Monthly Archives: September 2015

Ninth round-the-world trip!

After a two-hour express connection in Sydney, and 12 hours up in air on the Santiago de Chile – Beijing route, we finally land. Phew! This completes my latest circumnavigation of our planet: 25+ hours in the air, 32 hours traveling door-to-door. A little tired, but never one to complain.

Our flight crossing the EquatorOur flight crossing the Equator

It turned out to be rather an exotic route in all, and not just because we flew past Antarctica: we crossed the Equator twice and half the trip was in the southern hemisphere. The route had a certain symmetry too it too (see the map below), and in all four continents (Asia, Europe, South America, Australasia) were visited. Oh, the main bit: this was my ninth round-the-worlder! Hurray!

I hardly noticed. Round the world in 10 days! It all started in sunny Kamchatka, and finished in China: Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky – Moscow – Paris – Sao-Paulo – Santiago – Sydney (connection) – Beijing. A resourceful friend helpfully marked the route out on a world map:

Nice and  symmetrical :-)Nice and symmetrical :-)

Read on: Whoa!…

Kamchatka-2015: Snowy peaks, hot springs.

The second set of amazing must-sees to the south of Paratunka are the hot springs near Khodutka volcano. In fact they’re not just hot springs, they make up a whole hot lake. And not just a hot lake; it’s more of a scalding lake: the temperature of the water hovers around 43°C. Now, if you’ve a heart as strong as an athlete’s, you could take a dip, but you won’t really fancy doing a fast crawl or anything – far too parching. Shame. All the same, just sitting in the lake – still a thoroughly satisfying way of taking in all the surrounding scenery.

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Read on: The Khodutkan hot springs work as follows…

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The Santiago–Sydney Antarctic ‘Smile’: QF28

Hola amigos!

Not long ago I flew one of the most unusual commercial air routes I’ve ever taken.

It was the Santiago–Sydney-route on Qantas QF28 in a Boeing 747. The route forms a smile shape as it curves downwards and flies past… Antarctica! It felt a bit eerie flying – for 14 hours! – over a part of the world where there happens to be absolutely nothing at all! No islands, no ships, no folks, no hamburger stands… the very definition of ‘godforsaken’! Even submarines don’t bother with these remote southern reaches. Curiously, there’s one thing that features relatively prominently here: deceased satellites! They have them fall out of orbit and give them a marine burial here, well out of the way so they do no harm to Homo sapiens.

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“Cheese!”

Read on: Antarctica!!…

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Smoky Santiago.

Santiago (the capital of Chile) is situated in a valley between two mountain ranges. The bigger of the two is called the Andes. The other… I never did get round to finding out its name. Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this is that, by and large, the wind here tends to blow across these ridges – i.e., not down the valley – leaving the valley, and Santiago, thoroughly ventilation-less. This means there’s nothing to shift the thick smog that hangs over the valley. It looks, to be honest, disturbing. Imagine breathing that in all day and night, year after year. Yikes!

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Read on: Quite a big city…

Dream airliner = Dreamliner.

It had to happen sooner or later.

What with the hundreds of flights I make in a year, with all sorts of different airlines, to and from all sorts of random cities, my getting aboard such a plane was sure to be sooner rather than later.

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A dream flight. On a dream airliner – the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Packed with the very latest technologies, a curvaceous ‘designer’ form, and improved comfort. I’d been patiently waiting for this moment quite a while. And then suddenly, unexpectedly, and totally by chance… it finally came to pass…

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Read on: Here she is, the beauty…

Kamchatka-2015 – warm-up.

My Kamchatka-2015 vacation began in the town of Paratunka. This is a location commonly used by tourists for spending the first night on the peninsula after flying in from afar, before setting off for their first full-fledged destination the next day.

To the south of Paratunka are conveniently located two volcanoes, both of which are must-sees/climbs: Mutnovsky and Gorely. So this year, somewhat logically, we decided to start An-Kam (Annual Kamchatka) with visits thereto – kind of as a warm-up.

It’s just a 50-kilometer drive to get to the volcanoes; however the ‘road’ sure ain’t no smooth autobahn – it’s more a gravel track. Google claims it takes 50 minutes to get them, but in fact it’s more like two hours in a regular all-terrain vehicle – longer with stops. I guess 50 minutes is possible in one of those outsized off-roaders with the massive wheels – or a turbo-driven tank perhaps – but you’d have trouble keeping your breakfast inside you with all the violent jolting about.

After our two-hour cruise we finally arrived at Mutnovsky volcano: beautnovsky volcano.

Though this old volcano remains very active, it’s still possible to walk around the rim of its colossal crater. The sheer scale of the panoramic views, the colors, the rocks and cliffs, the glaciers and snow – fantastic. And there’s constant splashing and hissing to be heard – hot water spurting or hot steam blasting – and everywhere it stinks to high heaven low hell of sulfur. Infernally hellish beauty!

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Read on: The fabness of the sunny days…

Mission Impossible 5 – in KLondon!

I’ve been known to have a pop at the quality of Hollywood blockbuster movies released in recent years. But there’s a new film that bucks the trend, which I recommend everyone sees at the soonest! (But then I would say that)…

This impossibly incredible film I’m talking about is Mission Impossible 5.

So what’s so great about it that it gets a whole EK blogpost dedicated to it? Can’t you guess?…

…Yep, a scene in the movie was shot in one of our offices – our UK one in central London! Specifically, an interrogation scene in the ‘CIA’s London post’ was filmed in the building our office is in in Paddington, some of it on our floor.

Left to right: Alec Baldwin plays Hunley and Simon Pegg plays Benji in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.Left to right: Alec Baldwin plays Hunley and Simon Pegg plays Benji in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions

What struck me as curious at first was that we didn’t solicit any filming – in fact we didn’t do anything.

All that happened was the director liked the look of our office building. Apparently they looked all over central London for a suitable backdrop for a particular scene, and eventually settled for our new office. Can’t say I blame them: our EU business operations headquarters look impressively spanking and swanky. They’re also very conveniently located: right next to Paddington Station – with a connection to the airport via the Heathrow Express that takes just half an hour. It’s just a shame all the KL logos – plus even all the Ferrari kit and paraphernalia – had to be taken down.

Witnesses gave the following account of glimpses of the proceedings:

The shooting took place on October 11-12, 2014. Though it was a weekend, all the people invited to the filming were at their desks. Everything started at 6.30am and finished at 6pm. For all that time they were shooting and reshooting a scene that lasted only 20 seconds in the final film. That’s show business!

In all 400 folks took part in the making of that 20-second footage, including Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, and… our KLers! Here they are, the beauts:

TAURUS

As you’ll have guessed, they were extras milling about in the background. I can’t wait to see the actual scene and find out who made it into the final cut. If you’ve seen it – let me know in the comments! I promise a nice surprise for the first to do so :).

Btw, the fee we received from the production company was donated to a foundation for the protection of kiddies from cybercrime.

And this (and this) is what our office looks like on a regular workday when Hollywood A-listers aren’t paying a visit.