Viktor Wynd, proprietor of The Last Tuesday cocktail bar, Museum of Curiosities in East London and eccentric travel agency, Gone With The Wynd, chats with Travel Begins at 40 about his new venture an illustrated book, The Unnatural History Museum, and the impact of coronavirus upon travel.
What led you to open The Last Tuesday cocktail bar and Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities in East London?
Viktor Wynd: I had a terrible hangover and was lying in bed trying to think of something to do and I wanted to visit a Cabinet of Curiosities and thought I’d better get out of bed and make one. Once I’d build it I wanted people to come and enjoy it and linger and introduced cocktails and my favourite absinthes.
You have an eclectic array of artefacts, how did you select them?
Viktor Wynd: Items have to sing to me and then, if I can afford them, I buy them. It’s a love affair.
You also run Gone With The Wynd travel agency. Can you explain what is different about this from other adventure travel agencies?
Viktor Wynd: I only to go to places where it would be difficult, if not impossible for the independent traveller to go in the timescale and budget, I go to places I am obsessed with and want to learn more about – at the moment I am concentrating on New Guinea because it is one of the places I know the best and have built up relations with remote communities – for example this year I was invited to bring a group to a three-day initiation ceremony by a village chief I know. My trips are motivated by curiosity so financially I don’t think other companies would be able to offer them without having to charge a lot more – if another company is doing a trip that I want to do I wouldn’t do it – it would be much easier for me to just buy a ticket!
I understand you are going to run some Indiana Jones type adventures. Can you describe what these involve?
Viktor Wynd: Well I am a collector, and all the trips I offer go to places where there are amazing things to buy – on our trip to the Sepik [in Indonesia] in 2018 we had to charter two extra canoes to bring back the stuff that we had bought, and last year in The Trobriands [off Papua New Guinea] we were told that we were the group that had bought the most – we were also told that they hadn’t had any tourists for at least a year.
Our audience is the 40+ traveller seeking alternative travelling ideas. Is Gone With The Wynd for them?
Viktor Wynd: The trips tend to go to challenging places, and I prefer to stay in village houses in remote communities wherever possible. In my last group of 10 the youngest was 21 and the eldest was 81 so all are welcome – as long as they are not expecting comfort.
What should people do to prepare for them?
Viktor Wynd: Just general fitness.
How did you decide upon the itineraries?
Viktor Wynd: This is the trickiest bit – most places I want to go to are logistically very challenging so I do recce trips and talk to my contacts and when something is possible I try and arrange it.
You launched your new illustrated book – The Unnatural History Museum – on 5 March. What was your motivation for writing this?
Viktor Wynd: The book is designed to be a sort of museum in itself, an image of the inside of my mind, full of photos and stories of some of the things that give me the most wonder
What audience do you think it would appeal to?
Viktor Wynd: I think it will appeal to a very small audience and hopefully they know who they are – people who are interested in magic, dead things, natural history, myths, legends, dirty things and indeed funny things. But not those who are easily offended.
What are your feelings about the current coronavirus pandemic, and how is it affecting your travel itineraries?
Viktor Wynd: The world has turned upside down and who knows what is going to happen – at the moment I am still taking two groups to Papua New Guinea in November and I’m about to launch my next trip to Benin & Togo for February 2021, but for both trips we will look at the situation closer to the time and allow full refunds up to two months before we leave. So, we will carry on until we can’t. I am sad though as I was going to take my four children to Transylvania in May to go and look for bears and that looks unlikely.
More information on Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities
Cover: Viktor Wynd Leonora in The Austin Osman Spare Room