Kamchatka can be fun; Kamchatka can be frightening.

Volcanic landscapes are capriciously changeable…

For example, a beautiful volcano can stand pretty much unchanged for 100, 200 or 1000 years, and then ‘bang!’ – volcanic debris is flying in all directions, lava rivers flowing from volcanic vents, smoke bellowing several kilometers up into the sky, and the earth fairly shuddering. Well, that’s one scenario – the longer-term one.

There’s another scenario – of a shorter term (i.e., more regular), and of a much smaller scale. And such regular scenarios mean that a volcanic landscape can – and should – be returned to again and again: the picture you’ll be presented with is bound to be different somehow. For example, Bezymianny (which I told you all about in my previous post) has a gradually growing cone rising up inside its colossal crater ->

While from the other side, it looks like no changes at all:

But, when we look a bit closer, we did see a few changes of an unexpected kind…

Read on…

Kamchatka-2021: These volcanisms were made for walking, so that’s just what we did!

Sunset views of the Klyuchevsky group of volcanoes – done.

Aerial views of same (from a helicopter) – done.

Next up – walkies…

The route went something like this: heading southwest, and then west around Bezymianny volcano – known for its catastrophic eruption in 1956, which led to powerful pyroclastic flows (for those wondering what they are, and interested in learning about different types of eruptions – check out this link and other links below, included specially for the curious types among you).

And here she is – Bezymianny (Unnamed). The view from the southeast, which was the direction of the lateral blast of the eruption in 1956:

Though it’s been a full 65 years since that explosion, there’s still no vegetation on the volcanic landscape here today. The material spewed out of the bowels of the earth is probably simply too poisonous with assorted volcanic chemicals (too alkaline, or too acidic, or too much of this, that or the other…).

Read on…

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Volcanoes in a row – one, two, three: it has to be… – Klyuchevsky!

Well, well. Here’s a first: I recently suffered a bout of writer’s block.

In the past, when I’d return from various exotic/meditative/emotionally-charged travels, tales (plus pics) from the adventure-tourism side would start to appear on this here blog of mine practically straight away. This time, however, I just couldn’t get my self going. The proverbial first step was indeed proving the hardest. Odd. I wondered why…

Well, first – I’d been to Kamchatka several times before, and duly written up series of reports on most of those trips. And I’m never one to go over the same ground: life’s too short for repeats!

Second – the weather on this year’s expedition around the peninsula was worse than usual – and it’s always mostly bad weather in Kamchatka! Sure, it could have been worse. It could have been a lot better too. Glass full or empty? I digress…

Third – due to the bad weather, I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked: I didn’t have much to show for a month-long tour.

Fourth – I committed a serious… pedagogical mistake: I agreed to take with me on the trip colleagues who weren’t quite prepared enough – neither morally nor physically. They’d read my previous expedition reports, and seen the photos, and so had long dreamed of joining me for a pop at the peninsula. However, instead of being able to gently ease themselves into all things extreme, severe and somewhat goddamn awful uncomfortable, they were thrown in at the deep end, for this year’s weather, as already mentioned, was mostly… goddamn awful – and most everything in Kamchatka depends on the weather. For this, I apologize sincerely to my colleagues who had a real tough time of it.

I finally put fingers to keyboard once I’d settled on the appropriate, doable, and – for me – most enjoyable format: a bit of a historical, encyclopedic, ‘all I know’ review of everything awesome I’ve experienced for myself in Kamchatka (so I’m not short on tales and pics due to this year’s deficit thereof). Oh, and any awesomenesses I’ve yet to experience I’ll save until having done so on future expeditions – of which there will be several, I hope!…

Well that was an (unexpectedly) long proviso-explaino intro, no?! So without more of a do, let me give you some snaps ->

That trio of voluptuous volcanoes are three of the total of 14 that make up the Klyuchevsky group of volcanoes. From left to right: Bezymianny (‘Unnamed’), Kamen (‘Rock’), and Klyuchevskaya Sopka. Kamen died out long ago, Bezymianny occasionally erupts violently, while Klyuchevskaya Sopka is so extremely active its peak doesn’t even have a constant height above sea level!

All righty. Lengthy intro text & intro pics – done. Next… everything I’ve seen in Kamchatka. No pressure…

Read on…

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Kamchatkan Mirages: foreword.

Hi folks!

Oh my… golden leaves! It’s fall already! Is it just me, or do summers seem to get shorter and shorter by the year? Still, there’s a good reason why my summer seemed to fly past – a third of it (mid-July to mid-August: nearly a whole month) I spent in Kamchatka, my fave place on the planet, where, as always, I had much fun and adventures, during which of course times flies…

And time flies for me still to this day (year) in Kamchatka, even though this trip was my seventh full vacation on the peninsula (not including quick ins-and-outs en route to the Kuril Islands a few times). And another thing that never seems to change is the fact that there are still plenty of places in Kamchatka that I’ve yet to get to and fully investigate (there are also a great many astonishingly beautiful places there I just never tire of returning to).

Here, for example, is a place I’ve never visited – the Zheltovsky volcano – near the southernmost tip of the peninsula ->

So, why Kamchatka?

Read on…

Express-tourism amid strict Spanish forbidden-ism.

Welcome back to Barcelona folks!

After the few days of business in the city, as per, it was time for some express-tourism. Well of course it was – such a beautiful, sunny part of the world as this is! ‘Tourism? But there’s a pandemic on!’. Indeed, this post may come across somewhat provocative, and for that I apologize. What with covid still lingering, it’s hardly politically correct to wax lyrical about visits to world-class tourist destinations now is it? A bit like… A Feast in a Time of Plague, even. So, here goes with my brief justifications: (i) we didn’t go to Catalonia simply for tourism – this was a brief post-scriptum dosage thereof after our reason for coming – MWC-2021; (ii) we were super-careful and followed all the rules and observed all the restrictions to the letter; and (iii) I took plenty of pics while there, which really do need to be shared ). Justifications sufficient? Eek. Hope so…

Actually, though I don’t encourage everyone to pile down to Barcelona/Girona just now as that would cancel out what I’m about to say, right now is a perfect time for tourism here. The reason is simple: all the places of interest for tourists are practically empty. For example, here’s Barcelona’s famous La Rambla; normally you can’t move for the crowds. Look at it today:

You’d think it was February or some other low-season month.

Read on…

Abandoned, decaying settlements – even in Maldives!

When you get to travel all over the world armed with a camera, you get to take snaps of all sorts of natural and man-made objects of varying degrees of unusualness, attractiveness, monumentalness, and a thousand other nesses. But, occasionally, you find yourself taking pics of certain less attractive objects – albeit ones still possessing a certain mysterious appeal: I’m referring to abandoned, deserted settlements: dilapidated buildings left to rot, streets all overgrown; decay, ruin. All rather depressing, but still, clickety-clack go the cameras!

I’ve seen a few such places over the years. In January of this year a group of petrol-heads and I dropped in on the dead town of Kadykchan on the Kolyma Highway in Russia’s far-east. A year earlier we paid a visit to the half-buried-in-sand ghost town of Kolmanskop in Namibia, Africa. The year before that we were in the Kurils where we inspected a deserted former military base. Down in Antarctica there was an abandoned Chilean camp (you guessed it, half-buried in snow and ice). And over on the Kamchatka peninsula there was another abandoned military (naval) base, Bechevinka.

And who would have thought it (not me, at first, for one) – you also get this kind of thing in… Maldives! Here it’s not abandoned military bases or mono-towns or former mining settlements, but derelict, crumbling former tourist resorts. You can find a zillion photos online of fancy bungalows lining paradisiacal atolls around these parts; you’ll find a lot less than a zillion like the ones I’m about to show you…

So, there we were, flying up above the Maldives archipelago, and down below all looks as per the script: paradise!…

But if you look a bit closer…

Read on…

Khanty-Mansiysk – sun & cyber, in northwestern Siberia!

Not heard of Khanty-Mansiysk? You have now!…

Don’t know where it is? You do now!

And I would have thought that… Australians wouldn’t have heard of Khanty-Mansiysk, wouldn’t have known where it is, and certainly wouldn’t have been there. However!…

It was back in 2011 (10 years ago?! Where’d that go?!), and a group of K-people and I found ourselves attending to various business matters down in sunny Melbourne in Oz. Meetings, the start of the Formula-1 season, koalas, Castlemaine XXXX, this, that.

We were in town for several days, and of an evening after each day’s business we’d all meet up for eats and beers in the hotel’s bar-restaurant. And every evening the same waitress waited on our table. Already by the second visit we all smiles and hellos and nice-to-see-you-agains. And on the third we got chatting and she asked us where we all hailed from.

We answered: Germany, the U.S.A., and Russia (there were a few locals among us too).

“Oh, Russia?! I want to go to Russia!” came the response.

“Oh, nice. Well, you need to do Moscow of course – in maybe two or three days – then there’s St. Petersburg, where you’ll need at least a week to do it justice.”

“Oh, yes: must do Moscow and St. Pete”, agreed the girl.

Then she added: “So far in Russia I’ve only been to Khanty-Mansiysk!” 8-( )

Now, Khanty-Mansiysk – to a Russian, it’s a bit… backwatery. Like… Billings, Montana, in America; or… Pontefract, West Yorkshire, in the UK. Nice places, but hardly tourist destinations. So you can imagine our surprise when a Melbourne waitress said she’d been to the Russian version of Billings or Pontefract (and not, say, New York or London)!

“WHAT?!” we asked, all agape and wide-eyed in astonishment.

“Yes – Khanty-Mansiysk. I’m a competitive chess player, and there was an international tournament there once.” Check… and mate!

I mean – even I hadn’t been to Khanty-Mansiysk, and you know how I travel all over the place. And it was a full 10 years until I would finally make a visit – just the other week…

Khanty-Mansiysk is just over the Urals from Europe, not far from where the two mighty Siberian rivers the Ob and the Irtysh meet – here:

Read on…

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…

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…