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!

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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.

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P1110946  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110946 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1110948  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110948 © DY of jtdytravels

Nature’s own jewellery.  Stunning.

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P1110951  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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!

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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.

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P1110982  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1110982 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1110981  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110981 © DY of jtdytravels

A flower head of Kamchatka Thistle. Cirsium kamtschaticum.

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P1110984  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110984 © DY of jtdytravels

A seed explosion from a Kamchatka Thistle, Cirsium kamtschaticum.

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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.

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P1110995  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110995 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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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.

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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.

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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

P1120006 © DY of jtdytravels

A peek over someone’s back fence.

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P1120001  ©  DY of jtdytravels

P1120001 © DY of jtdytravels

A very healthy looking vegie garden.

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P1120004  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120004 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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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.

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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!

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of  jtdytravels

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

www.jtdytravels.com

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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P1110805  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110805 © DY of jtdytravels

My first mushroom find.

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P1110808  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110808 © DY of jtdytravels

What a fascinating mushroom cap!

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P1110810  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110810 © DY of jtdytravels

A delightful natural garden of fungi and moss.

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P1110811  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110811 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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P1110933  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110933 © DY of jtdytravels

Juniperus sibirica, is widely distributed in Kamchatka.

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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

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

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.

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P1110822  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110822 © DY of jtdytravels

Talking of architecture, what about this magnificent mushroom!

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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

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.

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P1110847  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110847 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1110854  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110854 © DY of jtdytravels

Bumblebees at work on a Kamchatka Thistle,  Cirsium kamtschaticum.

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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.

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P1110863  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110863 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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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

P1110874 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1110870  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110870 © DY of jtdytravels

A tiny forest of moss sporangia.

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P1110873  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110873 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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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

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 : #3 Drive to Mutnovsky

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.

P1110146 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110146 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

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P1120212 © DY of jtdytravels

P1120212 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

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P1110168 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110168 © DY of jtdytravels

Our first ‘rest stop’ village was filled with more drab and dilapidated buildings.

P1110170 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110170 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

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P1110173 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110173 © DY of jtdytravels

Strips of material have been left by ‘believers’ as they are supposed to bring good luck.

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P1110176 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110176 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

P1110182 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110182 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

P1110206 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110206 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

P1110197 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110197 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

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P1120212 © DY of jtdytravels

P1120212 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

P1110221 © DY of jtdyravels

P1110221 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

P1110235 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110235 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

P1110208 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110208 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

P1110240 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110240 © DY of jtdytravels

The Kamchatka rhododendron only grows to about 50cm and likes stony slopes like this.

P1110250 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

P1110246 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110246 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the views from the top was of this curtain waterfall.  Worth the climb!

P1110239 © DY of jtdtravels

P1110239 © DY of jtdytravels

More Willowherb beside the track back to the campsite.  A delightful view.

P1110269 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110269 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

P1110228 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110228 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

P1110271 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110271 © DY of jtdytravels

After dinner, I was greeted by this wonderful photographic opportunity.

The magnificent volcano beyond the campsite sat majestically in the late afternoon light.

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P1110280 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110280 © DY of jtdytravels

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.

David

All Photography Copyright ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

more of our overseas travels can be found on

this site and on

http://www.jtdytravels.com

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