One of the great Polish historians, publicists, writer, journalist and diplomat, Władysław Bartoszewski, once said that:
"Certainly not all that is worthwhile pays-off but most surely (...) not all what pays-off is worthwhile"
I recently found this to be true in terms of travels. Few weeks ago I saw that one of my favourite bands "Leningrad" (ru. Ленинград), with it's charismatic frontman Sergey "Shnur" Shnurov, had a tour around Europe. This year they did not visit Poland (as in 2013 on Woodstock festival) and went to Hungary on Sziget Festival. The group is from Saint Petersburg in Russia (called Leningrad in the times of USSR). and gained considerable world-wide attention in the years 2003-2006 when they were banned from playing in Moscow and, some other cities followed, went to play gigs around the world. They're famous not only by the music they play (rock with vulgar lyrics) but also great video-clips and satire on Russia including Novyj Russkij (ru. новые русские) class. Their last stop on 2016 tour was Saint Petersburg in late November. This happenstancesprung a spontaneous idea in my head..
Planning is something needed at times especially if you want to know your budget that you'll need to have. Same goes for saving up some money in order to find the best price-quality ratio. It's quite easy to spend money to complete your dreams and desires. It's harder (or easier?) to make it as cheap as possible and still have a blast. The constraints have something fun in them because they urge you to think and be creative. That's why the more money you have doesn't necessarily mean that that you're gonna have more fun. When things come too easy to us we tend not to value them enough.
Few of the above thoughts were accompanying us when designing the plan for our Kamchatka 2016 expedition. We have passed on going to Japan (flights too expensive) and pondered a bit on North Korea (still do) as an extension of our trip from Vladivostok. For the time being though we have what we need - an agreed plan and we're waiting for the promo's to come and to do our first bookings. Read more to find out what have we planned.
As we dig in deeper and craft the draft plan we find that not much is written about Kamchatka, the remote peninsula or Russian Far East. Or it's not easily accessible at least. We are reaching out to people and talking about our plans. Jola is one of these people. She has visited this remote land few months ago and has agreed to support us in terms of gathering information and contacts to locals. Jola is a traveller and has seen quite a bit of the world. She is blogging in Polish at "Dzienniki z podróży" (en. Travel diaries). Her last posts are about the journey in question. I've asked Jola about the impressions on Kamchatka and what were the highlights of her journey.
This year came with several changes. The blog changed it's name to "Go further" which reflects how I view travelling and it got itself an own domain blog.marcinkonkel.com. I also started working with The Travel Stories where I shed new light on the Trans-Siberian railway journey from 2014 in reportages from Mongolia and Russia. I also started promoting #kamchatka2016 project together with the team. Below you can see highlights from the places I've been to this year. Click on the photograph to go to the full gallery. Hope you like them!
We have our official logo of the expedition (above)! It was designed by Natalia Jaźwierska and we are proud that she collaborated to the project and devoted her time. This artwork will be used across all information regarding the project and the journey itself. Just as a reminder - you can also search #kamchatka2016 on this page and in social media to find content posted by us over time. Soon you can also expect an interview with a traveller that has already seen the distant land of Kamchatka.
Most movies about Kamchatka, at least at Vimeo, are about surfing, snowboarding or skiing. One can judge that the conditions for these sports must be at least good. "All about Kamchatka" is a promotional video about the region. Still it presents much more than just the mentioned sports. See for yourself.
The Trans-Siberian Expedition has come to an end last year but the story continues. This Sunday (13.12.) you will be able to read my new article on The Travel Stories on the part of the route from Moscow to Irkutsk - a 3,5 days long train journey in the lowest class called platskart. Although many things have been written on this blog, this story is re-told in a different way with facts never told and some photos never published before.
During this project we got to learn that Russia is a vast country with great and hospitable people. Some of them drink a lot, some are nationalist, the administration don't give much interest in you, some want to get to know you better. Whatever you experience, you probably notice that Russia is "a state of mind" as explained two builders we met on the train. Read more on The Travel Stories this Sunday.
Our stay at Olkhon Island was for sure too short. Three days is not much and a week seems now like a must. Having waited for the bus to Irkutsk we packed our stuff. When the marshrutka came our baggage was put on the roof secured with a net. The bus was going from guesthouse to guesthouse in search for anyone wanting to go to Irkutsk. In the end, it was packed full. The road was the same but the time passed somehow faster. In the capital of Siberia we did some shopping and pulled an all-nighter - some of us in the hostel while others at the 130 kvartal. Somewhere in the middle of all this we ordered a taxi to pick us up the next day in the early morning as we were to catch a train to Ulan-Ude. The record sleep time that night was 12 minutes so needless to say that we were catching-up on the train. The route is said to be one of the most iconic of all Trans-Siberian as it's going right next to Baikal through a set of tunnels. It surely was picturesque and breathtaking but I would also count in some other sights we've seen along the whole trip as equal.
Olkhon Island (ru. остров Ольхон), the largest island on the Baikal lake, is a magical place. Rural regions, beautiful nature, crystal clear water and just a few features of this place. Unfortunately, what you can read in Wikipedia on Olkhon regarding waste disposal is true. The unsettling fact is that it's not controlled and much of waste can be found in certain regions of the forest. This is for sure something that needs to be addressed quickly or it will have a devastating effect on the nature. There are many places to stay - yurtas (ru. юрта), country houses or crashing a tent next to the lake. Khuzir (ru. Хужир) is in the center of all of that. It is a rural settlement with population of around 1300 located on the west side of the Olkhon Island. It is also the main tourist center and the largest village on the island.
Having seen the schedule in the last part of "life on rails" you ask yourself a question on how do you exactly buy stuff ? There are at least four answers to that. One is the provodnik or provodnitsa - some small foodstufs like chocolate bars, instant coffee, instant soups and so on can be bought from them. Second is the restaurant carriage (high prices) - the basic assortment plus menu. The two are available all the time during your travel. You can also purchase food on the train station in kiosks or by strolling through markets or shops in the city. The prices can vary but one general rule applies - the farther you go the cheaper you'll buy. Quite obvious yet sometimes you have to really hurry as, like I wrote earlier, the train won't wait.