Nearly two weeks crossing Tibet – along a route we won’t forget.

Hi folks!

As you’ll have guessed from the title of this post, I recently – a mere few months since my previous mega-expedition! – had a vacation in Tibet…

Spoiler alert! It was awesome!

…But don’t feel I’ve spoiled things for you now you know the ending: there are a lot of words and – as per tradition – a lot of pics and vids coming up in a series on this oh-my-Gimalaya trip!

Ok, first, let me give you an overview of our itinerary of the trip – the where, when, how far, and what we saw – broken down into days (with altitudes noted too!)…

Where: This will come as no surprise – Tibet.

When: 7–17 October. This is straight after the National Day of the People’s Republic of China, an ideal time to come as there are a lot less folks around (just don’t tell anyone [sic]!). Plus tag on a day or three to cover flying in and flying out, which makes about two weeks. Out of those, 11 days were full to the brim with tourism activities, and saw us cover almost the whole of southern Tibet along the base of the Himalayas from east to west – 2000km in all (route map).

We arrived in Lhasa on the train along the world’s highest railroad, and we flew out of western Tibet from one of the world’s highest airportsNgari Gunsa Airport:

Now for a bit more detail about the route, breaking it down into the separate days of the journey – in case any of you, dear readers, might one day fancy following this heroic up-tempo march across the vast mountainous terrain of Tibet. First though – a few things I should mention that need to be taken into account.

Thing No. 1: Place names. The names of historical and geographical places is, as we say in Russia – porridge. First of all it seems different names for one and the same place in different languages are used interchangeably – at a minimum in Tibetan and Chinese, but also maybe in English and others. For some place names it’s simple when they’re similar (for example, Lhasa and Lasa), but when you delve deeper into the country, that’s where you get the lumpy porridge. For example, everyone calls the village next to Mount Kailash Darchen, but on Google Maps it’s marked Bagaxiang, from the Chinese! While the same mountain – Mount Kailash (the most sacred mountain for Buddhists) – is given as Kangrinboqe Peak. Eh?!

Or, the final city on our route is sometimes referred to as Ngari Prefecture; other times, by others – Seng-ge Kambab! Meanwhile, its airport refers to itself as Ali Kunsa Airport! And it’s like this everywhere. Accordingly – be prepared!

Thing No. 2: Altitude sickness. I’ve talked about this plenty before, but in Tibet – a country that is practically all high mountains – you need to take it even more seriously. Btw: to get the full picture, I’ll be giving the heights we were at above sea level on each day.

All righty. Here’s our journey:

Day 0-1: The train from Xining to Lhasa. On the evening of Day 0 – we board the train. Come the evening of Day 2 – we exited the train in Lhasa.

Heights: 2300m (Xining); 5072m (on the train); 3600m (Lhasa).

Day 2: Lhasa (3600): Potala Palace, aka (especially on maps) Sera Monastery, and Jokhang Temple.

We wanted to get into the Drepung Monastery, but we didn’t have time to fit it into our single day here. The local tour agency messed up and didn’t tell us. Be very careful with local tour agencies – double check everything yourself. For us this was not an isolated mess-up.

Day 3: Lhasa to Shigatse. Across Yamdrok Lake, past Karola Glacier, and a quick look at Kumbum Monastery in the city of Gyantse – or Jiangzizhen!

Heights: 3600m (Lhasa); 5000m+ a few times en route (a couple half-hour walks a must); 3800m (Shigatsa; sleep).

Day 4: In Shigatse – inspection of the residency of the Panchen Lamas – Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, and from there – to the base camp of Mount Everest!

Heights: 3800m; 5200m (en route); 5000m+ (guesthouse with a view of Mount Everest).

Days 5-6: Everest (the town of Saga) to the village of Darchen (at Mount Kailas). Overnight we stayed in a small hotel.

Heights: 5000m – 4500m – 4600m.

Days 7-9: Encrustation around Mount Kailas.

Heights: 4600m; 5000m+ (overnight stop); 5700m (en route); 4800m (overnight stay); 4600 (Darchen, by Manasarovar Lake, aka Mapam Yumtso!

Day 10: Darchen to Tholing/Zanda, where there are the ruins of Guge Kingdom set in a mountain.

Height: 3700m (the first time in six days we went below 4000m!).

Day 11: to Ngari/Seng-ge Kambab, from where we flew home; rather – onward somewhere to work.

Heights: 4500 (Ngari); 4270m – airport.


That’s all for today folks, but you… can bet I’ll be back soon with more from Tibet!… This will be top-drawer – for sure :-)…

A conference center used just four days a year!

Ni hao, folks!

Recently, we took part in the World Internet Conference, which takes place every year in the touristy town-on-water Wuzhen in western China, here, not far from Shanghai. This was my fourth visit, having been here before in 2015, 2017 and 2018. And since things are developing very nicely for us over in China, I’m sure it won’t be the last time either; it’s a most useful and interesting event.

This year is the sixth annual WIC here. A complex was built especially for it out of two enormous buildings, and this year they’d gone and added a third! ->

Read on…

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3000% growth.

We do reeeaaally interesting work.

We protect users, build a new secure future, and chase cyber-villains the world over. At the same time, the ‘landscape’ is constantly changing, meaning there’s never a single moment we might get bored.

Yes, ‘digital’ these days penetrates even the most unlikely, remote and conservative areas of activity of Homo sapiens, and, alas, the greasy fingers of the computer underground and also the cyber-war-mongers are right there with it up to no good. In the early 2000s, I’d joke up on stages around the world about ‘smart’ [sic] refrigerators one day DDoS’ing coffee machines. Fast forward 15 years, and it’s a reality. So you can see why, in the 30 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never once been bored ).

Threats are changing – and so is our business. For example, did you know that last year sales of our industrial infrastructure solutions increased by 162%? And total growth of our NON-antivirus segment amounted to 55%? Or that we’re the only major cybersecurity company to create our own specialized operating system based on secure architecture? And that we’re already implementing it with gusto in diverse fields such as the Internet of Things, telecoms and the automotive industry? Or how many interesting projects our Growth Center helped survive their crucial first months of life? For example: our Polys blockchain platform for online voting; protection against drones; and the Verisium IoT system for genuine-product authentication?

But it’s not just our technologies and products that are changing. Our traditional business models are changing too. ‘Box moving’ and retail business are being swallowed up by ‘digital’, enterprise projects are becoming all the more customized (attracting large broad-competency system integrators), and the SMB segment is practically migrating en masse up into the cloud.

And then there’s the cosmic rise of our xSP business – sales of cyber-protection for subscribers of most anything that’s online, be they services of telecoms or internet providers; online banking, insurance, and financial services… even games communities. And this is a very promising market segment, simply because, as per the ancient (!) truism, ‘who owns the traffic owns the customer’. What’s more, customers get a useful service at a special price, the operator takes its margin, and we take our profit. Everybody wins ). So, now do you ‘get’ the title to this post?…

…In six years, our xSP business has grown a full 3000%, and is now worth more than $30 million! That’s around 10% of our global B2C sales! Oh my gross-sales-figures! We work with more than 500 partners around the world on xSP, including such large global and regional operators as Telecom Italia, Orange, Sony Network Communications, Linktel, UOL, and IIJ. What we do is offer a ‘tasty’ margin, gladly make white label versions of our products, integrate them with the automation platforms (for example, CloudBlue (aka – Odin) and the NEC Cloud Brokerage Suite), conduct joint marketing activities, and set up the technical support. But it’s not just a ‘trick’ we use to get more profit: if our technologies and products at bottom weren’t the best in the world – as proven repeatedly, constantly, in independent tests – I’m not sure xSPs would be giving us so much business.

Still on xSPs, just recently we had our Kaspersky xSP Summit in Rome. This is our annual event for partners, and this year we had guests from 32 countries in attendance, including from Brazil, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the U.S.A. We summed up the year, chatted, talked about future technologies and products, discussed the prospects for joint projects, brainstormed, and exchanged practical experience. In short – business as usual, plus a recharge of the batteries for the next 12 months up until the next summit.

Read on…

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Kurils-2019 adventure – over and out.

All righty. After our brief inspection of the Commander Islands, we raced back to the Athens and set sail for Kamchatka. But no matter how fast we sailed, we couldn’t keep ahead of the storm – approaching sternwards. That last detail – sternwards – was actually a blessing in disguise: if it had come in from the port or starboard side it could have spelled disaster. So, in a word: phew.

In the photos below it may not be easy to grasp just how high those waves got: much higher than the Athens! Good Lord were they powerful – rocking the boat around like… a bucking bronco. Not for the squeamish. Most of the posse stayed on their bunks for a full two days while the storm passed, with only a few occasionally adventuring out to the dining room ).

Read on…

Tyuleny – the resort-island… for seals.

Hi folks!

It seems a bit strange looking at some of my summer holiday photos and editing them, especially when they don’t even relate directly to the Kurils, even though they were taken on our Kurils-2019 adventure! But we’d gotten to the end of the Kurils, so there were no more of them in line for us to check out. The next island after Kunishir is Japan’s Hokkaido. So we took a right (westerly) turn, and headed toward the island of Sakhalin. I say toward, as we didn’t make it to that island. Instead we stopped at a micro-island just off one of its three southern capes – Tyuleny Island; which is appropriately named, as you’ll see in the vids and pics below: Tyuleny means Seals – Seal Island!

Read on…

‘Zavaritsky: a ‘Festival of Vivid Volcanic Color that Couldn’t Be Fuller!’

Hi folks!

This is getting silly. Our Kurils expedition this year was in summer. Soon – it’ll be winter! So I’d better get back to my tales from the Kurilian side and make some decent progress toward finishing them; otherwise it’ll be Christmas and I’m still on about our summer holidays.

So, as every YouTuber loves to say, ‘without further ado’, let’s get back (far-)east. Specifically – ~40 kilometers to the southwest of Brouton Bay along the eastern coast of the Kuril island of Simushir, namely – at Zavaritsky Caldera.

Zavaritsky is yet another voluptuous volcano of the Kurils. Now, if Krenitsyn is the ‘King of the Volcanoes’, and Ushishir is the ‘Jewel in the King’s Crown’, where does that leave Zavaritsky? Zavaritsky is… the ‘Cherry on the Colorful Cake’, which the king, in his crown, loves to eat, when he gets the munchies. Ok, I have backed myself into a corner with the metaphors, so… let me extract myself from the compulsion to stick with royalty, its headgear and sweet-tooth, and simply state that Zavaritsky is… – a ‘Festival of Vivid Volcanic Color that Couldn’t Be Fuller!’

See for yourself ->

Read on…

Up an orange stream – for a fumarole-stroll.

There’s another volcanism feature on Kunashir definitely worth a visit: the fumarole ‘fields’ of Mendeleyeva Volcano. Last time we strolled across one such field; this time we walked along the river toward the second. And a wonderful walk it was too. Though it was a ‘mere’ eight kilometers one way, another eight back, it still took our group of office dwellers the full day to cover it. Still, taking our time meant the meditative-enjoyment factor was fully guaranteed!

To get to the nearest fumarole field you take the forest path; to get to the furthest one you take… the river! The overgrowth either side of the river is just too thick for trekking. So it’s on with the Wellingtons and off you splash, enjoying the views all around as you do!…

Woah. Bright green volcanic discharge. I wasn’t sure whether to say ‘urrggh’, or ‘woweeeee’!

The bush with the pink leaves. Actually, one side of the leaves is the customary green color; the other – that there bright pink. Mutant foliage!

Along the banks of the river – the highway for the local inhabitants:

The deepest bit of the river:

In places the constant water erosion reveals secrets of the periodic table in the stone:

The further up we got, the more often did we have to switch on the ‘4×4’.

Suddenly – ruins of Japanese sulfur mining buildings:

After two or three hours, we finally make it to the top. Time for our habitual ritual when we’re atop mountains or… fumarole fields: sit, chill, meditate, zone out, or whatever else you want to call it…

The multicolored volcanico-fumarolio are a wonderful sight to behold, and none of the strong odors that normally accompany such sulfuric sights as these.

Pleasant surroundings, comfortable, calm. The only thing disturbing the peace and quiet – the buzz from the drone. But given the quality of the vids it takes – it is forgiven ).

Of all the many colors here, perhaps the most outstanding are the rich reds and awesome oranges. Clearly plenty of ferrous oxide round here…

Alas, time to head back…

…And not just to the Athens. It’s almost time for us to head back to civilization: our Kurils adventure is drawing to a close (.

The rest of the Kurils-2019 pics are here.

Aniva: the lighthouse on the edge of the world.

Hi folks!

The next port of call on our Kurils-2019 adventure was… not one of the Kurils ). Nope, it was a next-door neighbor: the southernmost point of the island of Sakhalinhere – on the end of Cape Aniva, where there is a lighthouse of the same name. Very impressive it is too – check out the pics and drone-vid:

Дальше: разруха, запустение и чайки…

The one and only – Stolbchaty.

Next up for us – in fact, our last Kuril Island of this year’s expedition – was Kunashir, which, luckily, happens to be covered in outstanding volcanisms. To the north there’s Tyatya; to the south of it there are Cape Stolbchaty and its crazy columns; and further south there are the multicolored fumarole fields of Mendeleyeva Volcano and the hot mud baths in the Golovina Caldera. Each instance of volcanism – spectacularly beautiful in its own right; but all together they make sure the island of Kunashir would – if it were in China – geyt a full KKKKK rating!

We were here five years ago, and I wrote plenty about this phenomenal island then and showed you a ton of pics. Here, I’ll just be complementing that earlier narrative and photography with some extra-special new impressions.

Alas Tyatya wasn’t ‘open for visitors’ when we were there – the weather was too bad and the huge waves didn’t permit us a safe landing. But we did get a rerun of Mendeleyeva’s fumaroles and the stone pillars of Stolbchaty.

If you had to describe Kunashir with just one word, what would it be? ‘Ура!’, of course (in Russian), which means ‘hurray’ in English. Accordingly – basalt graffiti thereof:

Read on…