Tag Archives: kamchatka

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).

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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:).

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

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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…

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Read on: the place is packed full of grizzlies…

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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 :).

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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:

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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.

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Read on: Stunning, moving, crazy, astounding…

Kamchatka-2015: Snowy peaks, hot springs.

The second set of amazing must-sees to the south of Paratunka are the hot springs near Khodutka volcano. In fact they’re not just hot springs, they make up a whole hot lake. And not just a hot lake; it’s more of a scalding lake: the temperature of the water hovers around 43°C. Now, if you’ve a heart as strong as an athlete’s, you could take a dip, but you won’t really fancy doing a fast crawl or anything – far too parching. Shame. All the same, just sitting in the lake – still a thoroughly satisfying way of taking in all the surrounding scenery.

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Read on: The Khodutkan hot springs work as follows…

Kamchatka-2015 – warm-up.

My Kamchatka-2015 vacation began in the town of Paratunka. This is a location commonly used by tourists for spending the first night on the peninsula after flying in from afar, before setting off for their first full-fledged destination the next day.

To the south of Paratunka are conveniently located two volcanoes, both of which are must-sees/climbs: Mutnovsky and Gorely. So this year, somewhat logically, we decided to start An-Kam (Annual Kamchatka) with visits thereto – kind of as a warm-up.

It’s just a 50-kilometer drive to get to the volcanoes; however the ‘road’ sure ain’t no smooth autobahn – it’s more a gravel track. Google claims it takes 50 minutes to get them, but in fact it’s more like two hours in a regular all-terrain vehicle – longer with stops. I guess 50 minutes is possible in one of those outsized off-roaders with the massive wheels – or a turbo-driven tank perhaps – but you’d have trouble keeping your breakfast inside you with all the violent jolting about.

After our two-hour cruise we finally arrived at Mutnovsky volcano: beautnovsky volcano.

Though this old volcano remains very active, it’s still possible to walk around the rim of its colossal crater. The sheer scale of the panoramic views, the colors, the rocks and cliffs, the glaciers and snow – fantastic. And there’s constant splashing and hissing to be heard – hot water spurting or hot steam blasting – and everywhere it stinks to high heaven low hell of sulfur. Infernally hellish beauty!

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Read on: The fabness of the sunny days…

Kamchatka-2015 – top to bottom!

In my humble opinion, Kamchatka is the most fascinating and beautiful place on the planet. Bold statement, I know; but coming from a power-globetrotter like myself, maybe you won’t reject it out of hand? If you do – read the upcoming series of posts on this year’s An-Kam (annual Kamchatka), and let’s see if you haven’t been convinced by then!

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 but with a spade – or JCB excavator :).

In particular, there are dozens of natural uniquenesses all populated with original flora and fauna concentrated to within a relatively narrow stretch of territory along the peninsula’s southern volcanic spine. This magical strip of natural beauty is in all just 600km long. It runs from the Klyuchevskaya Sopka group of volcanoes in the north, via the peninsula’s capital Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, and down to Kambalny and Koshelev in the south. Here it is:

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Read on: Kamchatka is way cooler than all other earthly beauties…

Kamchatka-2015 – aperitif.

“Further [vertically] up there, there’s a path!”

– Our guide, Fyodr.

 

Hi all!

Phew! Back to civilization from the harsh wilds of Kamchatka, and beginning the slow acclimatization back to modern city life and all its creature comforts.

In all we trekked 315km on foot, and probably traveled thousands of kilometers in all-terrain vehicles and caterpillar-track transporters, helicopters and snowmobiles (cars aren’t much use in Kamchatka:), and on the vertical axis we covered around 7000 meters on foot too.

We got up close to six or so volcanoes, sizzled in six hot springs, and saw untold numbers of bears!

Alas, the weather spoiled approximately a quarter of our route around the peninsula: we had to miss a couple of volcanoes (there was little point walking around in the dense cloud they were shrouded in), plus some of our intended on-foot route became part of the chopper route. Apart from that though, mercifully – for the there’s no climate in the world more unpredictable than Kamchatka’s – everything worked out superbly!

Stay tuned for the starter – Kamchatkan borsch, of course :)…