Oh my graying-a-touch! Just the other day I turned the ripe old age of 53. And I was lucky enough to spend most of my birthday on a beach in a tropical clime, at one point – under palm trees. Just like for my 52nd birthday, I was in sunny Seychelles singing ‘She sells sea shells on the seashore in Seychelles’: granite tropical islands, somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean, more than a thousand kilometers from any mainland, and far from intercontinental transportation routes (only one international flight flies past the isles per day (Dubai – Mauritius – Dubai)!).
Flying around the world aplenty as I have a habit of doing, I find that – year after year, no matter where, and practically all the time – I come across all sorts of interesting stories about mankind. Sometimes they’re merry stories, but more often than not they’re sad. Why is that? I think it’s simply because throughout the whole history of humanity any upswing ended eventually turned in a downswing (or worse) – sometimes time and time again. But not only do upswings end in downswings; generally, sooner or later, all stories do.
So why all the negativity, you may ask. Well, I’ve just read the story of the ancient settlement-in-rock, Skaros, on the Aegean island of Santorini (where we’re helping out with the archeological digs). This rocky outcrop is part of an ancient ruined volcano – on the edge of the caldera. I’ve seen it many times, taken many a pic of it, and climbed up to its peak. But this here story I’ve only just heard.
It’s no secret I globetrot much of the time. Most of the time that trotting of the globe is for business (meetings, conferences, speeches and so on), but sometimes I get a slot just before or after whatever event I have scheduled in which I can squeeze a bit of micro-tourism – checking out the local… whatever needs checking out really – the tourist attractions, must-see’s and/or must-do’s that lie nearby. More often than not it truly is ‘micro’: seen it, snapped it, back-to-work/airport. But occasionally it’s ‘macro’, detailed, relaxed (if I’m lucky), and lengthy inspections of places of interest. Naturally, I prefer the latter.
Anyway, way back in 2011, seeing as though I was lucky enough to visit so many fantastic places in the world, I figured I should come up with a ‘Top-100 Must-See Places in the World’ – according to Yours Truly, of course. Which is what I did.
Fast forward to 2015, and it was time for an update for my Top-100. Well, there are only three whole months left until 2019 already, so I think it’s high time for another update: I’ve been to many more new places, and some have entered the list while others have been dropped…
Which brings me to this post you’re reading right now: yes, herewith – the introduction to my new, shiny, amended, updated, upgraded and improved Top-100 list – ver. 2018, coming up in different posts in the near future.
Quick disclaimer: the ordering of the new additions to the list may seem a bit higgledy-piggledy and non-sensical. Let me just tell you there is method in the seeming madness, and ask you to please bear with me. All will become clear – eventually (right at the end; must keep you guessing, you see:).
Disclaimer 2: the photos here will be dazzlingly bright. Careful with that axe Eugene, and careful with the brightness/contrast controls on your monitor too!
For now though: a warm-up/teaser for you – some photographic highlights of Top-100 candidates since the 2015 incarnation of the list.
After Munich, I headed almost directly south to Rome for a few days full of intense business activity. For there was a lot going on down there for KL…
First and foremost it was our Italian office’s tenth birthday! What? Already? A decade? Where did that go? So, of course, it was celebration time: we gathered together our partners, favorite customers and old friends for a jubilee jamboree, and it was just great!
Many happy returns KL Italy. Here’s to the next 10 years! Saluti!
Finding myself in Munich at the end of September, it would have been out of the question not checking out Oktoberfest. I mean, why would anyone want to do such a thing? A wonderful, sprawling, fun event that’s not to be missed.
Beer stalls and one-liter jugs, attractions with varying degrees of technical infrastructure (even good old rowing boats), and endless smiling crowds. Fantastisch!
Munich has lots of excellent museums. But when’s the best time of year to go check them out? Turns out: late September/early October. Why? Because that’s when Oktoberfest takes place! Yes, while practically the whole population of the city and surrounding areas, plus millions of tourists from around the world are at the city’s famous Volkfest (the largest Volkfest in the world, no less), the museums are practically empty! Yeh! It’s like having a whole museum to yourself. Weh!
The first museum we checked out was the Pinakothek der Moderne. And just look at all the crowds we had to elbow our way through:
Herewith, the LAST post in the series on our Kamchatka-2018 expedition! No, really. “What? No meandering 30-post extended-version travelogue with several hundred pics?” Nope. Not this year. Don’t worry though: I’ll make up for this year’s scant reportage after the next Kamchatka mission.
But back to this year’s trip…
So. What have I got for you today?
First, of course, there’s the full route taken this year in on the peninsula, with a few assorted pics inserted at different points along the way:
I do hope that this route – plus the few travel-tales in the earlier Kamchatka-2018 posts, or indeed all my Kamchatka notes (and there are a lot of them!) – might make the seemingly daunting destination of Kamchatka a bit less intimidating for some of the more adventurous among you, dear readers. If we can do it – average folks with average fitness levels – so can you! Just follow our route and you’ll be fine ).
Now what else?
As it’s Tuesday, and you’ve probably got enough reading on your plate already, I’ve got for you today a series of videos on this year’s expedition:
1) Expedition highlights:
I’d been planning on getting myself in early September to the Far North industrial city of Norilsk. I’d a chock-full itinerary planned, including giving speeches, business meetings with the management of our highly esteemed customer, plus of course a spot of tourism: checking out the main natural must-see of the region: Putorana Plateau.
At least, like I say: that was the plan. But then Kamchatka-2018 put paid to all that – six weeks with a leg in plaster. So I had to put the trip off. But only I had to postpone it: all the others in our delegation still went. And they had a whale of a time, by all accounts.
Well one of those accounts I’ll give you here: that of D.Z., one of my most-regular travel companions. Herewith, his short essay,plus photos.
(Note (from me): Unfortunately there are no pics of Putorana. Much like what happened most of the time this summer in Kamchatka, the weather turned real bad – not fit for flying. So there was to be no helicopter flight to the Siberian Traps, which incidentally came about around 250 million years ago as the result of a mega volcanic eruption. Btw: that eruption was one of the most global geo-catastrophes this planet of ours has ever seen: it changed its climate, and brought the Paleozoic Era to a close while ushering in that of the Mesozoic and its all its dinosaurs. Remnants of that prehistoric cataclysm can today be found around 100 kilometers from Norilsk, but are rarely accessible to tourists due to the habitually terrible weather conditions above the Arctic Circle. Oh well: next time…
For someone who’s never been to Norilsk, the place is a mere city in the Far North of Russia. However, a taxi ride from its airport around the territory and to its downtown changes this visualization: Norilsk is a more than a mere city; it’s a whole industrial district (one of its official titles is the ‘Norilsk Industrial District’), which covers the wide expanse of land from the Yenisei River to the Putorana Plateau. And its residential neighborhoods – with a population totaling nearly 200,000 – dot this industrial landscape to almost resemble oases.
My definition of happiness: In excellent company; in nice weather (under a warm sun and clear blue skies); with oh-my-gorgeous views all around (and no other tourists getting in the way!); not counting the great many kilometers trekked, or the number of rivers waded or zip-lined across, or the masses of mosquitoes and innumerable insects (which mysteriously disappear all of a sudden); having ones mind, body and soul filled with the rejuvenating tonic of exotic expedition; with a fresh wind blowing; with a spirit that is tranquil, contemplative and meditative… where?… – you guessed it: in KAMCHATKA!!
Along wild meadows, dry tundra, and sometimes swampy stretches; across volcanic rubble… – it all equals contentedness.
There are just two ways to get to the white waterfalls I told you about in a recent post post. You can either walk from the village Pauzhetka (en route to the peaks of Koshelev volcano), or – just the opposite – walk from the same volcano en route to Pauzhetka. So you see: all roads lead to and from Pauzhetka. Accordingly, this post is dedicated to the small yet significant – and most curious – village of Pauzhetka…
Pauzhetka is a village of extremes:
First: It’s probably one of the remotest settlements on the whole of the peninsula. To get there in a regular road car is probably impossible. To get there in a 4×4 or off-road vehicle from nearest town of Ust-Bolsheretsk takes up to two days (including a long stretch along the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk, and probably entailing a few ferry crossings). On the other hand, getting to the village by air isn’t too much trouble: there are scheduled flights once a week (from Petropavlovsk) to Ozernaya airport, which isn’t far from the nearest village on the coast – a mere 30 kilometers from the Pauzhetka. The only other means of transport that can be used to get there is chartered helicopter.
Second: It’s tiny. Locals put the population at a mere 42 folks ((co)incidentally, a magical number:).
Third: Still – as of summer 2018 (!), there’s no cellphone coverage – at all!
Fourth: Though the village is tiny and very inaccessible, it nevertheless has its own… geothermal power plant – Pauzhetskaya (the first power plant of its kind in Russia (or maybe even the USSR – I’m not sure)! As a result, the local area is supplied with free electricity and hot water! Free, as in – zero rubles! And it comes in seemingly unlimited supply: no electricity meters… nothing: as much as you want to use, whenever. Leave the TV on – fine! Never turn the iron off (if that’s what really floats your boat) ok! And it’s not as if the local authorities discourage such wanton waste of energy supplies: they don’t bother turning off every home’s central heating… ever! See – told you the place is one of extremes ).
(Btw: I’ve written about Pauzhetka before.)
AAAnnnyway, that’s all beside the point (yes, I do like to digress).
What makes Pauzhetka so significant to me is that you need to go through it to get to the nearby OMG-stratovolcanoes – Koshelev and Kambalny. Now, since Pauzhetka is located in such a touristic paradise, you might think that it’d be all… Davos-like: nothing but hotels and guesthouses and restaurants to cater for the tourists. Alas – nope. Pauzhetka doesn’t do tourism – for a few reasons.
First, this place is inaccessible, literally middle-of-nowhere, and literally unheard of (almost). Just try Google photos of Koshelev Volcano: my photos are the first to be shown!
Second, getting here ain’t cheap (in part because it’s so hard to get to), which reduces its average-tourist magnetism to around zero. And for the serious explorer-expeditioner-climber, the volcanoes are just too easy to conquer:
– What were you climbing this summer?
– I did a couple volcanoes in Kamchatka.
– Cool. I hear Kamchatka’s the bomb when it comes to serious volcanism. What altitudes did you get up to then?
– Ah. Er… 1800 and 2200 meters.
Accordingly, every tourist passing through Pauzhetka fits easily in this here ‘tourist base’ made up of two buildings with sleeping quarters, the inevitable pool filled with hot thermal water, and lots of vegetable patches and greenhouses:
But these aren’t just regular, common-or-vegetable-garden greenhouses…
First, these are greenhouses supplied with as much free hot water as needed all year round. Second, the soil here is super fertile volcanic soil packed with mega-doses of the minerals fruit and veg love. Third, there’s the industriousness of the locals who tend the greenhouses…