There’s North; then there’s Norilsk.

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…

—8<—

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.

Read on…

Leaden sky.

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.

Read on…

Geothermal-gastronomical.

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.
– Oh…

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…

Read on…

The kings of Kamchatka.

It’s high time I said a few words about the kings of Kamchatka. Brown, self-powered mammoths with all-wheel drive, which you need to treat with the utmost caution should you ever meet any…

To the inevitable question upon returning home – ‘Did you see any bears?’ – we answered in the positive. The bears saw us too, but since bears don’t do cameras – and were anyway far more interested in the masses of fish in the rivers – they took little notice of us: a quick, sated glance over in our direction and off they shuffled. We, on the other hand, took lots of notice of them – with our Kamchatka newbies doing most of the photography.

You might think it’d be a bit risky taking pics of bears out in the wilds – no matter how satiated they are. And you’d be right. But from where we were observing them the dangers had been taken fully into account: low-current electric fences separate the beasts from the humans; in fact, they surround the living/observing areas completely, like this:

Read on: some awesome close-up shots…

White water.

When you climb up or descend down the very orange Koshelev volcano, it’s practically impossible to miss the white waterfalls. Which is just as well as missing these fine cascades of H2O would be most regrettable; for these are truly unique phenomena.

I mean, the water in these falls isn’t just seemingly white, much like waves coming in off the ocean (all the bubbles/froth). This water is actually really white – like milk! How so? Well, due to the local volcanism there’s an unusually high concentration of aluminum (and other similar natural elements) in the water here, not only making the water milky, but also leaving deposits of whiteness on the bedrock underneath and along the waterways. The milky water also seals up the walls of underground natural streams, forming tubes – along which water flows invisibly to the eye. And since here there are sharp changes in altitude, at the exits of the underground well springs it’s no mere bubble-fest, it’s a full-on whitewater splashing frenzy as it spurts out of the ground! Not quite geysers, but equally fascinating – and more unusual and unique.

Read on…

Orange rocks.

There are many colored rock formations – especially red ones – around the world. The most famous are the red rocks of Utah and Arizona, and Uluru in Australia. Less famous are ones for example in different parts of China, like in Zhangye. But most of them become brightly colored only when there’s a low sun either at dawn or dusk – or when Photoshop is used for digital color boosting. On Kamchatka on the other hand there’s a place where red rocks glow brightly all day – not just in the mornings and evenings. That place is the volcano named Koshelev:

Wow. Orange, white, green… – scenes serene you could gawp at for hours…

Read on…

Beach-walking tourism.

— ‘So, how did you spend the summer?’
— ‘First – up in the mountains.’
— ‘And then?’
— ‘In plaster!’

Hi folks!

It’s been a while hasn’t it? Perhaps one of the longest ever stints away from my cherished blog. But with this post I am clearly back and raring to go, so, without further ado, let’s get this re-fired up…

And what better way to fire things up than a first installment of tales from the volcanic side, which also happen to be from the far-eastern seaboard-of-Russia side – that is, from Kamchatka!

Now, I have to admit that this was not – by far – the most outstanding of my many trips to the peninsula. One key factor was the weather this year; while Europe was having possibly one of its finest summers ever weather-wise, over in Kamchatka the weather was truly terrible. All the same, as ever, there’s still plenty to tell and show (photographically) you.

Oh my Gorely! It turns out this trip was my sixth to Kamchatka (not including a brief stay in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on our way to the Kurils in 2014). The first was back in 2006. Then again in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2015. And it won’t be the last time either; for Kamchatka, still, IMHO, is the most glorious place on the planet – even more so than New Zealand!

All righty. Today’s episode: Beach-walking tourism.

Tourism comes in all shapes and sizes. There are lazy beach holidays (or not so lazy if you’ve got the kids with you:); there are the more (grown-up) cultural holidays featuring museums, ruins, monasteries and other such historical attractions; there are shopping holidays… all of which are very popular with the masses. There are oceangoing holidays – be they exclusive affairs on expensive yachts with a helicopter on the deck or the more democratic huge ocean-liner-based ones. Then there are road trips on which you simply look around at the passing surrounding geography – that’s also tourism.

But here I’ll be telling you about a different kind of tourism: the kind during which you need to use your legs a lot with all the walking and climbing, and have a backpack on your shoulders carrying warm clothes, cameras and batteries, some snacks to keep you going for the next few hours or days, and sometimes even a tent. This is tourism of the hiking-trekking vibe, involving mountains, sometimes sports, sometimes volcanoes… normally requiring of the participating tourist both experience and training (sometimes you can do without both experience and training if the difficulty/distance level isn’t so tough).

Sporty walking, skiing, climbing, river/lake/sea/ocean-based tourism – there’s plenty to go at. But there’s one more you may not have heard of: beach-walking tourism! No, I don’t mean walking across a beach to your preferred spot for a spot of sunbathing-cocktailing-reading, and I don’t mean walking to the beach-volleyball court either. I’m talking when you trek for miles upon miles with a heavy backpack along a very long beach. Kinda like this:

Read on…

iDeath of eVoldemort

Fairy tales and fantasy stories have long dispelled the myth about the invincibility of global storybook power brokers and villains (as for us, for more than 20 years we’ve been busting the very same myth in cyberspace). Every Voldemort relies on security of his diary, his ring, his snake, his… well, I guess you know all about the Horcruxes. And the success of your war on villainy, whether fairytale or virtual, depends on two key qualities: perseverance and intellect (meaning technology). Today I will tell you how perseverance and intellect, plus neural networks, machine learning, cloud security and expert knowledge — all built into our products — will keep you protected against potential future cyberthreats.

In fact, we have covered the technologies for protection against future cyberthreats before (more than once, a lot more than once, and even for laughs). Why are we so obsessed with them, you may wonder.

It’s because these technologies are exactly what makes robust protection different from fake artificial intelligence and products that use stolen information to detect malware. Identifying the code sequence using a known signature after the malware has already sneaked into the system and played its dirty tricks on the user? No one needs that. “A poultice on a wooden leg,” so to say.

But anticipating cybervillains’ patterns of thought, apprehending the vulnerabilities they’ll find attractive, and spreading invisible nets capable of automatic, on-the-spot detection — only a few industry players are capable of that, sad but true. In fact, very few, according to independent tests. WannaCry, the decade’s largest epidemic, is a case in point: Thanks to System Watcher technology, our products have proactively protected our users against this cyberattack.

The key point is: One cannot have too much future cyberthreat protection. There is no emulator or big-data expert analysis system able to cover all of the likely threat vectors. Invisible nets should cover every level and channel as much as they can, keeping track of all objects’ activities on the system, to make sure they have no chance ever to cause trouble, while maintaining minimum use of resources, zero “false positives,” and one hundred percent compatibility with other applications to avoid blue screens of death.

The malware industry keeps developing, too. Cybervillains have taught (and continue to teach) their creations to effectively conceal themselves in the system: to change their structure and behavior, to turn to “unhurried” action modes (minimize the use of computing resources, wake up on schedule, lie low right after penetrating the target computer, etc.), to dive deep into the system, to cover up their traces, to use “clean” or “near-clean” methods. But where there is a Voldemort, there are also Horcruxes one can destroy to end his malicious being. The question is how to find them.

A few years ago, our products beefed up their arsenal of proactive technologies for protection against advanced cyberthreats by adopting an interesting invention (patent RU2654151). It employs a trainable objects behavior model for high-accuracy identification of suspicious anomalies in the system, source localization and suppression even of the most “prudent” of worms.

Read on…

KL comes of age.

21 years old – this used to be (and in some religions/countries still is) the age when a young person became an adult – aka came of age. A real ‘milestone’ as it were – a biggie; a special birthday, a jubilee…

Well guess who turned from being a minor into an adult just the other day?…

You guessed right: KL!

And a KL b-day – as probably everyone knows by now – means it’s time to party: with a capital ‘P’. All we needed was good weather to allow the party to really rock. Well this year we were in luck:

A monster b-day blowout, in addition to the good weather also needs a monster venue. Check!

What else is needed? I could list the ingredients; showing you the pics thereof is a lot more satisfying:

Read on: 50 inflatable unicorns…

Geneva fever.

Geneva this July is hot. If it were a human body it would be running a fever of over 38 degrees Celsius! And there was me thinking places like Morocco had a monopoly on sweltering temperatures. Clearly a myth. What makes it especially like an oven here is the lack of wind – plus the lake doesn’t seem to help out cooling the place either; that doesn’t stop folks gathering on the beaches along its shores…

Read on…