Twenty-twenty-one: despite the odds – busy, successful and fun!

Happy New Year folks!

Sure, we’re already half-way through January 2022, but, as I think now most of you already know, the first week of the first month of every year is a week-off for everyone in Russia (apart from the unlucky few who keep the country, its roads, its supermarkets, etc., etc. running). Brief excuse regarding explanation of my seeming tardiness out the way, let me swiftly move on to another annual year-end/beginning tradition of mine: my review of the previous year!

Briefly, 2021 was… a busy and dynamic year (and in many different ways) for us as a Kompany, and no less busy and dynamic for me personally (no change there, then). And all things covid didn’t hold us back in any way – hurray! Wow – that was brief. More brevity – of a visual kind: simply three super pics taken in 2021 to lift your mood this winter’s day ) ->

Pole of Cold, Siberia:

Volcanism, Kamchatka:

And a tropical Christmas tree, Maldives:

Read on…

The colors of Kamchatka: after orange landscapes, milky-white waterfalls and fountains.

After checking out the very orange Koshelev volcano, next up simply has to be milky-white waterfalls – a truly unique phenomenon.

I mean, the water in these falls isn’t just seemingly white, much like waves coming in off the ocean (all the bubbles/froth). This water is actually really white – like milk! How so? Well, due to the local volcanism there’s an unusually high concentration of aluminum (and other similar natural elements) in the water here, not only making the water milky, but also leaving deposits of whiteness on the bedrock underneath and along the waterways. The milky water also seals up the walls of underground natural streams, forming tubes – along which water flows. Pressure builds, and eventually it is shot out of the ground like a fountain:

Read on…

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Koshelev volcano – we made the peak, but ridge-walking – no.

One fine (shock, horror!) August morning in Southern Kamchatka last year, we awoke at the foot of the wonderful Koshelev volcano (shocking awesomeness). Then we heard the nearby – aluminum laden – streams a-trickling (shocking, but true). Yes, there was so much shock to our collective systems we did all nearly faint, but we pulled through, fully conscious – just…).

Read on…

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Kurile Lake: where you – and bears – can take a break.

It’s 2022 already, and I still can’t get to the end of my Kamchatka (summer) 2021 tales! And I really do want to finish up at least by the end of the Russian New Year public holiday break (Dec. 31 – Jan. 9!) as… well, to be able to make a fresh start on fresh tales about fresh travels and other fresh adventures in the fresh New Year!…

So, where did I leave off the other day? Ah yes – choppering down to Kamchatka’s Kurile Lake; specifically – its Ozerny camp, situated on the river Ozernaya, which flows toward the villages of Ozernovsky and Zaporozhye by the western coast of the peninsula. Here’s Ozerny camp:

Read on…

It’s not a motorcycle it’s a chopper, baby.

Ksudach caldera ring-walk: done – twice! Next up – a helicopter ride down to Kurile Lake

One great thing about helicopters, at least here in remote Kamchatka – they come to you! You don’t need to get up early, get a taxi to the airport the other side of town, and then stand in various lines and wait around for hours until you’re finally seated on an airliner. With a chopper – all that’s missed out; for us, here, that meant it landed on the hot beach our camp was on! Distance from ‘bed’ to ‘seat on the means of transportation’ – a few hundred meters, covered in minutes!

Read on…

Beauty-360˚: the top-10 volcanic-caldera-ring tracks in the world.

Walking around – full circle – the upper ridges of volcanic craters and calderas is a splendid idea. Unique views in all directions, aka – beauty-360˚! I’ve already gone into this topic in a research-post entitled: 12 reasons why volcanoes are way better than mere mountains. From there, I quote:

“Mountains are good in that, once you’ve climbed to the top of one and look around, you get a massive dose of ‘oh my gorgeous!’ But with volcanoes you get a mega-massive dose of the same, plus often there’s a bonus: looking inward – not out – you get the fantastically pretty volcanic craters to feast your eyes on.

It’s only sat on the rim of a volcanic crater you realize how tiny and insignificant man and all his civilization is. I’m sure astronauts get this feeling too, but they’re up in space. On Earth: a volcanic crater is the place to be. All our labors and plans and worries and frets – how meaningless they all become when compared with the magnitude and magnificence of nature.”

And that’s just how it is. Multicolored shadings, the colossal grandiosity of the constructions, the exquisiteness of the shapes, plus the antidote to human delusions of grandeur. The ‘kings of nature’? You realize Homo sapiens are no such thing when you find yourself on the rim of the caldera of an active stratovolcano! For it’s not just a big lump of inert mountain: a volcano is alive – brimming with volatile underground chemistry!

So, you get it: volcanoes are better ). But what can you do to get more of the magical experience that is volcano-gazing – as in: prolong that experience? Easy (actually… hardly:) – you trek around the full circumference of a volcano’s caldera/crater – up on its upper ridge. Oh yes…

As you’ll know, or will be able to guess – I’ve done quite a few caldera rim-walks. But I wonder how many? Let’s tot them up. Maybe someone will want to follow in my footsteps (recommended) or try to beat my total (recommended:)…

I. Ksudach (Kamchatka). Full (detailed) trekking-tourist guide – here.

Read on…

Caldera ridge-walking that’s hard to match: welcome, folks, to Kamchatka’s Ksudach!

Another marvelously mind-blowing place in the Kamchatka must-see category is Ksudach. It’s the caldera of an ancient volcano inside which a new volcanic cone continues to grow, resulting in two lakes that are simply unreally fantastic to behold. The scale too is… almost off-the-scale for a volcano: the main, outer caldera – almost an ideal circle – is some seven (7!) or eight (8!) kilometers wide! To see such a spectacle with your own eyes (photos never fully capture it), is oh-my-gargantuan! Especially from the ridge of the caldera:

Read on…

Khodutka: the volcano with the best hot springs in the world.

Next up on our Kamchatkan adventure – rather: next down – we chopper out of the city and fly south!…

After half-an-hour, or around 100km, we make it to our next must-stop-and-investigate. We could have stopped off along the way for some hors d’oeuvres, but the weather was just a bit too cloudy for comfort, so we settled for hors d’oeuvres-tasting from the comfort of our helicopter instead:

That symmetrical beauty is Vilyuchik, which you can see from the city (as long as it’s not hiding as a mirage). Oh Vilyuchik – why are you so photogenic?!

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Rafting in Kamchatka.

Though we’re already well south of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in my Kamchatka-2021 travelogue series, I haven’t reported anything yet on rafting on the peninsula. Well that changes in this post, and now – not later – is as good a time as any, since all our rafting had been done by the time we reached ‘the city’ as there are no decent rafting rivers in southern Kamchatka (perhaps with the exception of the Opala river, but I’ve never rafted it myself).

Over the years I’ve often had the pleasure of rafting in Kamchatka – and mostly in the central part of the peninsula: down the Bistraya (fast) river (near the village of Esso), the Bistraya (!) river near the village of Malka (the southernmost stream/river I’ve rafted down), and also the Icha river.

I won’t go into detail here, but I will say is that rafting in Kamchatka is a welcome alternative activity when trekking up to and around volcanoes might become a bit too samey for some (it can never be too samey for me, but there’s no accounting for taste bizarre viewpoints:). In short, the rafting = adrenaline rushes: check; wonderful Kam-scapes whizzing past: check; oar action as one’s daily fitness activity: check; much beauty and meditation possibilities: check.

Read on…->

How to experience the Kamchatkan volcanoes Gorely and Mutnovsky properly.

Wanting to continue my travelogue series ‘southward from the city’, I looked back at some of my older Kamchatka chronicles, and I found this neat little ‘southward from the city’ synopsis, from 2015:

“In my humble opinion, Kamchatka is the most fascinating and beautiful place on the planet. Voluptuous volcanoes with colossal craters with multicolored lakes, + unearthly surrounding landscapes, geysers and hot springs, + lazy wild brown bears roaming free, + red caviar applied on your sandwiches not with a knife or teaspoon but with a spade :).”

And, indeed, I was thinking maybe I’ll pass going over old ground – the Kam-wonders that are reachable by car within a day, but then I reconsidered…

The main reason is… I occasionally read folks’ travel notes from their trips to southern Kamchatka, and they’re… just silly! Example: a group will report proudly how they made it to the top of the volcano Gorely. But getting to the peak completely misses the point: what needs doing is a trek along the top-rims of the craters – full circle, and the same goes for other volcanoes here. Then you get a whole day of the most amazing natural beauty all around you, while you steadily plod along. Racing to a peak, taking a few pics, then racing back down again – where’s the fun in that? What is the point? See – it’s like I say: just silly ). So, that’s my first reason for not passing over some previously-reported volcanisms: to make up for the sacrilege that’s out there on the internet!

Accordingly, here, today, dear readers: Gorely review! In particular – the multicolored lakes thereof.

First – to the readers who haven’t (yet:) been to Kamchatka: this is a volcano that is categorically visit-mandatory! I know I rave about most any volcano on the peninsula, but this one really is A-list, VIP, elite, etc. Alas, neither Google Maps nor Russia’s Yandex Maps shows the full topology of this volcano, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome in the flesh. The main thing: the sheer size and… ambiguity of the structure of this volcano – plus the lakes in its two main craters.

Read on…