Tag Archives: kamchatka

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…

Flickr photostream

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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…

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Orange rocks.

There are many colored rock formations – especially red ones – around the world. The most famous are the red rocks of Utah and Arizona, and Uluru in Australia. Less famous are ones for example in different parts of China, like in Zhangye. But most of them become brightly colored only when there’s a low sun either at dawn or dusk – or when Photoshop is used for digital color boosting. On Kamchatka on the other hand there’s a place where red rocks glow brightly all day – not just in the mornings and evenings. That place is the volcano named Koshelev:

Wow. Orange, white, green… – scenes serene you could gawp at for hours…

Read on…

Beach-walking tourism.

— ‘So, how did you spend the summer?’
— ‘First – up in the mountains.’
— ‘And then?’
— ‘In plaster!’

Hi folks!

It’s been a while hasn’t it? Perhaps one of the longest ever stints away from my cherished blog. But with this post I am clearly back and raring to go, so, without further ado, let’s get this re-fired up…

And what better way to fire things up than a first installment of tales from the volcanic side, which also happen to be from the far-eastern seaboard-of-Russia side – that is, from Kamchatka!

Now, I have to admit that this was not – by far – the most outstanding of my many trips to the peninsula. One key factor was the weather this year; while Europe was having possibly one of its finest summers ever weather-wise, over in Kamchatka the weather was truly terrible. All the same, as ever, there’s still plenty to tell and show (photographically) you.

Oh my Gorely! It turns out this trip was my sixth to Kamchatka (not including a brief stay in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on our way to the Kurils in 2014). The first was back in 2006. Then again in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2015. And it won’t be the last time either; for Kamchatka, still, IMHO, is the most glorious place on the planet – even more so than New Zealand!

All righty. Today’s episode: Beach-walking tourism.

Tourism comes in all shapes and sizes. There are lazy beach holidays (or not so lazy if you’ve got the kids with you:); there are the more (grown-up) cultural holidays featuring museums, ruins, monasteries and other such historical attractions; there are shopping holidays… all of which are very popular with the masses. There are oceangoing holidays – be they exclusive affairs on expensive yachts with a helicopter on the deck or the more democratic huge ocean-liner-based ones. Then there are road trips on which you simply look around at the passing surrounding geography – that’s also tourism.

But here I’ll be telling you about a different kind of tourism: the kind during which you need to use your legs a lot with all the walking and climbing, and have a backpack on your shoulders carrying warm clothes, cameras and batteries, some snacks to keep you going for the next few hours or days, and sometimes even a tent. This is tourism of the hiking-trekking vibe, involving mountains, sometimes sports, sometimes volcanoes… normally requiring of the participating tourist both experience and training (sometimes you can do without both experience and training if the difficulty/distance level isn’t so tough).

Sporty walking, skiing, climbing, river/lake/sea/ocean-based tourism – there’s plenty to go at. But there’s one more you may not have heard of: beach-walking tourism! No, I don’t mean walking across a beach to your preferred spot for a spot of sunbathing-cocktailing-reading, and I don’t mean walking to the beach-volleyball court either. I’m talking when you trek for miles upon miles with a heavy backpack along a very long beach. Kinda like this:

Read on…

Worldwide Swimming – Pt 2.

Oakie-doakie. On we march front-crawl, to the next stop on the worldwide swimming bus – Europe.

6. Hot Sea, Santorini.

Santorini is a volcano-island, or island-volcano. It’s actually a ring of islands, which are the remains of the caldera of a huge volcano of yester-millennia, with a fresh volcano growing up inside the ring in the middle, which every now and then erupts and grows bigger. I was on Santorini not long ago, and wrote plenty of words about it here on this blog.

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The only hot springs in the world that are situated in the sea reside here. At least, the only ones in the world known to me. The hot water spurts up from the seabed through the sea, making said sea the warmest sea you’ll ever know :).

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There are quite a few spots around the islands where you can partake in hot-spring-sea-bathing. The one in the above pic isn’t the best; others are deeper and hotter, I’m told…

Read on: summer holidays on the White Sea islands…

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 :).

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The grand finale #Kamchatka. 300+ km on foot in extreme conditions in 26 days

A photo posted by Eugene Kaspersky (@e_kaspersky) on

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.

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

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…

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

Read on: Really yum!…

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.

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Oh my gorgeous. Fantastical spectacles…

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