Archive for the 'North Asia' Category
- Klyuchevskaya Kamchatka Siberia RingofFire ArcticTropic
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In the Summer Of 1993 when Perestroika was in full bloom , with Russia and the United States in full economic cooperation, most attention was focused on the traditional Moscow St. Petersburg realm, with some forays into oil-rich ,newly independent Kazakhstan.
The above video, “Russia’s Wild East “ focuses on business opportunities in the Russian Far East. Alaska Airlines was the bridge for US investors and explorer to travel there. At the time, Russia, emerging from the breakup of the Soviet Union needed to make an immediate move into a market economy . Americans were there to help. The Peace Corps , normally sending young people to Africa, recruited older ,experienced businesspeople as advisors to Russian companies. We interview some of them here, along with younger entrepreneurs , lawyers and other pioneers. We even visit the nascent Vladivostok Stock Exchange.
The video, produced in the analog age, was formatted for television, so there is a few seconds of black before the program starts .
11 time zones to the East – the diplomatically long frozen Bering Strait crossing had thawed. Alaska Airlines began twice weekly flights to Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Yakutsk, with first stops in Magadan.
The focus of the trip was to explore the Russian Far East for cross strait opportunities for American business who were opening up the market economy on Russia. Rehabilitating old Soviet companies and factories, bringing in new products and services for sale and train the former communists in the nuances of a market -for-profit economy. In addition, we were to discover the incredible natural wonderland, especially in Kamchatka.
My coproducer Yuriko Gamo and I met in Seattle. She flew in from San Francisco and I from New York. We spent a day there interviewing the Alaska Airlines marketing team at their headquarters. It was a big investment for them to open up the Russian Far East. We then boarded our four-hour flight up to Anchorage. Alaska Airlines paid for our flights from Seattle to Anchorage and on to Vladivostok round trip. In Russia we took two internal flights on Aeroflot on its ancient Soviet fleet.
We landed at 10 PM on a sunny Alaska night in early July. It never got completely dark there, some twilight around 2 AM. We had 2 days until our Russia departure so went down to Homer where we swam in the far North Pacific and visited villages where Russian was still spoken from times before “Seward’s Folly.
At 1 PM on Saturday July 10th We departed ANC for a beautiful flight, first seeing Mt.McKinley in the distance, then swampy Tundra. The Bering sea, Chukotka, in Russia and then leading at the Arctic port of Magadan. On landing, our pilot said welcome to Magadan Russia – where it is 1 PM – tomorrow. While we had a 4-hour flight, with a four-hour time change backwards, we crossed the International Date Line. It was 1 PM Sunday, July 11. In Magadan we entered a primitive Soviet cinderblock terminal to have our visa booklets and passports stamped – then back on the plane to Vladivostok – 4 hours to the south.
Arriving in Vladivostok , my co-producer and I were greeted by Dimitry Motovilov. We stayed at his sunny, comfortable apartment in a pleasant Soviet flatblock. He was our guide for our several days there .
A journalist by background he went on to teach journalism at the local university and is currently the Media Assistant of the US Consulate in Vladivostok.
The US Consulate ( not pictured above) was invaluable in setting up the Peace Corps program, and along with Dmitry, set up interviews with businesspeople, factory supervisors, shipyard owners, and the stock exchange. They are the go-to for American businesses in the region, including the US oil companies drilling in Sakhalin. In an uninformed ,shortsighted move, outgoing Secretary of State Pompeo temporarily ceased operations at the Consulate. It is hoped that newly appointed Secretary of State Blinken can quickly restore the very important American outpost – rather than having to rely on Moscow embassy ,6000 miles away.
From Vladivostok station we took an overnight train ride on the Trans Siberian to Khabarovsk. A sleeper compartment was about 1000 rubles – $ 5.
Khabarovsk is the main gateway to Northeast China. Chinese markets sprang up all over the outskirts of the city for Russians to buy much needed consumer goods. The main currency in the markets was dollars- not rubles or yuan.
We visited ancient, dusty factories to try to determine how they could be converted to a modern day business model. Please view the video “Russia’s Wild East ” above.
In our rare calls to the US we did not use this phone. We had to speak on satellite pay phones at $ 12 a minute. Needless to say , we did not engage in idle chat about the weather.
The Khabarovsk weather by the way, was beautiful – hot and dry, nearly 100 degrees along the Amur River, a nice contrast to cool foggy Vladivostok. Khabarovsk, on the edge of Siberia sees -50 in winter.
From Khabarovsk, we flew on an ancient Aeroflot TU-34 to Petropavlovsk, only city on the California sized Kamchatka Peninsula. Kamchatka is the most volcanically active area in the world, with 16 active volcanoes.
We drove the full 80 miles on Kamchatka’s only road to a geothermal plant high in the mountains. We slept in dormitories there. After a long hike to the volcanoes, it was great to have a hot shower from the unlimited supply of hot water pumped up from the earth. One could take a shower lasting millions of years and the hot water would never run out.
Kamchatka is one of the most adventurous and hard to get to places in the world. This coming summer of 2021 , Yakutia Air plans to start weekly (return ) flights from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk. TotalAdventure welcomes Kamchatka providers to upload trips immediately. We welcome providers from all over the Russian Far East and Siberia.
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Last January TotalAdventure flew across the Pacific from Portland,Oregon to Tokyo. TotalAdventure had only 8 days in Japan, so we decided to split it between Tokyo, one of the most urban places on Earth, and Hokkaido, one of the widest ,snowiest islands on Earth.
We Only Had Four Days, So We Stuck To The Sapporo Region. At Two Million People,Sapporo Is One Of Japan’s Smallest Cities.
Shinto Temples Abound Everywhere.
Year Round Outdoor Cafe. Coffee Is Overtaking Tea In Japan.
A Woodcut of Otaru Port In The 1600s.
Winter Festival In Sapporo. TotalAdventure Watched The Sculpting.
Global Warming Is Not Yet Affecting Hokkaido. When It Does, More Snow Will Fall.
- Aeroflot, Air Bagan, AirChina, American Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Singapore Airlines, United
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- China, Germany, Japan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Panama, Russia, Singapore, USA
2014 was a busy travel year for ArcticTropic. In all, we travelled an equivalent of more than twice around the world.The voyage to Myanmar in March ,via Frankfurt and Singapore was to the opposite side of the world and back the same route. In May and June we travelled in a continuous Eastbound direction until we ended up back where we started. In contrast, the 2.5 hour hop to Panama was a mere commuter flight.
Final edit of Go-Pro footage of ArcticTropic’s exploratory voyage across Russia in early Summer 2014. Five days in Moscow , then to Irkutsk,Lake Baikal and Ulan Ude , before crossing into Mongolia.
For Adventures in Russia, CLICK HERE
The bus for Ulanbataar,Mongolia leaves Ulan Ude at 7:30 sharp every morning. The trip is about 12 hours including 3 hours to cross the border and several rest stops.
The landscape is steppe and high desert, with more mountains towards UB.
The border crossing is not an easy one. While Russian customs were very easy coming in by air at Moscow, leaving the Federation by land is a very different experience. About 100km before the border, a soldier boards the bus and inspects all passports. At the actual border there is a two hour wait. No photos are permitted in the border zone. There is a baggage check and individual questioning by a Russian border patrol agent before the exit stamp is issued. The same process is repeated a few minutes later going into Mongolia, minus the interview.
ArcticTropic returns to UB.
UB continues to be one of the fastest growing cities in the world, but monastery life never changes.
For adventures in Mongolia, CLICK HERE
From Lake Baikal we made a quick dash back to Irkutsk on the hydrofoil, and caught the Trans Siberian for the overnight run to Ulan Ude. Ulan Ude is the closest Siberian city to Mongolia and boasts the world’s largest Lenin head.
The train leaves Irkutsk at 10 PM and arrives about 6 the next morning. It also passes Lake Baikal’s eastern shore , so would be a beautiful day trip.
The sleeping arrangements are communal but not totally uncomfortable. There is a separate reserved cabin car for those doing the long haul from Moscow to Vladivostok.
Soviet Heroes who defeated the White Army in 1919 helping Communism spread east.
Old city street scene.
Inside an old wooden apartment building.
For adventures in Russia, CLICK HERE
Deep in the Heart of Siberia, Lake Baikal is one of the most pristine regions in the world. The 636 km long lake holds 20% of the world’s fresh water that is not permanently frozen. ArcticTropic only got to explore a small portion ,as it was early in the season and the full boat network is not yet operational.
From Irkutsk we took a two hour hydrofoil ride down the Angara River into Lake Baikal to the tiny village of Bolshie Koty.
Bolshie Koty has no roads, except an Ice road for a few months in the winter. There are only two or three operational motor vehicles in the village.
On this early June day, heavy snow had fallen on the mountains across the lake ,which had iced out only two weeks before. Swimming would only be possible after a hot banya.
Naturalists from around the world are working to create a hiking trail going around the whole lake.
Bolshie Koty began as a gold rush town int he 1850s. There was not much gold and today it is a place to escape the cares of the world.
Unless you bring your own food , you will likely be eating Omul soup. Omul is a great tasting fish,related to salmon.
ArcticTropic searches far and wide for untouched spots on the globe and Lake Baikal is certainly one of them. The cold climate and remote Siberian location ensures there will never be casinos and fancy marinas here.
For adventures in Russia, CLICK HERE
On the morning of June 1 we arrived in Irkutsk after a 5 hour flight and a 5 hour time change.
The flight is longer than New York to Los Angeles but only crosses about a third of Russian airspace.
Irkutsk is 350 years old, settled by fur traders. The Trans Siberian Railroad grew the settlement into a city.
The Communists never bulldozed the old Siberian buildings.
However frost in Irtkutsk’ 50 below zero winters causes the buildings to warp.
A hot bowl of borscht is welcome on a chilly 40 F ( 4 C ) degree day in June.
FOr adventures in Russia, CLICK HERE