Tag Archives: kamchatka-2015

Kamchatka-2015: Back home.

All good things must come to an end: that’s it for at least another year. Time to go home.

In all we’ve trekked/climbed/clambered/slipped/tripped around 300 kilometers, been up five volcanoes (though not always quite to the very top), scanned hundreds of square kilometers of phenomenal natural beauty, scared (or maybe just surprised) dozens of bears, and fed a zillion mosquitos. We’ve also used up kilometers of Kodachrome gigabytes of memory cards :).



Read on: Good-bye Kamchatka!…

Terra Incognita. Southern Kamchatkan volcanoes: Koshelyov.

As our An-Kam-2015 inexorably approached its end, we had just one more volcano to check out: Koshelev – actually pronounced Koshelyov (accent on the lyov).

Though the name is in the singular, this isn’t a single volcano – it’s a set of five different volcanoes, each of which erupted at different times, and which together make up a single massive construction of varied volcanism. Since all the volcanoes are old, they’re all partly collapsed. But that’s just what makes them all the more photogenic.

The parts of Koshelyov we checked out (the western peaks) consist of lava stacks (the centers of former craters) colored with multicolored volcanic remains. Various shades of black, white, red and yellow almost glistening in the bright sunlight of the clear day we were lucky enough to be here on.


Read on: It was getting really tough towards the end of the trip…

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Kamchatka-2015: Snow caves and tunnels.

I think Kamchatka’s snow caves and tunnels are worthy of a post of their own…

A lot of snow falls in Kamchatka. A heck of a lot. And in some places infinitesimal quantities – dozens of meters deep. Now, all that snow… some a lot of it of course falls onto the many hot streams here (that is, streams with underground heating – very posh:), and what you get is a maze of tunnels under the snowdrifts. And the snow in which the tunnels are made doesn’t have time to melt during the Kamchatkan spring, and sometimes – even during summer (since there’s just so much of it). Enter us! Who dutifully entered said snow tunnels!

Check out the pics…


The water that drips down from the snow-roof – yum!

Read on: Really yum!…

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Terra Incognita. Southern Kamchatkan volcanoes: Kambalny.

Though Kamchatka isn’t the most well-known or accessible tourist destination in the world, it still has more than its fair share of ‘touristic meccas’, like the Valley of the Geysers, Tolbachik (especially during an eruption), and the Mutnovsky and Goreliy volcanoes. But it also has less-visited attractions too, for example the Ksudach volcano. Then there are places where a bear‘s paw print in the mud is observed without the slightest increase in heartbeat – as it would be just one among thousands of bear paw prints. And the sight of a human’s boot print similarly calls up zero emotions – as you see humans’ boot prints… never! For no one lives in such places, and only one or two groups of tourists visit… per year! These places are utterly barren, desolate, deserted and silent: Terra Incognita!

Oh, what a shame. For these incognito lands are all must-see! 

Two such must-see spots on Kamchatka’s Terra Incognita are the two volcanoes Kambalny and Koshelev.

Alas, we didn’t climb up to the very top of their crater rims as our schedule wouldn’t permit it. We settled instead for strolling about the area, and in doing so worked out our plan for the next Kambalny/Koshelev visit: to walk from Pauzhetka to Kambalny, then down to Kambalny Lake, and then… we’ll just have to see how much energy is left for onward volcano climbing…

Kambalny is a volcano 2161 meters high, but it also has a volcanic ridge some 15km long, which goes straight from north to south right in the middle of lower Kamchatka – directly between the Sea of Okhotsk and Kurile Lake.




Oh my gorgeous. Fantastical spectacles…

Read on: Black rock, red rock, yellow rock, white rocks…

Kamchatka-2015: white waterfalls and abandoned stone boats.

I first intended starting this post about three places of interest near Pauzhetka with a satellite photo of the vicinity (the area between the Sea of Okhotsk and Kurile Lake). However, I couldn’t find a single one on the net. Search engines could only come up with this detail-free specimen of topographical depiction: you zoom in, and get just a blur! Ok, so it’s a remote spot of the world, but really…

Anyway, first up: the White Waterfalls.

An amazing place! I’ve never seen natural fountains gushing from a cliff face (there are geysers of course, but they gush from the ground).


Read on: Wait! There is more…

Kamchatka-2015: Pauzhetka – where the electricity is free.

There’s a small remote village in Kamchatka called Pauzhetka – to the far south of the peninsula. It’s so small and remote, Google Maps shows, er, nothing, where in fact lies this settlement. It just didn’t get round to it I guess.

Perhaps that’s understandable: the village (situated between the Sea of Okhotsk and Kurile Lake) is surrounded on all sides by volcanoes. Pauzhetka is so unremarkable, it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page dedicated to it. (Hmmm, maybe one just needs writing then; maybe even a grandiose Wiki affair with photos, facts and figures, history and other details? Well why not? Any volunteers? Internet enthusiasts to the rescue of online Pauzhetka!)

We were told that the name Pauzhetka comes from the former name – Pauzha – of a local river. I wonder, was that the Itelmen name? Well, anyway, that river is now called Pauzhetka too. Just so no one confuses the two.

I like how Pauzhetka sounds. I imagine a ‘pause’ when thinking of this place. As if life is put on pauze when folks come here, as it’s so out of the normal rhythm of life and the world. Something like that anyway.

Pauzhetka is just one of many interesting-sounding names on Kamchatka. Others include: the Goreliy (burnt) volcano, the Dvugorbaya (twin-peaked) volcano, and the Falshiviy (false), and Zhirovoy (fatty) streams!

// Sure, pioneers often gave bizarre names to the peaks, valleys, bays and other places they discovered. For example, in South Africa there’s a False Bay, which has a most interesting tale behind it. However, today’s post is about Kamchatkan names only.

There are more odd names, particularly of volcanoes. Examples: Mutniy (muddy), Beliy (white), Ploskiy (flat), Shish (the ‘bird‘:), Ostriy (sharp), and Spokoyniy (calm).

But now – back to the main topic: Pauzhetka. What else is there to Pauzhetka? Three main things (besides volcanism plain and simple):

– A geothermal power plant;
– Fruit and veg;
– Much natural beauty.

The geothermal power plant produces not only gigawatts of free-of-charge thermal electricity for Kamchatkans, but also lots and lots of boiling water for the valley below (also free), which the locals naturally put to good use with pleasure.

The hot water might also have a hand in making the fruit and vegetables grown in the many greenhouses in and around the village as tasty as we discovered them to be. And not only the obvious tomatoes, cabbages and potatoes, but also watermelons! Some even claim that pineapples and papayas are grown, though we didn’t catch a glimpse of any such exotic fruit – they must be tucked away deep inside the greenhouse jungle.

Here’s the view of the Pauzhetka area from one of the mountains next to it (the village itself isn’t visible, just like on Google:).


Read on: not only a beautiful place, but very tasty too one too!…

Kamchatka-2015 – If you can walk with bears…

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, and you find yourself on the bank of Kurile Lake and are told to ‘go check out the sand bank’ by your guides, make sure you agree and get yourself over there! For what you’ll get is a heady cocktail of adrenaline, delight and emotions. Why? Because… of all the bears. And not just a handful, but a whole big pack of them…


Read on: the place is packed full of grizzlies…

Kamchatka-2015 – Kurile Lake: Sock-eye salmon and beady-eye bears.

They say that the world’s largest population of sockeye salmon – several million of them – comes to spawn in Kurile Lake. And, having been there, I can believe it: it’s packed full of fish, lots visible to the naked eye, splashing about frantically. Not quite as packed as the lakes in Alaska (you can’t see through the fish there’s so many there), but all the same – impressive.

Kurile Lake – rather, the land surrounding it – is also big on… bears: big, as in, the largest population of brown bears in the world – around 5000 of them, if my memory serves me well. At least – it was 5000 several years back. Now it’s probably a lot higher as they’re propagating at a turbo-charged rate of late. I remember the norm for a family unit of bears being mummy bear plus just one or two cubs. These days there are normally three if not four cubs! So it looks like everything in the bears’ reproduction department is doing just fine :).



Read on: how many bears can you see in the next pic?…

Kamchatka-2015 – Ilynsky – the Kempinski of the volcanoes.

Next up on An-Kam-2015Ilynsky.

This is one grandiose volcano. There’s no arguing about it.

And the bigger – the better. Or so it seems at first… (more on the downside below). Anyway, we decided almost impulsively to get ourselves to its peak, for the views from up there are sure to be amazing – weather permitting.

Here’s what it looks like from the window of a helicopter, and also from the shore of Kurile Lake:



Read on: we FINALLY MADE IT!…

Kamchatka-2015: Ksudach – the Countach of the volcanoes.

The Ksudach volcano is one of the most unusual and breathtakingly beautiful places on our planet – I assure you. And since I’m lucky enough to have been practically everywhere on the planet, my assurances can be trusted, I do hope :).

All righty, what we got here?…

Basically, a colossal (7km – SEVEN KILOMETERS – in diameter!), almost perfectly round caldera of a very old volcano, which on maps looks like a crater on the moon. Inside the caldera there’s a cone of a new volcano (whose mouth is approx. one kilometer across); there are also two lakes, hot springs on a sandy beach, scrubby slopes on one side, gray-yellow volcanic slag on the other, and a sheer drop down to one side of the main lake. In all, the most out-of-this-world and unusual and heart-stirring and spine-tingling and goosebumps-giving sight you could ever possibly behold, at least on this planet.



Read on: Stunning, moving, crazy, astounding…