USA: Alaska #20 George Island WW11 Gun Site

From the beach, the walking group made their way up through the forest to the Pacific Ocean side of George Island. There, they would find an almost forgotten gun site from WWII.

Signpost for Gun Site Walk © DY of jtdytravels; P1110257

Signpost for Gun Site Walk © DY of jtdytravels; P1110257

The pathway up to the gun site was only completed in 2012. Before then, this was a rather forgotten part of World War II history in Alaska and the USA.

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View back into a bay © DY of jtdytravels; P1110271

The walk went by some delightful rocky coves.

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Rain drops © DY of jtdytravels; P1110264

The rain that had been threatening all morning began,

but it was only a light shower.

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Climbing to the top © DY of jtdytravels; P1110273

The path was steep at times, but there was always something to see;

a chance to stop for a bit of a rest.

The group spared a thought for the men who pulled the gun up this hill.

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Rocky Bay © DY of jtdytravels; P1110272

The higher the walk, the craggier the inlets.

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Another Rocky Cove © DY of jtdytravels; P1110281

Rock ‘stacks’ were left by the pounding waves of many a storm.

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Aster sp. © DY of jtdytravels; P1110278

There were indeed big vistas, but there were also small plants to enjoy.

This Aster sp. was delightful.

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Moss © DY of jtdytravels; P1110280

As with all of the forest areas that we had visited, there was plenty of moss.

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© DY of jtdytravels; P1110296

Another rocky bay came into view through the trees.

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Platanthera stricta © DY of jtdytravels; P1110284

The Slender Bog Orchard, Platanthera stricta, is one of the Rein Orchards; stricta means slender. This one differs from the White Bog Orchard (photographed on an earlier walk) because it has green rather than white flowers.

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© DY of jtdytravels; P1110286

Another beautiful orchid found along this forest path was Listera cordata, commonly called  Heart-leaved Twayblade. The pale green to purplish brown flowers have a long lip that is divided into two lobes. Each plant may have between 5 to 16 flowers that grow in a terminal elongated cluster. It grows well in a mossy, moist part of the forest.

Apparently Charles Darwin was fascinated by this orchid because of the way it blows its pollen away in a explosive puff. The pollen, which is held within a drop of sticky fluid, glues itself onto whatever insect it lands upon, often a fly or a fungus gnat. The flowers lure these insects by having an unpleasant odour. So, they may be delightful to look at, but don’t touch or smell!

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© Dy of jtdytravels; P1110289

One very different moss in this forest is Hylocomium splendens or Step Moss, so called because its stems are twice pinnately branched. The 3-5cm long, step-like annual increments are clearly visible in this closeup photo. The age of a step moss can be estimated by counting these annual ‘steps’. This moss likes calcium rich soils as opposed to the the Sphagnum Moss , that prefers acidic, organic soils.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110299

Moneses uniflora © DY of jtdytravels; P1110299

Deep in the forest where little light penetrates, David found the lovely Moneses uniflora. This plant, which is called WaxFlower, has two, perhaps more appropriate common names ; Shy Maiden and Single Delight. The latter refers to the single, white, fragrant nodding flower on top of a leafless stalk. The name Moneses derives from the Greek; monos meaning one and hesia meaning delight. And I think you’ll agree, it is a delightful flower.

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Penguicula vulgaris © DY of jtdytravels; P1110295

Another beautiful flower is the Common Butterwort, Pinguicula vulgaris.  This plant grows in moist areas which low in available nitrogen. So it supplements its nutrition by trapping insects. The purple flower plays no part in catching prey and it’s held high above the leaves by a long stem, well away from the sticky insect catching leaves. The plant doesn’t want to catch its own pollinators by mistake! One of those amazing survival tricks of nature.

Another one of those survival tricks relates to the way this plant catches and digests its food. The leaves have two special glands on the upper surface. One, the peduncular gland, produces a wet looking secretion that forms droplets on the leaf surface, hopefully luring a small insect in search of water. But it’s not water; it’s sticky and traps the insect. As you might expect, the insect begins to fight for its life, but that only triggers more glands to secrete more sticky droplets. This secretion begins the digestion process and that triggers an initial flow of nitrogen to the plant.  And that brings into play the second type of gland, the sessile glands, which lie flat on the leaf surface. Those glands excrete enzymes which further break down the insect into digestible fluids that can be absorbed into the plant through special holes in the leaf. And that just leaves the insect’s exoskeleton on the leaf. And that’s just another example of what makes learning about plants so fascinating, don’t you think?

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Cornus canadensis © DY of jtdytravels; P1110305

In that same moist area, covered yet again in moss, there were more of the lovely Dwarf Dogwood; Cornus canadensis.  This perennial plants forms a wide mat of oval leaves borne in whorls above the moss on erect stems. White, oval bracts surround tiny greenish flowers. These are followed by the red berries, locally called Bunchberries.

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An ocean side rocky cove © DY of jtdytravels; P1110296

The Butterwort and Dogwood were growing beneath trees above this rocky cove.

And out beyond the cove, the Pacific Ocean stretches thousands of kilometres.

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The gun © DY of jtdytravels; P1110309

And here at last was the gun; an eighteen ton (36,000 pounds) steel gun.

Yes. ‘Twas indeed  mighty effort to get it up here.

But this gun was never fired in anger.

It was fired but four times after they eventually got it in place in 1942. A target was set up to test the gun. On the fourth shot, the the gun mount sheered and the gun jumped back a few inches. The stand came down on one of the men’s foot and broke his toe. And that was that. The gun was covered over and never fired again. It was also almost forgotten. All of the other guns that the US set up in Alaska to target a possible invasion by the Japanese have gone; broken down or pushed into the sea for the fish to swim around. This is the only one that is left standing. And only very recently, the path to the gun was restored; a piece of history

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The mount of the gun © DY of jtdytravels; P1110315

The gun mount looks sturdy enough!

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Looking down the barrel © DY of jtdytravels; P1110323

Isn’t it amazing, that even in a place like this,

people can leave their trash behind!

What happened to the wilderness etiquette? Pack it in, pack it out!

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The magazine  © DY of jtdytravels; P1110313

The ammunition was stored here. Not much was used!

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Inside the magazine © DY of jtdytravels; P1110322

At least they removed the ammunition when they left the site.

There’s not much to see here now.

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What’s left of an accommodation hut © DY of jtdytravels; P1110307

The accommodation quarters have seen better days. Life was tough for the gunners who were posted here.  It’s a blustery, windy, often cold and wet place. Despite the rain, there was very little water; none in the winter, because it would freeze. Most of the men went back to Sitka. Two men remained but it wasn’t long before they also locked up and left.

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View from gun site © DY of jtdytravels; P1110312

Looking north from the gun site.

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© DY of jtdytravels; P1110317

One last look out across a bay to snow topped mountains beyond.

Across the ocean, by about 4,000 kms, is Kamchatka where David explored a couple of years ago. His experiences of the many volcanoes in that part of Russia, and the wonderful variety of plants and mushrooms he found there, are written up with photos on our other web site: www.dymusings.com

 

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Back at the beach © JT of jtdytravels; P1140016

As the walkers returned from the gun site, the kayakers also came back to the bay.

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Returning the kayaks to ‘Sea Lion’.© JT of jtdytravels; P1140018

One last task for the crew; return the kayaks to “Sea Lion’.

©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1140021

The weather closed in again, but no one was concerned. Lunch was served.

More anon

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

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Russia : Kamchatka : # 21 The Journey Home

My adventure into the Kamchatkan land of ice and fire had, sadly, come to an end.  It was time to face the flights that would bridge the distance between Petropavlovsk and my home in Canberra some 7,806 kilometres or 4,850 miles away – in a straight line, that is.  But my journey was not to be in a straight line and it would take many, many hours, in fact days!  My journey home was to be even longer than originally planned because, even before I had left home to go to Russia, Aeroflot had cancelled my flight out of Petropavlovsk.  By then, no other flight was available out of PK to get me to Khabarovsk in time to make my onward connections.

My first thought, at the time, was to get an extension to my Russian visa.  At the visa office I was given a very firm “nyeht” and when a Russian visa officer says that word you understand every last letter of that word!  So what follows was the only way I could get out of Russia before my visa expired.  My friendly visa officer told me that if I overstayed my visa I could be fined, or worse, arrested.  Not a good idea!

But at least, everything went to plan at Petropavlovsk airport.  All of our various onward flights were on time.  After fond farewells at the airport, I left Gulya and my fellow adventurers, each of us to go to our separate destinations.  My first stop would be in Khabarovsk where I would spent the night in a hotel.

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P1120588  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1120588 © DY of jtdytravels

As my plane took off, I had one last look at some of the Kamchatkan volcanoes.

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P1120589  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120589 © DY of jtdytravels

Even as we circled to fly away, a cloud was settling on the highest peak.

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P1120612  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120612 © DY of jtdytravels

Near Khabarovsk, I looked down on farmlands inundated with flood waters.

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P1120602  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120602 © DY of jtdytravels

It got worse, until below me was just a sea of muddy water.  Before leaving PK, I had caught a glimpse of a Russian news bulletin that showed flooding in Khabarovsk with cars all jumbled together.  Gulya had told me that the situation was expected to get worse.  In the news footage it had looked as though the damage had been caused by a sudden surge of water, not something you would expect from heavy rain.

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P1120608  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120608 © DY of jtdytravels

The closer we flew to Khabarovsk, it was obvious that the flooding was indeed severe.  There was plenty of water around and I only hoped that neither the airport nor my hotel were under water.

Once on the ground, it was obvious that the airport and its surrounds were not affected.  There weren’t even any puddles, so I wondered just where all that water had come from.

(At the hotel that evening, I checked it out on the web where I learned that it was the Amur River that was in flood.  In this part of the world, that river forms the border between Russia and China.  Some 20,000 people had already been evacuated by then and another 36,000 were due to be moved away.  The flooding was reported to be the worst in 120 years.)

On arrival at the airport, I had gone to the “official taxi booth” to hire a taxi for the 6km drive to my hotel. But what does the word official mean when an obvious tourist arrives in town?  I was fleeced with a R600 fare.  I had a feeling that was the case but I wasn’t sure as there was nothing to check the price by.  I KNEW it was wrong when the next morning’s reverse fare was R300!  Only AUD10 instead of AUD 20!

I had booked myself into the Hotel Zarina, but what would Zarina be like?  Khabarovsk is quite a large city with a population of 600,000, so I thought the hotel would probably be OK.  On arrival, I presented my booking reservation sheet and passport only to be asked for my complete hotel reservation list since my first day in Russia.  I tried to explain that I didn’t have any such sheet as I had been travelling with a group and that we had spent nearly all the time camping in the wilderness.  The lovely lady (was it Zarina?) eventually asked if I had any of my boarding passes.  These I could find, except one; this is perhaps why I keep such things.  “Zarina” was now happy but she wanted to keep my passport until the morning – to make sure I paid, I suppose.

The hotel offered free WiFi so I was back in contact with the world.  There had been nothing in the way of contact by mobile or anything else since I arrived in Russia.  The tour crew all had mobiles hooked into the Russian system but even they had had very limited coverage and they knew exactly where to stop to get a connection.  I’m glad I hadn’t bothered to take my phone.

The room at the one year-old Zarina Hotel was more than adequate for an overnight stop.  All the linen including the towels etc. were large, white and fluffy.  There was a kettle and a couple of tea bags, a flat screen TV, which I didn’t even turn on, and tons of that most important commodity, hot water.

Khabarovsk is a thermal-water city with large lagged pipes running along the roads delivering hot water to the residents and businesses.  It appears, from what I saw, to be a very much more vibrant city than PK.  It has a trolley bus that runs from somewhere to the airport.  Bright street lights and business establishments had decorative lights all over the place.  There was a feeling of life rather than of decay.

Next morning, my taxi arrived at 06h00 to take me back to the airport.  The sky was still pitch black.  Since I had to leave the hotel before the allotted breakfast hour, I was handed a box full of all sorts of goodies to have for my breakfast.  I’d keep them for later.

At the airport security scanner, I was given the third degree .  The babushka wanted to see into my backpack and into my suitcase.  Nothing untoward was found, but the job had to be done, of course, in the name of security.  The difficulty was being able to understand instructions in Russian when my total Russian vocabulary ran to a total of seven words!

It was just 07h00 and light was creeping into the sky as I waited for my flight to Vladivostok to be called.  As we left, we flew over a small amount of flooding but were soon in cloud so I couldn’t see anything more of the world below.

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P1120616  ©   DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120616 © DY of jtdytravels

At Vladivostok, the plane was parked on the tarmac so a bus was necessary to transport us to the airport.  On the way we passed these two interesting aircraft.  They turned out to be Ilyushin 11-76TD hospital planes which belong to the Ministry for Emergency Situations.  I guessed they were en route to Khabarovsk to help in the flood evacuations.

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P1120617  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120617 © DY of jtdytravels

These Ilyushin 11-76TD  planes are certainly big beasts.

I had to sit for ages in the arrivals hall in Vladivostok waiting for my onward flight to open for check-in.  This connection was not a good one.  I had seven hours to wait.  My next destination was to be Incheon in South Korea for another overnight stop.  And I simply had to catch this plane to make sure I was out of Russia before my visa expired at mid-night that night.

With all those hours to kill I watched the Arrivals door as plane load after plane load of passengers came wandering through.  People watching is one way to make the time pass at an airport!  You could tell the first time visitors; they were somewhat bewildered and lost. Others were met by loved ones with hugs and kisses and bunches of flowers.  One guy even had a bunch of sausage balloons made into the shape of flowers.  All gifts were well received.  There was some excitement though.  One passenger received some extra attention when there was obviously something wrong with her documentation.  Very heated exchanges were still taking place as she was escorted from view.  I have the feeling she was put straight back onto the plane she got off!

During this interminable wait I decided to attack my breakfast box.  This helped to pass some of the time and by now I was beginning to feel a bit hungry. So what was in that box?  Lots; fruit juice, an apple, a bread roll plus a slice of black bread, yoghurt, a slice of sausage, jam, butter, a boiled egg and a sachet of instant coffee; all good, BUT no spoon for the yoghurt or knife for the butter and jam!  So what to do?

I had to come up with the best solution under the circumstances, and to allow myself a bit of decorum, I sat well away from other passengers,  The yoghurt was quite runny so I drank it;  well most of it anyway, and used my finger to retrieve the rest.  Not delicate, but when needs must!  That same finger spread the butter and jam.  What had people done before knives and forks were invented, I thought?

What seemed to be half-a-day-later, I was finally able to check in and sat waiting to board my Asiana jet for the 2h40 minute flight to Incheon.

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P1120622  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120622 © DY of jtdytravels

Various aircraft sitting on the tarmac at Vladivostok.

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My next enforced overnight was at the Egarak Residence House at Incheon Airport in South Korea.  Just a few minutes in a shuttle bus was all it took to get there.  The “House” was in the International Business Centre so it seemed quite strange to be going into an office complex to get a bed.  My room had three beds in it, was rather basic, but was OK for a one night stay.  Definitely nothing to right home about!

Early the following afternoon a short flight took me to Beijing.  For once there was an acceptable transit time of just over two hours before my Air China flight was to take off just before 17h00 for Sydney.  That two hours stretched to three due to a last minute aircraft change.  I hoped the Aussie captain would be able to make up that much time during the night so that I would not miss my bus in Sydney.  Even if it did, the buses between Sydney airport and Canberra run every hour.  All I needed to do was get back to Canberra in time to record my vote in the Federal Elections.  I had heard nothing of that since I left home three weeks before.  What bliss.  How I hate all the hype on the run up to elections!  Just who do you believe?

The flight to Australia took me back to Incheon, well almost.  Wouldn’t it have been nice if the jolly thing could have picked me up there instead of me having to fly all the way to Beijing and then back again!  Oh, the vagaries of air travel and the routing that goes on.

We did in fact make up the lost time and arrived in Sydney a bit earlier than scheduled.  I caught my bus and walked in my front door in Canberra at 11h30.  Time to make a cuppa and reflect a little on the trip.

And what a great trip it had been.  I knew that the Kamchatka Peninsula was a wild and woolly place but it was much wilder and woollier than I had ever expected.  It is a huge area with a very low population density.  I think there must be more bears, and definitely more mushrooms and toadstools, than people.  Kamchatka is very much an adventure destination, but one I’m so very pleased that I’ve experienced.

I know that many of you who are reading this will never have the opportunity to go to this far wilderness outpost in the world.  So I’m glad that I’ve been able to share the experience with you in both stories and photos and hope that you have enjoyed the journey with me from the comfort of home.

Please join me again when I next venture somewhere ‘off the beaten track’.

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of  jtdytravels

This tour was organised by Silk Road Adventures of NZ

www.silkroad.co.nz/

Some of our other travel stories and photos can be found on:

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

Russia : Kamchatka : #20 Kozyrevsk to Petropavlovsk

We had a long nine hour drive ahead of us today from Kozyrevsk back to Petropavlovsk. But as there were no tents to pack up, some of us decided to get up early and go for a walk around the town before breakfast.  It seemed a good idea to stretch the legs before such a long drive.  And we hadn’t really had a chance to explore one of these small frontier villages before.

The area around Kozyrevsk is in decline, as, indeed, are many of the places we’ve stayed in or passed through on the Kamchatkan Peninsula.  There was once a collective farm here growing vegetables on the rich volcanic soil, but that has gone.  There was also a small airport on the outskirts but it was closed in 1995 because of  low flight volumes and growing maintenance costs.  All that remains for the economy seems to be a helicopter base and the surrounding volcanoes that bring groups such as ours to the area.

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P1120537  © Dy  of  jtdytravels

P1120537 © Dy of jtdytravels

It was another clear day and we had a good view of the volcano that we had seen spurting out molten lava the evening before.  Now, in the daylight, all we could see  was the steam belching forth from the top.

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P1120530  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120530 © DY of jtdytravels

It was obvious from the state of many of the houses, that people are leaving this small town to try their luck elsewhere.  There is certainly not much to keep them here.  I know, I wouldn’t like to live here . This house was having some work carried out on it – and not before time.  Perhaps these owners do have a job.

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P1120532  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120532 © DY of jtdytravels

This is the traditional log method of construction – there’s a plentiful supply of logs in the forests.  Some of the caulking used between the logs to keep the place weather proof is coming loose on this building.

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P1120541  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120541 © DY of jtdytravels

Maybe this house is beyond repair, but it gives an idea of layering construction.

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P1120531  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120531 © DY of jtdytravels

Doors are often made a feature of a building.

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P1120540  ©  Dy  of  jtdytravels

P1120540 © Dy of jtdytravels

A general view down the street.

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P1120539  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120539 © DY of jtdytravels

Not all houses were derelict.  Some were obviously the pride and joy of their owners.

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P1120542  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120542 © DY of jtdytravels

On the better maintained houses, intricate carved wooden decorations have been used.

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P1120546  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120546 © DY of jtdytravels

This one added a trophy of antlers.

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P1120555  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120555 © DY of jtdytravels

With a long, very cold winter ahead, many houses had stockpiles of firewood.

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P1120549  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120549 © DY of jtdytravels

As usual, I found a plant to photograph; this one a delicate clematis sp.

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P1120552  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120552 © DY of jtdytravels

The glorious colours of this clematis stood out against a brilliant blue sky.

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P1120553  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120553 © DY of jtdytravels

And I couldn’t help myself… there was yet another mushroom photo for my collection!

But this was to be the last one…

Our adventure in Kamchatka was coming to an end.

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P1120561  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120561 © DY of jtdytravels

Back at the resort, I noticed their well stocked vegie garden.

The good volcanic soil here helps people to be at least somewhat self sufficient.

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P1120556

After breakfast, we hit the road… with a final salute from the volcano!

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P1120563  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120563 © DY of jtdytravels

Within an hour of being on the road, we stopped.  The driver’s side of the split windscreen had been shattered by a stone.  To our amazement, Toly climbed onto the roof and took out a spare one!

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P1120564  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120564 © DY of jtdytravels

Windscreen in hand, the job was all but done.  The whole operation took just forty-five minutes and we were under way again.

It stands to reason that a spare should be carried since there is no possibility of getting one repaired on the road.  I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to drive in the wintertime when temperatures drop to below -30°C – definitely brass monkey weather!

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P1120565  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120565 © DY of jtdytravels

Although not a lot of vehicles travel these roads, each one poses a stone-throwing threat.

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P1120568  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120568 © DY of jtdytravels

With clearer weather, this time we did see some of the volcanoes that lined our route.

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P1120571  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120571 © DY of jtdytravels

There doesn’t seem to be anywhere too far from a volcano on this peninsula.

Here, we were just coming back towards civilisation and Petropavlovsk.

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P1120579  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120579 © DY of jtdytravels

An orthodox church amongst a group of small houses.

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P1120572  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120572 © DY of jtdytravels

Finally, at 18h30, we arrived back at the Geyser Hotel and that view of PK Harbour.

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P1120575  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120575 © DY of jtdytravels

The fishing fleet was in. I looked forward to enjoying some of their catch for our dinner.

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P1120577  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120577 © DY of jtdytravels

After a much needed shower, we walked up the street on our way to dinner.

The sky over the bay was particularly attractive.

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P1120582  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120582 © DY of jtdytravels

And there, in view as always, were volcanoes!

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P1120583  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120583 © DY of jtdytravels

This most certainly is the land of fire and ice.

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P1120584  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120584 © DY of jtdytravels

Our walk took us to rather nice restaurant which did indeed serve lots of seafood dishes. We enjoyed our meal, which apart from breakfast the next morning, was our last meal together as a group.

Dessert was a rather fitting, local concoction – ice-cream with ‘bear berries’, a blend of lingonberries and crowberries.  This dish encapsulated the tour for me; the red of molton lava, the ice capped volcanoes and, of course, bears and berries.  And I’m sure there was a mushroom or two in our main meal as well.

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David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of jtdytravels

Some of our other travel stories and photos can be found on:

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

.

Russia : Kamchatka : # 19 Tolbachik to Kozyrevsk

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

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P1120408  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120408 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120418  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120418 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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

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P1120411  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120411 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120414  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120414 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120421  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120421 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120422  ©  Dy  of  jtdytravels

P1120422 © Dy of jtdytravels

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

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P1120434  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

P1120437 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120435  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1120435 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120436  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120436 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120438  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120438 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120439  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120439 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120442  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120442 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120444  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120444 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120445  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120445 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120451  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120451 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120452  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120452 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120453  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120453 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120460  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120460 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120457  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120457 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120481  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120481 © DY of jtdytravels

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

Vika again helped in the preparation and clean-up.

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P1120467  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120467 © DY of jtdytravels

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

This was our lucky last chance to see them!

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P1120466  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120466 © DY of jtdy travels

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

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P1120476  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120476 © DY of jtdytravels

Perfection plus!

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P1120488  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120488 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120490  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120490 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120494  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120494 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120493  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120493 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120491  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120491 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120495  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120495 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120527  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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.

P1120344  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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

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

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

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

P1120363 © DY of jtdtravels

A pavement of rope lava.

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P1120359  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120359 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120362  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120362 © DY of jtdytravels

A shattered ‘tube’ full of gas holes.

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P1120364  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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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P1120365  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120365 © DY of jtdytravels

Wierd and wonderful shapes rose out of the mist.

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P1120368  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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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P1120367  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120367 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120369  ©  Dy  of  jtdytravels

P1120369 © Dy of jtdytravels

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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P1120370  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120370 © DY of jtdytravels

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

P1120371 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120372  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120372 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120375  ©  Dy  of  jtdytravels

P1120375 © Dy of jtdytravels

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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P1120376

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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P1120383  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120383 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120381  ©  DY  pf  jtdytravels

P1120381 © DY pf jtdytravels

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

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P1120382  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120382 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120386 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120387  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120387 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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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P1120392  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120392 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120391 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120393  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120393 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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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P1120401  ©    DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120401 © DY of jtdytravels

I was well rewarded with a very Turneresque sunset.

P1120404  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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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P1120274  ©  DY  of  tdytravels

P1120274 © DY of tdytravels

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

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P1120275  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120275 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120286  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120286 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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

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
P1120291 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120293  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120293 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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

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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P1120303  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120303 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120295  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120295 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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

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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P1120285  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120285 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120280  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1120280 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120304  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120304 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120308  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120308 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120332  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120332 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120312  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120312 © DY of jtdytravels

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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P1120316  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120316 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120326  ©  DY  of  jtsytravels

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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P1120323 © DY of jtdytravels

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

P1120329 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120333  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120333 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120334  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120334 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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

We were back into icy cold, melt water territory.

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P1120231 © DY of jtdytravels

This rather unlikely place was where we had our lunch!

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P1120268 © DY of jtdytravels

Our next stop was to collect some firewood for the evening fire.  From here, we were told, we would turn onto the beginning of the bad road.  So the other road was a good road, was it?  We had arrived at the area of the 2012 Tolbachik Volcano eruption.  The red blotch on the map represents the lava flow. The finger of lava to the left had completely cut off the road to our destination.  Our track had been bulldozed through the bush below the lava.  We were heading to make our camp site at the blue square marker to the left of the large deep pink blob.

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P1120241  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120241 © DY of jtdytravels

The new ‘track’ through the forest was nothing better than a goat track through the bush, something you could expect of a logging track back home.

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P1120243 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120242 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120257 © DY of jtdytravels

I walked to the end of the lava flow to find it was actually a collection of small to large rocks – definitely not solid.  I was scrambling onto the very loose pile for a better position to take a photo, when I noticed, above me, a very large rock which, had it started to roll, would have taken me to oblivion!  I beat a hasty, but very careful, retreat.

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P1120253  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120253 © DY of jtdytravels

This was a perfect area to search for mushrooms and fungi to add to my collection of photos.  And I was right.  There were lots of new varieties we hadn’t seen before.  Some of these were collected by our crew for inclusion in our meals.  I sincerely hoped they knew what they were doing because they all looked poisonous to me.  I don’t know their names; maybe some day I’ll find someone who can help me to identify them.  Until then, let’s just enjoy the variety created by nature.

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P1120233 © DY of jtdytravels

A delightful little parasol.

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P1120234 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120240 © DY of jtdytravels

There were several fungi growing on the tree trunks, too.

Another case of looking up as well as looking down when plant hunting.

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P1120245 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120244 © DY of jtdytravels

This one was definitely a little showpiece!

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P1120248 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120250 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120252 © DY of jtdytravels

This specimen was quite gelatinous.

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P1120254 © DY of jtdytravels

A delightful mushroom study in nature’s forest garden.

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P1120256 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120263 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120265 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120266 © DY of jtdytravels

All that yellow colour was, in fact, a carpet of moss.  It seems to really like this area which is completely covered in a very deep layer of dark grey volcanic ash

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P1120260 © DY of jtdytravels

Right in the middle of the track,  I found yet another mushroom!  You know that song about ‘a lonely little petunia in the onion patch’, well this mushroom was much lonelier than that.  Although there was a little bit of moss for company.

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P1120270 © DY of jtdytravels

Late in the day, we stopped at a site which just emerged out of the fog from seemingly nowhere.  I’m glad Toly knew where he was going.  Now, this was not just another comfort and stretch your legs stop.  This was where we were to set up our tents for the night!  Here, on this ash?  OK. The ash and scoria looked dirty but in fact it brushed off your hands just like sand.

The trouble was that when we erected our tents, the flimsy pegs had to be anchored down with rocks –  the pegs wouldn’t hold on their own in the loose scoria particularly if the wind came up.  Note the beer filled water bottle in front of my tent!  It would stay nice and cold out there by the tent flap.  It was obviously going to be pretty cold here over-night.

Add to the fog – it started raining in earnest.  Since we were camped at over 1300m, the temperature was expected to drop to well below zero.  Our pre-tour notes said the temperatures we could expect on the whole tour would range between +10 to 30°C, so I brought an appropriate sleeping bag for those conditions.  I managed at the Ichinsky camp, as I’ve already explained, but I was somewhat afraid I did not have a sufficiently warm sleeping bag for the conditions in the mountains.  I had said that I wanted to buy a blanket when we were in Esso.  That would solve the problem I knew was coming when we headed higher into the mountains.  However, I was told that extra sleeping bags would be sent to us.  At 18h00, with the rain and fog outside, the promised sleeping bags still hadn’t arrived from Petropavlovsk, a journey of some thirteen hours.  I had decided to put on most of the clothes I brought with me in order to be warm.  Mind you, I would look like the Michelin man and not able to move.  But hopefully I’d be warm enough.

As bed time came closer and still no sleeping bags in sight, the crew decided to give us their sleeping bags and they would all sleep in the truck.  It had kerosene heating.  The driver slept in there all the time on one of the four bunk beds.  Now all the bunks were going to be used and we were all going to be warm – it was not only me who admitted they were not feeling very warm.

The whole camp slept warmly.  I certainly did.  BUT, all trussed up in extra clothing, sheet-sleeping bag and zipped up sleeping bag it took around 15 minutes to go to the loo in the middle of the night!  I wish somebody would invent a zipper for a sleeping bag that worked with ease – every time.  It always seems to be a struggle to get the damn thing to move either way and not get caught up in the lining.  Achieving an opening or closing with cold fingers just makes the task even harder.  Then it’s a real wriggle to get out of the sleeping bag sheet and sleeping bag, find something to put on your feet, crawl to the zipper on the tent fly, unzip that, and all this is just to get out of the tent!  A fumble around in the dark, the job done, and the whole cumbersome task has to be completed in reverse before trying to go back to sleep.  Fun?  Not!  And added to that, it rained most of the night with only slight pauses here and there.  We were well and truly back in outdoor wilderness camp mode.  But that’s all part of an adventure such as this.  I went to sleep hoping that the rain would ease for our walk to the volcano later that morning.

David

Russia : Kamchatka : #15 Forays into the Forest

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

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P1120134 © DY of jtdytravels

I mentioned the rough roads!

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P1120125 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120126 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120127 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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

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P1120124 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120128 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120129  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120129 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120131 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120132 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120141 © DY of jtdytravels

All around us was evidence of past volcanic activity.

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P1120152 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120151  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120151 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120140 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120143 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120150 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120148 © DY of jtdytravels

Interesting bark of Betula platyphylla ; Flat-leaved Birch

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

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

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P1120159 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120158 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120160 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120163 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120162 © DY of jtdytravels

I quite liked this otter sculpture.

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P1120198 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120190 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120168 © DY of jtdytravels

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P1120180 © DY of jtdytravels

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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

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

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P1120074 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120067 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120069 © DY of jtdytravels

The entrance door was beautifully carved and had distinctive hinges.

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P1120071 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120108 © DY of jtdytravels

An interesting wooden door knob.

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P1120095 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120101 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120100 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120104 © DY of jtdytravels

A warm fur hat decorated with bead trimming.

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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

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

{Notes from ‘The Animal World of Kamchatka.}

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P1120072 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120111 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120112 © DY of jtdytravels

Late afternoon reflections in the lake.

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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

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

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P1120116 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120118 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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

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

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

David

All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of jtdytravels

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

www.jtdytravels.com

and

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

Russia : Kamchatka : # 13 Drive from Esso

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

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P1120064 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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

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P1120035  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120035 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120034  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120034 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120036  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120036 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120037  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120037 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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

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P1120039  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120039 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120042  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120042 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120043  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120043 © DY of jtdytravels

Minuartia macrocarpa  ;  Longpod Stitchwort

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P1120046  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120046 © DY of jtdytravels

This little beauty is called Phyllodoce caerulea

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P1120048  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120048 © DY of jtdytravels

Campanula lasiocarpa; Mountain Harebell

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

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

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P1120049  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120049 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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P1120054  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120054 © DY of jtdytravels

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

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

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

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

David

All photography Copyright ©  David Young of jtdytravels

More of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.jtdytravels.com

and on

www.jtlifesgood.wordpress.com

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