Tag Archives: expedition

Krenitsyna in the Kuril sun: volcanic scenes that simply can’t be outdone!

Let’s say you’re near the top of Krenitsyna Volcano in the Kurils, you’ve applied the Strategic Stratovolcano Stratagem to secure some imminent sunny weather, you have tents with you, sleeping bags and gas stoves (no firewood up there) and all the rest, which you’ve carried with you 500+ meters along the vertical and 9km on foot (7.5km to the edge of the caldera; 1.7km to the pond), you dump it all down on the grass (or put up the tents straight away if the weather’s still poor), sit on the very edge (ideal spot – very comfortable) and are ready to behold the most mind-blowingly picturesque volcanic scene on the planet…

So, what next?…

Next, you just sit and wait. Everything will work itself out. Namely, that just-mentioned most mind-blowingly picturesque volcanic scene on the planet slowly but surely comes into full view. Oh my grandiose! Then, you just stay sitting there, unable to tear your eyes away from it – as if you’d want to ).

Read on…

Flickr photostream

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The King of Volcanos: Krenitsyn volcano, Kuril Islands.

Now we’re done with the northernmost Kuril islands, and it’s time to head south. On the right hand side, we see two islands Antsiferov and Makanrushi. I’ve not heard anything interesting about these two, which is why we pass them by without calling in; perhaps there is something worth seeing that I don’t know about. If anybody knows of something worth seeing on those islands, let me know and I’ll try and visit them next time I’m around this way.

Next on our Kurils route comes sunny Onekotan, a truly remarkable and delightful place! What makes it so special is the Krenitsyn volcano, the most beautiful volcano in the world, positioned at the island’s southern tip. No words or comments can match its beauty… This is the king of all volcanos! A stunning creation. Oh… and there I was trying to steer clear of “words or comments”. Even just looking at these pictures, it takes your breath away… Wow!

Read on…

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Kurils-2019: time to unmoor – let’s start our tour!

Hi folks!

All righty. After a welcome time-out during our flight from Moscow to Petropavlovsk, it was over to our traditional first stop for some much-needed acclimatization – a nice little hotel in the village of Paratunka, made all the more nice by its having a piping hot spring water swimming pool! Just the ticket with nine hours of jetlag to cope with. And after a dip, time to eat like royalty (Kamchatka, being a peninsula surrounded by vast seas, sure knows how to serve up a fresh seafood spread fit for any king:). But I’ve told you about this arrival-ritual plenty of times before, so I won’t go over it all again here.

Moving on – and over to the marine theme; particularly – to the ship that was to take us around the Kurils for a month. And here she is!

Joke. Did I get you?! No, our ride sail for the month was a little more modest; familiar too: it was the Afina or Athens! Yep – the same vessel we toured the Kurils on back in 2014. Here she is, in all her glamour and splendor:

But before we embark, a brief few words about Petropavlovsk port – one of those ‘then and now’ things.

Read on…

Getting a feel – of all things Kuril, 2019.

Hi folks!

Been a while, I know. What can I say? Actually – three words: July and August :).

I’m literally just back from yet another oh-my-gripping summer expedition – this time around the Kuril Islands (the string of islands above Japan at the far-eastern end of Russia, just in case geography ain’t your strong point). Actually, I could say I’m just back from two trips along the full length of the Kurils (I’ll explain quite why later on): from Kamchatka at the northern end; right down to the southern end; over to Sakhalin; back over to the southern-most Kuril island of Kunashir; and back up to practically the northern-most Kuril island of Atlasov right next to Kamchatka again; plus – bonus track – a quick trip to the Commander Islands to the east of Kamchatka (not far Alaskan islands).

In all, around a dozen islands were visited (some of them – twice), walked upon, and snapped aplenty with my trusty Sony. Approximately seven volcanoes were observed up close (again – some twice), but alas Tyatya we didn’t manage to inspect due to poor weather. In all, the intensity of the impressions: off the scale. Back here in Moscow, I’m still swaying on my feet occasionally, for we were a full month living on a small ship out at sea – and that includes every night bar a few (in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and on Kunashir and Onekotan). The number of photos and videos shot from the ground and up in the air (using drones) – oh my: countless. Accordingly, I’ll be uploading portions thereof gradually as I get through them, accompanied by my traditional tales from the road ship, volcano, and other wild places of interest less-visited…

For now, as a taster-teaser – a few highlights:

Read on…

Ecuadorian journeyman – 2019: Quito and home!

Hi folks!

After our excursion around the Galapagos Islands, it was time to return to the mainland and to Ecuador‘s capital – Quito for a proper look round. We’d flown over it a few times already, and stayed in a few hotels en route to or from the airport but not investigated the place on the ground.

Maybe there are parts of the city that are well-designed, well-built built, with lots of greenery and leafiness and overall pleasantness; however, we only saw such a place once – the city’s central square.

The rest of the city – at least those parts we saw – leave a lot to be desired. Untidy, ungroomed, seemingly no plan for town-planning ever, and traffic worse that Moscow’s – and that’s saying something. The old town looks much better and there are some neighborhoods that are interesting (for example, where our hotel was located), but even those – I’d hardly call them charming. Alas, the city is lagging behind other Latin American capitals I know of.

One aggravating factor the city’s huge population all crammed into one relatively small area. To compare, Quito covers nine times less area than Moscow, but its population is just 5.8 times less. But Moscow is a city of practically nothing but high-rise buildings; Quito rarely gets much above two floors across the whole city.

Here are some tourists lapping up Quito’s suburban sprawl. It’s not quite a favela, but it’s getting there. There are some places where the houses are better, but they still seem to be made of non-standard materials and hardly ever painted.

I have a simple rule when visiting a new city: the best way to get a proper feel for it is by taking a stroll through it. First decide on a route, then follow it. Here in Quito it went from the Virgin of Quito monument back to our hotel. Alas, I didn’t get a pic of said monument; you’ll have to make do with one I found on the internet:

Read on…

GALÁPA-GOSH – PT. 9: Now you’ve seen it all.

Our oh-my-Galápa-gosh adventure was fast drawing to a close; just one day, one night and a morning, and we’d be heading home. Though this unwelcome end to the trip loomed heavy on our minds, inevitable Ecuad-awesomenesses still lied ahead for us…

Next stop: the northernmost point of Rábida Islandhere. Dark brown-red beaches and rock, and lots of fur seals. Sure, they lazed around on the beach alongside tourists also lazing about on the beach, but we were used to that already. No, here there was a bonus – a very special, unforgettable bonus – which also served as the day’s Ecuad-awesomeness: they’d swim together with us in the ocean!

Swimming with fur seals is insanely fun. They twist and spin and turn around you for a while, then go off and do the same around another tourist, then come back for a repeat performance, perhaps with the addition of some crazy acrobatic somersaults – and it goes on like that forever! They never stop!

And we even got them on video:

Ahh. So much fun and positive vibes.

And ashore – all that Martian redness: fairly monumental:

And of course, lots and lots of cacti, which turned out to be Opuntia. Sure – I’d seen cactuses shaped like that on windowsills back home, but it was only when we got up close to them here did we realize just how massive they are here:

Suddenly, mommy pelican feeding her little one. Oh my gastroscopy!

Peek-a-boo, we see you!

More boobies in their brightly-colored boots:

A fine feathered species all on his lonesome looking out to sea. Looking for his dinner, maybe?

And the icing on the cake, or – rather – the dessert to our whole Galapagos trip – a beach that goes by the name of Espumilla on Santiago Island, aka San Salvador – here. We strolled along it, our mood still a little low since this would be the last beach of our expedition.

The definition of ‘easy pickings’? These here pelicans gobbling up these here fish that washed up on the beach with some waves!

Btw – I used the right metaphor when I mentioned ‘dessert’, for it turns out that ‘espumilla‘ is a popular dessert in Ecuador! I don’t know what it tastes like, but if it’s as nice as this beach – I want some ).

The following morning was a corker: beautiful weather and………. SEX!…

Tortoise sex, that is ).

Yes, that’s what those frisky tortoises get up to – at Black Turtle Cove – here. And why not? Only natural wanting to propagate one’s species. Perhaps we shouldn’t have taken pics; how would we have liked that? )

Not only did we take pornographic photos, we also learned all the ins and outs of the mating process here from our guide. Apparently it takes a full six (6!!) hours. And the poor female there is underwater for a lot of that time. Well she needs to come up for air occasionally – like in the following pic. Or, sometimes they swim/copulate on their sides so there’s no need to come up for air )).

Occasionally other males swim up to the action hoping to get in on it. Oh my gosh. What? Tortoises doing threesomes? Or more? Tortoise orgies? Well. Now I – and you – have seen it all )).

Meanwhile – check out the pesky voyeurs:

And on that jolly note, I end this Galapa-gosh series. Here was the day’s schedule:

Next up for us – ship, airport (for our morning flight)…

Next morning at the airport, we fancied a drink of water from the empty café in the corner. Some of us wanted just hot water, and found out it cost a full two (2!) US dollars. What?! Maybe that’s why the place was empty? )

As if to make up for the hot water extortion racket in the airport, the plane that awaited us on the apron was brand new, and it was a new-to-me airline too – Avianca:

We flew over Guayaquil once more, checking out both its poorer and richer parts, and further onward we flew…

…And back to Quito.

Now, some aromatic bitters I think, to help the digestion of all those dishes of Galapagos. And there’s no better digestive aid than… reading maps, as you’ll know ).

But first, we need to get to grips with the local place names on maps of this part of the world. See, theses islands were discovered by the Spanish, then the English, then again the Spanish, and each time (almost) every island earned itself a new name!

So, herewith, the various names of the islands we visited (going form north to south and from west to east:

Manage to digest all that?!

So totting those up – that comes to eight islands we visited.

Now for the particular places on the islands we disembarked at:

  • On Santiago: Espumilla beach / Buccaneer Cove
  • On Bartolomé: too small for place names
  • On Rábida: ditto
  • On Baltra: airport
  • On Santa Cruz: Los Gemelos / Pit Craters / Twin Craters; Cerro Dragon / Dragon Hill; Caleta Tortuga Negro / Black Turtle Cove!
  • On San Cristóbal: Cerro Brujo / Witch Hill; Punta Pitt / Pitt Point
  • On Floreana: Post Office Bay and Cormorant Point – no Spanish names
  • On Española: Suarez Point / Punta Suarez; Gardner Bay

Ok. Now, finally – the cognac and cigar! – bring out the route map!

So there you have it folks, the Galapagos Islands – from top to bottom. Highly recommended, it goes without saying. They’re a pain to get to, the whole trip ain’t cheap, and the boat rocks a bit too much for comfort for some; but the raptures, the impressions, the emotions, and the future memories – I think they more than compensate for all that. But don’t take make word for it – have a go yourself! You wont’ regret it.

Over and out from the Galapagos folks!

All the Ecuador pics are here.

GALÁPA-GOSH – PT. 8: PENGUINS… AT THE EQUATOR!

I think this day was the most Ecuad-awesome of all during our boat-based excursion of the Galápagos Islands. Two islands in one day: one with brightly-colored iguanas; the other – with similarly wonderful wild animals and sensational sunsets. The latter wonderful wild animals – I’d been expecting them sooner or later as I’d heard about them before, but here they finally were, in the flesh – Galápagos penguins! Yes, you read that right: penguins! Who’d have thought it – on the equator of all places?!

Read on…

GALÁPA-GOSH – PT. 7: Volcanism, Darwinism, Puerto Ayora-ism…

Hola boys and girls!

Herewith, a continuation of my reportage from the Galápagos Island of Santa Cruz, on which we’d already seen: cacti that defy, surfaces with tortoises, and banana iguanas. Next up… – my favorite: volcanism! In particular: lava tubes. (‘A lava tube is a natural conduit formed by flowing lava which moves beneath the hardened surface of a lava flow. Tubes can drain lava from a volcano during an eruption, or can be extinct, meaning the lava flow has ceased, and the rock has cooled and left a long cave.’ – Wikipedia.

I’d been in such constructions before, in Kamchatka, Sicily, on the slopes of Mount Etna, and in Hawaii. I think that probably most relatively fresh volcanoes in the world feature such lava tubes – and that includes on the Galápagos Islands:

Read on…

GALÁPA-GOSH – PT. 6: Banana iguana.

A new day on the Galápagos Islands and a new Galápagosh for us…

Still on the island of Santa Cruz (on which we saw yesterday’s giant tortoises), this morning we were checking out a different spot thereon – Cerra Dragon (Dragon Hill in English, here) (in the afternoon we were headed over to the tiny Bartolomé Island).

What made this day special was the way we didn’t see just one Ecuad-awesomeness, but a full three! Oh my Galápa-goodness! Let me go through them one by one. In this post – #1…

The ‘Galapagos land iguana’.

Oh my guana! Check these resplendent reptiles out!

Read more…