Monthly Archives: September 2019

The jiggery-pokery of the volcano called Raikoke.

Every single island of the Kuril archipelago is volcanic. Each island came about due to volcanism; and most islands have one, two, three or more volcanoes on their territory, some being among the most beautifully symmetric (e.g., ideal pyramids) in the world. Many of the volcanoes are active – with lava-spewing eruptions occurring regularly. One such active island-volcano is Raikoke – an island with a real checkered (green and black – as you’ll see:) history – literally.

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Dinosaurs, temples, and one too many a car – in Ulaanbaatar.

Farewell Gobi. Time for us to wrap up Mongolia – so we headed to its capital…

The whole population of Mongolia clocks in at around three million folks. Around half of those all live in the capital – Ulaanbaatar – which means, incidentally, ‘Red Hero’. Yes, a big city it is, and there’s plenty to see here too. We started, perhaps logically, with a Buddhist temple of worship – the Gandantegchinlen Monastery.

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For the remoteness connoisseur: an overnight stay in a Mongolian yurt – a ger.

I anticipate a few logical questions re our lodgings during our few days in Mongolia: what kind of yurts (in Mongolian a yurt is a ger, btw) did we stay in while in the Gobi Desert? Were they comfortable? Were they cozy? Were they warm? Were the beds comfy? Was the home-made bread tasty? Were your hosts hospitable?…

Ok; herewith, what I found out about yurts ->

First off – perhaps the most striking thing about yurts: the fact that you must enter or leave one with the right leg first! The same goes for hands, as in – you must give something to or take something from someone inside a yurt with the right hand – never the left. Such are the nomadic customs round here. I’m sure there are plenty of others, but we only got to find out about the main ones.

The second most striking thing: what you’re served to drink in a yurt – camel kefir! Tasty it is too. Goes down real well with freshly baked pita bread.

Generally, your nighttime experience in the Gobi Desert may be comfortable – or not. For example there are cozy nomad’s yurts with camels and goats tethered next to them; staying in one of these is comfortable. You may, instead, find yourself lost in the steppe with no map, compass or sat-nav; such an experience at night is the uncomfortable, scary variant ). The third variant is staying at the equivalent of a five-star hotel in the Gobi Desert, for example at Three Camel Lodge. As you can see – this is another comfortable variant.

Here it is!

Oh my Gobi: you can’t get more ‘middle of nowhere than this. I wonder, is this the world’s most remote hotel?! Certainly one of them!

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The extraordinary story of Kharimkotan glass floats.

The islands of Atlasov, Paramushir, and Onekotan – already inspected. So what was next on our southward trajectory along the Kurils? Well, there was plenty to go on: there were another 50+ islands left! However, not all of them are interesting. For example, just south of Onekotan (with its Krenitsyna) there’s the island of Kharimkotan. Here it is in fine weather:

And here it is on Google Maps.


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Gobi: lazy afternoon – treading barkhan dune.

Cайн уу folks!

Herewith, another installment from the one and only Gobi Desert, southern Mongolia (btw, did you know it also stretches into northern China?). Flat, vast, middle-of-nowhere, bewitchingly beautiful, in places – marvelously magical. Steppe, mountains, valleys, dunes… and barkhans. What, Hans?! Barkhans! These are a particular type of dune – crescent-shaped ones. Here they are – the magnificent Moltsog dunes.

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Backward-flying seagulls; whales, trout, cod, turquoise sea… and the Death Star prototype.

Hi folks,

Onward I narrate about our expedition round the Kurils this summer…

The weather on the Kurils is unpredictable, for sure. For most of the previous two days, up on the caldera of the King of the Volcanoes, the weather couldn’t have been pleasanter. This day, on the other hand – just the opposite: the wind was blowing a gale, and the rain was pouring down in torrents. Still, I won’t go over the wicked Kurilian weather again; I’ve mentioned it plenty before, including here. Nothing to add – apart from the fact that nothing has changed ).

Anyway, on this day of hurricanes-and-raining-cats-and-dogs, we had planned an inspection of Onekotan‘s Nemo Peak, and possibly even a climb to the top of it, since it’s not so tall (a little over 1000 meters). However, the weather failed to grant us permission (.

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Alpbach – Davos’ younger brother.

Guten Tag folks!

As my case > event > micro-tourism > hotel > case > airport > next place status enters its third week, after Malaysia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan, I find myself in… Austria!

Why? Well, I just couldn’t pass up on the invite I received to speak at the Alpbach Forum now could I? What’s Alpbach? Well, I’d say it’s a bit like Davos (where the World Economic Forum holds its yearly bash), but with more of a European focus, less a whole-world one like at Davos. Put another way, Alpbach is Davos’ ‘younger brother’. I say ‘younger’ as it’s smaller; however, in one important way it’s better: there’s no whiff of geopolitical distortions and other interference whatsoever. There are also the fresh alpine air and luscious landscapes to be enjoyed too – just like at Davos but at a different time of the year. Nice.

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King Krenitsyna: to climb it you need to be a bit thinner.

It’s hard to believe, but in the northern Kurils there are only two or three days of sunshine – per year! No, really! Therefore, if ever you find yourself sat on the edge of the outer caldera of Krenitsyna Volcano, and the sun is shining – savor every single second, as we’re doing here in this pic – because you could be weeks waiting for the next short-lived installment of fine weather.

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