Kamchatka sounds as far as it is. My plane flew 8 hours eastwards to the wild Russian peninsula. This land of volcanoes hit and surprised me. Those are Kamchatka’s hits, that amazed and shocked me at the same time.
The first volcano ”in action” I ever saw was Karymskij. I was flying on a cargo helicopter MI-8 on the way to Valley of Geysers and suddenly noticed a pipe of smoke coming from the crater. Our instructor advised me to open the window for making a picture. This is something you can’t do in touristic helicopters. He also told, that Karymskoe lake on a background was widely inhabited with fish till the 1996. On the bottom of the lake a crater awaked and boiled the water. And as a joke instructor added, that it was the biggest fish soup in the world (about 100,ooo fish).
For visiting one volcano per day in Kamchatka you probably would need 300 days! They are everywhere, they are all totally different: active, extinct, sharp, gigantic or covered with snow… They frame the towns, face the Pacific ocean and attract tourists from different corners of the Earth. The volcano on a photo, which looks like a plate with milk, is called Malyj Semyachik.
Mutnovskij volcano is quite a popular destination, but I strongly recommend you to join the group with experienced instructor. It took us almost the whole day to go to the crater and back. A long and tricky snowy path lead to local Mordor, where eyes fill in with tears either due to smelly gases or unbelievable view. For me it was both.
2) Public transportation.
Transportation in Kamchatka is a matter of concern. Due to isolation from the mainland and absence of roads, the only comfortable (expensive) way to get somewhere is by helicopter. There is an alternative – going by foot, but mind the distances. If you prefer to save 1000 $ and chose hiking, in one month you might get to the Valley of Geyser.
3) The Valley of Geysers.
Being the second largest concentration of geysers in the world, the Valley is definitely a miracle. As I mentioned before, there is only one reliable way to get there – by helicopter with travel agency. It also makes sure that Kronotsky Nature Reserve allows you to enter. I’m going to talk more about this natural wonder in my next post. Just a small hint: geysers still work after the tragic 2008 mudflow, which damaged the Valley dramatically. All geysers have their own cycle of eruption, but to see the most spectacular one, you need to wait for 5-6 hours. Velikan geyser (Giant) is the highest in Valley (making the show on the pic above).
4) Death Valley.
Only few km away from famous Valley of Geysers, another valley hides – less well-know. Its scary name is due to its frightful reputation. Once locals found here dead birds and animals and beat an alarm. Later scientist blamed poisonous gases. Believe me or not, but 15 min here caused me a headache.
5) Do you want some bear?
This was the first bear I saw in Kamchatka – a lady with 4 (!!) babies (not all of them are on the photo). I was scared, even being in a group of 10 people and having hand flare. I remember that in a situation when person is between the bear and her children, the animal will kill the person.
But normally bears don’t touch, if you are far and peaceful. This man was eating grass the whole day just like a cow, blocking the way to the our WC.
6) What is a real protection here.
That is why walking in a huge protected area of Kronotsky Nature Reserve is forbidden without permission and personal weaponed instructor. Besides, they advised us to have waterproof cloth and shoes, mosquito net and hand flare. That’s what is called Kamchatka fashion:)
After I hiked 20 km from Valley of Geysers to caldera of Uzon, the only dream I had was to take my jacked and mosquito net off. It would also be not a bad idea to watch the evening sky in the heart of extinct volcano. Romantic! Gosh, I didn’t see any sky ‘cos of hundreds of bloodsuckers. And forget about repellent – it doesn’t work here!
8 ) Kluchevskaya Sopka.
The most impressive volcano I ever seen was Kluchevskaya Sopka – the highest in Eurasia (4,750 m). It erupted last year. It’s in the middle in this photo, standing much farer than its neighbors to us. The temporary bridge on the left is made for workers, who erect the motorway over Kamchatka river. By now it’s possible to reach the other bank with a ferry only.
Just nearby stands Tolbachik volcano. I am trying to reach the 3682 м high.
When an asphalt ends – all fun begins. In Kamchatka they have good roads only in a small part on the south between the capital Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskij and Elizovo (where airport is). Welcome to dirt roads!
To nearby touristic places you can drive in so-called military track. Travel agencies normally supply with such transportation. In other places you should walk by foot. Hiking is difficult, but much more pleasant than anti-cellulite shaky drive.
10) Snow in summer.
It is quite normal to find snow in August. This year we were lucky to manage an excursion to Mutnovskij volcano. A week ago, on the 1st of August, the level of snow was so hight, that tracks couldn’t make it.
11) You said bye? I say Bay.
Avacha Bay is the first sight people usually catch while landing and the last view while departing from Kamchatka. To believe local guides, it is the second largest bay in the world and also it can accommodate all the world’s fleet. While no one decided to prove this by welcoming every ship, I took a chance to order 5-hours boat trip. From the ocean side all domestic volcanoes surrounding Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskij look even more spectacular. The land of volcanoes, you are too wild and too beautiful. Bye!