Kaspersky On The Road Again
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Sitting and rowing – down the Katun we’re going.

Sitting and rowing – down the Katun we’re going.

Onward – downward – on the best bit of our Altai-2020 expedition: the rafting bit. Again – the Argut River, this time where it meets the Katun. The same Argut, btw, along the banks of which we were trekking a couple weeks ago, astonished by the river’s sheer power.

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The sound of the fast flowing water is amplified by endless echoes!

Here it’s not clear which river’s flowing into which!…

The muddy waters of the Argut fairly sully the pristine turqouse ones of the Katun ->

Naughty Argut! Look at the mess you’ve made! Alas – that dirty-milkiness from the Argut continued along the Katun, with the turquiose never to fully return (. Not to...

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The Altai river-traveler museum – ver. 2020.

The Altai river-traveler museum – ver. 2020.

Continuing our Altai-2020 expedition, one afternoon we moored our rafts to visit the makeshift river-traveler museum, which organically sprang up and grew over the years in a field by the junction of the Katun and Argut rivers. It’s a three-legged contraption-construction that has all manner of odd and sod hung upon it, placed there by passing river tourists:

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Every year, new exhibits are added to the museum. Various art movements and styles are featured, but there’s a distinct preference for the post-industrialist avant-garde and general modern kunst!

The breadth of variety of the pieces on display is staggering:

Nearby, satellite art...

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11 brave women at the North Pole.

11 brave women at the North Pole.

This blogpost could pass as an advertisement, if it were paid for; however, it’s being published entirely voluntarily and gratis. Basically, in it, I’ll be telling you the fascinating story of 11 fearless females on an Arctic expedition up to the North Pole!…

So, what happened was that our good old friend Felicity Aston, the dauntlessly adventuresome (see why we’re good old friends?:) British explorer, whose unique Antarctic expeditions we support and sponsor from time to time (I’ve even been known to piggy-back onto one of her missions (I flew, she skied!) – to see in the New Year at the South Pole!), decided to steel herself to… try something totally...

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Rushing down the Akkem Rush.

Rushing down the Akkem Rush.

At Tyungur, we were up early > breakfast > tents down > to the riverbank > into the Katun on rafts > off we pop > 25km of calm rafting until we reach today’s main attraction: several sets of rapids called the Akkemsky Proriv (in Russian), which translates as the Akkem Rush (aka the Akkem Fissure, Akkem Breach, Akkem Rupture, etc., but Rush is arguably closest to the original meaning in Russian, i.e., referring to the water itself, not the location it’s set in. Just to complicate things further, it’s also known as the Akkem Pipe – or Akkem Tube!!).

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Green on green: Katun-aqua amid Altai-taiga!

Suddenly – Sauron’s eye in the sky!

Eek – it creeps nearer for a...

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A sign of a bright Altai future.

A sign of a bright Altai future.

Briefly looking back over recent blogposts, I see you’ve had plenty on Katun already, including lots and lots of photos thereof. All the same – it’s still… too little! Accordingly, here’s some more!…

We’d already rafted some 200km since we started out on the river (where the Upper Kuragan joins it). Not a great deal given that its full length is 688km – from the foot of Mount Belukha to the mighty Siberian River Ob near the city of Biysk. And most of those first 200 kilometers were calm, steady, conducive to quiet meditation, and with non-stop extraordinarily beautiful Altai scenery….

Quick digression into oddness: one thing (out of many!) I find...

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This river was made for rafting, and that’s just what we did.

This river was made for rafting, and that’s just what we did.

After your aperitif, are you ready for your main dish of slow-cooked Katun, with a side dish of oh-my-gorgeous Altai scenery? Ok, then we’ll begin…

As I’ve written in this Altai-2020 series already, getting to the top of the Katun sure ain’t easy, and near the top there aren’t that many river obstacles getting in your way (too easy!); however, the early stretches are perhaps the most magnificently meditative! The odd paddle, the occasional spot of steering, a few splashes here and there, but apart from that – magical Altai vistas and Ommmmmmmmm ).

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The northern slopes of the mountains look as if they’ve had fir trees...

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Zen and the Art of Partner-Contact Maintenance.

Zen and the Art of Partner-Contact Maintenance.

Just when things were starting to look up, it seems there’s a second wave of that ******* (censored) virus washing over the world. In Moscow the Mayor is gently (for now) pushing businesses to have their workers stay at home, schools are preparing for Zoombie Zoom lessons again, and our HQ is still practically empty (especially R&D). So it looks like we’ll rarely be going out, and when we do – carrying on donning the masks and gloves, maintaining the social distancing, and fist-bumping nodding our greetings, at least during the fall and the winter. Hmmm: which is best – corona during summer, or winter? That’s a tricky one. But I’d best not...

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Finally: water fun – down the Katun!

Finally: water fun – down the Katun!

At last – on my Altai-2020 trip the water-based action was about to commence. Ready for some Katun white-knuckle/white-water fun?…

But first we had to get over the mountain between us and the Katun – the final hop before the water. And the best way to get over it? By hopping onto a chopper of course…

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Given fine weather you can normally fly around (Altai’s highest mountain) Belukha and be mesmerized by the aerial views thereof through the helicopter’s windows. Alas, this time it wasn’t to be. Low cloud spoiled the fun: much of the mountains weren’t visible. But if you’re curious, have a look at an installment of my Altai tales from 2016.

Farewell Read more...

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Moscow-to-Mars simulation – to see if you’d last the duration!

Moscow-to-Mars simulation – to see if you’d last the duration!

The other day I visited a most unusual, unique place – and just down the road too. It’s a space-travel training complex where they do simulations of long missions into space. You may have heard of a small group of volunteers who cut themselves off from the world for a long as it takes to fly to Mars and back? Well, this is the place where that happens…

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…In this unassuming building:

…Namely – inside cylindrical chambers like the one in the following pic, whose size is no larger than that of a modern-day space ship. Inside everything’s set up to imitate as closely as possible a space flight: limited space, regeneration of...

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From Udomlya with Love – and Fresh Electricity.

From Udomlya with Love – and Fresh Electricity.

There’s a town in Russia that’s situated almost precisely at the mid-point between Moscow and St. Petersburg. It goes by the name of Udomlya. You’ll no doubt not have heard of it. Not many Russians have heard of it; I hadn’t heard of it either until last week when we went there! For I don’t have an encyclopedic memory, and I tend to study geography through personal field visits!

So what were we doing in this little-known town? Well, just to the north of Udomlya there’s a lake of the same name, and on one of its banks is a place to which we paid a visit: the Kalinin Nuclear Power Plant.

// You think Udomlya sounds a little funny/stage in...

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Ooh-la Yarlu.

Ooh-la Yarlu.

Multicolored mountains aren’t the rarest natural phenomenon in the world; however, not every mountain range can boast such a natural oddity…

The most multicolored mountainous paysages on the planet are without a doubt those in Zhangye, China. There are the yellow-red volcanic landscapes of Kambalny and Koshelov on the Kamchatka Peninsula, which are also simply marvelous sights to behold. Then there’s the multicolored Ausangate ‘rainbow’ mountain in Peru, and the Quebrada de Humahuaca in Argentina. And last but not least there’s the Yarlu valley in the Altai Mountains: also brightly colored, only in uniquely pastel hues, and also well worthy of inclusion into the list of the...

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The Amazing Technicolor Altai Mountain Passes.

The Amazing Technicolor Altai Mountain Passes.

Another day – another beach, sunlounger, pool, cocktail, cigar… Wait. No! That’s not how we do summer vacations! It was indeed another day – but it was in the Altai Mountains, which one could call the Russian ‘middle of nowhere’ (or at least one of them:). No sandy beaches or cocktails here. Still, the sun was out – and we were two thousand meters nearer to it than down on any beach. No sunloungers or cigars for us today either: we had a full day’s mountain trekking ahead of us…

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Once we’d set out, the views of mountains seemingly colored in in pastel shades came into view almost immediately. Clearly, this was going to be another of those...

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Altai-2020: meditative-mountain-passive.

Altai-2020: meditative-mountain-passive.

Another day, another Altai!…

We were met upon waking on the ninth day of our expedition by a warm sun, as if hinting that the rainy days of our trip were behind us (which turned out to be false). Ahead of us this day – a steady stroll to the musical accompaniment of trickling streams and singing birds. There was a touch of rain ‘insignificant precipitation’ (– D.Y., our main guide, from the tour agency Altai-Geed), but only for a short while later in the day. But early morning, the main thing was that the wind was plentiful enough to blow away the mist, setting up the day to be perfect for walking…

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The views – oh my gorges!

No glaciers just yet,...

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Crazy bridge over very troubled water.

Crazy bridge over very troubled water.

The bridgetheme has cropped up a few times already in this here Altai-2020 series, but now – finally – the time has come to meet the maddest bridge of them all. But would it still be even there, we thought, waking one morning. Maybe it had been washed away by the fast flow of the Iedygem river?…

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Yep – as you can see: still there. Good job; otherwise we’d have had to circle back a real long way and cross a different bridge. Below, the river as high and agitated as ever…

The first to cross a bridge by tradition on our expedition was Andrey, our video-photo-drone expert-operator:

Just in case, let me repeat: some of the photos in this...

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Fun and games, laughing and joshing – half-way up an Altai mountain!

Fun and games, laughing and joshing – half-way up an Altai mountain!

Finally!…

Finally, we pulled off getting into a nice straight line for a proper, full-posse, Altai summer trekking photo! Phew! (No, I don’t know why it took so long for it to happen:).

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And here’s an action shot – us doing the Altai trekking thing, on a beautiful sunny day, trekking sticks in hand, heading to our next river, mountain or mountain pass! ->

Ahhh. So nice to walk in these here wilds under such clear blue skies amid such lush landscapes all around!

Of course, it might not have been so enjoyable had we not been accompanied by such obliging (also surprisingly jumpy) horses to carry most of our heavy kit....

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Altai crazy water – you could watch it forever.

Altai crazy water – you could watch it forever.

Altai cragginess – done. Next up – Altai H2Oness!…

First up – another crazy bridge (this one over an Argut tributary)! ->

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Or is it those rapids that are crazy? )

Yep – fairly crazy. But understandably crazy, since it had rained non-stop for the previous two weeks.

We approach the Argut river itself…

Apparently, behind that there boulder begin among the most difficult rapids of the whole of the Argut (besides the Karagemsky Pass). They’re called the ‘Porog Sapozhnika’, which translates as the ‘Bootmaker’s Rapids’! Why they’re called that I don’t know. Sounds like cobblers to me ).

OK, let’s have a look at what’s behind the...

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Bradley33644: Thank you for info!
Ransomware: no more jokes.

Ransomware: no more jokes.

First: brief backgrounder…

On September 10, the ransomware-malware DoppelPaymer encrypted 30 servers of a hospital in the German city of Dusseldorf, due to which throughput of sick patients fell dramatically. A week ago, due to this fall, the hospital wasn’t able to accept a patient who was in need of an urgent operation, and had to send her to a hospital in a neighboring city. She died on the way. It was the first known case of loss of human life as a result of a ransomware attack.

A very sad case indeed – especially when you look closer: there was the fatal ‘accident’ itself (presuming the attackers didn’t foresee a fatality caused by their ghastly actions);...

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Five days hiking; the Altai rocky scenery – striking.

Five days hiking; the Altai rocky scenery – striking.

Herewith, a continuation of my Altai-2020 tales!…

After spending the night in the tiny hamlet of Arkyt, we were up early next morning, loaded most of our stuff onto uncomplaining horses, put bare essentials (mostly photo-video kit, + warm and waterproof clothing) into backpacks for our own backs, and off we set – for five (!) days of trekking in the Altai wilderness up to Akkem Lake. As the crow flies, it’s a mere 35 kilometers; however, given the specifics of the lie of the land here, the actual distance you cover is around 85km! But it feels even longer than that – say, 100km: there are that many bends and twists and ups and downs,...

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Cyber-pandemic: the hunt for a vaccine.

Cyber-pandemic: the hunt for a vaccine.

Hot off the presses folks – coming up in a matter of minutes (!) – the next in the Hacker:HUNTER series of online documentaries on cybercrime! And timely it is: it’s about how, during the pandemic, hackers have been exploiting the situation to steal ever more data and money more than before. And they’ve been exploiting the fact that most folks have been working from home too. But wait – they go even lower…

Since the pandemic really kicked in, cybercriminals have been hacking and causing all sorts of trouble for medical institutions and research centers. Some cyber-scum having been searching for get-rich-quick schemes (and often finding them), while...

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Altai-2020: along the Argut, via the Karagem.

Altai-2020: along the Argut, via the Karagem.

On today’s agenda on our ‘In for a Ruble, in for a Penny – Altai-2020‘ expedition: further edging ever closer to the main course – white-water rafting. The final stretch of the drive, and then finally switching from 4×4 to 2×2 (trekking-booted feet). Then we got onto two ‘loaves of bread‘ to raft down the Argut.

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These pics, in case you’re wondering, are of the ‘road’, not a path! Accordingly, since it’s so hairy and rubbly, at times we were let out to proceed on foot for a bit: the vehicles would have an easier – safer – time navigating it then…

We, of course, were only too happy to go al fresco: just look at these phenomenal vistas! ->

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A beautiful driving-day – on Altai’s R256 Highway.

A beautiful driving-day – on Altai’s R256 Highway.

The R256 Highway, aka – the Chuya Highway, aka – the Chuysky Trakt, really, truly, totally, is… an amazingly modern highway! So much so that it’s as if this road… is giving… the bird (pardon my Belgian) to any and all entrenched stereotypes held by folks living in Moscow and other ‘progressive’ Russian cities about the ‘provincial backwaters’ of Russia being backward, dirty, unkempt, and on the verge of collapse. Along the full length of the highway (apart from the stretches being repaired/resurfaced – but we’ll allow that:), there is: smooth asphalt; fresh, clean and clear signposting and road markings; sturdy modern crash barriers; and...

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The Martian landscapes of the Altai Mountains.

The Martian landscapes of the Altai Mountains.

The main course of our Altai-2020 expedition was of course the rafting down the river Katun. However, the various hors d’oeuvres before it were rather special too. The rafting main dish came after a good long steady mosey from the northeast to near where the river starts out up in the mountains. The route: along the R256 highway up to the village Kosh Agach, and from there it wasn’t much further as we were already high up in the mountains.

Approaching the riverhead, we took one look at the super-high level of the water of the river Chuya and realized a spot of rafting upon its rapids was out of the question. Boo! We’d be missing the Behemoth...

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Altai-2020: Chulyshman -> Katu-Yarik -> Bashkaus.

Altai-2020: Chulyshman -> Katu-Yarik -> Bashkaus.

In this post there’ll be a lot more photos than there are words. First up – photos of the route to Chulyshman ->

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We got there in a small convoy of sturdy vehicles, supplied by the Altai-Guide tourist agency (which we helped with an expedition to Chukotka a while back; the stickers on the vehicles are those left over from then).

We turn into the Chulyshman valley…

The river was at low tide, but it was anything but calm ->

The views everywhere you look – oh my gracious!

The famed Chulyshman rapids:

Not that we’d be white-water rapid-riding here. This stretch is pro-level. Mere amateurs like us – who have a bit of a paddle once every...

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Ode to joy – on Lake Teletskoye.

Ode to joy – on Lake Teletskoye.

Lake Teletskoye fills you with rapturous joy. Its vastness, its fiord-like vistas, and of course Altai’s mysterious… vibes. Bit more info re these mysterious vibes, btw: They’re not only magically calming-soothing and encourage you to go full-on meditative “we’re-all-one, there’s-only-now”; for some reason they also… keep you from sleeping! I reckon it must be that the part of the brain that’s responsible for all the deep and philosophically pensive activity simply doesn’t permit the rest of brain any room to maneuver: it kinda just hogs all the resources, much like a very old computer antivirus ).

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The lake was calm and even-surfaced when we were there,...

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