Tag Archives: kamchatka

Kamchatkan Mirages: foreword.

Hi folks!

Oh my… golden leaves! It’s fall already! Is it just me, or do summers seem to get shorter and shorter by the year? Still, there’s a good reason why my summer seemed to fly past – a third of it (mid-July to mid-August: nearly a whole month) I spent in Kamchatka, my fave place on the planet, where, as always, I had much fun and adventures, during which of course times flies…

And time flies for me still to this day (year) in Kamchatka, even though this trip was my seventh full vacation on the peninsula (not including quick ins-and-outs en route to the Kuril Islands a few times). And another thing that never seems to change is the fact that there are still plenty of places in Kamchatka that I’ve yet to get to and fully investigate (there are also a great many astonishingly beautiful places there I just never tire of returning to).

Here, for example, is a place I’ve never visited – the Zheltovsky volcano – near the southernmost tip of the peninsula ->

So, why Kamchatka?

Read on…

Bechevinka – another abandoned settlement, this time in Kamchatka.

And you thought it was over? My Tales from the Kurilian Side…

I mean? Well, you would, since it’s been more than a week since I wrapped up the Kurils-2019 series, and two weeks since publication of the few (non-Kurilian) bonus tracks tagged onto the end (including Tyuleny Island, Aniva and the Commander Islands).

Well, this is the ‘bonus-track post that got away’. See, I was planning on including its content into the wrapping-up post just mentioned, but… since it is somewhat negative, I didn’t want to end the Kurils series – a very positive series – on a sour note. It just didn’t sit well with the warm glow of nostalgia already kicking in after our Kurils adventure. Accordingly, I saved it for later; and that later has now arrived…

At sundown on the last day of our Kurils expedition we reached the picturesque Bechevinskaya Bay, Kamchatka, which is a few hours gentle sail from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the peninsula’s main city. I’ll get to the pretty pics in a bit, but first – some background historical information about this place.

A shore of the bay is the site of an abandoned Soviet military settlement – Bechevinka. Its story is very similar to that of the abandoned settlement of Kraterny on Brouton Bay on the Kuril Island of Simushir. Well, except that they didn’t deepen the bay here with a gigantic explosion; everything else though – pretty much the same. Garrison settlement and military base, key role military role of the Soviet Union; then came along perestroika, it was abandoned (that is, literally – everything just left as it was) > rusting old infrastructure, desolation, neglect – like this:

Read on…

Flickr photostream

  • Italy
  • Italy
  • Italy
  • Italy

Instagram photostream

Kurils-2019 adventure – over and out.

All righty. After our brief inspection of the Commander Islands, we raced back to the Athens and set sail for Kamchatka. But no matter how fast we sailed, we couldn’t keep ahead of the storm – approaching sternwards. That last detail – sternwards – was actually a blessing in disguise: if it had come in from the port or starboard side it could have spelled disaster. So, in a word: phew.

In the photos below it may not be easy to grasp just how high those waves got: much higher than the Athens! Good Lord were they powerful – rocking the boat around like… a bucking bronco. Not for the squeamish. Most of the posse stayed on their bunks for a full two days while the storm passed, with only a few occasionally adventuring out to the dining room ).

Read on…

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog

Kurils-2019: time to unmoor – let’s start our tour!

Hi folks!

All righty. After a welcome time-out during our flight from Moscow to Petropavlovsk, it was over to our traditional first stop for some much-needed acclimatization – a nice little hotel in the village of Paratunka, made all the more nice by its having a piping hot spring water swimming pool! Just the ticket with nine hours of jetlag to cope with. And after a dip, time to eat like royalty (Kamchatka, being a peninsula surrounded by vast seas, sure knows how to serve up a fresh seafood spread fit for any king:). But I’ve told you about this arrival-ritual plenty of times before, so I won’t go over it all again here.

Moving on – and over to the marine theme; particularly – to the ship that was to take us around the Kurils for a month. And here she is!

Joke. Did I get you?! No, our ride sail for the month was a little more modest; familiar too: it was the Afina or Athens! Yep – the same vessel we toured the Kurils on back in 2014. Here she is, in all her glamour and splendor:

But before we embark, a brief few words about Petropavlovsk port – one of those ‘then and now’ things.

Read on…

Going the extra miles – to the Kuril Isles (via Kamchatka).

Privet comrades!

Oh my ginormous! As I behold the full five and a half thousand (!) pics and vids (mine and others’) from our recent hundreds of nautical miles around the Kuril Isles, I begin to wonder just where I should start. But start I must. Ok, let’s do this simply and logically: I’ll just start from the beginning…

It all started with our flight from Moscow to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, from where our expedition began – and finished a month later!

As you know, I’m very partial to a spot of long-hauling. You sit by the window, you get through your backlog of emails that you just never can get through fully in the office, you get through most of an interesting new novel or non-fiction book, you watch a good movie from long ago (since there are hardly any good movies made today, or so it seems to me), and sometimes you get to see some wonderful aerial scenes out of said window, which you of course take a few pics of…

This time I was snapping away right from the get-go: the weather was clement and I got in a good clear shot of the suburbs of Moscow:

Woah – and there’s our office. I’ll be seeing you, office – in more than a month’s time!

Read on…

Kamchatka-2018: Kam-route, Kam-vids, Kam from outer space.

Hi Folks!

Herewith, the LAST post in the series on our Kamchatka-2018 expedition! No, really. “What? No meandering 30-post extended-version travelogue with several hundred pics?” Nope. Not this year. Don’t worry though: I’ll make up for this year’s scant reportage after the next Kamchatka mission.

But back to this year’s trip…

So. What have I got for you today?

First, of course, there’s the full route taken this year in on the peninsula, with a few assorted pics inserted at different points along the way:

I do hope that this route – plus the few travel-tales in the earlier Kamchatka-2018 posts, or indeed all my Kamchatka notes (and there are a lot of them!) – might make the seemingly daunting destination of Kamchatka a bit less intimidating for some of the more adventurous among you, dear readers. If we can do it – average folks with average fitness levels – so can you! Just follow our route and you’ll be fine ).

Now what else?

As it’s Tuesday, and you’ve probably got enough reading on your plate already, I’ve got for you today a series of videos on this year’s expedition:

1) Expedition highlights:

Read on: Bears in action!…

Leaden sky.

My definition of happiness: In excellent company; in nice weather (under a warm sun and clear blue skies); with oh-my-gorgeous views all around (and no other tourists getting in the way!); not counting the great many kilometers trekked, or the number of rivers waded or zip-lined across, or the masses of mosquitoes and innumerable insects (which mysteriously disappear all of a sudden); having ones mind, body and soul filled with the rejuvenating tonic of exotic expedition; with a fresh wind blowing; with a spirit that is tranquil, contemplative and meditative… where?… – you guessed it: in KAMCHATKA!!

Along wild meadows, dry tundra, and sometimes swampy stretches; across volcanic rubble… – it all equals contentedness.

Read on…

Geothermal-gastronomical.

There are just two ways to get to the white waterfalls I told you about in a recent post post. You can either walk from the village Pauzhetka (en route to the peaks of Koshelev volcano), or – just the opposite – walk from the same volcano en route to Pauzhetka. So you see: all roads lead to and from Pauzhetka. Accordingly, this post is dedicated to the small yet significant – and most curious – village of Pauzhetka…

Pauzhetka is a village of extremes:

First: It’s probably one of the remotest settlements on the whole of the peninsula. To get there in a regular road car is probably impossible. To get there in a 4×4 or off-road vehicle from nearest town of Ust-Bolsheretsk takes up to two days (including a long stretch along the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk, and probably entailing a few ferry crossings). On the other hand, getting to the village by air isn’t too much trouble: there are scheduled flights once a week (from Petropavlovsk) to Ozernaya airport, which isn’t far from the nearest village on the coast – a mere 30 kilometers from the Pauzhetka. The only other means of transport that can be used to get there is chartered helicopter.

Second: It’s tiny. Locals put the population at a mere 42 folks ((co)incidentally, a magical number:).

Third: Still – as of summer 2018 (!), there’s no cellphone coverage – at all!

Fourth: Though the village is tiny and very inaccessible, it nevertheless has its own… geothermal power plant – Pauzhetskaya (the first power plant of its kind in Russia (or maybe even the USSR – I’m not sure)! As a result, the local area is supplied with free electricity and hot water! Free, as in – zero rubles! And it comes in seemingly unlimited supply: no electricity meters… nothing: as much as you want to use, whenever. Leave the TV on – fine! Never turn the iron off (if that’s what really floats your boat) ok! And it’s not as if the local authorities discourage such wanton waste of energy supplies: they don’t bother turning off every home’s central heating… ever! See – told you the place is one of extremes ).

(Btw: I’ve written about Pauzhetka before.)

AAAnnnyway, that’s all beside the point (yes, I do like to digress).

What makes Pauzhetka so significant to me is that you need to go through it to get to the nearby OMG-stratovolcanoes – Koshelev and Kambalny. Now, since Pauzhetka is located in such a touristic paradise, you might think that it’d be all… Davos-like: nothing but hotels and guesthouses and restaurants to cater for the tourists. Alas – nope. Pauzhetka doesn’t do tourism – for a few reasons.

First, this place is inaccessible, literally middle-of-nowhere, and literally unheard of (almost). Just try Google photos of Koshelev Volcano: my photos are the first to be shown!

Second, getting here ain’t cheap (in part because it’s so hard to get to), which reduces its average-tourist magnetism to around zero. And for the serious explorer-expeditioner-climber, the volcanoes are just too easy to conquer:

– What were you climbing this summer?
– I did a couple volcanoes in Kamchatka.
– Cool. I hear Kamchatka’s the bomb when it comes to serious volcanism. What altitudes did you get up to then?
– Ah. Er… 1800 and 2200 meters.
– Oh…

Accordingly, every tourist passing through Pauzhetka fits easily in this here ‘tourist base’ made up of two buildings with sleeping quarters, the inevitable pool filled with hot thermal water, and lots of vegetable patches and greenhouses:

But these aren’t just regular, common-or-vegetable-garden greenhouses…

First, these are greenhouses supplied with as much free hot water as needed all year round. Second, the soil here is super fertile volcanic soil packed with mega-doses of the minerals fruit and veg love. Third, there’s the industriousness of the locals who tend the greenhouses…

Read on…

The kings of Kamchatka.

It’s high time I said a few words about the kings of Kamchatka. Brown, self-powered mammoths with all-wheel drive, which you need to treat with the utmost caution should you ever meet any…

To the inevitable question upon returning home – ‘Did you see any bears?’ – we answered in the positive. The bears saw us too, but since bears don’t do cameras – and were anyway far more interested in the masses of fish in the rivers – they took little notice of us: a quick, sated glance over in our direction and off they shuffled. We, on the other hand, took lots of notice of them – with our Kamchatka newbies doing most of the photography.

You might think it’d be a bit risky taking pics of bears out in the wilds – no matter how satiated they are. And you’d be right. But from where we were observing them the dangers had been taken fully into account: low-current electric fences separate the beasts from the humans; in fact, they surround the living/observing areas completely, like this:

Read on: some awesome close-up shots…

White water.

When you climb up or descend down the very orange Koshelev volcano, it’s practically impossible to miss the white waterfalls. Which is just as well as missing these fine cascades of H2O would be most regrettable; for these are truly unique phenomena.

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 invisibly to the eye. And since here there are sharp changes in altitude, at the exits of the underground well springs it’s no mere bubble-fest, it’s a full-on whitewater splashing frenzy as it spurts out of the ground! Not quite geysers, but equally fascinating – and more unusual and unique.

Read on…