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Kamchatka: First-hand Experience

Date: 14.01.2020

Many travel-magazines include Kamchatka into Top-10 places in the world that should be visited and a great number of travellers have it in their bucket-list. It can seem that it is rather hard to reach this region with long road and connecting flights, but we will tell you why a journey to Kamchatka is really worth it. Our marketing specialist Alyona Chudanova went on a “Bucket list journey to Kamchatka”  tour in August 2019 and would like to share her experience with you.

 

"Discover Russia – discover yourself" – this is the motto we live and work by. Going on a trip to Kamchatka is the best way to make it happen for the following reasons. First off, here you will find unique and uncontested places that cant’ be found anywhere else in Russia such as s combination of volcanoes, the ocean, geysers, certain species of wild animals. You can definitely see all those things separately if you travel through the whole country, but if you want to see everything in one trip, the only way to do it is to go to Kamchatka. Secondly, Kamchatka will sharpen your senses up to the maximum. It will get you out of your comfort zone to give you such an unforgettable experience, that even months after returning back home you would get goosebumps from just looking at the pictures of your Kamchatka adventures.

In this article I will share my personal discoveries with you. I will tell you how the combination of wildlife and Spartan conditions helps to reboot yourself to the fullest. I would also like to share a few travel-hacks and explain why you should not postpone the trip to Kamchatka.

 

1.   This is the place where you feel the planet truly alive 

Kamchatka is so diverse that you can call it Russia in miniature or even a little Universe. If in other places of Russia the landscape is always stable, in Kamchatka it is constantly changing. Volcanoes erupt, geysers strike, fumaroles fields open. Here you feel the energy of the Earth every day - breathing fumarole gases, touching the frozen lava, plunging into the thermal spring or entering the lava-water with the temperature of +60°С (140F). I will show you 3 sights of Kamchatka where you can feel the planet is truly alive. 

 

Mutnovsky volcano

Do you see a dense cloud above the summit? Actually, it is not a cloud, but powerful gas flows that the volcano releases. Even though Mutnovsky is an active volcano, you can safely get close to its crater. On your way you will see multicolored slopes with metal and mineral outcrops, ice bridges, mud volcanoes and one of the main distinguishing features of Mutnovsky - a huge fumarole field.

Fumaroles are small crevices located on the slopes and in the craters of volcanoes. Powerful streams of gases come to the surface through them. It makes it hot, noisy and smells like hydrogen sulfide. Every year fumarole fields look different, as holes keep opening here and there.

Another feature of Mutnovsky is that it has two craters. One of them has active fumaroles and a lake of a color of rust, the other has a lake of turquoise color and a waterfall. Can you imagine that there is a waterfall in the crater of the volcano!

 

Tolbachik volcano

If you walk on Tolbalchik on a cloudy day, it is easy to imagine you are on another planet.  You do not even need to have much imagination, as the area around Tolbachik is similar to the surface of the Moon by 96%. In 1969 a lunar rover was even tested here! Black volcanic sand is not the main sight here, as enormous lava fields make even bigger impression.

The latest Tolbachik eruption occurred in 2012-2013 and lasted for 9 months. During this time the streams of red-hot lava have spread down 18 km! Today it consists of huge lava fields, petrified in different shapes.

Walking around you can still feel the boiling heat of the eruption that happened six years ago. You can go down in a lava tube with temperature about +60°С (140F), there you can instantly warm up and get yourself dry after being sopped in the rain. There are also gas outlets with a temperature of +600°C there. If you put wooden branches between the rocks there, they would burst into flame just in a couple of minutes.

 

Dead Forest

Before the trip to Kamchatka I had seen pictures of the Dead Forest multiple times. In 1975 a powerful eruption of Tolbachik filled it with ashes. I had thought to myself, okay, that forest got destroyed, it is sad, but why everyone keeps getting so crazy about it?

When we got to the forest, I was walking above 11 meters of ashes under my feet. I remember being astonished when I first heard that from our guide. Can you imagine how powerful that eruption was? We were not just walking down the forest, we were walking on the same level where the tree tops used to be!

The ashes worked as a powerful adsorbent and dried up a massive forest. It seems like it had destroyed everything, but it is not exactly true. The life here revives, and the famous Russian herb Ivan Chai is already blooming through the ashes. If you proceed further to the crater of 1740 you can even spot an emerging forest.

The Dead Forest, Mutnovsky and Tolbachik volcanoes are some of the most interesting sights of Kamchatka. You will feel how imperceptible power of the planet constantly transforms itself. Although Kamchatka will show its pristine beauty, it will also try to push you beyond the limits.

 

2.   This is the place where you'll enjoy getting out of your comfort zone

The route “Bucket list journey to Kamchatka” was chosen for me by my colleague from sales department. She said that this tour would be best for the first acquaintance with Kamchatka, as it combines visits to the most interesting places and a lot of trekking, but also ... 5 nights in a tent and long transfers between sights. This is due to the fact that the most picturesque places are located quite far from each other, and the infrastructure in Kamchatka is not yet very well developed. In my opinion, for the sake of uniqueness and beauty one can leave their comfort zone. So, here we go!

 

Sleeping in a tent

If you have never slept in a tent before, it may seem that Kamchatka is not the best place to start. At night the temperature can stay at +15°C (59°F), or it can drop down to -5°C (23°F). And yes, it can happen even in summer. However, if you are aware of it and make the right choice of clothing and a sleeping bag you will not have any problems being there overnight. In case you don't have your own sleeping bag, you can borrow it from your friends or rent while in Kamchatka for an extra fee. A tent will be provided and you will be taught how to set it, sleeping mats are also included in the price of the tour.

There are no hotels with such a view on Kamchatka yet. I think that nights in a tent are really worth waking up with the view ;)

 

Transfers

You will have to spend almost all day on the road to get to Tobalchik. Russian-made offroaders "Kamaz" or "Ural" will easily cope with any difficulties on the road. We recommend you to download more books, movies and music to keep yourself entertained while on the road.

As soon as you get out of the car on lava fields and black volcanic sand, you will immediately  forget about your tiresome transfer. At least that is how I felt.

 

Trekking

If you have been dreaming of climbing Elbrus, Kamchatka is a great place to get yourself ready for it. Try to climb Gorely volcano, for example, with a steep slope, 700 m (2296 feet) height and minimum travel time of 1.5 hours. When you feel exhasted, just think about this photo:

This is how the Gorely crater looks like.

 

Gear

Speaking of getting out of the comfort zone, I'm in no way calling for sacrifice. In my opinion, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself while travelling. This is why when getting ready for a trip to Kamchatka it is especially important to choose the right equipment.

These photos are taken within a 20 minute difference:

As you can see, the weather in Kamchatka changes instantly. Make sure to put three layers of clothing to stay warm. It is important to choose good quality sportswear, trekking boots, a hat, a raincoat, sunscreen, trekking poles and proper pair of hiking gaiters. That way even in bad weather you will enjoy the views around you and not think about wet feet or a burned nose.

 

Here and now

Perhaps the main thing that I learned while traveling on Kamchatka is that there are no guarantees. During the sea voyage you may not see whales and orcas, as it is the real ocean, not an aquarium. The planned helicopter excursion to the Valley of Geysers may be cancelled because of bad weather, as it is a matter of safety. During the rafting on the river you can meet even more bears than on the Kuril Lake, and you might not see any - again, it is wildlife, not a zoo.

It is in a way getting out of the comfort zone as well. When you come from a city, where everything is planned and scheduled for several weeks ahead, Kamchatka keeps reminding you that you should always seize the moment and learn to be flexible. You did not see any whales, so what? How delicious those freshly caught crabs were, though! The Valley of Geysers had been canceled, but because of that you can swim in thermal waters a couple more times. We did not happen to see any bears, but instead we caught a lot of fish!

Kamchatka gives us a great lesson: there is no good or bad, everything depends on our perception of things. Now, someone should keep reminding me that when I am back in the city :)

 

3.     This is the place you should not postpone your visit

A trip to Kamchatka is certainly not the easiest one. In my view, however, it is very important to make up your mind and invest some time and resources into this trip as soon as you can. Every year more and more people are making Kamchatka their travel destination, infrastructure there is developing very fast and soon a large tourist cluster will be built in the area of Vilyuchinsky volcano. 

On the one hand, it is good news, as the area will become more accessible. On the other hand, Kamchatka is precious for its untouched nature. If you want to catch it without crowds of tourists, come now. If you want to explore the Pacific Ring of Fire, observe bears in their natural habitat and to swim in natural hot springs, you have to avoid the crowds. If you really want to experience the uniqueness of Kamchatka you should not be afraid to be alone, far from civilization, layers of asphalt roads and grand hotels.

Kamchatka is not just a place to make cool pictures for Instagram and Facebook. It is the place which will help you to make profound discoveries about nature and your own self.”

 

Take a look at our travels in Kamchatka. You are welcome to join us on the route that Alyona described in this article, or you can also choose among other tours. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us, just call +7 (495) 104-64-36 or email to hello@russiadiscovery.ru. We will be glad to help you with a choosing the right trip for you!