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

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

 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

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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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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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

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 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

Perfection plus!

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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

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

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

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

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 : #18 Plosky Tolbachik Volcano

There are two major volcanoes in the Tolbachik Region.  One is the Ostry Tolbachik Volcano, a stratovolcano of 3,682m.  It looks the way we generally envisage volcanoes, an upside down cone, tall and peaked.  The other is the  Plosky Tolbachik Volcano of 3,085m, a flat or shield volcano. That’s the one we were scheduled to visit; and that’s the one that is still active; very active, with the last major eruption occurring only two months before our visit!

I say, scheduled to visit; but the weather seemed to have other ideas.  It had rained most of the night but it sounded heavier than it really was when heard from the inside of a tent that is only inches away for your nose.  At least I had been warm and there was no need to rise early and brave the day.  We didn’t even have breakfast until 09h00.  And it was a lazy couple of hours as we waited for the weather to clear; some read, some stood around the fire.

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P1120344 © DY of jtdytravels

There wasn’t much to photograph;  just a clump of grass (Leymus sp.) refreshed by rain.

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P1120340 © DY of jtdytravels

The weather didn’t improve so we just headed off in the rain and bitterly cold wind uphill towards the Plosky Tolbachik crater.  We couldn’t see where we were going and were not a particularly enthusiastic group.  It was a case of one foot after the other – in the rain following our ‘Pied Piper’, Sasha.

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P1120346 © DY of jtdytravels

Not far from our camp we came across a lava flow which had started in November 2012.  This eruption moved at a rate of 200-300m per day, was 2km wide and reached a point 4km from its source.  The front of this lava flow was still moving just two months ago!  It was rather eerie standing next to lava which exhibits such tremendous forces so soon after its formation.

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P1120352 © DY of jtdytravels

Many different shapes, sizes and colours were there, right before our eyes.

It was awesome.  Our spirits rose.

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P1120357 © DY of jtdytravels

Some of it formed what is called rope lava… just like shanks of rope, folded and twisted.

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P1120363 © DY of jtdtravels

A pavement of rope lava.

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P1120359 © DY of jtdytravels

Some looked as though it had just been squeezed out of a toothpaste tube.

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A shattered ‘tube’ full of gas holes.

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P1120364 © DY of jtdytravels

We walked beside the lava flow.  To get some sense of scale, see the two people top left, one in a yellow jacket and the other in blue.  Hot steam still rises from pockets in the lava which only arrived in this spot about 16th August 2013!

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Photo courtesy of Kert

Photo courtesy of Kert – Russian Volcano update site.

My photos above were taken on 1/10/ 2013.   This was taken on 16/08/2013.  That’s only 49 days between shots.  This is a living volcano.  As this very hot, rolling, moving lava cooled, it formed the ‘toothpaste’ lava.

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P1120360 © DY of jtdytravels

And as we walked on and beside this lava, here and there in the mist, puffs of steam indicated that, not very far below us, there was still considerable activity in this volcano.  It was exhilarating, despite the cold.

And consider this: as we wandered our way in the foggy conditions along a rough path through the lava, we were allowed to be so close, and to walk on it without guide fences and signs warning of all sorts of calamity.  This was Far East Russia.  We were not in Australia, America or the UK where it seems someone else is so often sought to blame for our own ill-conceived actions.  Here, we were each responsible for our actions and had to take into account for ourselves the consequences of those actions.  Food for thought!  Mind you, we had been warned, verbally, to be very careful and our Russian guides kept a very close watch on each of us as we walked.

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Wierd and wonderful shapes rose out of the mist.

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P1120368 © DY of jtdytravels

Amazingly, some small plants growing in cinder beside the path, had been missed by the lava flow. This one, Saxifraga merkii  or Merk’s saxifrage,  is a pioneer plant on volcanic material.  It occurs from Eastern Siberia to Japan.

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We walked on ever upwards, here, with Vika contrasting against the grey lava.  Autumn was nigh as these few leaves attest. Eventually,  we took a sharp right turn onto the flow itself and headed for an area that looked a bit hotter than elsewhere.

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A deep hole of perhaps 50m by 50 m appeared in front of us.  Sasha took us one by one, by the hand, to the edge of that hole.  I heard the gasps and wows of appreciation, as well as some other expletives, as each of us took our turn to peer into the hole.  I thought, “Oh Yeah!  What can be so great that we haven’t seen before.”  Then it was my turn.

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I looked down and only about 20m away, I saw the red hot magma, the stuff that the centre of the earth is made of!   WOW!   I, too, joined the chorus of expletives.  A truly unexpected moment.

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P1120371 © DY of jtdytravels

With Sasha holding me steady with one hand, I took a couple of closer shots.

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It was truly awe inspiring!   A moment that made all the travails of the day worthwhile.

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We had been just in time to see this amazing sight.  As the last member of the group arrived at the edge of that hole, the weather turned for the worse.

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Not only fog and rain but light snow had started to fall.  It was well and truly time to find our way down that track and get back off the mountain.

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At one place, the path zigzagged around some slippages.  It was good that the light was a little better by the time we got to this spot!

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 An exploded end of a piece of lava shining like silver or mercury.

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Nature’s abstract art – lava; cooled, twisted and broken.

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Eventually, at about 14h45 we arrived back onto the flatter part of this strange landscape.  We were wet, cold, tired, and very hungry … but so happy that we had taken that walk!

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Lunch was a warm soup and it did us a world of good.  There was nothing planned for the rest of the day so some sat in the bus and did crosswords.  I, on the other hand, took the opportunity to curl up in the warmth of my sleeping bag for an hour of much needed rest.  My cold hadn’t left me as fit as I am usually.  But I was very glad I did that walk.

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P1120388 © DY of jtdytravels

When I woke, it was all but time for dinner.  On this cold evening we had a warming and hearty fish soup with lots of chunky potatoes in it.  Bread and butter, tea and coffee and the inevitable sweet biscuits, chocolates and sweets followed.  It was still cold and wet but the rain seemed to be easing and as the night wore on the sky started to clear.

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Steam and smoke could now be seen rising from the volcano.

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The sky lightened a bit more and a few of us decided to take one more walk before bed.

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It is indeed a strange landscape to walk in, especially at dusk.  These leaves again indicate that autumn is fast approaching in this part of the world.

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P1120400 © DY of jtdytravels

There was no path, we just walked across the cinders.  Here and there were lines of plants, presumably growing in depressions caused by earlier walkers.

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I was well rewarded with a very Turneresque sunset.

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P1120404 © DY of jtdytravels

By the time I got back to the camp, some were already soundly asleep in their tents.  A couple of hardy souls were just leaving the fire, and I too, decided it was time to call it a day.  It had been a very good one…. despite the weather.

David

All photography Copyright  ©  David Young of  jtdytravels

You can find some of our other travel blogs on :

www.jtdytravels.com

and Australian entries on

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

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Russia : Kamchatka : #17 Cinder Cones; Tolbachik Volcanic Region

It was Saturday 31 Aug 2013 and we were camped at 1680 metres on the outfall of a couple of cinder cones which were the result of eruptions that lasted from July 1975 until December 1976.  The temperature hadn’t fallen below freezing during the night but the stiff breeze added a considerable chill factor.  Rain threatened and we would need warm, wet weather gear for our exploration of the cinder cones.  There we would see for ourselves the types of basalt that had been thrown out during the eruptions and also the damage that had been caused to forested areas here in the Tolbachik Volcanic Region.

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A carpet of moss and lichen covered the cinders beside the track to the cones.

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It wasn’t just small cinders and scoria that had been blown out of the volcanoes.

Some very large rocks had made it to the valley floor.

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With wet weather gear on, we set off up a fairly steep track for the top.  Some of the group only got half way before deciding they’d had enough.  But a few us kept going; after all this is what we had come a long way to experience.

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P1120288 © DY of jtdytravels

We trudged on up to a saddle where two cinder cones met, only to see a fog roll in which obliterated any view we may have had from the top.  We stood around for about 10 minutes to see if the fog would clear as fast as it had arrived.  No such luck.  So we decided it was futile to continue.  We hadn’t gone 50 metres back down the track when the fog cleared – so back up we went.  By now, I’d discarded three layers of clothing into my back pack and was happy in just a shirt and Gortex raincoat.

Looking down, we realised just how far we had climbed – quite a long way, really.  No wonder we had warmed up. The view down to our vehicle and across the yellowy-grey lichen and moss covered plain below was pretty impressive.  Wheel tracks leading off into the distance added to the effect.

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P1120289 © DY of jtdytravels

This mis-shapen rock was formed when the lava was still hot and pliable.

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P1120291 © DY of jtdytravels

As we approached the summit, we found that moss had taken hold in sheltered places.

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What was even more impressive though was the volcanic activity on the top.

Fumaroles emitted hot air and some of the rocks were warm to walk on.

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P1120301 © DY of jtdytravels

You didn’t stand still for too long in any one place in case your boots started to smoke and melt!  Sasha had his boots burned on a previous expedition up here not so long ago.  He demonstrated just how hot the gases escaping from the fumaroles are by placing a small piece of wood into a crevice.  In no time at all, the wood was alight.  This was a place demanding of respect!

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P1120294 © DY of jtdytravels

This rock would have been very hot when expelled from the volcano.

 It probably cracked on cooling down.

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There were patches of bright yellow sulphur mixed up

with the reds, oranges, and greys of the majority of the other rocks.

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The green of copper stood out against the red and greys.

The whole place was really fascinating and well worth the effort of the climb.

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P1120290 © DY of jtdytravels

On the way down, we stopped to admire the view once more and took a minute or two to reflect on the story of these cinder cones.  An eruption that started July 6th,1975 and continued until December 10, 1976, provided all the cinder ash and scoria that we could see around us.  There had been an earthquake in the area in June 1975 and that was a precursor for an explosion that proved to be the largest basalt eruption in recorded time across the Kamchatkan – Kuril belt of volcanoes.  The eruption resulted in four new cinder cones.  The eruption cloud sometimes reached 13km high and ended with a covering of ash across 40 square kms and up to 80 metres thick in places.

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P1120284 © DY of jtdytravels

Back down at the bottom and reunited with the rest of the group, we had some lunch under a wooden shelter which provided us with at least a bit of shelter from the weather.  It was also home to a lovely little orange-brown coloured short-tailed mouse.

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The dear little thing scampered around the place looking for food but wouldn’t stay still long enough for a good photo to be taken.  Not a very co-operative little mouse was he!

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A tiny dianthus plant made a brave show of survival on the ash.

The last of its summer flowers were not in good shape.

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After lunch, we drove on to explore a forest of dead trees.  This forest of larch had died over a period of two or three years after the explosions because their roots were covered by thick ash and starved of oxygen.

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The green pine trees and the autumn-tinted Willow herb had established in the new ash.

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Willow herb is a great coloniser in a variety of harsh and disturbed conditions.  In summers to come, there’ll be a great show of their bright pink flowers in this desolate place.

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I climbed a small hill to see if I could gauge the extent of this dead forest.

As far as the eye could see, trees had been reduced to sticks;

stark reminders of the force of nature.

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It was still raining so I took the opportunity to photograph a reflection in a raindrop.

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P1120326 © DY of jtdytravels

A few very strange little fungi grew amongst the scoria.  This one belongs to the coral fungus group.

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They were damp and hard to focus on, but the coral-like structure needed a closer look.

A delightful piece of natural sculpture.

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P1120329 © DY of jtdytravels

Nearby was another unusual green fungus growing amongst some pioneer moss.

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P1120333 © DY of jtdytravels

This fungi could have come straight from the corals of the sea… delicate and beautiful.

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And this, believe it or not, is Moose poo!

We did not see the animal but it had obviously been around fairly recently.

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P1120335 © DY of jtdytravels

I know I said that I hadn’t taken any photos of a bird except for a lbb…

but I had forgotten this one; a black crow in a black tree.

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P1120311  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120311 © DY of jtdytravels

The short drive through the forest back to the camp was through the rain.  It continued for the rest of the afternoon; not that I saw it because I climbed into my sleeping bag for an hour’s nap.  I fired up my laptop around 17h30 with the intention of doing some diary writing but no sooner had I poured a whisky and entered the password than “dinner” was called.  That posed a problem for me.  I suppose I was hungry but I could only think of the whisky, and the battery power that I had just used to fire up the computer; I knew there would be no power for days to come so would have to carefully budget my computer usage.  But on the other hand, there would be plenty of time to write after dinner; time to fill in before I could again check out the inside of my sleeping bag.  We’d all gone to bed by 20h30 the previous evening.  There had been nothing to do as there was no fire and nowhere to shelter except the mess tent.  And that hour was far too early for me to get to sleep.  So dinner it was.

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P1120336  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120336 © DY of jtdytravels

As it turned out a fire was lit under a temporary covering so we could stand around it and perhaps think we were warmer than we really were.  There were flames and smoke but the wet birch and larch wood gave little warmth.  The rain continued to tumble down.  There was some talk of leaving this camp site a day early if the weather stayed bad.  We could head back down to the main north-south road.  This would have effect of getting out of the cold and fog and hopefully also the rain.  It would also cut the very long 13 hour drive from here back to PK into two more manageable parts.  The weather in the morning would determine that decision.  In the meantime, there was nothing for it but to get back into that sleeping bag and try to sleep.

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of jtdytravels

More stories and photos of our travels can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

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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P1120637  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

P1120229 © DY of jtdytravels

We were back into icy cold, melt water territory.

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P1120231  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120231 © DY of jtdytravels

This rather unlikely place was where we had our lunch!

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P1120268  ©  Dy  of  jtdytravels

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

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  jtsytravels

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

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

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

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

P1120233 © DY of jtdytravels

A delightful little parasol.

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P1120234  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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

P1120245 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120244  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120244 © DY of jtdytravels

This one was definitely a little showpiece!

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P1120248  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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

P1120252 © DY of jtdytravels

This specimen was quite gelatinous.

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P1120254  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120254 © DY of jtdytravels

A delightful mushroom study in nature’s forest garden.

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P1120256  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120256 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120263  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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

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

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

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

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

P1120134 © DY of jtdytravels

I mentioned the rough roads!

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P1120125  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P1120132 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120141  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120141 © DY of jtdytravels

All around us was evidence of past volcanic activity.

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P1120152  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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

P1120140 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120143  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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

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?

P1120159  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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

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

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

P1120162 © DY of jtdytravels

I quite liked this otter sculpture.

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P1120198  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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.

P1120168  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120168 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120180 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120192 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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

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

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

P1120108 © DY of jtdytravels

An interesting wooden door knob.

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P1120095  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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

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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P1120077 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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

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

P1120112 © DY of jtdytravels

Late afternoon reflections in the lake.

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P1120114 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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

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 : #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

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

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

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

P1110890 © DY of jtdytravels

Seed capsules of  Rhododendron aureum ; Goldish Rhododendron

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P1110889  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110889 © DY of jtdytravels

Skeletal patterns of a decaying leaf.

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P1110893  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110893 © DY of jtdytravels

Seed of one of the Willow Herb family.

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P1110892  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110892 © DY of jtdytravels

 A beautiful, golden scalloped mushroom.

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P1110891_2  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110891_2 © DY of jtdytravels

A closer look at that delicate cap.

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P1110894  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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 http://www.mushroomExpert.com}

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P1110900  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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

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

P1110908 © DY of jtdytravels

The stream bubbled its way through the forest.

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P1110914  ©  DY   of jtdytravels

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

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

P1110913 © DY of jtdytravels

A peep under that ‘skirt’.

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P1110798  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

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

More of our travel stories and photos are on :

www.jtdytravels.com

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

.

.

Russia : Kamchatka : #9 PK to Bystrinsky Nature Park

The drive from Petropavlovsk to Bystrinsky National Park is a long one; over 400km.  We were very grateful for having had a shower, some clean clothes and a good night’s sleep before we undertook this drive!  We were also grateful to be leaving PK with its water problems as we headed out of town on the one and only road that heads north from the one and only city in Kamchatka.  We were eager to be on our way; to experience more of Kamchatka’s wilderness and volcanoes.

P1120637  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

Map courtesy brochure of www.silkroad.co.nz   – organizers of this tour

That one road runs up a central valley which has a mountain range on either side but we didn’t see much of those because of the trees that grow densely all the way alongside this road.  We did catch the odd glimpse of a mountain from time to time;  enough to encourage us that there was more fantastic scenery to come.

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P1110711  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110711 © DY of jtdytravels

Around mid-morning we stopped at a “truck stop”.  Every vehicle seemed to stop here as they headed north, justifiably so, as it turned out to be the only place of its type anywhere around for a hundred kilometres or so in each direction.  There was an eclectic mix of small shops but you didn’t go inside them.  Instead, each shop had a little window for service, selling groceries, sweets etc. and beers.  I bought a couple of bottles of beer, to find out again that they were Czech beers brewed under licence in Russia.  I was still to find a local bottled beer.

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P1110724  ©  DY  of  jtdtreavels

P1110724 © DY of jtdytravels

We crossed small streams that were lined, predominately, with willow and poplar trees.

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P1110727  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110727 © DY of jtdytravels

The waters were clean, washing over stones that had come down from the mountains.

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P1110732  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110732 © DY of jtdytravels

Our lunch stop along the way was in a hall-like building in a small place called Mil’kovo.  The food consisted of a choice of 5 salads, followed by a clear vegetable soup, then pasta with a choice of meats.  There were some yoghurt-like offerings served in a glass and a semi-sweet bun.  I opted not to have the pasta dish as I had been eating so well and I didn’t think I needed a four course meal for lunch.  A beetroot salad, soup, bun and yoghurt, followed by a mug of tea, were sufficient for me.  It cost the equivalent of AUD 6.50.  You’d pay more than double that for much the same meal back home.

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P1110738  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110738 © DY of jtdytravels

We ate in a large hall that had the appearance of having another life as a dance hall or meeting hall when not making money during the day serving lunches.

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P1110739  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110739 © DY of jtdytravels

There were murals on the walls and a couple of mirror balls hanging from the ceiling.

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P1110748  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110748 © DY of jtdytravels

The scenery was very much the same all the way.  Trees and streams and not much else.

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P1110756  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110756 © DY of jtdytravels

As we neared our destination and gained elevation, the trees shrank in size.  Broader patches of ground-hugging plants started to take over.  This was typical bear country; very similar to the country I experienced in Yellowstone National Park a couple of years ago.  At one point, the crew in the front cabin did see a bear heading off into the scrub but it was too far ahead for us to see.  Comfort stops occurred every hour or so.  In good Aussie fashion, these stops were ‘ladies to the right, men to the left’.  There are no ‘facilities’ out here.  These stops were also an opportunity to stretch our legs.

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P1110757  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110757 © DY of jtdytravels

We now began to see the spine of mountains beyond the road and anticipation of more exploring in the wilderness began to mount.  But we didn’t arrive at our camp site until nearly seven o’clock.

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P1110782  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110782 © DY of jtdytravels

Finding a clear space to set up tents between the small shrubs was a bit tricky here at Ichinsky Camp.  It was good to see the mess tent up and running.  Dinner would soon be ready as we now had an extra member of the crew.  Viktoria (Vika),  who is a delightful person with a grown family, had come to help Galena with the cooking.

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P1110776  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110776 © DY of jtdytravels

Once my tent was up and my bag stowed, I set off to explore the rest of the campsite.  There were a few rough cabins inhabited while we were there by a group of young people involved in some environmental studies.

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P1110779  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110779 © DY of jtdytravels

I didn’t find many flowers; just evidence of wild rose blooms that had come and gone.

This one with the spherical hip, a common rose in Kamchatka, is Rosa amblyotis,

 a pink flowering rose known commonly as Blunt-auriculate Rose

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P1110155  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110155 © DY of jtdytravels

There are a couple of different wild rose species here as the shapes of the hips indicate.

These elliptical hips belong to Rosa acicularis, the Prickly Rose.

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P1110837  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110837 © DY of jtdytravels

And this one, with more pear shaped hips, is the much more common Rosa rugosa.

It has large crimson flowers and is often seen by the coast in Kamchatka

as well as in crowberry fields, stony and grassy slopes.

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P1110789  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110789 © DY of jtdytravels

And there were lots of berries, so beloved by bears.

Here, two types of berries are growing together… a berry fruit salad for bears!

 

.From the campsite, there was a tantalizing view of the mountains beyond.

That snow gave a good indication that it would be rather cooler here for sleeping!

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But Galena and Vika made sure that we wouldn’t go to bed hungry.  They had cooked up a storm for dinner that put the cook(s) back at our Hotel Geyser in PK to shame, and our cooks did it all on very meagre equipment.

To whet your tastebuds, I’ll describe the fare.  For starters, there was sliced red salmon and ham along with a couple of types of bread and a salad of red tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber.  Next came a meat patty and mashed potato followed by many different types of “sweets” in the form of wafer biscuits, chocolates and a Swiss roll-type log cake.  On nights when there was more time to prepare the meal, Galena cooked a delicious clear soup and the main meal usually came with some vegetables.

Although we had to put up and pack up our own tents, there were no rosters to help the cooks with preparing the food for a meal or for washing up afterwards. On an adventure trek like this, that was sheer luxury!

I crawled into my tent rather tired from the drive but looking forward very much to the next few days in the wilderness. But more of that anon.

David

All photography  Copyright © DY of jtdytravels

More stories and photos of our travels in this wonderful world are on:

www.jtdytravels.com

and some Australian stories are on

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

Russia : Kamchatka : #8 Mutnovsky to Petropavlovsk

After a fascinating morning finding wildflowers on the hills around our campsite, it was time to leave Mutnovsky Plateau.   It was quite warm by now, maybe 12-15°C, so the tents were well and truly dry and ready to be shoved into their bags with their poles and pegs.  We weren’t going to need them for a day or two as we were going back to Petropavlovsk to stay at Hotel Geyser again; the same hotel we were in on the first night.

Two important items we had to keep with us in our day packs on the bus; our swimmers and towels.  The plan was to stop at one of the thermal pools en route to PK.  Oh!  Just the thought of hot water to shower and bathe in was so very tantalising after days of using nothing but stream water that had been snow or ice just the day before!

P1110575  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110575 © DY of jtdytravels

We retraced our route back along the same road to PK .  Again we had a rest stop at a little roadside supermarket where I bought some nibbles and a couple of bottles of Russian beer.  More labels for my son Peter – and beer for me.

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P1110576  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110576 © DY of jtdytravels

A derelict building with small stalls set up in front….

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Our next stop was at that much anticipated place, a thermal pool complex.  Our excitement was short lived. These pools were under refurbishment.  Our hopes began to sink.  They sank still further at the next place.  There wasn’t even anybody there to tell us they were closed.  This was shaping up to be a calamity.  However, all’s well that ends well !  An up-market establishment was found that was very much open.  In we went, had a shower and then into one of two pools, a large rather warm one and a smaller even hotter one.  Thankfully, there was not one cold plunge pool.

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P1110577  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1110577 © DY of jtdytravels

While we were enjoying ourselves, our cook Galena prepared lunch for us on the side of the car-park.

And while others were enjoying the last of their lunch, I explored around the car-park.

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P1110605  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110605 © DY of jtdytravels

A pretty little purple flowered ‘weed’ growing beside the car-park in disturbed soil.

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P1110579  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110579 © DY of jtdytravels

Senecio cannabifolius    Hemp-leaved Ragwort

Daisies like these can be found right across the Far East and on the Aleutian Islands.

Common they may be, but they always add a bright dash of sunshine yellow to the scene.

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P1110582  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110582 © DY of jtdytravels

Some flies are important pollinators.

Have you ever looked closely at those fine, gauzy wings and lustrous sheen on the body?

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P1110614  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110614 © DY of jtdytravels

Fed and watered again, we set off on the last stage of our run into Petropavlovsk where we arrived into the hustle and bustle of city life and clogged roads a bit before four.  What a contrast to the peace of Mutnovsky Valley!

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P1110627  ©  Dy  of  jtdytravels

P1110627 © DY of jtdytravels

After washing very dirty and smokey clothes and another quick shower, most of the group went out to explore.  The building in the background shows buttressing against earthquake damage.

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P1110628  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110628 © DY of jtdytravels

Small fruit and vegetable shop

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P1110625  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110625 © DY of jtdytravels

Although there were no Internet connections available, ‘Apple’ products were available.

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P1110635  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110635 © DY of jtdytravels

‘Attractive’ graffiti?

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P1110636  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110636 © DY of jtdytravels

Even the side streets that ran onto the main road were rather uninspiring with their unattractive graffiti.

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P1110660  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110660 © DY of jtdytravels

It was fascinating to see that the goods on sale were very much the same as at home.

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P1110658  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110658 © DY of jtdytravels

The deli section made one’s mouth water

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P1110656  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110656 © DY of jtdytravels

This lady had a full set of silvery amalgam fillings – top and bottom – but would not smile a second time!

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P1110651  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110651 © DY of jtdytravels

The fresh fruit and vegetables were of good quality.

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P1110643  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110643 © DY of jtdytravels

Everything you could want was available…

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P1110647  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110647 © DY of jtdytravels

… even flat peaches.

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P1110665  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110665 © DY of jtdytravels

Crabs were for sale at absolutely crazy prices.  Jennie would have loved these.

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P1110667  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110667 © DY of jtdytravels

There were lots of different smoked fish to be seen and fresh roe and salmon of many different types.   We thought the price was per kilo but it turned out to be for the whole huge fish.  We would pay well over AUD100 for a fish of a size that the locals here pay the equivalent of AUD 3 to 4!

There are six different types of salmon to be found in Kamchatkan waters.  The most remarkable one that I saw was the red salmon.   I thought it must have been dyed or changed colour when smoked but the bright, intense red colouring was natural.  To be this colour the fish must be caught at sea before it heads up river to spawn.  Once these fish get into fresh water they loose their incredible colour and the flavour also changes.

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P1110672  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110672 © DY of jtdytravels

This reptile was in a large aquarium – poor thing.

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P1110630  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110630 © DY of jtdytravels

Busy street with buses and cars aplenty; haphazard parking!

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P1110612  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110612 © DY of jtdytravels

On arrival back at the hotel, this sight greeted us!

No caption necessary!

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Dinner was at our hotel Geyser.  The simple affair started off with a salad that contained broccolini and shredded carrot – rather salty but probably good for us after all the sweat and toil of the last couple of days climbing volcanoes!  This was followed by a hamburger-type patty with an egg and melted cheese on top.  Beside this tasty morsel was a splash of creamy mashed potato.  Very simple food, but satisfying.

Then came a rather interesting request.  We were asked to fill our shower recesses with water as ALL the water in the city of 180,000 people (2010 census, 269,000 in 1989) was to be turned off for three days over the weekend.  The water in the shower recess was to be the only water hotel guests would have to wash with and to use to flush the toilet.  I wasn’t half pleased we were to leave the next morning for the next stage of our adventure.  This possibly explains why we passed so many vehicles heading out of town as we headed back in.

The story goes that this happens at this time of the year, every year.  The reason.  The system has to be ‘prepared’ for winter, whatever that means.  Can you imagine the kerfuffle if this happened on a regular basis at home.

Not withstanding all this, I treated myself to a really good shower just before the water was to go off at 22h00.  Then, after that luxury, I fell into my cosy, flat and warm bed. YES!   Sleep came quickly, deep and long – and much needed.

More anon

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of jtdytravels

Many of our other travellers tales and photos are on:

www.jtdytravels.com

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