Our destination today was a volcano in the Tolbachik Volcano Region which last erupted in 2012 – only last year! To see where that is on the Kamchatkan Peninsula, let’s have another look at that map provided by our tour company, Silk Road Adventures. (www.silkroad.co.nz)
Map Courtesy of Silk Road Adventures
Leaving Esso, we headed back out to the main North/South Kamchatkan road. We then drove north on that road before turning off to the east onto another of those all too familiar rough bush tracks. This one was really only wide enough for a conventional 4WD, not our monster of a 6WD truck. With the combination of bushes and trees banging against the side of the vehicle and the continual lurching due to the very rough track, it was hard to stay seated in any comfort at all. Holding on tight, we knew that we were in for another adventure.
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When we came, thankfully, to a stop, it was in the middle of a braided river. Why here? Usually, there is a superb view of volcanoes from here. But today, clouds, unfortunately, blocked out any long distance view from this site.
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We were back into icy cold, melt water territory.
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This rather unlikely place was where we had our lunch!
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Our next stop was to collect some firewood for the evening fire. From here, we were told, we would turn onto the beginning of the bad road. So the other road was a good road, was it? We had arrived at the area of the 2012 Tolbachik Volcano eruption. The red blotch on the map represents the lava flow. The finger of lava to the left had completely cut off the road to our destination. Our track had been bulldozed through the bush below the lava. We were heading to make our camp site at the blue square marker to the left of the large deep pink blob.
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The new ‘track’ through the forest was nothing better than a goat track through the bush, something you could expect of a logging track back home.
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And there, right beside the track, was the end of the lava flow.
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Another photo of the end of the lava flow as seen through these multi-stemmed birch.
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I walked to the end of the lava flow to find it was actually a collection of small to large rocks – definitely not solid. I was scrambling onto the very loose pile for a better position to take a photo, when I noticed, above me, a very large rock which, had it started to roll, would have taken me to oblivion! I beat a hasty, but very careful, retreat.
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This was a perfect area to search for mushrooms and fungi to add to my collection of photos. And I was right. There were lots of new varieties we hadn’t seen before. Some of these were collected by our crew for inclusion in our meals. I sincerely hoped they knew what they were doing because they all looked poisonous to me. I don’t know their names; maybe some day I’ll find someone who can help me to identify them. Until then, let’s just enjoy the variety created by nature.
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A delightful little parasol.
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This one with a lovely frilly skirt seemed to dance like a ballerina!
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There were several fungi growing on the tree trunks, too.
Another case of looking up as well as looking down when plant hunting.
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Bracket fungus like these usually indicate the demise of the host.
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This one was definitely a little showpiece!
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All these mushrooms and fungi thrived on the decaying litter in the forest.
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I was certainly gathering more specimen photos for my Fungi of Kamchatka collection.
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This specimen was quite gelatinous.
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A delightful mushroom study in nature’s forest garden.
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Blow flies seemed to like the moist top of these mushrooms!
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More lurching from left and right and back to front saw us arrive at this flat ash area.
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Another good spot for a leg-stretch and a bit of an explore.
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All that yellow colour was, in fact, a carpet of moss. It seems to really like this area which is completely covered in a very deep layer of dark grey volcanic ash
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Right in the middle of the track, I found yet another mushroom! You know that song about ‘a lonely little petunia in the onion patch’, well this mushroom was much lonelier than that. Although there was a little bit of moss for company.
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Late in the day, we stopped at a site which just emerged out of the fog from seemingly nowhere. I’m glad Toly knew where he was going. Now, this was not just another comfort and stretch your legs stop. This was where we were to set up our tents for the night! Here, on this ash? OK. The ash and scoria looked dirty but in fact it brushed off your hands just like sand.
The trouble was that when we erected our tents, the flimsy pegs had to be anchored down with rocks – the pegs wouldn’t hold on their own in the loose scoria particularly if the wind came up. Note the beer filled water bottle in front of my tent! It would stay nice and cold out there by the tent flap. It was obviously going to be pretty cold here over-night.
Add to the fog – it started raining in earnest. Since we were camped at over 1300m, the temperature was expected to drop to well below zero. Our pre-tour notes said the temperatures we could expect on the whole tour would range between +10 to 30°C, so I brought an appropriate sleeping bag for those conditions. I managed at the Ichinsky camp, as I’ve already explained, but I was somewhat afraid I did not have a sufficiently warm sleeping bag for the conditions in the mountains. I had said that I wanted to buy a blanket when we were in Esso. That would solve the problem I knew was coming when we headed higher into the mountains. However, I was told that extra sleeping bags would be sent to us. At 18h00, with the rain and fog outside, the promised sleeping bags still hadn’t arrived from Petropavlovsk, a journey of some thirteen hours. I had decided to put on most of the clothes I brought with me in order to be warm. Mind you, I would look like the Michelin man and not able to move. But hopefully I’d be warm enough.
As bed time came closer and still no sleeping bags in sight, the crew decided to give us their sleeping bags and they would all sleep in the truck. It had kerosene heating. The driver slept in there all the time on one of the four bunk beds. Now all the bunks were going to be used and we were all going to be warm – it was not only me who admitted they were not feeling very warm.
The whole camp slept warmly. I certainly did. BUT, all trussed up in extra clothing, sheet-sleeping bag and zipped up sleeping bag it took around 15 minutes to go to the loo in the middle of the night! I wish somebody would invent a zipper for a sleeping bag that worked with ease – every time. It always seems to be a struggle to get the damn thing to move either way and not get caught up in the lining. Achieving an opening or closing with cold fingers just makes the task even harder. Then it’s a real wriggle to get out of the sleeping bag sheet and sleeping bag, find something to put on your feet, crawl to the zipper on the tent fly, unzip that, and all this is just to get out of the tent! A fumble around in the dark, the job done, and the whole cumbersome task has to be completed in reverse before trying to go back to sleep. Fun? Not! And added to that, it rained most of the night with only slight pauses here and there. We were well and truly back in outdoor wilderness camp mode. But that’s all part of an adventure such as this. I went to sleep hoping that the rain would ease for our walk to the volcano later that morning.