Russia : Kamchatka : #15 Forays into the Forest

29th August and our last day in the Esso area.  ‘Twas a very foggy morning that didn’t promise good things.  But the plan for the day looked interesting.  A morning drive out of town to forage in the forest;  then, after lunch, a drive to an ethnic village to experience a cultural dance and music show put on by some of the local young people.

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P1120134 © DY of jtdytravels

I mentioned the rough roads!

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P1120125 © DY of jtdytravels

We made our way slowly to a hill on the other side of yesterday’s small lake.

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P1120126 © DY of jtdytravels

The fog/mist was lifting as we reached this summit.  The forest stretched to the horizon and further.  The dead trees were a result of a wild fire that went through the area about a decade ago.  They were probably dead Pinus pumila.

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P1120127 © DY of jtdytravels

Further around and we could actually see the river snaking its way through the forest.  By now, though, the weather had definitely changed for the worse.  It was 100% overcast and it felt as though the wind was blowing straight from Siberia, having originated somewhere above the Arctic Circle.  This was not very good at all for our rumbly chests.

And, by the way, those  ‘alcoholic medicines’ hadn’t worked.   I was still feeling anything but 100%.  Maybe I needed more? Alcohol, that is!

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P1120124 © DY of jtdytravels

There were signs of bears, the most tangible evidence were footprints in the mud.  Again, we knew they were around but we didn’t see them.  Thankfully, and hopefully, they were already full of salmon for their winter hibernation and were generally only interested in the berries that were ripening everywhere.  We liked the berries too, so we were doing the bears out of some of their vitamin C.  We just hoped that our foraging for berries didn’t make them angry!  But in reality, there were plenty of berries to share.

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P1120128 © DY of jtdytravels

Even though most plants here had finished flowering for the short summer season, I did find some more plants and fungi to add to my growing collection of photos of the Flora of Kamchatka.  This little beauty is Ledum palustre  also known as Marsh Labrador Tea.

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P1120129 © DY of jtdytravels

In this part of the forest there were several types of fungi growing on the tree trunks.

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P1120131 © DY of jtdytravels

Again, there seemed to be mushrooms and toadstools everywhere; a sure sign of autumn.  Most of the ground mushrooms had almost finished their task and were beginning to wrinkle and wither.  Spring, summer and autumn are all short seasons here.  All plants have to make the most of the brief time to grow and reproduce.  Winter is long and hard.

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P1120132 © DY of jtdytravels

Leathery and wrinkled.  All part of the ageing process, isn’t it?

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P1120141 © DY of jtdytravels

All around us was evidence of past volcanic activity.

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P1120152 © DY of jtdytravels

A climbing Aconitum species;  possibly Aconitum fischeri var.arcuatum or Aconitum alboviolaceum.  I’d never seen a climbing, twining Aconitum species before.  Intriguing.

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P1120151 © DY of jtdytravels

The plant contains poisonous aconite, but according to ancient Chinese medical lore, it can be used in the treatment of colds, coughs, and fevers.  Perhaps that’s what we all needed a dose of.   However, if the dosage is not carefully measured, prepared, and used – if the measure used is even in the slightest degree inaccurate – aconite is pure poison.  Best left alone!  Just put up with the cold and chestiness.

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P1120140 © DY of jtdytravels

Poisonous this plant maybe, but the flower is a delight.

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P1120143 © DY of jtdytravels

And what about these beauties growing in the undergrowth.  A species of Amanita.

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P1120150 © DY of jtdytravels

And this is one of the most recognisable toadstools, the quintessential fairy home, an Amanita sp.  I looked, but I didn’t see any fairies sheltering under this umbrella. Maybe they were just shy!

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P1120148 © DY of jtdytravels

Interesting bark of Betula platyphylla ; Flat-leaved Birch

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It had been a good morning in the forest despite the rough tracks.  We called back to the hotel for a quick lunch.  While there, I checked on the flashing EXIT sign in our room.  And, yes.  It was still flashing!

During dinner the previous evening,  the babushka who runs the hotel came into the eating area with a young man at heel who proceeded to check the fire detection units attached to the ceiling.   We’d noticed earlier that the ‘EXIT’ sign in our room was flashing continuously, but of course, took no notice.  There were no flashing lights or sirens and definitely no smoke or flames!  Thirty something hours later the ‘EXIT’ sign was still flashing and still there was no sign of smoke or fire.  We would no doubt sleep peacefully again for another night under the flashing light.  I have no idea what the matter was, nor do I expect to find out.  Where were we?

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P1120159 © DY of jtdytravels

After lunch we drove for about 25 kms to another part of the forest to visit an ethnic village.  Near the entrance track to the village we saw this colourful sight.  Whatever the faith of these local people, they believed in using prayer flags made of strips of material to send their thanks and entreaties to their god/gods.

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P1120158 © DY of jtdytravels

Here, we were greeted by a lady of the village who turned out to be the ‘mother-figure’ of the group of young people we had come to see perform.

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P1120160 © DY of jtdytravels

After her welcome, we followed a track to the village passing totem poles which stood proudly at the entrance of the village site.  Tents could just be seen through the trees.

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P1120163 © DY of jtdytravels

In the village area, we saw some interesting carvings placed here and there on the grass.

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P1120162 © DY of jtdytravels

I quite liked this otter sculpture.

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P1120198 © DY of jtdytravels

The dances were to be performed on a slightly raised platform.  The dance group consisted of 9 dancers who ranged in age from 12 to 30.   Dressed in traditional ethnic costumes, they performed some lovely dances.  They were introduced by the lady we had met earlier and she did a great job of involving us in her stories.

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P1120190 © DY of jtdytravels

They were an enthusiastic group and seemed to have a lot of fun while dancing.   And while they danced, I took photos of some of the young people showing more closeups of their costumes and bead decorations.

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P1120168 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120180 © DY of jtdytravels

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It had been a very interesting visit in this lovely setting in the forest.  After that pleasant interlude, it was back to the hotel for a hot tub, dinner and bed.  But before got to sleep, the four of us in my room were disturbed by the arrival of two of our other lady travellers!   Their room, they said, was unbearably hot, just like ours was on arrival night.  OK.  Their mattresses were soon wedged into our room, on the floor.  So now I had five women in my boudoir!  Oh the joys of adventure travel!

I thought I might have been able to send an email to Jennie from here to let her know that we were all OK.  Not so.  This is the longest time I’ve ever been in any country that I’ve visited, even off the beaten track ones,  where there has been absolutely no internet access possible.  This area of Russia is really so remote.  It is just over 7000km to Moscow – and that’s as the crow flies.  There is no linking road from Kamchatka to Moscow and all travel in that direction is by boat and/or plane.

Do they have TV?  Well, yes, but not here in this guesthouse.  We did have a TV in our hotel room in PK but all programmes were of Russian origin so it was a futile attempt to turn it on because all the titles are in Cyrillic script, which of course I don’t understand.

No. The world, with all its modern technology, could have completely disappeared for all I knew, or in fact cared.  For me all that existed at the moment was our little bit of paradise in the wilderness of Kamchatka.

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of  jtdytravels

Our other travel stories and photos can be found on:

www.jtdytavels com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

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Russia : Kamchatka : #14 Bystrinsky Museum of Local Lore

It was 28th August, and we were still in Esso and staying at the ‘Uyznoe Guesthouse’.  Esso, with a population of about 1950 (2010 census), is the regional capital of the Bystrinsky area; there aren’t any other choices of places to stay or visit.  Esso is it.

Thankfully a ‘slow’ day was planned as a bit of a rest in the middle of the trip and a morning off for our hardworking driver and crew.  Those suffering from the dreaded head cold didn’t feel up to much physical activity anyway.  After breakfast we walked from the hotel to the Bystrinsky Museum of Local Lore.

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P1120065 © DY of jtdytravels

The museum was set up to depict the way of life of some local tribes, who, by now, have mostly been assimilated into the wider community.  There was a distinct lack of interpretive information in English, but we got the general idea from the well set up displays.  Our guide spoke in Russian, but her commentary was translated by Gulya.

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P1120074 © DY of jtdytravels

There were several totem style sculptures in the grounds of the museum.

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P1120067 © DY of jtdytravels

The main house was a fairly modern style house for this region.  Being such a remote area, only local materials are used.  Buildings such as these are similar to the ones I saw in Siberia a few years ago.  They are made of wood with moss, lichen and hair being stuffed into the cracks between the logs to keep the dwellings basically airtight and warm.  They are really most efficient constructions particularly considering the temperatures falls to -30°C (-22°F), and below, during the long winters.  Everything is made from what could be found in the district.  There’s no building supply store nearby in this remote part of Russia.

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P1120069 © DY of jtdytravels

The entrance door was beautifully carved and had distinctive hinges.

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P1120071 © DY of jtdytravels

A simple door handle, made from a branch of a tree.

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P1120108 © DY of jtdytravels

An interesting wooden door knob.

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P1120095 © DY of jtdytravels

This was a very interesting older style of traditional house which now houses dioramas of traditional way of life. The interesting roof creates a vortex that keeps snow from settling on the roof.  To get inside, you had to bend low to go through the tunnel entrance.

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P1120101 © DY of jtdytravels

Inside, were several full size dioramas depicting the traditional way of life.  Animal skins were particularly important for warmth and were extensively used for clothing and inside the houses as bedding, floor rugs, walls and wall hangings.

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P1120100 © DY of jtdytravels

This lady, all wrapped up in skins and furs, is shown grinding a grain.

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P1120104 © DY of jtdytravels

A warm fur hat decorated with bead trimming.

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Even the backs of the hats were decorated with beads.

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P1120078 © DY of jtdytravels

Models depicting both the typical facial structure and clothing of the local tribe’s people.

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P1120085 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the important Kamchatkan wild animals is the Lynx, a good looking big pussy cat!   We had seen brown bears and marmots but there are other wild animals in these forests including Red Fox, Arctic Fox, Hare, Sable, Mink, Wolf, Elk, Reindeer, Snow Sheep, and Otter.  We didn’t see any of those.

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P1120086 © DY of jtdytravels

Eagles (like this stuffed one) are a most important bird species in Kamchatka, especially the magnificent Steller’s Sea Eagle.  Other birds in the area, although we didn’t see them, are the Golden Eagle and Peregrine, Rock and Willow Ptarmigan, Black-billed capercailye, Long-tailed Hawk, and Owl.  Some birds such as Partridges, Capercailye and Swans stay on the peninsula throughout the year, while others, in particular Geese and Ducks, come to this remote place every spring for nesting.  The coastal cliffs and rocky islands of the Kamchatkan Peninsula are inhabited by Sea Gulls, Cormorants and Puffins.

{Notes from ‘The Animal World of Kamchatka.}

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P1120072 © DY of jtdytravels

A bridge was being renewed at one side of the museum.  Although a metal sub-structure is used, logs form the base for the road surface.

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P1120111 © DY of jtdytravels

We walked back to the hotel for a quick lunch before climbing aboard our bus/truck for another rough ride along a track that was again much too narrow for the width of our vehicle.  Our destination was Lake Ikar, perched above the Bystraya River.  There, in this idyllic setting,  we met some Russian fishermen. (He does have pants on – they are just short shorts!)  There didn’t seem to be any fish for their efforts.

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P1120112 © DY of jtdytravels

Late afternoon reflections in the lake.

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Another view of mountains around the lake. Trees had died as a result of earlier volcanic eruptions.  New ones were growing.

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P1120121 © DY of jtdytravels

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a Bear Museum which was attached to the local library.  The stuffed  four year old brown bear that’s on display there, towered over Demar and Sasha, and they are not small men.

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P1120116 © DY of jtdytravels

The librarian gave a very good presentation.   I was glad I didn’t miss her talk even though I sat sniffling and snuffling in the corner.  I was not feeling the best but I’m pleased that I saw this ‘guy’ who gave a good indication of the size of the bears ‘out there’. No, I don’t think I want a hug from one of these!

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P1120118 © DY of jtdytravels

 Just look at those claws!   And we’ve been walking in their territory!

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After we arrived back to the warmth and comfort of the hotel, there was only ten minutes to get myself organised for dinner.  Just enough time to down a whisky – for medicinal purposes, of course.

After dinner, our driver, Toly, said I should drink a vodka and black pepper to fix my cold.  He put a ¼ of a teaspoon of pepper into a shot glass, poured in some vodka and stirred it vigorously.  I was exhorted to throw it down the hatch in one.  Did it work?  If it did, I’d be hard pressed to tell if it was the vodka and pepper, the whisky or the beer I had with dinner.  Maybe, in combination, a miracle would result.  Only time would tell.

Just to add another bow to my ‘treatment’, I set off to the hot pool for a soak for 20 minutes.  Then to bed and the hope that at least something worked.

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of jtdytravels

Stories and photos of our other travels can be found on:

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

Russia : Kamchatka : # 13 Drive from Esso

Even though we had spent the night at ‘Uyznoe Guesthouse’ in Esso on beds rather than in tents, it was not a very satisfactory night’s sleep.  It had been far too hot.  And yet outside it had been very cold and frosty.  So much so that lovely green plants that we had seen in the garden the evening before had turned black.  That frost must have been the first of the onset of winter in these parts and it was only the end of August – a summer month!   Gardening must be a heartbreaking task here with such a short and unpredictable growing season.

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P1120064 © DY of jtdytravels

Esso is  a real frontier town.  There are no made roads, nearly every building was constructed of timber and many are poorly maintained.  I wouldn’t want to live here in a fit.  But then I don’t have to.  We who live in Australia don’t know how lucky we are.

Two young lads joined us this morning to guide us to the track which would take us up to the cinder cones.  Egor, who had turned 13 the day before, and Nikita, to turn 13 next month, were as energetic, as most 13 year olds.  They raced around wanting to carry backpacks and generally be helpful.

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P1120035 © DY of jtdytravels

The views were excellent but the track we drove over was obviously not traversed by our sized vehicle very often.  The scrub and trees on either side scraped along the panels of our truck and windows.  Inside, we were pitched from side to side but it at least saved some walking; for those with that head cold, less walking was better.

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P1120034 © DY of jtdytravels

We were relieved to come to a flatter area to be able to get out and have a comfort stop.

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P1120036 © DY of jtdytravels

At this stop I found the delightful small flowering plant, Euphrasia stricta or Eye Bright.

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P1120037 © DY of jtdytravels

Our goal for the day was to climb up to a cinder cone.

As before in Kamchatka, wherever you look there are volcanoes rising above the trees.

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P1120039 © DY of jtdytravels

Finally we came to the place where we had to leave the truck and begin the day’s walk with Igor and Nikita leading the way.

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P1120042 © DY of jtdytravels

As we walked through a flower filled high meadow, we were watched by a marmot.

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P1120043 © DY of jtdytravels

Minuartia macrocarpa  ;  Longpod Stitchwort

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P1120046 © DY of jtdytravels

This little beauty is called Phyllodoce caerulea

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P1120048 © DY of jtdytravels

Campanula lasiocarpa; Mountain Harebell

With my head cold it was an effort just to put one foot in front of the other.  When the cone was eventually reached I didn’t even bother to climb the blessed thing.  A lie in the sun seemed a good idea instead.

It was an absolutely perfect day with very little breeze, just some light cloud.  But to spoil things, a couple of con trails from passing aircraft blotted the landscape.  These were the first I’d seen since we arrived.  It is such a privilege to be in a place where there is nothing but nature around.  Not even high tension power lines jumping across the horizon, no mobile phone coverage.  Nothing – just us!

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P1120049 © DY of jtdytravels

Bear food, Vaccinium vitis-idaea;  Lingonberry.  We liked them too!

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P1120054 © DY of jtdytravels

On the way back, we had to walk through bear territory again.  That added a certain extra dimension to the walk!  And we were rewarded with sightings of more bears, including a mother and her cub.  They were quite a long way away and difficult to photograph.  But this one, I managed to photograph.  It really blended in with its surroundings.

Eventually we arrived back at the guesthouse at about 18h30.  It was only 20 minutes before dinner so there was not much time to do anything.  But after dinner, all but two of the group ventured into the hot water pool.  The temperature was a delightful 39°C.  It’s been up to 44°.  I don’t know what the temperature is when the water comes out of the ground but it must be close to boiling point.

Thankfully, the heating had been turned down in our room so sleep was possible particularly as a locked door was also opened.

I hoped that a good night’s sleep would auger well for a better day, health wise, on the morrow.

David

All photography Copyright ©  David Young of jtdytravels

More of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

and on

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

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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.

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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.

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P1110885 © DY of jtdytravels

New growth buds of Rhododendron aureum ; Goldish Rhododendron

  Their golden yellow flowers had all finished weeks before.

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P1110890 © DY of jtdytravels

Seed capsules of  Rhododendron aureum ; Goldish Rhododendron

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P1110889 © DY of jtdytravels

Skeletal patterns of a decaying leaf.

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P1110893 © DY of jtdytravels

Seed of one of the Willow Herb family.

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P1110892 © DY of jtdytravels

 A beautiful, golden scalloped mushroom.

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P1110891_2 © DY of jtdytravels

A closer look at that delicate cap.

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P1110894 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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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 www.mushroomExpert.com}

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P1110900 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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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.

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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.

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P1110908 © DY of jtdytravels

The stream bubbled its way through the forest.

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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.

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P1110910 © DY f jtdytravels

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

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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.

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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.

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P1110920  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110920 © DY of jtdytravels

Ptarmica camtschatica; Kamchatka Sneezewort

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P1110926  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110926 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1110935  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110935 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1110930  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110930 © DY of jtdytravels

A caterpillar well camouflaged with its host plant.

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P1110931  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110931 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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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….

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of jtdytravels

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