Tag Archives: kurils

Worldwide Swimming – Pt 2.

Oakie-doakie. On we march front-crawl, to the next stop on the worldwide swimming bus – Europe.

6. Hot Sea, Santorini.

Santorini is a volcano-island, or island-volcano. It’s actually a ring of islands, which are the remains of the caldera of a huge volcano of yester-millennia, with a fresh volcano growing up inside the ring in the middle, which every now and then erupts and grows bigger. I was on Santorini not long ago, and wrote plenty of words about it here on this blog.

world-best-swim_1

The only hot springs in the world that are situated in the sea reside here. At least, the only ones in the world known to me. The hot water spurts up from the seabed through the sea, making said sea the warmest sea you’ll ever know :).

world-best-swim_2

There are quite a few spots around the islands where you can partake in hot-spring-sea-bathing. The one in the above pic isn’t the best; others are deeper and hotter, I’m told…

Read on: summer holidays on the White Sea islands…

The three Kurilsks of the Kurils – your guide.

The Kuril Islands are bleak – plain and simple. Extreme weather, poor communications with the continent, a 100% mark-up on all imported goods (and just about all goods are imported from mainland Russia), and a constant threat of natural disasters such as volcano eruptions, earthquakes and tsunami!

It takes a tough individual to survive here; an even tougher individual to love the place. However, there are things to love about it; you just need to know where to look…

The total land mass of all the Kurils is slightly less than that of Israel or Slovenia, or about half the size of Belgium. However, its population is only around 20,000, half of which lives in three towns: (i) Severo-Kurilsk (North-Kurilsk), (ii) Kurilsk, and (iii) Yuzhno-Kurilsk (South-Kurilsk). All very logical.

Surprisingly, the first two have the official status of town, yet their populations combined are smaller than that of the third, which is officially deemed an ‘urban type settlement’. (Logical?) There are also a few tiny hamlets plus seasonal fishing villages which come to life in the summer after hibernating through the winter.

So what’s it like living on the Kuril Islands?

Kurils islands, Tyatya volcano

Read on: your complete guide to Kuril settlements…

Cuisine on the road, pt. 1: Kamchatka

Some time ago I was asked about what I pack in my suitcase on my frequent long trips round the globe – to kinda come up with a list of essential travel items I really can’t do without. Yeah, I thought – I’d seen some of those lists before – real hi-tech affairs. Mine sure is a lot simpler…

So, a few initial thoughts on this:

First: The more you travel, the lighter the suitcase. That’s perfectly logical: only the experienced traveler knows how to pack minimally – to do away with stuff you deffo won’t need at this or that destination. The experienced traveler also knows how a few extra kilos are a few extra kilos too many when walking ever greater distances to get to your gate in today’s hyper-airports.

Second: My list of ‘hi-tech’ kit is limited to a Sony RX-100 camera, a Lenovo X1 laptop, and some Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones – nothing top-of-the-range, but very reliable. Also, no super-duper camera lenses, no fancy smartphone, no video camera, no quad-copter, no tripod…

(Er, see – there’s my list. Didn’t take long, did it?)

Third: I’m quite sure you don’t want the low-down on my jeans, shirt and sock situation on the road.

No, something different, better than that was needed! And then it dawned on me…

…So here we are – the first installment of my new ‘column’ – ‘Cuisine on the road’: Gastronomical mini-guides to dinner-table food furnishings from different corners of the globe!

First up – a recent table in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, where we spent a day before our recent Kuril expedition

So, here we go…:

Cuisine on the road

Read on: the land of fish and seafood…

The Kurils: Why, where, how.

So, where on earth did the idea of a cruise, not around tourist-friendly tropical islands, but around mostly uninhabited – for a reason – polar-esque ones, come from?

It’s quite simple really…

My favorite place for an annual August ‘hard reset’ is Kamchatka: volcanos, geysers, hot springs, bears, and other similarly extreme extremities. But… well, I’ve done Kamchatka – and more than once. So something different but very similar was needed…

Now, every time I’m on Kamchatka the locals there are always saying “but on the Kurils they’re much better…”, and so on. Then kindred spirit Olga Rumyantseva had already been on the Kurils and wouldn’t stop raving about them… So my curiosity had been growing and growing for quite some years – until it reached a critical mass and it was decided, er, by moi – that the next annual August reboot trip would be to the Kurils.

After deciding where to go – about a year ago – the preparation for the Kuril trip began, only to end a year later. The ‘who’s going’ was established (mostly lovers of extreme tourism and extreme nature appreciation), the optimal route was calculated, the Kuril territory was surveyed, and the most suitable vessel for the trip was selected. Crucially, all participants were informed that this wasn’t going to be gym>beach>pina colada>spa>Cuba libre>paperback>single malt…tourism. This was wild marine-based tourism in a harsh climate on harsher islands, with neither Internet nor cell coverage.

Back to basics, back to nature.

Kuril Islands

Read on: 20 days on the Athens..

Onekotan: None better than.

I’m not sure why, but for some reason volcanos are my fave natural phenomena.

I’ve clambered up scores around the globe, and seen even more from up above in helicopters – more again from the side. The views they all provide are just breathtaking. Santorini, Mount Fuji, Gorely (before the eruption), Mutnovka, Ksudach… I’ll have to tot them all up one day.

All volcanos are unique in their own special way, and each is beautiful in its own special way, so to compare and rank them is no simple task.

However, now I know which volcano tops my list of the best of the best.

Easy: it’s the Krenitsyn volcano on the Kuril island of Onekotan. It’s also a rather exclusive volcano – just for the more discerning connoisseurs of volcanism; after all – it doesn’t even have its own Wiki page in English :).

The views it has in store are absolutely magical.

The almost perfectly round caldera is colossal – stretching seven (7) kilometers across. Inside the caldera there’s a correspondingly capacious lake, out of which peeps the cone of a new volcano (height 1324m). The volcano’s surrounded by the sea on all sides; the lake’s at a height of around 400 meters above sea level, and its depth is about 200 meters. That’s the basic run-down of this fantastical phenomenon of nature.

Kuril islands, Krenitsyn volcano

The most beautiful volcano in the world, according to @e_kaspersky – KrenitsynTweet

Read on: The view from up above is also impressive…

Kuril KLimate.

To get to see real tundra it turns out you don’t need to go to the Far North (or far south – say, to Tierra del Fuego); for something very similar to tundra conditions can be found in perfectly moderate latitudes. For example, on the Kurils.

Kuril islands

Here on the Kurils Mother Nature must have been having an off-day when putting the finishing touches to their climate. On one side of the island there’s the cold Pacific Ocean; on the other – the bitterly freezing Sea of Okhotsk. If the wind blows from the south it can be warm and humid; if from the north – a Siberian chill can take over. So it gets a bit muddled. But generally in winter here it’s always very cold – with snow up to the waist; while in summer it’s just so-so cold – but always humid, plus foggy, plus drizzly, plus rainy.

Read on:

Gobsmacked on Kunashir.

Besides cha-cha, on Kunashir island there’s still plenty to check out…

…Ludicrous lava columns on the coast, the fantastic fumaroles of Mendeleyeva volcano, and the magnificent mud baths in Golovnina’s caldera, for example. Bathing in a 30°С muddy lake didn’t quite do it for me, but the volcanism of Mendeleyeva – especially the lava columns there – now that was something else. Quite simply gobsmackingly unforgettable.

Kuril islands

Read on: Basalt columns on Kunashir – breathtaking!…

Shikotan – the Kuril New Zealand.

If you’ve ever been to New Zealand, and then one day you were to wake up on Shikotan island (er, without knowing how you got there, or why were you asleep for so long, etc., etc.), you’d probably think you’ve been teleported to NZ. They’re just so similar!

Non-volcanic gently rolling grassy landscapes, nano-bamboo, picturesque and seemingly carefully positioned trees. All neatly trimmed, colored, and – you’d think – Photoshopped, and sparkling under the inevitable Kuril rain. If sheep and sun were added – it’d be the carbon copy of NZ – somewhere around the center of the North Island.

Kuril Islands - Shikotan

Read on: Only the hobbits’ cubbyholes are missing…

Atsonupuri: The Aston Martin of volcanos

The Kurils are all volcanic. On the 56 islands that make up the archipelago there are a total of 68 volcanos, 36 of which are still smoking.

There are small volcanoes up to two kilometers high, right down to mere volcanic ‘pimples’. Throughout our expedition we clambered up and across seven of them, in doing so totting up around six km on the y-axis and about a hundred on the x. The smoldering seven we conquered were as follows: EbekoKrenitsinaUshishirZavaritskovoAtsonupuriTyatya, and Mendeleyeva.

Fortunately almost all the climbs are light and non-mountaineering-esque; sometimes they’re long and tedious, but nevertheless never too tough. It’s a matter of just taking it easy and slowly, getting the lungs working at full capacity, getting a bit of a sweat on too, and before you know it in two or three or four hours you’re at the top. And then it all becomes worth it – the beauty, the bewilderment, and the pure bliss. 360-degree awesomeness – outwards, and also inwards – into the caldera or crater. Then it’s clickity-clack on the Leica, then back down to the bottom again. That was the routine most of the time. Apart from Atsonupuri on the island of Iturup

Atsonupuri volcano

Atsonupuri volcano

Read on: I knew it would be hard, but not torture!…