Tag Archives: kurils

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…

Going the extra miles – to the Kuril Isles (via Kamchatka).

Privet comrades!

Oh my ginormous! As I behold the full five and a half thousand (!) pics and vids (mine and others’) from our recent hundreds of nautical miles around the Kuril Isles, I begin to wonder just where I should start. But start I must. Ok, let’s do this simply and logically: I’ll just start from the beginning…

It all started with our flight from Moscow to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, from where our expedition began – and finished a month later!

As you know, I’m very partial to a spot of long-hauling. You sit by the window, you get through your backlog of emails that you just never can get through fully in the office, you get through most of an interesting new novel or non-fiction book, you watch a good movie from long ago (since there are hardly any good movies made today, or so it seems to me), and sometimes you get to see some wonderful aerial scenes out of said window, which you of course take a few pics of…

This time I was snapping away right from the get-go: the weather was clement and I got in a good clear shot of the suburbs of Moscow:

Woah – and there’s our office. I’ll be seeing you, office – in more than a month’s time!

Read on…

Flickr photostream

  • Thailand
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Instagram photostream

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…

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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!…