Kamchatka-2012: Volcanism.

Day 15 (for the second group – day 1). Heading north.

If you ever happen to one day find yourself in Kamchatka, specifically in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, and you have a free day on which the weather is good and the wallet is sufficiently bulging, then it’s perfectly feasible to have yourself a fantastic day to remember. What you do is organize a helicopter excursion and head north – to Klyuchevskaya Sopka and back. Such a day-excursion comes highly recommended – a total mind… flip – is guaranteed!

As mentioned – you need to sort yourself a helicopter, which really should be ordered in advance. After having done so, you pray for fine weather on the day of your trip. It’s a good idea to take spare batteries with you for your cameras and similar kit, as you’ll find you use them pretty much non-stop.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been on numerous helicopter excursions all over the planet – but in terms of the sheer overload of impressions, Kamchatka leads by a mile.

En route we flew over several volcanoes (including an erupting one, but which by next season may die down), the hissing caldera of the Uzon volcano (with a touchdown and excursion), the Valley of the Geysers (touchdown & excursion), the Kluchevskaya group of volcanoes, and the Northern Fissure (where we walked along the peaks of red hills). Unforgettable!

// For those in need of more details re all the below-listed, click here, or search the net.

1. Karymsky, 1536m – a permanently active volcano:

Karymsky Volcano

More: An unforgettable day …

Kamchatka-2012: The Battle for Mutnovka.

Mutnovsky volcano and environs (locally known simply as Mutnovka) are made up – handily – of three birds (killed with one stone) and a bonus track.

First, there’s Mutnovka itself – an active volcano of indescribable beauty, a canyon, ice cap, craters, streams, steam vents, sulfuric springs, and so on and so forth. Second, there’s Gorely – also a volcano, but nothing like Mutnovka, so also very interesting and visit-worthy. (By the way, right before our last trip here, in 2010, Gorely suddenly started to hiss and gurgle – so we gave it a miss then, just in case.) Third, amazing lava fields, caves and tunnels. And the bonus track? I’ll get to that a bit later…

The great thing about the place is that all four sights are close together: you can walk among all four quite easily in minutes, not hours.

Mutnovsky volcano

More: The weather takes a sharp turn …

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Kamchatka-2012: Rocking the Ksudach.

Days 3-4-5. Ksudach.

We flew from Kurile Lake to Ksudach by helicopter. We could have got there by foot of course, but, first, no one knew the way; second, we couldn’t find a crazy enough guide; and third, no one really fancied battling through the dense undergrowth. Oh, and fourth: the whole route is cut with bears. Maybe next time we should prepare beforehand and work out a passable route – one that would also take in Kambalny volcano. From Google Maps it looks rather tempting.

Ksudach
Kambalny Google Map

More: Building the paddling pools inside the volcano…

Kamchatka-2012: History. And Why You Can Never Trust a Bear.

Day 3. Kutkhiniy Batiy

Before Russians settled on Kamchatka it was populated by Itelmens, Koryaks, Evens, Chukchi and Aleut. The first Russian expeditions to, and settlements on, Kamchatka, and the peninsula’s becoming part of the Russian state all took place in the seventeenth century. Then the Crimean war kicked off, which in 1854 reached as far as peaceful Kamchatka. That was followed by the Russian-Japanese War in 1904… But for a complete history of Kamchatka, have a look here.

But let me tell you an Itelmen legend about the creation of Kamchatka and how the Kutkhiniy Batiy came into existence, as told by our guide – a local hunter.

Kutkhiniy Batiy

More: Once upon a time there lived a hardworking raven called Kutkh …

Kamchatka-2012: Bears.

Day 2. Bears, Bears Everywhere – Not One to Fear

Kurile Lake is famous not only for its surrounding scenery and nearby volcanos, but also for the local demographic situation with bears – that demographic being: there are loads of them!

They roam around camps either on their own or as family units – moms and their little ones. The camp we were in had a perimeter fence all around it separating the camp from the surrounding bear-inhabited wilds. The fence is just a little bit electrified – enough just to give the big furry mammals a bit of a scare, nothing more – so the bears generally won’t fancy breaking through said fence with all their weight and might. As we were told, bears touch unknown objects with their noses, and a light electric shock is enough to correct bears’ “auto-pilot”. They take no notice of the folks inside the fence and carry on with their lives undisturbed, even grazing just a few meters from the barrier.

We observed how outside the perimeter everything was relatively peaceful – all the bears mulling about appeared to be in good, calm spirits… until one elder-bear started to pester a younger and weaker member of the sleuth – with the result that the latter, having had enough of this harassment, decided to go for flight as opposed to fight – via (understandably) the shortest route possible, which happened to be right across our camp. It was as if he’d forgotten about the fence, charging at it at full speed. Poor thing. He was soon reminded about it, that was for sure L. He was ok though, just a little startled!

// According to an old folk tale, “A hippo has poor eyesight, but given his size – it’s hardly a problem for him.” :)

Bear

More: Bears’ kindergarten …

Kamchatka-2012: “No Regrets!”

Kamchatka-2012: “No Regrets!”

The next chapter in the expedition travelogue…

Day 1. And We’re Off!

Let me start with a joke. But not just any old joke – there’s a point to it. You’ll see!…

So, two old friends meet up by chance after not seeing each other for years:

– Wohhh, dude! How many years has it been? How the devil are you?!
– Good, thanks. I got married [In a mournful tone].
– Congratulations! Let’s go for some beers and celebrate the occasion!
– No, can’t. Beers aren’t allowed.
– Then football, eh? Like the good old days?
– Nope. Football – not allowed either.
– Hmmm. Ok, let’s get out to the dacha [summer house]. The woods, mushrooms, barbeque, and all that?
– No can do. The woods, barbeque and all that – not allowed.
– I see. So, you don’t regret getting married?
– No. Regret isn’t allowed.

On every successful expedition or tourist-hike, sooner or later a short slogan tends to come into existence that starts being repeated more and more, and which eventually comes to be the trip’s motto, infusing the trip and everything that occurs on it with its essence. Well, Kamchatka-2012’s motto fairly promptly came to be “No Regrets!” – none at all, zero, naught, zilch regrets. No matter the multiple hindrances to a semblance of holiday good times – the far from perfect weather conditions, the scarcity of drinking water, the excess of water pouring down from the heavens, the massive airborne mutant bloodsucking beasts, the numb legs and sore feet from far too much hiking up mountainsides, and so on…

…Despite all of that, everyone, in the end, had no regrets whatsoever!

Travel Books

More: plan of the trip – to see everything! …

Kamchatka-Tourism: Tricky Without Helicopters.

Hi all!

Herewith, the next installment of the travelogue of this year’s Kamchatka adventure.

Today you’ll be getting the low-down – and lots of pics – on the universal, essential means of transport for navigating the peninsula: the helicopter. A lot of the photos aren’t mine; they were taken by other members of the crew of adventurers.

Moutain Helicopter Pad

More: Kamchatka copters and Kamchatka from copters …

Kamchatka Comin’ Atcha!

Howdy, folks!

I’m a big fan of Kamchatka. I’ve been all over the world and seen many of its natural wonders, but nowhere on this planet have I seen such a high concentration of natural beauty and unusualness, mixed in good proportions with overcoming difficulties of the on-foot and water-based tourist way of life, with mushrooms, fish, red caviar, and roaming bears. They say that New Zealand is also such a uniquely beautiful volcanic-mountain-lake land, but I haven’t been – so I can’t compare the two yet. Sooner or later I’ll get myself there though, and will be able juxtapose them for you. But for now – the Kamchatka Peninsula.

I won’t wax lyrical as I often do on these here blog pages; I’ll limit my words here to just the following: Kamchatka is unbelievably amazing and fantastic, utterly unique, and as a result totally mind-blowing. I’ve just confirmed this to myself one more time. As if I needed convincing!

Practically in a straight line along the eastern coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula there are seven unique natural phenomena, each of which could easily be put on the list of the world’s natural wonders. The curious thing is that practically nothing is known about these extraordinary places in the West – or in the East, and even in Russia too.

What would the average Russian person stopped in the street say if asked about Kamchatka? Probably: “it’s a place where there’s plenty of fish, caviar, bears and huge crabs”. Some might even be able to add: “it’s where the Valley of the Geysers is”. However, that valley is just one of the seven Kamchatka wonders. Let me give you the full list, from North to South:

  1. The Kluchevsky Group – a dozen or so huge to mid-sized volcanoes, in a relatively confined space.
  2. Tolbachik, and the Severny Proriv (Northern Rupture), which is a black desert – the result of a crack that formed during a long eruption in the mid-1970s.
  3. The Valley of the Geysers and the Uzon caldera – bubbling and erupting volcanism.
  4. The Mutnovsky volcano range and the Gorely volcano – monumentally beautiful volcanic structures.
  5. Khodutka – the largest thermal springs in the world, which form a too-hot-to-swim-in lake.
  6. Ksudach – a crater inside a crater, a lake, and overall surrealism.
  7. Kurile Lake – bountiful bears, and stupefying scenery.

The story of how the 2012 month-long expedition went I’ll be publishing here in installments.

But with no more of a do, let’s cut to the chase and get to the pics in this first installment – a few for each of the seven wonders of Kamchatka:

1. The Kluchevsky Group

Sunset Mountains

More: And the other six Kamchatka wonders …

Kamchatka-2012, Day 0.

Howdy all, from the village of Paratunka! Here we’re at a small hotel that has warm water springs in its grounds that flow into natural swimming pools. All ecological, none of that horrid chlorine, and great fun! Paratunka is near the end tip of Kamchatka, in the far-far-far-east of Russia. The hotel was nothing special, but that didn’t matter. The only things that did matter were the nice warm temperature and freshness of the water in the hotel’s pools.

Kamchatka Hotel

Read on: Kamchatka-2012, Day 0.