Yakutsk

Today we’ll move to another Far-off place (as usual), but it’ll be also an “extremely extreme” site, you’ll see…

Yakutsk on the map

Yakutsk on the map

Yakutsk, the colder of the coldest human settlements in the world! Is the main city of Sakha Republic, only 450km under Arctic Circle and with (surprisingly) a population of nearly 270,000! Despite being founded in 1632, did not grow as a city until 1880 decades, when it was discovered a large reserves of gold.

Yakutsk has the coldest city World Record, with a registered minimum temperature of -64.4ºC (-83.9ºF)! Besides this terrible cold it’s a extremely isolated city, only accessible all the year (when the weather allows) by plane. In winter it’s possible to come across the iced Lena river with car, and in mid summer by boat. In summer the upper layers of permafrost smelt and the roads are unworkable.

Road in summer (www.ssqq.com)

Road in summer (www.ssqq.com)

I found this awesome city watching a TV documentary. They commented that in winter the weather is so cold that people could die in the street simply waiting the bus or been trapped with the car broken down. What the hell??? And in summer temperatures can easily reach 30ºC, so they have a 90ºC variation between winter and summer! Though these horrible events and factors, Yakutsk is on the first places in my personal Far-off World places agenda I’d like to visit soon.

Enjoy it!

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Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Finally I focused one of my posts in a different latitude! I accept I’ve a little obsession with islands. However, does exist a such far-off place  than a piece of land surrounded by the sea?

Cocos (Keeling) Islands (not be confused with Coco Islands, near Burma shores) consists of two atolls and 27 coral islands, of wich only 2 are inhabited. The highest point is only 5 m over the sea, so these islands might be buried by the ocean in the next decades if the global warming forecasts met.

Cocos Keeling Islands on the map

Cocos Keeling Islands on the map

Despite his isolation, it belongs to Australia since 1955. These are the typical tropical islands we see on TV with white sand beaches, clear sea water, coconuts, dense forests…

One small Coco Keeling Island

One small Coco Keeling Island

The 600 islanders are split in two ethnic groups: the Europeans in the West Island, and the Malays on Home Island. The Coco Malays are originated from the descendants of Malay settlers from the British colonies of Brisitsh Malays, Singapore, Brunei and the Riau Archipelago, who arrived and settled at 1826.

Blue thongues (www.rebubbles.com)

Blue thongues (www.redbubbles.com)

For most of the population it will be the heaven of relax and warm, but they must know that the cost of living here is really expensive (they import almost goods). Also to arrive there you will need 1300 AUD $ per person for the flight tickets between Perth (Australia) and the Islands, and we must add the flight ticket from home to Australia too!

Places like that are on my far-off places agenda, but in a secondly term. I need more roughness, inclement, extremes, cold, ice…

Enjoy the video and never stop dreaming!

Isle of Shapinsay

Finally, my last Orkney post! I can not deny that Orkney left a mark on my heart…

Sincerely, Shapinsay was the small Orcadian islands that less impress me, is not a wild land as Hoy or Westray’s, and it hasn’t an abrupt relief. However, two things impress me: the extremely peace and beauty of Balfour (the main settlement) and the brightness of its grasslands and crops.

Awesome house at Balfour

Awesome buildings at Balfour

Crops, grasslands and the Mill Dam RSPB Reserve

Crops, grasslands and the Mill Dam RSPB Reserve

However, as I said previously what more impressed me of Shapinsay was the loneliness, but it wasn’t a terrifying, disturbing solitude like in Hoy, it was a peace and calm solitude with the sounds of the gees overhead, of a tractor in a crop, of the water splashing by the seals, of the slow activity in Balfour…

Loneliness

Loneliness

Gees

Gees

Bye Orkney! I hope I might visit you soon and know all about you, your history, all your secret corners and enjoy the kindness of your people!

Isle of Hoy

Continuing with the Orkney adventure, the day after I came back from Westray & Papay I feel so nervous, I needed to explore more and more although the weather was awful. At 9 am since my Orcades Hostel room it looks like this:

But the previous day I’d seen the Hill of Ward from Stromness and I felt bewitched, I had to go.

Knap of Trowieglen from Stromness

Hill of Ward from Stromness

I got the bus in Kirkwall to Stromness and halfway in Finstown the bus got trapped 5 min due to the snow in the road. I took the ferry (I was the only passanger) at 12 am and in 40 minutes (with a litlle stop in Graemsay) I arrived at North Hoy. The snow storm had not arrived yet, but it was extremely windy and chilly.

The storm coming up

The storm coming up

Only 10 minutes later the storm came up.

But I was decided and so rude to give up, I kept on move despite the bad weather. However, a mile before reaching Rackwick Bay it was impossible: the visibility was nil and the wind stronger and stronger. I came across with a little hut and I was there for 3 hours, until the storm stopped.

After the storm

After the storm

It tooks me a while to reach Rackwick Bay and run out of breath: I’d never seen before such a awe-inspiring landscape.

Rackwick Bay cliffs

Rackwick Bay cliffs

Rackwick Bay

Rackwick Bay

I haven’t any words to describe this place. You can find a lot of pictures of this site in the next link http://http://www.flickriver.com/photos/tags/rackwick/interesting/

In Hoy there is a little village, Lyness with some hotels, post offices, a shop, a pub even a theatre. Despite having a high diversity of landscapes, the most well known attractive on Hoy (even in Orkney) is The Old Man of Hoy, a superb 480 foot sea stack, first climbed in 1967. Also it has the highest vertical cliff in Britain, St. John’s Head, and the most northerly native woodland in Britain, the Berriedale Wood.

The Old Man of Hoy

The Old Man of Hoy

St. John's Head

St. John’s Head

Berriedale Wood

Berriedale Wood

As you see, Hoy is a land with high contrast, a microcosmos, simply perfect.

I let you a pair of videos, enjoy it!

Westray & Papa Westray

I’ve been in hibernation in my blog activity these months, even though I’ve come back plenty of energy and ideas. I haven’t stopped to dream about all the magic places of the Far-off World. And since I visited one of them, I think I can never stop to find out.

As I promise you 4 months ago I’ll tell you about my Orkney experience. After 2 days of adaptation in Kirkwall and surroundings, I started to move around the Small Islands.

Image

The first were Westray (the largest) and Papa Westray (or Papay). Both are connected to Kirkwall by plane and ferry, although I tried to get the ferry, slower but so much cheaper than plane.

Westray

First I went to Westray, a really small island, at most 8 km large. As you can see in the picture there aren’t any mountain or slope, Westray is completely flat. However, it has spectacular cliffs on the western shores and a lot of bays and sand beaches along the island. Also there are a pair of wee lochs at the centre of the island.

Bay of Pierowall

Bay of Pierowall

Bay of Swartmill

Bay of Swartmill

Noup Head

Noup Head

Also throughout Orkney, in Westray there are many archaeological sites and castles as well.

Knowe o'Skea

Knowe o’Skea

Noltland Castle

Noltland Castle

In Westray there are only a village, Pierowall with a population of 100 pepole. The rest of inhabitants of Westray live along the island creating a patchwork.

But if you would like to stay alone in a small piece of land, Papa Westray (or Papay for the locals) is your site. Only 4 km large and 70 inhabitants, without a typical settlement or village, only at 2 min flight by plane or 40 min by ferry from Westray. I’ve not many things to say about this heaven.

In Papay there are so few things that you can concentrate in simplicities such as the waves’s sound, the chilly wind cutting your face, the green of the rough grasslands, the splash of the water impacting on the rocks… You can feel the naure, the water and the land underfoot.

Knap of Howar: The oldest house in northern Europe

Knap of Howar: The oldest house in northern Europe

St. Boniface Kirk: One of the oldest Christian site in Northern Scotland, dating from 12th century

St. Boniface Kirk: One of the oldest Christian site in Northern Scotland, dating from 12th century

Mull Head

Mull Head

Northwick Bay

Northwick Bay

Southwick Bay on winter

Southwick Bay

At the centre of the island is the only shop, run by the islands community co-operative, it is the focal point of the community life. Adjoining the shop is the Beltane House, tun by the community as a hostel ad a venue for community social events.

On Papay the most important thing is the community, it seems to be a so large family, energetically self-sustaining. I think it’s a good sustainable economic model, based on people and their land and not on finances and virtual economy. Can most of Europe will be able to live in such a sustainable isle like Papay?

Youtube has not interesting videos about Westray and Papay (except the shortest scheduled flight in the world between these islands). But if you are interested, enjoy these freaky videos!

Orkney Islands (Scotland)

Only a few days ago, I’ve been so lucky to stay a couple of weeks in one of these places that I’ve in my personal-remote places-agenda, the Orkney Islands.

Orkney are an 70 islands archipelago (only 20 inhabited) situated at the NE of mainland Scotland, accessible by boat from Aberdeen or Thurso, or flying from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen or Inverness.

I chose the 6 and a half hour boat from Aberdeen to Kirkwall, and it was really fairy. I spent maybe halfway into the deck, seeing the clear firmament and feeling the North Sea vacuum. When I arrived (although it was 23:30) I felt the desolation and peace that characterise these islands, and of course, the extreme kindness of its people.

I established my base-camp in Kirkwall, the main town of Orkney with a population of 7000 inhabitants. I slept in a really awesome hostel, The Orcades Hostel (http://www.orcadeshostel.com), extremely fair and comfortable, with such a helpful stuff.

In Kirkwall you can find most services you might need, such as supermarkets (Lidl, Tesco & Scotmid Cooperative), hotels, bar, a couple of pubs, a swimming pool, etc. The centre of the town keeps up 1 main street with shops, finished by St. Magnus Cathedral.

The other large town of Orkney is Stromness (2000 inhabitants), accessible from Kirkwall with a 35 min. bus route. In my opinion Stromness is most beautiful than Kirkwall: this preserves lovely streets with stone-made houses combined with a special charm.

But, if you are looking for the Orkney core, you’ll have to visit the small Islands… Daily there are ferry connections between Kirkwall and Stromness to the other islands. I’ve came over Isle of Hoy, Isle of Shapinsay, Isle of Westray and Isle of Papa Westray (also known as Papay), and trust me, I NEVER HAD FELT THIS LONELY IN MY WHOLE LIFE (above all in Hoy, Papa and Papay).

Due to the large extension of the story, I’ll publish two posts talking about these small islands.

And to get an idea, I’ll let one video (in the next posts I’ll upload videos of myself). Enjoy it!

Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, Mongolia

Or Алтай Таван богд байгалийн цогцолбор газар in Mongolian language. This country was officialy born in 12th. century from the hand of Esugey Baatar well known as Gengis Khan.


He was a ruthless and terrible warrior, but his ambition led him to form the largest contiguous land empire of our history, the Mongol Empire.

Nowadays, Mongolia is one of the largest and unoccupied countries in the world: 1,500,000 km^2 and only 1.81/km^2, formally is the 6th country with less population!

But today we’ll talk about Altai Tavan Bogd (in other post we could talk more about Mongolia culture & traditions). It’s situated in the border with Russia, China and Kazakhstan. It’s home of the highest Mongolian mountains, three large lakes and one glacier, the Potanini.

Probably is the ruggest place I’ve ever met. Infinite steppes and mountain grasslands, snowy rocky mountains, semi-arid and desert valleys… All at 180km of Olgii, the nearest city.

These lonely valleys are only habited by local fauna and Mongolian nomads, living in her typical homes, named Yurt. You imagine living in a place like that, at mercy of the weather and nature?

Obviously, it will be the heaven for somebody who is looking for peace, extreme conditions, lonely or simply enjoy a really far-off place…

Enjoy it!