India : Assam : Along the Brahmaputra # 2

The Brahmaputra River is a large river by any standard.  It is one of the major rivers of Asia.  It originates in the Angsi Glacier on the northern side of the Himalayas in Tibet.  It cuts through the Himalayas in deep gorges and flows into the Indian state of Arunchal Pradesh before flowing SW through the Assam Valley.  It then flows in a southerly direction through Bangladesh and into the vast Ganges Delta.  After breaking through the Himalayas, the river exhibits typical braided river characteristics.  It is highly susceptable to channel migration which makes navigation difficult.  For our journey on the river a pilot boat charted the way.  The Brahmaputra has many name changes in its 2,900km (1,800ml) journey to the Bay of Bengal as each country, and even states, call it by a different name.

The river is prone to catastrophic flooding in spring when the Himalayan snows melt.  The average discharge is about 19,300 cubic metres (680,000 cu ft) per second.  This is the equivalent of 34.3 times the volume of Sydney Harbour.  The discharge can rise to 100,000 cubic metres (3,500,000 cu ft) per second during floods.  This is 178 times the volume of Sydney Harbour.

Although navigable for most of its length, I did not see much river trafficwhilst on this journey.

P1010205  © DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010205 © DY of jtdytravels

Although the river has an average depth of 38m (124ft),

there are many shallow sand banks jutting out into the river.

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P1010197 © DY of jtdytravels

The main type of river traffic we saw were small wooden fishing boats.

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P1010209 © DY of jtdytravels

Our pilot boat, Subansiri, was never far ahead – charting a safe course for us.

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P1010212 © DY of jtdytravels

The Subansiri, and another boat hitching a ride, in the very flat landscape.

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P1010247 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the boats seen on the river.

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P1010256 © DY of jtdytravels

Another fishing boat, out for a day’s fishing.

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P1010257 © DY of jtdytravels

More fishing from a small wooden boat.

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P1010271 © DY of jtdytravels

High tension power cables crossing the river on tall support masts near

the Kolia Bhomora Setu Bridge.

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P1010276  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010276 © DY of jtdytravels

The Kolia Bhomora Setu bridge was the second bridge built over the Brahmaputra river.  It is an important link to the rest of India for the seven states in the NE of the country.  It is 3015m (just 223yds short of 2 miles) long and is supported by 27 piers.

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P1010284  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010284 © DY of jtdytravels

These kids belong to some of the tea pickers on the Koliabur Tea Estate.

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P1010287  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010287 © DY of jtdytravels

Brightly dressed tea pickers on the Koliabur Tea Estate.

It had been a very interesting start to our river journey; a much more gentle journey.

 

More anon

David

 

Photography   Copyright  ©  David Young  of  jtdytravels

 

More of our travels stories and photographs can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

.

 

 

Russia : Kamchatka : # 19 Tolbachik to Kozyrevsk

The was the last day of our Tolbachik Volcano Region excursion.  We were up early for breakfast at 08h00 as it had been decided to break camp a day early.  The weather had been so inclement and, with almost everyone still suffering from the effects of the head cold, we would drive back down off the high country onto the plain below to the small village of Kozyrevsk.  There we could at least sleep the night in a bed rather than a tent.  And, hopefully, there would be some warm water for a good wash which, by now, was desperately needed.

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P1120408  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120408 © DY of jtdytravels

Much to our pleasure and surprise, the day had dawned very crisp and frosty with an absolutely clear sky.  And what a sight met our eyes!  There, beyond the hill that sheltered our camp, was the dormant Ostry Tolbachik Volcano in all her magnificent glory.  For the previous two days, she had been obscured by fog, mist and cloud.  She did exist after all.

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P1120418  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120418 © DY of jtdytravels

 After breakfast, we decided to climb the hill behind the campsite.

That would give time for our tents to thaw and dry out before packing.

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P1120411  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120411 © DY of jtdytravels

As I walked I noticed a footprint in the frosty cinders.  This reminded me that the way to help this place stay so special is for visitors to take only photos and leave only footprints. We also need to be careful not to walk on vulnerable colonising plants.

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P1120414 © DY of jtdytravels

Although it was a very enjoyable walk in the sunshine, we couldn’t stay there all day, so headed back to the camp to pack up ready to move off for the last time.

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P1120421 © DY of jtdytravels

We left camp at 10h40 and headed back to the two cinder cones where we had stopped a couple of days earlier on our way up to the Tolbachik camp site.  For those who had decided not to climb one of them before, now was their opportunity.  I think that the cauldron experience of the previous day was enough to spur them on, although the rewards here would be nothing compared with that. However, the views would be better than on the first day now that the weather was quite clear.  I’d been up the cinder cone before, so I decided not to climb up there for a second time.  Instead, I walked back along the track we had come on to photograph the Tolbachik volcanoes from a different point of view.  And that was well worth the walk!

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P1120422 © Dy of jtdytravels

I zoomed in for a closer look.  She was picture postcard perfect!

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P1120434 © DY of jtdytravels

How fickle is the weather!  What a difference a day makes.  This was just Magic.

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P1120437 © DY of jtdytravels

It was hard to leave Tolbachik now that the weather was so superb.  But the decision had been made and we had broken camp.  The drive back down along that very rough bush track on our way to the main north/south road would be my last chance to find any new specimens for my collections of flowers and fungi.  And I was not disappointed from a mushroom and toadstool point of view.  There were hundreds and hundreds of them, more than I’ve ever seen before.  Thankfully, the crew stopped to collect some varieties of mushrooms for our meals.  That gave me the chance to find and photograph some different specimens.  Again, I don’t know their names (yet) but I’ll add the photos here for you to enjoy them, too.

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P1120435 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120436 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120438 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120439 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120442 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120444 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120445 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120451 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120452 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120460 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120457 © DY of jtdytravels

Looking up, it was obvious that this tree had its fair share of caterpillars!

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P1120481 © DY of jtdytravels

We moved on and stopped once more at the braided river for a rest and a cuppa.

Vika again helped in the preparation and clean-up.

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P1120467  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120467 © DY of jtdytravels

This time, we could actually see the surrounding ice capped volcanoes

This was our lucky last chance to see them!

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P1120466  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120466 © DY of jtdy travels

The volcano on the left was belching smoke, just one of those 29 active volcanoes on the peninsula.  It’s views like this that makes Kamchatka a very special place for an adventure holiday.  It’s a long way from anywhere, but well worth the journey.

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P1120476  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120476 © DY of jtdytravels

Perfection plus!

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P1120488  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120488 © DY of jtdytravels

The cloud descended further, becoming saucer shaped and obscuring the top of the volcano.  We had stopped here at just the right time to enjoy the full, glorious scene. Too soon, it was time to tear ourselves away from the beauty of this area and move on.

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P1120490  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120490 © DY of jtdytravels

When we hit the North/South road we turned north for a few kilometres until we came to the settlement of Kozyrevsk where we would spend the night.  A stop at the mini market for a bottle or two of beer was, of course, a necessity.

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P1120494  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120494 © DY of jtdytravels

The small ‘resort’ we stayed in here consisted of 5 A-framed buildings each of which slept two people.  There was some other accommodation but that had all been booked.  I suppose we would have had to pitch our tents if this place had been full.

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P1120493  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120493 © DY of jtdytravels

No single rooms here either, so once again I shared, this time with Rosemary.

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P1120491 © DY of jtdytravels

The resort belonged to this house which had a banya – the Russian version of a sauna.  This was fired up for us and it was absolutely delightful after the lack of warm water over the last 4-5 days.  In fact it was a bit too hot.  I began to realise that all this changing from hot to cold, whether it be from walking up volcanoes and getting sweaty, to standing by a fire, to warm sleeping bags, to the banya; none of this was helping us to shed the dreaded lurgy which all but one of the group, including the crew, had eventually caught.

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P1120495  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120495 © DY of jtdytravels

Now that we were cleaner and warmer, dinner was a time of good cheer after the enjoyment of our first sunny day for quite awhile.  And there was another plus.  By coming down to this town, the drive back to PK had been cut by four hours.  Even so, the next day’s drive of some 500 kms from Kozyrevsk to PK would still take about nine hours.  Not the most pleasant of thoughts.  But then, it was worth it to have had the experience of being in this wild, wilderness area.

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P1120527 © DY of jtdytravels

Then, as the light faded from the sky and we began to think about bed and a good night’s sleep, we were treated to the sight of a spectacular ribbon of molten lava streaming down a distant volcano.  Apparently the volcano had only begun erupting four days earlier.  This spectacle was a bit far away for a good photograph but it was nonetheless impressive.  It was a fitting end to a good day of sightseeing in the land of ice and fire.

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of jtdytravels

More of our travels diaries and photos can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

.

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Russia : Kamchatka : #16 Esso to Tolbachik Volcanic Region

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)

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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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P1120225  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120225 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120229 © DY of jtdytravels

We were back into icy cold, melt water territory.

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P1120231 © DY of jtdytravels

This rather unlikely place was where we had our lunch!

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P1120268 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120241 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120243 © DY of jtdytravels

And there, right beside the track, was the end of the lava flow.

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P1120242 © DY of jtdytravels

Another photo of the end of the lava flow as seen through these multi-stemmed birch.

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P1120257 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120253 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120233 © DY of jtdytravels

A delightful little parasol.

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P1120234 © DY of jtdytravels

This one with a lovely frilly skirt seemed to dance like a ballerina!

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P1120240 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120245 © DY of jtdytravels

Bracket fungus like these usually indicate the demise of the host.

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P1120244 © DY of jtdytravels

This one was definitely a little showpiece!

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P1120248 © DY of jtdytravels

All these mushrooms and fungi thrived on the decaying litter in the forest.

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P1120250 © DY of jtdytravels

I was certainly gathering more specimen photos for my Fungi of Kamchatka collection.

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P1120252 © DY of jtdytravels

This specimen was quite gelatinous.

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P1120254 © DY of jtdytravels

A delightful mushroom study in nature’s forest garden.

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P1120256 © DY of jtdytravels

Blow flies seemed to like the moist top of these mushrooms!

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P1120263 © DY of jtdytravels

More lurching from left and right and back to front saw us arrive at this flat ash area.

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P1120265 © DY of jtdytravels

Another good spot for a leg-stretch and a bit of an explore.

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P1120266 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120260 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120270 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

David