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Tag Archives: must see

3, 2, 1… liftoff!

At last! Another dream of mine has come true – to see a spaceship take off! Hurray!

Last week it left Baikonur in Kazakhstan, and by the weekend it had already reached the International Space Station and docked. The crew’s made up of two Russians and one American – which perhaps explains why around town and in our hotel much American-accented English was to be heard.

We watched the liftoff from about two kilometers away, which might seem a long way off. But it isn’t. This isn’t U2 playing a stadium where being at the back is almost a waste of time and money… This is the Baikonur experience. The power generated by the massive rocket engines shook everything around so much it felt like an earthquake was occurring at the same time as the liftoff. Rather unnerving.

Baikonur Space Launch Center

The spike on the top means the ship’s manned; if it was without one, it would mean no crew – an unmanned remote-controlled cargo mission

Read on: Baikonur from inside…

Patagonia: Pata-utopia.

Jules Verne, fat adventure novels, In Search of the Castaways, Paganel and Patagonia

Such childhood reminiscences are indelibly etched somewhere in the deeper recesses of my memory. I always conjured up images of mysterious countries in far-flung corners of the world, all exotic and unusual… but always beautiful.

Turns out those images were pretty accurate. For four decades later I found myself in Patagonia on a hiking trip, and if I was only allowed one word to describe the place, it would not be difficult choosing it: beautiful.

We wound up there after having a few free days left over after our visit to Brasília. And since that visit was a culmination of non-stop mental effort and oratory exertion, the timing was just right for some serious back-to-nature getting-away-from-it-all with lashings of fresh mountain air.

Of course, the whole of Patagonia can’t be checked out in just a few days as it covers such a massive territory. Still, we did manage to experience one of the most precious jewels in the Patagonian crown – the Torres del Paine National Park.

Torres del Paine National Park

Read on: 120 km in 5 days…

Muchas pictures of Machu Picchu – an online book/photo-travelogue

Hola, a todos!

A couple of years ago a bunch of like-minded adventure seekers and I decided to make the long trip to Peru in South America to the long-abandoned City of the Incas – Machu Picchu. We took plenty of photos, and I took detailed notes of our experiences along the way.

The result (finally!) is a book that’s to be published – currently online here in pdf format – chock full of hi-res pics from our travels accompanied by my commentary.

Read on: An unforgettable trip that easily made it into my

Instead of pouring it, ya cut milk in Yakutia

Privyet everyone!

Yakutia (home to the Yakut people), or, officially, Sakha (home to the Sakha people) is very proud of its humungous dimensions, liking to compare itself with assorted European countries, a favorite for some reason being France: on Wikipedia (in Russian, at least) it says Yakutia is ‘five times as large as France’. (Why France? Why not Spain, Turkey or Ukraine?) There are plenty of other comparisons kicking about the Internet too, like the one approximately equating Yakutia with the Mediterranean and Black Seas together.

Anyway, whichever way you look at it – or measure it – there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that what we’ve got here is one titanic territory. Indeed, turns out it’s the largest subnational entity in the world in terms of land area – stretching across three time zones!

But I think to do the place some justice it needs to be compared with other massive things, not much smaller ones. So, here we go…

With a territory of around three million square kilometers (but a population of just under a million; that is, three square kilometers per person), what other ginormous territory can it be compared with?

First off – Australia. Yakutia is only two and a half times smaller than the whole of Oz, while having 20 times less population. But that makes sense, for down under they don’t have to suffer the intense Yakutian winters. Then again, Australia is nothing but desert… that must be why the population there is only 20 times larger and not more (and lives all along the coast).

Next up: Canada. Yakutia is just three times smaller than this country together with all its islands. However, most of Canada is much further south – thus, 35 times as many folks live there.

Next: China. This country is also three times bigger than Yakutia, whereas the population… hmmm, best not get into that. China not the best example to take…

On per capita income – Yakutia is somewhere near Thailand, Cuba and Peru (individually), while it comes four times less than Australia and Canada, and a little more than China.

Yakutia can boast not only a massive territory; it also rocks in terms of diamonds, is real cool on the permafrost front, and is extreme to the extreme on wintery cold – particularly in Oymyakon. There’s also the Kolyma Highway (the one Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman rode along on their round-the-world motorcycle trip in 2004), the Lena River, and – last and most – the Lena Pillars – which were where we were headed. Here are the pics:


More: Pillars, permafrost and people who live there…

Alaska, alas, shrugged…

…at our disappointment about the weather in this corner of the atlas.

Howdy all!

Briefly, what’s coming up below: a quick Alaskan photo-fest + brief commentary, after a recent trip to the 49th state. This place is the latest been-to of my upcoming Top-100 Must-See Places in the World.

So, herewith, I submit, your honor, both my witness testimony and photographic evidence…


Alaskan Duel

More: First thing to say: it’s royally rainy here…

West Coast volcano boast.

It’s easy to brainstorm a long list of things you can associate instantly with the USA. Easy peasy…

Washington, D.C., the White House, NYC, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Wild West, the Great Depression, Lend-Lease, the first man on the moon, the Space Shuttle, Coke and Pepsi, McDonald’s, Hollywood and Disney, Microsoft, iPhone, Google, Facebook… I could go on for ages, as I’m sure you could….

But one thing I never associated with the U S of A is volcanoes. However, it turns out there are quite a few here – and rather impressive they are too. They’re on the West Coast – in Washington state, up next to Canada.

For those who might not yet know, I’m a big fan of volcanism (see my tales, pics and vids from Kamchatka, New Zealand, Santorini, Mount Etna, Pico de Orizaba and so on).

And I can now add a plus-2 to my collection of been-to volcanism – with these two gems:

1) Mount Rainier (Indian name – Tahoma);

2) Mount St. Helens (Indian name - Louwala-Clough).

Mount St.Helens

Mount St.Helens


More: Stateside volcanism…

Santorini: The ancient civilization time forgot, and a volcano wiped out.

Yia folks!

Fate saw to it that I recently found myself on the island of Santorini for a couple of days, which just so happens to be one of the most interesting and unusual places on the planet, and as such finds itself residing comfortably on my list of the top must-see places in the world.

For anyone hearing of Santorini for the first time, it’s a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, 100 kilometers north of Crete and around 200km southeast from Athens – here!

This was my third time on the island, so by now I know quite a bit about the place – and it’s all rather fascinating… so let me give you the inside story here, so you don’t have to trawl through site after site and still not get the real deal…

So, let’s start with the basics: Santorini is a volcano-island. (Yes, that is no doubt why I’ve just had my third trip there!) Or, to put it more precisely, it’s what remains of a volcanic caldera after it erupted thousands of years ago, plus a new, smaller volcano slowly rising up from the sea which now fills the caldera in the center of the archipelago. The walls of the crater are impressively tall – around 300 meters high and made up of black, grey, white and red volcanic rock. The effect is one of unearthly beauty, like being on another planet. A unique bit of topography.

Then there’s the multicolored beaches – civilized sandy ones (which you need to take a car/quad/motorbike to get to), and wild stony ones (only by boat or foot). There’s also the exquisite Greek food (fresh fish, lots of greens, tzatziki; but if you want steak – best wait till you’re back on the mainland), and multi-starred Metaxa… In short, a Mediterranean paradise :).


More: The mystery of Atlantis…

New Zealand-2013. Days 12-14. Lakes, glaciers, and the ultimate NZ must-see.

NZ-2013. Day 12. Lakes beyond compare.

It would be unthinkable not to mention NZ’s spectacular lakes in this travelogue – even though we didn’t actually have time to study many of them in any great detail.

NZ’s lakes are simply magical – huge, turquoise, surrounded by lush mountain ranges and other pulchritudinous paysages… and that’s on both islands. Alas, we mostly just drove past them – sometimes several lakes a day, occasionally lunching on their shores, and some of us even swimming in them. But unfortunately we simply didn’t have the time to study them closely and get to learn all about them. We did however manage to pull off quite a few photographic masterpieces for your viewing pleasure:

New Zealand Lakes

More: 8001 more pictures of NZ lakes…

Paradisiacal dawn under.

G’day all – from Paradise!

That’s the name of the place I was lucky enough to find myself in just recently – Surfers Paradise. And it just so happens to be one of the best places on earth for catching the sunrise at dawn – from the 60th or so floor of the Q1. And the daybreaks this year were better than ever – clouds either were absent completely, or complemented the view of the horizon. Breathtaking!:

Australia Surfers Paradise Gold Coast sunrise

Australia Surfers Paradise Gold Coast sunrise

More: more sunrises, Oz beer & retro VW…

New Zealand-2013. Days 9-11. The three R’s: route, rain and rarity.

NZ-2013. Day 9. Route.

On the ninth day in NZ we simply tramped back along the path we’d already walked along (see Day 7), so spent most of the day checking out scenery we’d already seen. On various websites they write that this tourist track is one of the most beautiful in the world (among the not so difficult ones). I agree – this is one example of the Internet not lying. It really is “wow”!

New Zealand Routeburn Track

Reminiscent of the Isle of Skye

New Zealand Routeburn Track

Blofeld’s back

More: the route of our expedition…