The morning of the 20th August dawned bright, clear and sunny in Petropavlovsk, the main and only real city of the Kamchatka Peninsula. I’d slept well at the Geyser hotel and was up bright and early ready with high anticipation to begin our adventure tour into this unspoilt volcanic wilderness area.
But first, I was ready for some breakfast. The menu consisted of three choices. The first choice was eggs and sausage; the second was a pancake filled with cream cheese; and the last choice was porridge. I plumped for the first choice which turned out to be very good. Maybe I was hungry. Two fried eggs with some thickly sliced ribbons of ‘ham’ were delivered to the table. There was dark rye and a corn bread on offer along with black tea and lemon (I could have opted for instant coffee) and a chocolate wafer biscuit.
We wandered out into the crisp morning air to meet our crew and see the 6WD truck/bus that would be our transport whilst in Russia. Anatoly was our driver, Alexander (Sasha) our Russian guide, Gulya our translator, Demar the gofer, and most importantly, Galena, who turned out to be a very competent cook.
Our 6xWD truck/bus was an interesting vehicle. I can’t find out what model it was except that it has a three letter Cyrillic script name (ЗИЛ) on its bonnet. I was told that it had a new Japanese motor with a 9.46 litre capacity that burns 30 litres of diesel per 100km, when the going is good. This drops to a litre a kilometre when the pressure in the tyres is lowered for driving on snow. The tyre pressure can be controlled from the cabin – all very fancy! The tyre valves are protected by substantial metal brackets on the wheel rims which protect the valves from being carved off by rocks etc. It had five forward gears in both high and low range and can beetle along at an average of 80km/h when able to travel on well formed dirt roads.
The inside of the bus was quite comfortable. There were two rows of twin reclining seats on each side of the vehicle and a bench seat at the rear, and another one facing backwards against the cabin. There was space above the rear bench seat for luggage.
Our first ‘rest stop’ village was filled with more drab and dilapidated buildings.
Out in the countryside we stopped at a small stream of clear fresh water. This stream is believed to have special properties which can be beneficial to those who wash in and or drink the water. Gulya, our Russian interpreter, tried it out.
Strips of material have been left by ‘believers’ as they are supposed to bring good luck.
This beautiful thistle, Cirsium kamtschaticum Kamchatka Thistle was growing near the stream. At first glance, it would be easy to walk straight past the plant, but on closer examination the wonderful structure of the flower became obvious.
This sign was at the stream. It warns of dangers in the area. However, I would suggest that the person with the shotgun is of equal or greater danger! Interestingly, much of this sign was written in both Russian and English. We saw very few other bilingual signs.
A small patch of rather unusual flowers caught my eye. I had never seen them before. The name of this flower is Castilleja pallida, also known as the Pallid Paintbrush.
The strange and very complex flower of Castilleja pallida certainly deserved a closer look. It’s a member of the Family Scrophulariaceae, the Figwort family.
It was a four hour drive south from Petropavlovsk to our home for the next three nights at Mutnovsky campsite in a lovely valley with a river nearby and a beautiful volcano in the distance. Our site is in the centre, the one with the blue tent. Another group’s camp is in the foreground. Once parked here, the area just begged to be explored, and that’s just what we did. As we climbed higher, the view got ever better.
Chamerion angustifolium, Fireweed or Willowherb grows widely across the cold and moderate zones of the Northern Hemisphere. It was a significant plant around the edges of our campsite adding a luminosity to the green scenery.
This delightful pale purple bell is Pennellianthus frutescens or Shrubby Beardtongue. It’s rather common in this southern area of the peninsula. It also grows in the northern coast of the Okhotsk Sea, Sakhalin and Japan. It’s used as an ornamental in some areas.
This is Rhododendron camtschaticum, Kamchatka Rhododendron, a native of Kamchatka. There’s some division in the botanical world as to whether this plant is really a rhododendron. I’ll let the botanists fight that battle. It grows in Arctic and alpine areas from Japan to North America.
The Kamchatka rhododendron only grows to about 50cm and likes stony slopes like this.
P1110250 © DY of jtdytravels
We climbed up a very rocky area with the promise of good views from the top. Everyone seemed to have a camera in their hand. I’m often asked what camera I use. Both Jennie and I, as well as many of our photographer friends, now use a Panasonic DMC TZ 30 LUMIX. It has an excellent LEICA lens and I’m more than happy with it. It takes very good quality video as well as still shots. It’s small enough to fit in my pocket and I find the quality to be as good as a bulky and much heavier SLR.
One of the views from the top was of this curtain waterfall. Worth the climb!
More Willowherb beside the track back to the campsite. A delightful view.
Mutnovsky campsite was set up with a blue mess tent and green staff tent. We were supplied with smaller tents into which those who were sharing had to squeeze two people. There certainly wasn’t room for a bag as well, so their bags had to be put back into the bus overnight. I’d paid a single supplement so didn’t have the same problem.
The blue mess tent was only just big enough for the ten of us and the Russian crew. But the food was good. Our chef was a winner.
After dinner, I was greeted by this wonderful photographic opportunity.
The magnificent volcano beyond the campsite sat majestically in the late afternoon light.
The day’s exploration complete, we sat around the camp fire until the dark began to descend. A full moon then lit the evening sky. Wandering around in the middle of the night was no problem!
And so to bed, crawling into my small tent and then into my sleeping bag. In between me and the ground was a thin pink and green bed mat. I put the pink side down! I slept fairly well; I just had to get used to this! It’s all part of trekking in wilderness areas.
All Photography Copyright © DY of jtdytravels
more of our overseas travels can be found on
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Gosh David – this truly is an extraordinary travel tale! I loved Russia (but was happy to leave) but didn’t travel the way you’ve just done. What an amazing year you’ve had! Hope you enjoy being back in Canberra with Jennie for a little while… Love and thoughts, Diana
I feel a bit like you, Russia is an interesting place but also a place that it is easier not to be in! I had a great time in Kamchatka as the following blogs will tell.
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