Click for more information about Kuril Islands
2005 Dec by Jorge Sanchez
I spent 4 days in these islands. I took a boat in Korsakov, in the island of Sakhalin, to get there (18 hours). People helped me a lot.|
I got the permission in Yuzhno Sakhalin because the Kurils islands are a special territory and even Russians from other parts of the country need authorization to get to these islands.
Recently Russian President Putin has allowed japanese from Hokkaido island to visit Iturup/Etorofu-to without visa, and viceversa, Russians from Kurils can now visit Hokkaido.
Japanese go to Kurils to visit cemeteries because until 1945 these islands belonged to Japan. Russians go to Hokkaido to buy goods, all the cars in Kurils, and even Sakhalin islan, are from Japan.
There is only one hotel in Iturup, called Iturup, no email, just telephone, and it costs about 500 rubles a night in a double, to share with somebody and the shower is in the first floor, but if you are a foreigner and the hotel is not full, you will sleep alone and will pay only for one bed.
I have to say, nevertheless, that I did not use it because people were so curious about me that I was invited to spend 3 nights in their homes.
Authorization to get to the Kurils IslandsI waited 3 days to obtain this document from the Police in Yuzhno Sakhalinsk. I was allowed to stay until the 6th of december 2006, but owing to the bad visibility I returned to Sakhalin Island later and nobody checked.
This is what I wrote in my diary in Iturup island:
It was very hard to get in Kurils islands, that in Japan are known as Chishima-retto. First of all, even Russians need a Propusk, or special permit. The islands are vindicated by the Japanese and are populated mainly by soldiers. There are some islands that are secret; you do not find them in the atlas. I was in one of them.
I went to the police in Sakahlin and after 3 days I was granted the Propusk. Then waited during 3 days the boat in Korsakov. The boat was small and the conditions on board very different than the cruises in the Bahamas. I got tired of the boat because in the secret islands I was not allowed to get off the boat. I wanted to touch the Kurils, and not only see them. In Kunashir I could walk around the harbour. There are many Japanese. Putin opened the Kurils to the Japanese, without Russian visa, and Russians can visit Hokkaido island without visa also, There are even ferries between Korsavkov in Sakhalin and Hokkaido island, weekly.
Here people are natural, everybody invites you. I do not go to hotels (there is only one in the island, ITURUP, in the city of Kurilsk, with plenty of soldiers in the streets). People are interested in Europeans. The journalists made me an interview as the first Spaniard to visit Kurils islands! Every night I have a different invitation. Last night was the Police chief and his wife. There is no asphalt, the islands are little developed.
Iturup is the biggest island. In Kamchatka there are 28 volcanoes, but in Kurils over 40!
The bears do not yet sleep, but they do not attack people, they eat fish and fruits in the forest, sometimes you see them walking in the streets looking for fruits. There is snow, but it is not as cold as in Kamchatka.
Now I am waiting for my ship to Vladivostok. The weather is good, no much wind. From Vladivostok I will go up until the Republic of Sakha, or Yakutia. In Yakutsk I want to visit a famous fortress. I need to buy more clothes, especially what Russians call kalson, because now in Yakutia they have minus 40 degrees. The houses in Yakutia are very solid, one metre width, and they have 3 windows. They do not use refrigerators. The food is put between the second and the third window through a small door called forteshku.
Do svidania tovarishi!