Russia : Kamchatka : #12 Bystrinsky NP to Esso

Monday 26th August : our destination for the day was the small town of Esso, only 110km away as the crow flies from Bystrinsky Nature Park.  And there is a track that virtually follows the crow… BUT you can only do that track by horse.   As we had no horses available, nor the desire or ability to ride a horse for that distance, we would have to use our bus/truck.  A very long day of travel loomed ahead of us as the road took a very circuitous route, another 400km.  I hoped our driver, Toly, had had a good night’s sleep!


P1110941  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110941 © DY of jtdytravels

It had been even colder during the night.  There was ice all over my tent this morning and the sun made but a feeble attempt to penetrate the ground fog when I emerged into the daylight.  There were a couple of positives though.  The heavy dew had loosened the labels on my beer bottles so I wouldn’t have to cart the bottles all the way to Esso to soak them off when we met up with hot water again.


P1110946  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110946 © DY of jtdytravels

And another positive: all around us were spider’s webs that had caught the overnight dew.


P1110948  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110948 © DY of jtdytravels

Nature’s own jewellery.  Stunning.


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P1110951 © DY of jtdytravels

Gradually the fog lifted and gradually the others began to emerge from their tents.


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P1110952 © DY of jtdytravels

By the time the sun had begun to warm the earth, it was time to have breakfast, pack up and move on.


P1110967  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110967 © DY of jtdytravels

Today we saw bears!  Quite a long way off, admittedly, but exciting nevertheless.

With the 20x telephoto lens on the Panasonic TZ 30, I did get one or two reasonable images.


P1110969  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110969 © DY of jtdytravels

We stopped for one of our breaks at another of those wayside Russian ‘truck stops’.  There were the usual shops selling the type of food a camper would want; fresh veggies and fruit and beer.  Beer in Russia has been a bit of a disappointment as nearly all of it is Czech beer brewed under licence in Russia.  There seems to be very little locally brewed beer, if any, sold in stubbies or small bottles.  Instead, local beer is sold mostly by refilling 1.5 or 2 litre water bottles from a tap mounted on an appropriately decorated base board.  Peering behind one of these installations, I saw an aluminium keg on the ground connected to the tap with all the necessary piping.  I had a 2 litre bottle filled for around AUD6.


P1110975  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110975 © DY of jtdytravels

At our next stop, Toly boiled the billy for a cuppa.

He used an old fashioned, plumber’s blow torch directed into a gas ring.


P1110970  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110970 © DY of jtdytravels

We had stopped beside the Kamchatka River.  This scene was a pleasant relief after so many kilomteres of travelling through an impenetrable green tunnel of birch and willow, and, during the latter part of the day’s drive, some additional larch.  The thick forest made views of the countryside impossible and that made the long day of travel quite boring really.  It was such a relief to get out at a place like this and go for a wander.


P1110979  © DY of jtdytravels

The small, pink flowers by the water’s edge were Ptarmica camtschatica, a member of the Yarrow Family and poisonous to livestock.   They have the unfortunate common name of Kamchatka Sneezewort!  Why? The dried leaves of Sneezeworts have been used to create a sneezing powder… simple really.  Sneezeworts were also an ingredient in the Befuddlement Draught at Hogwart’s School of Witchery and Wizardry in the Harry Potter series.  This draught caused inflammation of the brain, confusion and recklessness!  And that delicate flower looks so inoffensive, doesn’t ti?  It comes in pink and white.


P1110968  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110968 © DY of jtdytravels

It’s a shame I can’t tell you what type of butterfly this is,

but the only information I found was in Russian

and I haven’t mastered Russian, yet!


P1110977  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110977 © DY of jtdytravels

A bright red cluster of berries of the Siberian Mountain Ash, Sorbus sambuciflia, a member of the Rose family.


P1110982  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1110982 © DY of jtdytravels

A wild meadow filled with the tall Kamchatka Thistle. Cirsium kamtschaticum.


P1110981  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110981 © DY of jtdytravels

A flower head of Kamchatka Thistle. Cirsium kamtschaticum.


P1110984  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110984 © DY of jtdytravels

A seed explosion from a Kamchatka Thistle, Cirsium kamtschaticum.


P1110986  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110986 © DY of jtdytravels

A dragonfly with its wings spread out at rest.   Dragonflies can be distinguished from damselflies because damselflies hold their wings up and together at rest.  Dragonflies hold their wings out like an airplane at rest. Also, the gauzy hind and fore wings of a damselfly are essentially the same size and shape as each other whereas the hind wing of a dragonfly is broader than the forewing.


P1110995  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110995 © DY of jtdytravels

This lbb (little brown bird) is the only bird photo I have from the whole trip!


P1110996  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110996 © DY of jtdytravels

Another ‘comfort’ and stretch-the-legs stop.  See what I mean about the impenetrable forest!   Maybe boredom and loss of concentration was the cause of one nasty accident we came across.  It involved a 4WD and another smaller car which was on its roof.  Blood was still being dabbed from heads as we crawled passed the scene.


P1120031  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120031 © DY of jtdytravels

Finally, we reached our destination at 19h15; tired, stiff and ready for a four night stay in beds, not tents.  Our guesthouse, called  ‘Uyznoe’, in Yuzhnaya Street, was a very neat set of wooden buildings in a rather ramshackle village.


P1120007  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120007 © DY of jtdytravels

We wandered the streets.  Houses here had gardens.  A very pleasant surprise.


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P1120006 © DY of jtdytravels

A peek over someone’s back fence.


P1120001  ©  DY of jtdytravels

P1120001 © DY of jtdytravels

A very healthy looking vegie garden.


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P1120004 © DY of jtdytravels

Virtually all the buildings in the town were wooden and some of them had interesting timber cladding.


P1120002 ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120002 © DY of jtdytravels

One really nice feature of this town was its abundance of thermal water.  The above pool was the town pool which was under very much needed repair.  There was an above ground pool at our resort and about half of the group took full advantage of it to have a good soak while we waited for dinner.  It was so very pleasant to sit in that warm water pool.  All that cold water – water that was snow and ice just the day before  – cold, cold water that flowed through the last camp site – that icy cold water was now but a memory.

However, what was not so pleasant was the fact that the thermal water was piped through the bedrooms of our guesthouse and made our rooms HOT!  About 30 degrees hot.  Did I think I was going to complain about being too hot on this trip?  NO.  But I am and I will.


P1120209  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120209 © DY of jtdytravels

This is ‘my’ room.  Yes those are ladies by and on their beds!   Even though I had paid a single supplement, I found myself sharing ‘my’ room with three of the ladies of our group!  It wasn’t a real problem for me but it was a pity that this was a long stop of four nights.  However, much worse than having to share my room was the fact that the room was SO HOT.  There were plastic hot water pipes full of that thermal water running around the walls and through radiators on all four walls.  Just lying in bed I sweated!   I was tempted to ask for my tent!

And while I’m in a moaning mood, I’ll tell you that I had indeed succumbed to the head cold that was racing through the group.  I had to resort to some Sudafed during the night and would need to keep that up for at least a week.  It was a big bugger!  My throat felt as though I’d swallowed razor blades and my nose kept running like an outfall from a hydro-electric plant.

But enough of the moans and groans.  We had much yet to explore in this fascinating place and we were promised more volcanoes and more plant hunting – the two reasons for our visit.  Bring it on!


All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of  jtdytravels

Other stories and photos of my travels with Jennie are on:


Russia : Kamchatka : #11 Bystrinsky Nature Park (b)

Our exploration of the Bystrinsky Nature Park continued with the backdrop of some of the mountains and volcanoes that we hoped to explore in the next few days.  But for now, it was all about finding plants and small ‘critters’ in the forest and in the wild meadows.


P1110896  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110896 © DY of jtdytravels

I wandered away from the road and began to explore these wild ‘meadows’.


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P1110882 © DY of jtdytravels

We were each engrossed in our own wanderings and findings…

… all thoroughly enjoying the day.


P1110885  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110885 © DY of jtdytravels

New growth buds of Rhododendron aureum ; Goldish Rhododendron

  Their golden yellow flowers had all finished weeks before.


P1110890  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110890 © DY of jtdytravels

Seed capsules of  Rhododendron aureum ; Goldish Rhododendron


P1110889  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110889 © DY of jtdytravels

Skeletal patterns of a decaying leaf.


P1110893  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110893 © DY of jtdytravels

Seed of one of the Willow Herb family.


P1110892  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110892 © DY of jtdytravels

 A beautiful, golden scalloped mushroom.


P1110891_2  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110891_2 © DY of jtdytravels

A closer look at that delicate cap.


P1110894  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110894 © DY of jtdytravels

What’s the collective term for these Inkcap Mushrooms…. a huddle of mushrooms?


P1110895  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110895 © DY of jtdytravels

The Coprinoid family of mushrooms, or “Inky caps”, are fascinating mushrooms.  They are saprobes, that is, they assist in the decomposition of wood, dung, grassy debris, forest litter, and so on.  Most of the species have black spore prints and gills that liquefy, at least partially, as the mushroom matures.  The resulting “ink” provides the common name for the inky caps, and can actually be used as writing ink.

But the mushrooms, of course, do not have the production of ink for writing in mind!  Rather, liquefying the gills is a clever strategy for dispersing spores more efficiently.  The gills liquefy from the bottom up as the spores mature.  Thus the cap peels up and away, and the maturing spores are always kept in the best position for catching wind currents.  As this happens, the shape of the cap progresses from more or less oval (when seen from the side) to broadly bell-shaped and, eventually, more or less flat as the spores nearest to the stem are exposed to the air currents.”

{Notes from}


P1110900  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110900 © DY of jtdytravels

There was lots more to explore but the time had come to rejoin the truck.


P1110903  ©  DY   of  jtdytravels

P1110903 © DY of jtdytravels

We were to meet by a bridge over a stream.  There, on the stoney bank, I found

this purple daisy, Lagedium sibiricum ; Siberian Lettuce with attendant aphids.


P1110905  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110905 © DY of jtdytravels

Our driver, Toly, had filled in his waiting time by fishing from the bank of the cold mountain stream below the bridge.  But his fishing produced only one loach.   One loach between 16 wouldn’t go far, so it was suggested it might go into a soup.  We climbed on board the truck and headed back towards the camp and lunch.

Along the way, one of the group spotted a bear bounding off into the distance which enlivened us all.  But that was to be the end of bear sightings on that outing.  Better luck later we hoped.


P1110908  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110908 © DY of jtdytravels

The stream bubbled its way through the forest.


P1110914  ©  DY   of jtdytravels

P1110914 © DY of jtdytravels

Toly stopped again as we crossed the river just a few hundred metres from our camp site.  If we needed more fish, he said, he would fix the problem.  And he did just that, well and truly.  He dragged in fish after fish with a little help from our guide.  In around 20 minutes there were 10 fish lying on the bank.  I’ve never seen so many fish being caught from a river in such numbers in such a short time.  The fish were gutted and cleaned on the spot to be presented to our cooks on our arrival back in camp.


P1110910  ©  DY  f  jtdytravels

P1110910 © DY f jtdytravels

While they fished, I found these elegant mushrooms by the side of the stream.


P1110913  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110913 © DY of jtdytravels

A peep under that ‘skirt’.


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P1110798 © DY of jtdytravels

Empetrum nigrum ; Crowberry, a valuable medicinal and food plant.


Lunch was served shortly afterwards.  Today it consisted of soup, bread and fresh salad.  Some fresh jam had been made from berries collected around the campsite while we were away.  This jam added some life to the bread.  The driver produced some local beer which he had bought at the last stop.  Beer like this is dispensed into soft drink bottles for transport.  It was good.  More sweet biscuits, chocolates and wafers finished off the meal along with tea or coffee.

After a rest, we headed off again for a walk, this time from the camp site itself.  We found some more interesting plants, some in flower.  And, we did see some bear pooh!  So they were obviously around!  But we didn’t see any actual bears.  That was probably a good thing since our tents were rather flimsy things.  I’m sure that if a bear had wanted to enter, it would not prove to be a problem.


P1110920  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110920 © DY of jtdytravels

Ptarmica camtschatica; Kamchatka Sneezewort


P1110926  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110926 © DY of jtdytravels

Parnassia palustris, commonly called Marsh Grass-of-Parnassus, Northern Grass-of-Parnassus, and Bog-star.


P1110935  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110935 © DY of jtdytravels

Seed head of Dryas punctata;  White Mountain-Avens, a member of the rose family


P1110930  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110930 © DY of jtdytravels

A caterpillar well camouflaged with its host plant.


P1110931  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110931 © DY of jtdytravels

A brightly coloured caterpillar blending in with the greens and shade.


P1110929  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110929 © DY of jtdytravels

Our crew knew which mushrooms were edible and we often found them in our meals, especially in soup.   After wandering about for about an hour and a half, we headed back to camp to relax a little before just such a meal.

I broke out the two bottles of beer I’d bought the day before and shared them with Heather.  Very pleasant it was too, sitting at the entrance to my tent as the sun slowly sank in the west and as the cloud that hung around the top of the nearby volcano slowly dissipated.

Dinner consisted of a clear fish soup with large chunks of potato.  This was followed by our recently caught fish.  Flour dusted, shallow fried, no more than a couple of hours from swimming in that stream; you can’t get fish much fresher than that.  We’d been told by the crew that the loach was regarded by the locals as only good for soup.  But I guess when there are six different kinds of salmon available, all equally fresh, a secondary fish like loach is thought to be somewhat inferior; only good for soup.  Not so, we thought.  It tasted fantastic to us.  With more chocolates and sliced fresh apples and orange along with tea and coffee to follow, we again left the table more than adequately fed.

Not-withstanding this great day and good feed, I was a little out of sorts that night as I prepared for bed.  Why so?  At one of our stops earlier during the day a mozzie had bitten me on my upper lip.  The blighter packed quite a punch I can tell you.  My lip became quite swollen and felt as though I’d just been to the dentist.  Not pleasant.  It took some hours to subside, but I’m pleased to say there were no lasting side effects, although – I did develop a funny twitch, and a droopy eyelid, and my mouth twisted to one side, and I kept falling over….


All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of jtdytravels

More of our travel stories and photos are on :

Russia : Kamchatka : #10 Bystrinsky Nature Park (a)

After the long, 400km drive from Petropavlovsk, it was a relief to know that we would be walking for much of the day, exploring Bystrinsky Nature Park.  This was a more forested area, so we hoped to find some different types of plants.


P1110788   ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110788 © DY of jtdytravels

I had thought that it might be a cold night at Ichinsky Camp when I saw how much snow was on the mountain behind the campsite, and I was right.  It was cold.  When I got up at 06h30, I noticed that the small bottle of water for hand washing at the entrance to the mess tent had a frozen surface.

I’m not one to usually feel the cold, but when I’d gone to bed at around 22h30, I’d put on a tee shirt under my polo shirt.  This was topped with my woollen jumper and then my fleecy top.  I wriggled into my sheet sleeping bag, then into my sleeping bag proper and then covered the lot up with my towel and wind/waterproof jacket.  I was as snug as a bug in a rug even though I could barely move, all trussed up like the Michelin man.  I made only one foray into the cold at 01h30 – the cold was obviously having its effect!  I slept well though.

And another thing that concerned me.  The first sign of that head cold, the one that I’d been trying to avoid, had reared its ugly head and I had a sore throat.  Would it develop, I wondered?  Probably.

A bit after eight, which was nearly an hour earlier than the programmed time, our crew appeared.  They would have heard us up and about, and ready to go!  They had probably wanted to sleep-in and I can perhaps understand why when it’s that cold in the middle of their summer.  I don’t even want to think about their winters!  Some hot porridge warmed us and there were the usual two types of bread, cheese, jam, cold meat, tea and coffee.


P1110802  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110802 © DY of jtdytravels

We set off about nine and drove for awhile.  Was this what we’d come all that way to see?


P1110834  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110834 © DY of jtdytravels

The truck pulled up in a scrubby, treed area.  Now it was time to walk, each at our own pace, although we did have a time and a place to meet again further down the road.  The same willow and poplars predominated.  What had seemed rather boring from the truck as we drove by, proved to be anything but boring.  Although I didn’t find many flowering plants that I hadn’t previously photographed,exploring this area at walking pace produced some interesting finds including a half a dozen different caterpillars with as many different toadstools and mushrooms.   I don’t know their names but I can share them with you and hope you feel as though you are out there exploring with me.


P1110805  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110805 © DY of jtdytravels

My first mushroom find.


P1110808  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110808 © DY of jtdytravels

What a fascinating mushroom cap!


P1110810  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110810 © DY of jtdytravels

A delightful natural garden of fungi and moss.


P1110811  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110811 © DY of jtdytravels

These looked edible but one is never sure…. so best leave them alone.


P1110813  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110813 © DY of jtdytravels

This intriguing flower, Aconitum sp., is one species of a large group of Aconitum plants which are aptly named Monkshood or, sometimes, Devilshood.  Also known as ‘Queen of Poisons’, the botanic name Aconitum comes from the Greek, meaning ‘without struggle’.  Toxins, extracted from the plant, were used as a poison to kill wolves and leopards in times passed and for that reason it was also given the common names of Wolf’s bane and Leopard’s bane.


P1110814  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110814 © DY of jtdytravels

This was bear country so we had to keep eyes and ears open …

just in case we disturbed a bear enjoying the berries;  be we so lucky!


P1110812  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110812 © DY of jtdytravels

Demar, our crew’s gofer, followed along at the rear of the group with a flare in case we were bothered by a bear.  He also had a shrill sounding whistle and some fire-cracker bungers.  But, unfortunately or otherwise, they were not needed.


P1110820  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110820 © DY of jtdytravels

There were a variety of berries in the scrub to entice bears to forage, however, if humans eat these berries, Lonicera chamissoi (Chamisso’s Honeysuckle) they will be violently ill.  There were signs that they gave bears an upset tummy, too!


P1110933  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110933 © DY of jtdytravels

Juniperus sibirica, is widely distributed in Kamchatka.


P1110819  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110819 © DY of jtdytravels

There were other things to avoid besides bears.  This hairy caterpillar for instance.

Hairs on caterpillars usually equate to pain when touched!


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P1110826 © DY of jtdytravels

This one didn’t look in the least offensive and seemed to pose for its photo.


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P1110841 © DY of jtdytravels

What a handsome specimen of caterpillar.

However, I guess that red ‘tail’ may be a something of a warning.  Best left alone.

P1110830  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110830 © DY of jtdytravels

And this one was almost architectural in its design and well camouflaged as a dead leaf.  Its head is at the bottom of the photograph which could confuse any predator.


P1110822  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110822 © DY of jtdytravels

Talking of architecture, what about this magnificent mushroom!


P1110842  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110842 © DY of jtdytravels

This one more like the ones in the parks at home in the autumn.


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P1110880 © DY of jtdytravels

Occasionally, it was good to stand up, stretch the back and legs and enjoy the scenery.

A protruding volcanic plug stands out against the skyline.


P1110847  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110847 © DY of jtdytravels

The prickles of roses were another hazard to watch for in the scrub.


P1110854  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110854 © DY of jtdytravels

Bumblebees at work on a Kamchatka Thistle,  Cirsium kamtschaticum.


P1110865  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110865 © DY of jtdytravels

Equisetum hyemale, or Scouringrush horsetail,  is a rather fascinating plant.  It’s quite common in Kamchatka where it sometimes forms thickets which were used in days past to pasture horses and cattle.


P1110863  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110863 © DY of jtdytravels

The intricate structure of the horsetail rewarded a much closer inspection.


P1110867  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110867 © DY of jtdytravels

Yet another elegant mushroom in a damp, mossy spot.


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P1110874 © DY of jtdytravels

You need to get down low to enjoy the beauty of these tiny mosses.


P1110870  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110870 © DY of jtdytravels

A tiny forest of moss sporangia.


P1110873  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110873 © DY of jtdytravels

A young Mountain Pine,  Pinus pumila, growing amongst the rough scoria rocks.


P1110881  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110881 © DY of jtdytravels

The weather looked to be closing in but it was not too threatening.  We had not yet reached our meeting point and there was still time for some more exploring.  So off we went again to see what we could find.

More of that anon


All Photography Copyright  ©  David Young of  jtdytravels

More of our travel stories and photos can be found on:

and on



Russia : Kamchatka : #9 PK to Bystrinsky Nature Park

The drive from Petropavlovsk to Bystrinsky National Park is a long one; over 400km.  We were very grateful for having had a shower, some clean clothes and a good night’s sleep before we undertook this drive!  We were also grateful to be leaving PK with its water problems as we headed out of town on the one and only road that heads north from the one and only city in Kamchatka.  We were eager to be on our way; to experience more of Kamchatka’s wilderness and volcanoes.

P1120637  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

Map courtesy brochure of   – organizers of this tour

That one road runs up a central valley which has a mountain range on either side but we didn’t see much of those because of the trees that grow densely all the way alongside this road.  We did catch the odd glimpse of a mountain from time to time;  enough to encourage us that there was more fantastic scenery to come.


P1110711  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110711 © DY of jtdytravels

Around mid-morning we stopped at a “truck stop”.  Every vehicle seemed to stop here as they headed north, justifiably so, as it turned out to be the only place of its type anywhere around for a hundred kilometres or so in each direction.  There was an eclectic mix of small shops but you didn’t go inside them.  Instead, each shop had a little window for service, selling groceries, sweets etc. and beers.  I bought a couple of bottles of beer, to find out again that they were Czech beers brewed under licence in Russia.  I was still to find a local bottled beer.


P1110724  ©  DY  of  jtdtreavels

P1110724 © DY of jtdytravels

We crossed small streams that were lined, predominately, with willow and poplar trees.


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P1110727 © DY of jtdytravels

The waters were clean, washing over stones that had come down from the mountains.


P1110732  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110732 © DY of jtdytravels

Our lunch stop along the way was in a hall-like building in a small place called Mil’kovo.  The food consisted of a choice of 5 salads, followed by a clear vegetable soup, then pasta with a choice of meats.  There were some yoghurt-like offerings served in a glass and a semi-sweet bun.  I opted not to have the pasta dish as I had been eating so well and I didn’t think I needed a four course meal for lunch.  A beetroot salad, soup, bun and yoghurt, followed by a mug of tea, were sufficient for me.  It cost the equivalent of AUD 6.50.  You’d pay more than double that for much the same meal back home.


P1110738  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110738 © DY of jtdytravels

We ate in a large hall that had the appearance of having another life as a dance hall or meeting hall when not making money during the day serving lunches.


P1110739  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110739 © DY of jtdytravels

There were murals on the walls and a couple of mirror balls hanging from the ceiling.


P1110748  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110748 © DY of jtdytravels

The scenery was very much the same all the way.  Trees and streams and not much else.


P1110756  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110756 © DY of jtdytravels

As we neared our destination and gained elevation, the trees shrank in size.  Broader patches of ground-hugging plants started to take over.  This was typical bear country; very similar to the country I experienced in Yellowstone National Park a couple of years ago.  At one point, the crew in the front cabin did see a bear heading off into the scrub but it was too far ahead for us to see.  Comfort stops occurred every hour or so.  In good Aussie fashion, these stops were ‘ladies to the right, men to the left’.  There are no ‘facilities’ out here.  These stops were also an opportunity to stretch our legs.


P1110757  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110757 © DY of jtdytravels

We now began to see the spine of mountains beyond the road and anticipation of more exploring in the wilderness began to mount.  But we didn’t arrive at our camp site until nearly seven o’clock.


P1110782  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110782 © DY of jtdytravels

Finding a clear space to set up tents between the small shrubs was a bit tricky here at Ichinsky Camp.  It was good to see the mess tent up and running.  Dinner would soon be ready as we now had an extra member of the crew.  Viktoria (Vika),  who is a delightful person with a grown family, had come to help Galena with the cooking.


P1110776  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110776 © DY of jtdytravels

Once my tent was up and my bag stowed, I set off to explore the rest of the campsite.  There were a few rough cabins inhabited while we were there by a group of young people involved in some environmental studies.


P1110779  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110779 © DY of jtdytravels

I didn’t find many flowers; just evidence of wild rose blooms that had come and gone.

This one with the spherical hip, a common rose in Kamchatka, is Rosa amblyotis,

 a pink flowering rose known commonly as Blunt-auriculate Rose


P1110155  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110155 © DY of jtdytravels

There are a couple of different wild rose species here as the shapes of the hips indicate.

These elliptical hips belong to Rosa acicularis, the Prickly Rose.


P1110837  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110837 © DY of jtdytravels

And this one, with more pear shaped hips, is the much more common Rosa rugosa.

It has large crimson flowers and is often seen by the coast in Kamchatka

as well as in crowberry fields, stony and grassy slopes.


P1110789  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110789 © DY of jtdytravels

And there were lots of berries, so beloved by bears.

Here, two types of berries are growing together… a berry fruit salad for bears!


.From the campsite, there was a tantalizing view of the mountains beyond.

That snow gave a good indication that it would be rather cooler here for sleeping!


But Galena and Vika made sure that we wouldn’t go to bed hungry.  They had cooked up a storm for dinner that put the cook(s) back at our Hotel Geyser in PK to shame, and our cooks did it all on very meagre equipment.

To whet your tastebuds, I’ll describe the fare.  For starters, there was sliced red salmon and ham along with a couple of types of bread and a salad of red tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber.  Next came a meat patty and mashed potato followed by many different types of “sweets” in the form of wafer biscuits, chocolates and a Swiss roll-type log cake.  On nights when there was more time to prepare the meal, Galena cooked a delicious clear soup and the main meal usually came with some vegetables.

Although we had to put up and pack up our own tents, there were no rosters to help the cooks with preparing the food for a meal or for washing up afterwards. On an adventure trek like this, that was sheer luxury!

I crawled into my tent rather tired from the drive but looking forward very much to the next few days in the wilderness. But more of that anon.


All photography  Copyright © DY of jtdytravels

More stories and photos of our travels in this wonderful world are on:

and some Australian stories are on

Russia : Kamchatka : #8 Mutnovsky to Petropavlovsk

After a fascinating morning finding wildflowers on the hills around our campsite, it was time to leave Mutnovsky Plateau.   It was quite warm by now, maybe 12-15°C, so the tents were well and truly dry and ready to be shoved into their bags with their poles and pegs.  We weren’t going to need them for a day or two as we were going back to Petropavlovsk to stay at Hotel Geyser again; the same hotel we were in on the first night.

Two important items we had to keep with us in our day packs on the bus; our swimmers and towels.  The plan was to stop at one of the thermal pools en route to PK.  Oh!  Just the thought of hot water to shower and bathe in was so very tantalising after days of using nothing but stream water that had been snow or ice just the day before!

P1110575  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110575 © DY of jtdytravels

We retraced our route back along the same road to PK .  Again we had a rest stop at a little roadside supermarket where I bought some nibbles and a couple of bottles of Russian beer.  More labels for my son Peter – and beer for me.


P1110576  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110576 © DY of jtdytravels

A derelict building with small stalls set up in front….


Our next stop was at that much anticipated place, a thermal pool complex.  Our excitement was short lived. These pools were under refurbishment.  Our hopes began to sink.  They sank still further at the next place.  There wasn’t even anybody there to tell us they were closed.  This was shaping up to be a calamity.  However, all’s well that ends well !  An up-market establishment was found that was very much open.  In we went, had a shower and then into one of two pools, a large rather warm one and a smaller even hotter one.  Thankfully, there was not one cold plunge pool.


P1110577  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1110577 © DY of jtdytravels

While we were enjoying ourselves, our cook Galena prepared lunch for us on the side of the car-park.

And while others were enjoying the last of their lunch, I explored around the car-park.


P1110605  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110605 © DY of jtdytravels

A pretty little purple flowered ‘weed’ growing beside the car-park in disturbed soil.


P1110579  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110579 © DY of jtdytravels

Senecio cannabifolius    Hemp-leaved Ragwort

Daisies like these can be found right across the Far East and on the Aleutian Islands.

Common they may be, but they always add a bright dash of sunshine yellow to the scene.


P1110582  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110582 © DY of jtdytravels

Some flies are important pollinators.

Have you ever looked closely at those fine, gauzy wings and lustrous sheen on the body?


P1110614  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110614 © DY of jtdytravels

Fed and watered again, we set off on the last stage of our run into Petropavlovsk where we arrived into the hustle and bustle of city life and clogged roads a bit before four.  What a contrast to the peace of Mutnovsky Valley!


P1110627  ©  Dy  of  jtdytravels

P1110627 © DY of jtdytravels

After washing very dirty and smokey clothes and another quick shower, most of the group went out to explore.  The building in the background shows buttressing against earthquake damage.


P1110628  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110628 © DY of jtdytravels

Small fruit and vegetable shop


P1110625  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110625 © DY of jtdytravels

Although there were no Internet connections available, ‘Apple’ products were available.


P1110635  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110635 © DY of jtdytravels

‘Attractive’ graffiti?


P1110636  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110636 © DY of jtdytravels

Even the side streets that ran onto the main road were rather uninspiring with their unattractive graffiti.


P1110660  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110660 © DY of jtdytravels

It was fascinating to see that the goods on sale were very much the same as at home.


P1110658  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110658 © DY of jtdytravels

The deli section made one’s mouth water


P1110656  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110656 © DY of jtdytravels

This lady had a full set of silvery amalgam fillings – top and bottom – but would not smile a second time!


P1110651  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110651 © DY of jtdytravels

The fresh fruit and vegetables were of good quality.


P1110643  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110643 © DY of jtdytravels

Everything you could want was available…


P1110647  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110647 © DY of jtdytravels

… even flat peaches.


P1110665  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110665 © DY of jtdytravels

Crabs were for sale at absolutely crazy prices.  Jennie would have loved these.


P1110667  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110667 © DY of jtdytravels

There were lots of different smoked fish to be seen and fresh roe and salmon of many different types.   We thought the price was per kilo but it turned out to be for the whole huge fish.  We would pay well over AUD100 for a fish of a size that the locals here pay the equivalent of AUD 3 to 4!

There are six different types of salmon to be found in Kamchatkan waters.  The most remarkable one that I saw was the red salmon.   I thought it must have been dyed or changed colour when smoked but the bright, intense red colouring was natural.  To be this colour the fish must be caught at sea before it heads up river to spawn.  Once these fish get into fresh water they loose their incredible colour and the flavour also changes.


P1110672  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110672 © DY of jtdytravels

This reptile was in a large aquarium – poor thing.


P1110630  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110630 © DY of jtdytravels

Busy street with buses and cars aplenty; haphazard parking!


P1110612  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110612 © DY of jtdytravels

On arrival back at the hotel, this sight greeted us!

No caption necessary!


Dinner was at our hotel Geyser.  The simple affair started off with a salad that contained broccolini and shredded carrot – rather salty but probably good for us after all the sweat and toil of the last couple of days climbing volcanoes!  This was followed by a hamburger-type patty with an egg and melted cheese on top.  Beside this tasty morsel was a splash of creamy mashed potato.  Very simple food, but satisfying.

Then came a rather interesting request.  We were asked to fill our shower recesses with water as ALL the water in the city of 180,000 people (2010 census, 269,000 in 1989) was to be turned off for three days over the weekend.  The water in the shower recess was to be the only water hotel guests would have to wash with and to use to flush the toilet.  I wasn’t half pleased we were to leave the next morning for the next stage of our adventure.  This possibly explains why we passed so many vehicles heading out of town as we headed back in.

The story goes that this happens at this time of the year, every year.  The reason.  The system has to be ‘prepared’ for winter, whatever that means.  Can you imagine the kerfuffle if this happened on a regular basis at home.

Not withstanding all this, I treated myself to a really good shower just before the water was to go off at 22h00.  Then, after that luxury, I fell into my cosy, flat and warm bed. YES!   Sleep came quickly, deep and long – and much needed.

More anon


All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of jtdytravels

Many of our other travellers tales and photos are on:



Russia: Kamchatka : #7 Wildflowers of the Mutnovsky Valley

The date was 23rd August and that meant it was time to pack up our camp in the Mutnovsky Valley and prepare ourselves for the journey back to Petropavlovsk and civilization.

P1120637  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

Map courtesy brochure of   – organizers of this tour

The first part of our adventure with Silk Road Tours, to the southern part of  Kamchatka, was coming to an end.  Between tours we would have  a window of opportunity in Petropavlovsk to enjoy a proper shower, wash very dirty clothes and, hopefully, have a much needed good night’s sleep – not on the ground in a small tent.  We would then head north for the second half of the tour.

But first, our tents needed to dry out before they could be packed away.  So, after breakfast, we wandered across the small creek that ran along one side of our campsite.  This proved to be a good move because here we found some old friends in plants we had come across before but also several plants not previously seen.  Instead of spending just a few minutes rummaging around, we spent almost an hour finding one plant after another. It was fun.  I hope you enjoy the photos of these plants in nature’s wildflower garden.

Many of these plants aren’t known to me.  However, with the help of Google as well as Rosemary, our botanist tour leader together with some hours scouring a couple of books on identification of plants commonly found in Kamchatka, we have now been able to name them.  However, if you think we have made an identification error, please let us know.  We can easily correct the text.

P1110515  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110515 © DY of jtdytravels

Gentiana glauca

The statuesque Gentiana glauca has erect, solitary, glabrous stems arising from creeping rootstocks.  The basal rosette leaves are fleshy and elliptic to oval while  the two to four pairs of stem leaves are opposite, smaller and more elongate.  The terminal inflorescence is a cluster of short-stalked blue-green flowers.


P1110519  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110519 © DY of jtdytravels

Metallic sheen of the stunningly beautiful buds of Gentiana glauca.


P1110521  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110521 © DY of jtdytravels

Bell shaped flowers of Phyllodoce aleutica with orange styles beginning to wither.

There are five species of Phyllodoce, all from the Arctic and a few high mountain areas in eastern Asia and North America.

Phyllodoce aleutica is native to Japan, Sakhalin, Kamchatka, Kuriles and Alaska

and grows on moist to wet alpine slopes.


P1110502  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110502 © DY of jtdytravels

Cassiope lycopodioides   Cassiope Clubmoss

Cassiope lycopodioides is a delicate member of the Erica family.  The white petals are fused together, giving the flower a bell shape.  Each flower hangs separately off individual hairless stalks.


P1110542  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110542 © DY of jtdytravels

Flowers of Saxifraga merkii   Merk’s Saxifrage

On higher slopes of the volcanoes we had only seen the seed heads of this plant.


P1110510  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110510 © DY of jtdytravels

 More delicate flowers of Saxifraga merkii   Merk’s Saxifrage


P1110499  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110499 © DY of jtdytravels

Veratrum oxysepalum   White False Hellebore  (close up)


P1110500  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110500 © DY of jtdytravels

Veratrum oxysepalum    White False Hellebore


P1110526  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110526 © DY of jtdytravels

Castilleja pallida     Pallid Paintbrush


P1110529  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110529 © DY of jtdytravels

Veronica grandiflora     Largeflower Speedwell


P1110550  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110550 © DY of jtdytravels

A smaller member of the Veronica  or  Speedwell family


P1110553  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110553 © DY of jtdytravels

Pedicularis verticullata       Whorled Lousewort

The genera name, Pedicularis, comes from the latin pediculus, meaning a louse.

Legend has it that animals who ate these plants were said to be protected from lice.

The species name, verticillata , comes from the Latin vertere, which means to turn.

This refers to the whorls or circles of flowers along the main stem


P1110555  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110555 © DY of jtdytravels

Pedicularis verticullata    Whorled Lousewort

Other English common names for this plant are Whorled Fernweed and Bumblebee Flower.

The flowers are typical of bee pollinated flowers

with landing platforms, abundant nectar, and bright colours.


P1110525  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110525 © DY of jtdytravels

Buds of Rhododendron camtschaticum      Kamchatka Rhododendron


P1110505  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110505 © DY of jtdytravels

Rhododendron camtschaticum     Kamchatka Rhododendron

This dwarf, very hardy shrub, has large pink flowers up to two inches across.

 In the wild, as here in Mutnosky National Park, large sections of the mountain sides

turn pink with the profusion of this delightful flower..


P1110533  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110533 © DY of jtdytravels

Saxifraga calycina   with seed capsules beginning to develop


P1110535  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110535 © DY of jtdytravels

Stenotheca tristis    Woolly Hawkweed


P1110561  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110561 © DY of jtdytravels

Saussurea sp.  


P1110540  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110540 © DY of jtdytravels

Seeds of   Oxyria digyna    Mountain Sorrel

This plant is a member of the buckwheat family.  The name Oxyria comes from the Greek and means “sour”.  The plant grows in wet places and is protected by snow in winter.   It forms dense tufts, with stems 10-20 cm high.  Both flowering stems and leaf stalks are somewhat reddish. The leaves are kidney-shaped and somewhat fleshy.  They have a fresh, acidic, sour taste and are rich in vitamin C.  The flowers are green to begin with, later turning red.  The fruit, seen here, is a small nut, encircled by a broad wing which finally turns red.


P1110532  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110532 © DY of jtdytravels

Salix sp.  A type of Willow


P1110538  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110538 © DY of jtdytravels

Leaf impaled by sharp pointed leaf of Equisetum hyemale     Scouringrush Horsetail


P1110543  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110543 © DY of jtdytravels

Carex koraginensis    Karaginskaya Sedge


P1110556  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110556 © DY of jtdytravels

Trollius riederianus   Kamchatka Globeflower

This plant, with its bright sunshine yellow flowers, is deciduous.

It belongs to the Ranunculaceae or Buttercup Family.


P1110559  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110559 © DY of jtdytravels

Geranium erianthum    Northern Geranium


P1110558  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110558 © DY of jtdytravels

Geranium erianthum    Northern Geranium


P1110567  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110567 © DY of jtdytravels

 Polemonium acutiflorum growing by the stream.


P1110568  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110568 © DY of jtdytravels

Polemonium acutiflorum has a stunningly beautiful flower.

If we could watch one of these flowers over the course of a couple of days, we would see that the anthers (the male parts) deliver the pollen for a day or two before the style (the female part) bends upwards, the corolla opens, the anthers shrivel, and the stigma ( the pollen receptor) opens.

It is interesting to learn that the blue part of the corolla and part of the white reflect ultraviolet light while the other part of the white base absorbs ultraviolet light.  It is therefore seen by its pollinatore, bumblebees and medium sized insects, as being 3 coloured rather than the 2 colours we see.  Nature is fascinating is it not?

{ Notes for this flower come from – a well credentialled flora site; well worth a look.}


P1110229  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110229 © DY of jtdytravels

Time was fast running out for our flora foray.  I had worked my way back down to the stream that was dotted with the white fluffy heads of Eriophorum polystachion, Tall Cotton Grass.

P1110560  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110560 © DY of jtdytravels

Iris setosa    Wild Flag also grew in abundance alongside the stream.


P1050042  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1050042 © Photo courtesy of Gulya Shevstova

Gulya came to gather us up to get ready to move on.  She must have realised that I have sap in my veins and that I take great delight in flower hunting and photography, so she took this photo of the photographer!

It was wonderful to find that, in just this one small patch of wilderness, there were so many different flowering plants.  Nature is truly amazing.   While my horticultural career has been mainly about garden plants, it is from wildflowers such as these that so many of our garden plants derive.   I think I would have enjoyed being a plant hunter back in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Now, I use a camera instead of collecting specimens and seeds. The National Park rule now applies to us all – leave only footprints, take only photos!

I wonder which of these wildflowers is your favourite.  Difficult, isn’t it?


All Photography Copyright ©  David Young  of jtdytravels

with the exception of P1050042 courtesy of Gulya Shevstova

Reference book:  Plants of Kamchatka

We have many stories and photos of flowers and gardens of the world on:

Other nature and flowering plant stories from Australia are on our site:



Russia : Kamchatka : #6 Gorely Volcano

From the top of Mutnovsky Volcano (2322m), we had been able to see the next volcano on our itinerary, Gorely (1829m).  This is another ‘live’ volcano and we’d been told that the view from Gorely was even more spectacular than from Mutnovsky.  That was a little hard to believe, but we would soon see for ourselves.


P1110426  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110426 © DY of jtdytravels

We were still camped by the bubbling stream in the Mutnotsky valley.  The small tents were ours; OK for one; a bit cramped for two. The crew tent was the larger tent.  The blue tent was the mess tent, and outside that, a bottle of water hung from an improvised hook.  Washing hands meant unscrewing the top, now at the bottom, to let a dribble of water out.  The water had come from the stream.   We could probably have drunk that water.


P1110442  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110442 © DY of jtdytravels

After a drive of a couple of hours from camp, we came to the road head for Gorely Volcano.  From there, it was a walk of over three hours to get to the crater rim.  The track was steep, stony and rough but the views compensated for the effort.  The vehicles are just small dots in the centre of the valley below.


P1110443  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110443 © DY of jtdytravels

Along the way, there were plants to find and photograph.

This one is the Diamond-leaved Willow; salix pulchra


P1110430  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110430 © DY of jtdytravels

The seed fluff of the Salix pulcra looks like a cotton head.


P1110434  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110434 © DY of jtdytravels

The blue of the tiny mountain bells, Campanula lasiocarpa, was even bluer than the sky.


P1110438  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110438 © DY of jtdytravels

Seed heads of Diapensis obovata


P1110448  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110448 © DY of jtdytravels

After looking for plants, there was another long, uphill hike to get to the crater.

And the higher we walked, the better the view; as promised.



P1110452  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110452 © DY of jtdytravels

The view down into the main caldera with its ice blue lake was breathtaking.   I’m told that this crater was formed after a giant eruption about 38,000 to 40,000 years ago. That eruption produced about 100 cubic miles of tephra, the name for the fragmental material produced by a volcanic eruption regardless of composition or fragment size. This is now a dormant crater but other parts of this large volcano are still very active. While the rest of the team rested and enjoyed this view, Rosemary and I determined to keep hiking to see the part of the volcano that is still active.


P1110461  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110461 © DY of jtdytravels

And the views got ever more expansive as we climbed.


P1110463  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110463 © DY of jtdytravels

It seems that you cannot climb here without a view of at least one other volcano.


Map of Kamchatkan volcanoes (from web)

Map of the many Kamchatkan volcanoes (from the web; The Lost World Ltd)

There are a great many volcanoes on the Kamchatkan Peninsula and about 27 of them are live, that is, they have erupted since 1900.  This map not only shows the many volcanoes, but it also shows the only two main roads on the peninsula.  They are depicted in red; one across the south, and one up the centre. The only way of getting to the coastal villages is by sea. This is indeed a very isolated part of the world and a hot spot of volcanic activity.


P1110469  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110469 © DY of jtdytravels

The path from one caldera to the next, was narrow, steep and not for the faint-hearted.


P1110471  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110471 © DY of jtdytravels

The view down into this caldera was grand; awe inspiring.

The earthy colours were stunning.


P1110473  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110473 © DY of jtdytravels

But what we had come to see, an icy green lake at the bottom, was non existent.  There was just a muddy pool.  Apparently, the water level rises and falls with the internal activity of the volcano.  My notes tell me that Gorely Volcano is very complex.  It covers 9 x 13.5 km, an area that is occupied by 3 closely spaced and overlapping stratovolcanoes. It is cut by 3 rift zones and has 11 summit craters and more than 30 flank craters. The lavas that come out of Gorely are mainly basalt and basaltic andesite.

In the 19th century, this volcano erupted in 1828, 1832, 1855, and 1869.  In the 20th century, eruptions occured in 1929, 1930, 1931, 1947, 1961, 1980-1981, and 1984-1986. During that last eruption, the ash plumes reached 3.5 km in height.  There’s still a lot of power in this volcano.

Underneath us, were roaring fumaroles.  We could hear them.  They sounded just like a large, very noisy jet taking off.  We didn’t have time to walk further around the rim to see where all the noise was coming from; it would have been another 12 kilometre hike.


P1110475  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110475 © DY of jtdytravels

We turned around to retrace our steps along that narrow ridge.


P1110465  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110465 © DY of jtdytravels

The view of the old caldera and lake lead the eye to a vast expanse of volcanic landscape.


P1050170  ©  photo courtesy of Gulya

P1050170 © photo courtesy of Gulya

Our translator, Gulya, captured this shot of our return down the slope.   Yes – I did carry the tripod all the way up and down again.  It’s the only way to get really steady video, although the Panasonic TZ30 does give a very steady video result if handled correctly.


P1110481  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110481 © DY of jtdytravels

We had caught a glimpse of a Black-capped Marmot on our walk up the volcano, so on the way down Sasha went ahead to locate their underground home.  He successfully found it some 150m off the track.  We detoured to watch a family of around 10 marmots going about their late afternoon business.  They weren’t particularly concerned about our presence so we got quite close.  They are rather cute.

I was rather surprised by the almost complete lack of birds in the bush.  We saw a few every now and then but most of those were crows scavenging around rubbish.  There have been the odd group of little brown birds, (lbbs), all rather drab and insignificant.  On one stretch of road we spotted a couple of rock ptarmigan in their summer plumage.  Although much bigger than the ‘lbbs’, they were still rather drab.


P1110485  ©  DY  of  jtddytravels

P1110485 © DY of jtddytravels

Our driver, Toly, and Russian guide, Sasha .


P1110487  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110487 © DY of jtdytravels

The drive to Gorely was a doddle compared to the one to Mutnovsky.  Even so it was a long day and we didn’t arrive back at camp until 18h45.  Even after a long day of hiking, this Aussie and NZ group had energy enough left for a game of cricket!  After dinner, we played with a rough piece of wood saved from the camp fire and a ball made by Peter from knotted plastic bags.  This ball was something like the ones I’ve seen in India, but our ball was an ‘upmarket’ one.  It was wrapped in duct tape which made it a little softer than the Indian variety.  It was great fun and it was an eye-opener for the crew.

As it became dark, a set of bright vehicle lights came over the ridge.  They belonged to a group of Russians heading for our campsite.  Why this spot?  The camp area was many hectares in area, but true to European form, they stopped right beside our camp fire and set up their camp – all very chummy, but totally unnecessary!


P1110489  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110489 © DY of jtdytravels

The all-but-full moon rose shortly afterwards so we decided it was time to retire and take our worn out and grubby bodies to our warm sleeping bags.  It was not the right time to wash in freezing cold stream water!


P1110488  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110488 © DY of jtdytravels

But before I retired, I took a walk by the stream, beautifully illuminated by the moon.

It had been another very special day in Kamchatka.



Photography  Copyright ©  David  Young  of  jtdytravels

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Russia : Kamchatka : #5 Mutnovsky Volcano

After crossing the Mutnovsky Plateau for three hours in our bus/truck transport, we were tantilisingly close to Mutnovsky Volcano.  But our driver could take us no further than the road head.  From there we had another three hours ahead of us trudging on foot over scree, ash, ice and snow and up a glacier to get to one of Mutnovsky’s craters.



P1110314 © DY of jtdytravels

It’s not easy crossing ice.  We followed each other, single file, carefully.

One wrong step and it would be a slippery slide down to the rocks below.


P1110322  ©  DY of  jtdytravels

P1110322 © DY of jtdytravels

Once across the ice, I could take time to take in the rock formations around me.


P1110323  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110323 © DY of jtdytravels

There was still ice aplenty on the ground.


P1110324  ©  DY of jtdytravels

P1110324 © DY of jtdytravels

It was a long, slow, tiring march up the valley.


P1110325  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110325 © DY of jtdytravels

But the higher we went, the better the views of the Mutnovsky Volcano crater.


P1110338  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110338 © DY of jtdytravels

While we expressed that overused word “WOW” many times, some had seen it all before.

 Our guide Sasha, in camouflage, and our interpreter, Gulya, stopped for a chat.


P1110342  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110342 © DY of jtdytravels

For the rest of us, all this was new and quite spell-binding; difficult to take it all in.

It was one of those ‘pinch yourself’ moments!  Am I really here?


P1110345  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110345 © DY of jtdytravels

In front of us, fumaroles belched steam out of all that hot stuff inside in the volcano.

This is one volcano that is still very much alive.

There are something like twenty seven active vocanoes in Kamchutka.


P1110347  ©  DY  of  tdytravels

P1110347 © DY of jtdytravels

Sulphur deposits.  These usually emit that awful rotten egg gas smell, but not here.

Perhaps the breeze helped!


P1110354  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110354 © DY of jtdytravels

It quite takes your breath away looking down into these deep holes.


P1110355  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110355 © DY of jtdytravels

Yellow, sulphur rimmed fissures could be seen right across the crater.


P1110357  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110357 © DY of jtdytravels

Huge rocks had been blown out with a blast at some time whilst mud bubbles nearby.


P1110379  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110379 © DY of jtdytravels

After walking around the crater edge for some time, we realised it was already 14h30 .

Well and truly time for a bite to eat.

We sat down to enjoy the view and to enjoy the delicious food in our lunch boxes.


P1110380  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110380 © DY of jtdytravels

Then ’twas time to begin the return journey back down the icy valley.

Some folk already on the trail were now just tiny specks in the bottom of the valley.


P1110384  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110384 © DY of jtdytravels

We passed a simple memorial to a young man who had fallen.

He was just 22 years old; a reminder that this is a dangerous place.


P1110386  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110386 © DY of jtdytravels

A view of the track through the ice.  We had just walked across that.

In fact we had successfully crossed it twice: there and back!


P1110388  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110388 © DY of jtdytravels

On the way, I noticed some plants that pioneer areas such as this after volcanic activity.

This one is Saxifraga merkii or Merk’s Saxifrage.


P1110389  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110389 © DY of jtdytravels

Another plant that survives in this inhospitable environment is

Shrubby Beardtongue, Pennellianthus frutescens, with its small mauve flowers.


P1110391  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110391 © DY of jtdytravels

Spiraea beauverdiana can be found in habitats such as this from Alaska to Japan.


P1110404  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110404 © DY of jtdytravels

This bright red berry is the Lingonberry, a favourite food of bears.  Lingonberry, Vaccinium vitas-idaea is found in the cold to moderate zones of the whole of the Northern Hemisphere.  It’s a valuable medicinal plant and is high in vitamins.


P1110396  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110396 © DY of jtdytravels

We detoured on the way back to camp to look down at a waterfall formed when melt water from both the glacier and the remaining snow from last season tumbles over a precipice.   The first snow of next season will arrive before all the snow from the last one melts.  The water turned to ice at the bottom of this waterfall.  That’s cold!  Very cold!


P1110406  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110406 © DY of jtdytravels

Here’s a landscape for all of you artists.  What a wonderful palette of earthy colours?


P1110412  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110412 © DY of jtdytravels

A lonely Spiraea beauverdiana in a huge landscape!


P1110417  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110417 © DY of jtdytravels

The walk back down took us 70 minutes.  We were all very pleased to climb back into our vehicles after our 12 km hike ( 6 up, 6 down). The return trip to our campsite took us two hours, back through the snow and ice, but this time with no dramas along the way.

After dinner we sat around the campfire and introduced ourselves and gave a short biography.  Six of us come from Canberra, and include the only two men in the group and one from Sydney.  The other three are New Zealanders.  It was then the crew’s turn to reveal all!


All Photography copyright ©  David Young  of  jtdytravels

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Russia : Kamchatka : #4 Mutnovsky Plateau

Our itinerary for 21st August included a climb up to the rim of the Mutnovsky Volcano. To get there, we would need to cross the icy, rocky tracks of the Mutnovsky Plateau.  But first it was time to wash in the freezing cold water from the stream and have our breakfast, camp style.

P1110191  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110191 © DY of jtdytravels

We set off over formed road for about 6-8km before heading off into the wilderness.  We were soon above the tree line where only prostrate plants grow.  There was nothing over about 15 cm in height.  Many of these we had already seen, such as the rhododendron and willowherb.  But there were other herbaceous plants to be found like this lovely purple Campanula lasiocarpa commonly known as Mountain Harebell.


P1110211  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110211 © DY of jtdytravels

Spirea-leaved Goldenrod is a cheerful yellow daisy;  Solidago spiraeifolia.


P1110224  ©  DY of jtdytravels

P1110224 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the most beautiful flowers we found in this area was Delphinium brachycentrum, Short-spur Larkspur.


P1110288  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1110288 © DY of jtdytravels

The ‘track’ took us across ice and snow drifts, up braided rivers and through low hills.

Much of our journey was at slower than walking pace.


P1110291  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110291 © DY of jtdytravels

Much of the scenery was in stark black and white.


P1110299  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110299 © DY of jtdytravels

A touch of ice cold, green melt-water in the somber landscape.


P1110422  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110422 © DY of jtdytravels

We were travelling in tandem with another tour group’s bus.


P1110305  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110305 © DY of jtdytravels

This turned out to be a good idea as our bus/truck broke through the ice in one place.  We were inextricably stuck.


P1110306  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110306 © DY of jtdytravels

But hitched up to the other truck, our truck was gradually pulled out.


P1110301  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110301 © DY of jtdytravels

While waiting for that to happen, I, of course, went in search of plants.  There were many.


P1110304  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110304 © DY of jtdytravels

One that caught my eye was this delightful small  Anemone sp.


P1110296  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110296 © DY of jtdytravels

We drove passed two or three other trucks buried up to the axels and abandoned.  These would, presumably, be retrieved later as they are worth between USD60-70,000.  What happened to their tour group and crew, I don’t know.   Mission aborted, no doubt.


P1110312  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110312 © DY of jtdytravels

After three hours of driving, we finally reached the road head.  From here we had to walk.  Ahead of us lay amazing rock formations and the fumaroles in the Mutnovsky volcano.  And I’ll take you there in my next post.


All Photography copyright ©  David Young  of jtdytravels

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