Magadan–Moscow road trip: 12,000km… but how many speeding tickets?!

As you’ll recall, at the start of this year a group of colleagues and pals and I completed a road trip practically across the full length of Russia – from as far east as you can get in a car (Magadan) all the way to Moscow (just a few hundred kilometers more and you’d hit Belarus), along the way stopping off at various worthy places of interest.

The journey took us a whole month (we could have done it quicker, but we took various detours and also dropped in on a few partners), during which we covered some 12,000 kilometers. A mind-blowing road trip it was too. After arriving in Moscow and finally coming to my senses after a month of senses-and-impressions-overload, I put fingers to keyboard to write a series of posts on the experience. Those posts tell how the trip turned out: somewhat unexpectedly – absolutely awesome. No – perfect! So white, so cold, so permafrost, so vast, so unusual, so endless… so surprisingly well-kempt (the roads, that is).

Read on…

The 12 most beautiful places in the world. No.12: Red… dunes.

Number 12 out of 12, already?!

You’ve had granite mountains, the world’s most voluptuous volcano, the most gorgeous glacier, the most wonderful waterfalls, and the coolest cliffs. You’ve also had quite a lot of redness already: red arches, and a huge red rock. Well here’s some more redness for you: red dunes!

#12. Dunes of the Namib desert, Namibia, Africa.

Enormous dunes of reddish sand, in places more than 300 meters high; vast open spaces, astounding scenery. Clouds give the dunes a special shade-spotty look:

Read on…

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  • St. Petersburg International Economic Forum
  • St. Petersburg International Economic Forum
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The 12 most beautiful places in the world. No. 11: While my fiord gently weeps.

Next up, not far from yesterday’s Oz, we’re in New Zealand, for what Rudyard Kipling called the eighth wonder of the world – and what I call #11 on my Top-12: the fiord that weeps!

No. 11. Milford Sound, New Zealand

This is a fiord, some 15 kilometers in length, that leads to a bay onto the Tasman Sea (the strait between NZ and Oz). And down the steep cliffs either side of it stream, flow, fall and fly below streamlets, streams and waterfalls. As with all the other Top-12ers, breathtaking to behold and marvelous to meditate upon. Looking at it from all different sides highly recommended, as is shouting your head off for the mega-echoes ).

Read on…

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The 12 most beautiful places in the world. No. 10: Greatest ocean road & greatest ocean cliffs.

Just like we stayed in China for two entries to my Top-12, we’re in Australia for a couple too. There was Friday’s Ayers Rock, and today there’s…

#10. Great Ocean Road, Australia.

Ok, ok: I realize a road is man-made, but it’s not the road itself I’m referring to. It’s the views from it – along its full length (243km) – that I mean. The cliffs, stone columns, arches and tunnels cut into or out of the sandstone over millions of years by the ocean’s waves. Also: the unending views out over the ocean, in the direction of Antarctica…

Pre-1990, one of the arches – actually, a couple of arches – was named ‘London Bridge’, as it resembled (loosely!) its namesake. However, in 1990 one of the arches collapsed due to corrosion, and became known – as it still is today – as London Arch! (Incidentally, the same thing happened just last week in the Galapagos Islands!). Fortunately no one was on the part that collapsed – but there were some tourists on the outer section who were stranded. They had to be evacuated by helicopter.

The bonus of this entry on my list is that you can behold all, or most, of these awesome sights in the comfort of your car. Still, stopping for snaps is hardly a chore.

It’s recommended to drive its full length in both directions. We did this in a couple of days, but that was way too little time to fully appreciate the sights. I’d recommend at least three days, better – four, or even more…

The Twelve Apostles are one of the highlights of a Great Ocean Road trip. They’re really impressive: massive, stratified with layers of different colored rock, and the loud crashing waves below. Originally they were called the ‘Sow and Piglets’. Then, around a hundred years ago someone thought they might attract more tourists with a more venerable name, so they were renamed the Apostles!

Why they’re called the ’12’ Apostles I don’t know (apart from the obvious but still hardly applicable reason), since there are just eight of them, down from nine not too long ago when one of them collapsed. Oh those Aussies ).

The 12 most beautiful places in the world. No. 9: Big red rock @ big red desert.

To get to number nine in my Top-12, we head directly south and west a bit from China – down to Australia: a journey I’d never say no to…

Alrighty…

#9. Ayers Rock, Australia.

Aka Uluru (pics only; Russian text), this is another unique natural object, sat right in the middle of this vast country. No one knows how it formed, but that mystery only adds to the appeal of this red rock formation:

Read on…

The 12 most beautiful places in the world. No. 8: ‘Floating’ stone columns.

Guess what? Just like yesterday’s #7, today’s #8 is also in China!

No. 8. The stone pillars of Wulingyuan, China.

More mind-blowing naturalnesses. But, they’re on this list – so of course they are. More than 3000 quartzite sandstone pillars and peaks – some reaching nearly a kilometer in height! – covering an area of nearly 370 square kilometers. Oh my god-who-created-this-magical-scene! ->

There are at least three entirely different spectacles to be viewed here. In sunny weather – you get like in the above pic. If it’s overcast it’ll probably also be foggy – like this:

Read on…

The 12 most beautiful places in the world. No. 7: The granite goliath.

Welcome back folks!…

#7 on my lists is a mountain. And it happens to be in China. ‘Fair enough’, I hear you say ).

But… it’s the only mountain on this list. Some of you will say ‘fair enough’ to that, too. But I’m certain many others won’t. For I know there a mountain fans who will insist there MUST be more, since there are so many OMG mountains with OMG walks thereon and OMG views therefrom. So, before I get to this entry, first, a bit of an explanation as to why there’s just one mountain!…

First, there are a great many volcanoes in the world, yet in this unashamedly elitist list, there’s just one volcano. Sure, it happens to be the ‘king’ of the list (it’s the king of the volcanoes too), but still: just one. And that’s it: I’ve mentioned before the clearly objective fact (!) that volcanoes are superior to mere mountains in terms of aesthetics; so why would there be more mountains in this list than volcanoes?

Second: when it comes to mountains, to reach the mind-blowing views that they can offer (incidentally, enhanced by the euphoria you get when the effects of altitude sickness start to take hold), you need to climb, and climb, and climb, and climb significant distances – normally up steep slopes. Now, my list is populated exclusively with objects that can be visited by practically any adult with a bare minimum of physical fitness. For example, a 10-15km trek across easy (not too steep) terrain, like walks to and around Krenitsyn volcano or Englichek Glacier.

Yes, besides physical preparedness, there’s also the fact that some objects require a not insignificant budget to get to, which might push them off-limits to some. However, the financial side of things is beyond the scope of discussion re my top-12.

Third, the other contenders for the only mountain to be featured on my list also happen to be in China. There are simply that many oh-my-grandiose mountains in this huge country. So I decided the single mountain simply had to be a Chinese one and not a mountain in any other country. Ok, I think I’m exhausting this caveat-proviso build-up, if not losing the thread completely. Enough! And the single mountain is…

No. 7. Mount Hua, China.

A humungous hulk of granite with practically vertical walls more than two kilometers high. The views of the mountain itself and from the mountainside are out-of-this-world. There’s no other way to describe it:

Read on…

The 12 most beautiful places in the world. No. 6: The grandest canyon.

Next up on my Top-12 – still stateside, and in fact just 500 kilometers away from Entry No. 5 (Delicate Arch in Utah) – we have Entry No. 6:

Grand Canyon, Arizona, U.S.A.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Grand Canyon isn’t the world’s largest – neither in terms of width, depth or length. But in terms of it’s meditative-ruminative-reflective & zoning-outative suitability – it beats the rest by a long way, at least those I’ve seen personally or seen photos of on the net.

Read on…

There are museums above the Arctic Circle too: who knew?!

Still up above the Arctic Circle, after our excursion of the phostpates mine, it was back to the town of Kirovsk. It’s not only a mining center, it’s a skiing one too. I really hoped we could get a half-day of downhill skiing in, but it wasn’t to be; as often is the case – ‘we’ll have to do that next time’. The ‘cultural program’ this time was somewhat more modest: a visit to the town’s museum! It’s rather small, but all the same there’s plenty to see.

In room 5 there’s a collection of mineral stones – around a thousand of them! Wonderful! It reminded me of my once uttering ‘Mom, I want to be a geologist!’

Oh my geology! So many! All different somehow – in terms of chemical make-up, color, shape. Odd names too – many I’d never heard of:

Read on…

Remote working – even miners do it.

Hi folks!

I’d heard a lot about modern mining equipment that works autonomously, i.e., without a miner nearby controlling it. Well now I’ve seen it in action too – the other day, when I paid a visit to Phosagro in the Khibiny Mountains on the Kola Peninsula – inside the Arctic Circle! – in the northwest corner of Russia, not far from the Finnish border.

Here’s a robo-miner drilling into rock, all on its lonesome:

Whereas today’s ‘miners’ sit in a brightly-lit, air-conditioned office operating joysticks occasionally and checking the progress of the robots on a bank of screens:

Read on…