. The wild nature is from the Argentinian side.
Nothing prepares you for the wild beauty of this country. Mostly known for the overrated Angel Falls, Venezuela reveals her character in the gorgeous rocky trapezoid Tepuis of Canaima. Roraima is the single most spectacular Tepui in Venezuela, shared by Brazil and Guyana. To those sights, you must add a large number of roaring waterfalls and the Orinoco Delta.
The largest unexplored country. The cultural centre of the world with world-class museums, operas and ballet, and a country with the largest unexplored tracts of land. The wildlife is equal to none in these latitudes, the vivid culture of Northern Peoples and several hundred unexplored islands in the Arctic. You can travel all your life in Russia and see all the places. My book Russia 3rd edition is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition. It helps a lot to find your way in this vast country.
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
The island of Niuafo’ou is difficult to find even on a map. It is the remotest and northernmost island of Tonga in the Pacific. I was stuck there for two weeks. It proved to be one of the memorable periods in my life. I stayed in a room of the priest’s house, and I became a guest of the people. I learned their names, they offered me food, and I went to the church at 05.00 AM.
I cleaned the surrounding area, and I learned their personal stories. I became one of them. They did not expect anything from me in return. They gave me their love. Finally, the day I left, many eyes shed tears, including mine.
Located 2500 km south of Capetown, South Africa, it is not an easy destination. First of all, visitors are not allowed to land. Second, there is no transport available. The only option is by private yacht. We had a permit to go with a chartered yacht. It took 206 hours in an open Ocean for nine days. This was a milestone for the way I travelled. Till that day, I was reluctant to visit a place if I had to wait eight days until the next weekly flight.
Sitting for nine days (and another nine on the return), I realized that I was spending 18 days doing nothing, in a small cramped yacht. How could I refuse a visit for eight days to a small place where I could walk, explore, talk and interact with people and enjoy everyday life. Marion Island itself proved to be an excellent place with a lot of sub-Antarctic life (King Penguins, sea elephants etc.). Above all, it was for me the opening of New Horizons.
The visit to an Emperor Penguins colony is a unique experience. It is a whole different world from the rest of the penguin species. They live on the ice all of their life, even in the winter, very far from the water. Their society has a different structure. It is a unique spectacle to watch them and observe the other members’ reactions and interactions as they go and come continuously to the colony to feed the always hungry young penguins.
We spent ten days with the ice breaker “Kapitan Khlebnikov”, travelling south, breaking the ice to Queen Maud Land and the Weddell Sea. When we reached the Ice Shelf, we flew 30 minutes by helicopter and another 3 kilometres on foot so the noise of the helicopter wouldn’t disturb them. A rare sight and a unique experience to be almost alone among 20,000 emperor penguins.
What are three of your worst travel moments, and why?
None. I always had positive moments during my trips. Unpleasant, yes, when I was arrested in Benghazi, Libya, during the Gadafi period. I spent the night in a cell in the Security Bureau. The next day I was released, though. The security agents arrested me on suspicion of being a spy as I took photos at the market. Tourists were not a common sight yet.
What are three of your best travel tips?
Follow the rule 1-2-3! It means 1 pair of shoes. 2 pairs of trousers and shirts. 3 underwear (even two are enough). Wash the shirts every night with shampoo or shower gel. Just take away the smell of the body, and you are ready. With this concept, your bag never will be more than 10 kilos.
Yes. If you can, travel alone. I know the majority of people have a spouse, a partner or a friend. But if the conditions allow it, don’t rush to look for a co-traveller. With a light bag of 10 kg and just one person, you can get that last seat in the airplane or bus you desperately want. You can make it much easier to auto-stop (hitchhike), find a bed in a full guest house, or get an invitation to a house. You can feel the world you explore. After all, travel is a lonely orbit.
Write your own travel history
Various blogs propose a certain number of places to visit to become a “great” traveller. Many travellers rush anxiously to fill the boxes of those lists somebody else made for them! They will never become real travellers even if they fill all the boxes. Read, be prepared and explore the world your own way. Put your own priorities and do what fascinates you more. Nobody will give any prize! Travel for yourself.
You can know more about Babis Bizas at BabisBizas.com.