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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Kamchatka, Russia - 13 July, 2003

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Petropavlovsk (Hotel Petropavlovsk) N5304.026' E15837.597' 182 meters .
Malkinsky hot springs . . . .
Bistraya River . . . .
Finish Camp at dacha on the Kamchatka River near the Milkovo Settlement N5437.568' E15828.084' 169 meters 300 km (by mini-bus)

Total (by train):

766 km

Total (Kamchatka):

345 km

Total (other):

139 km

Total:

1,250 km

 

Weather: Clear, sunny and very hot. Cool at night.

 

 

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We are up at 8 AM to make final preparations for our trek to the central volcanoes of Kamchatka.  We sort out our bags and then head down for breakfast in the hotel's cafe.  We have a leisurely breakfast and then hang around waiting for everything to get sorted out.  Everything here seems to be done at a relaxed pace.  We put our extra bag in left luggage to collect upon our return.  Just before 11 AM our mini-bus shows up.  They seem to have run out of 6 wheel drive trucks, so we will take the first part of the trip in a tough little bus.  We load everything up while we meet the rest of the team that will be taking us on this trek.  We are off shortly after 11 AM.

 

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We start off on a paved road, but that soon gives way to a wide dirt road, which is quite well maintained.  It is pretty smooth and we can travel at high speeds.  After about two hours drive, we arrive at the hot springs at Malkinsky.  It is a Sunday, and the place is packed with locals.  They have come in a variety of cars and have set up camp all over the place.  The natural hot pools are filled with people.  We change and head over to one pool and go for a dip.  The temperature of the water can vary greatly.  In some spots it must be just below the boiling point, whereas at other spots it has been cooled off by the cold water of the nearby river.

 

We soaked ourselves for a while and the the braver (or more foolish) souls decided to try out the river water.  It was cold - must be snow melt from the nearby mountains.  But it was very refreshing to alternate between the hot waters of the spring and the cold waters of the river.  Very invigorating.  After a bit over a hour there, it is time to head on.

 

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We decided not to have lunch at this crowded spot, but rather to find somewhere that was a bit less crowded.  We drove on for about 20 minutes and then pulled off the road and drove a short way down a narrow dirt road to the shores of the Bistraya (fast) River.  It is pretty wide and fast flowing and was a beautiful spot to stop.  But we had out first taste of the mosquitoes - there were quite a few of them and we applied our first of many massive doses of Jungle Juice - 100% DEET.

 

Lunch is very nice - fruit, yogurt, sandwiches and biscuits, followed by tea or coffee.  One member of our group, Alan, paints water colors and we admire his work as he does it.  After a bit over an hour, we head on our way.  Our drive takes us through what appears to be a broad, flat valley with hills on both sides with a light forest covering.

 

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After a bit over two and a half hours of more driving along the dirt road in the hot weather (they have not had hot weather like this since the summer of 1946), we arrive on the shores of the Kamchatka River at a series of dachas near the settlement of Milkovo.  We will be staying here for the night.  The owner of one of the dachas has offered us the use of his house and facilities for the night.  So, we decide to hang out there for the evening.  We have a bit over two hours to wait for dinner, so we decide to take advantage of the traditional Russian banya.  It has been heated up with a wood fired stove and is ready to use.

 

We take turns using the banya.  After stripping in the outer room, we enter the inner room which is steaming hot.  We take some birch branches and begin to systematically to beat each other with them.  After abusing each other in this manner for some time, we pour ice cold water from a large drum all over ourselves  - so refreshing.  We then take a quick shower in the small stall nearby and are feeling very clean after the hot and sticky day of driving.

 

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The mozzies are pretty bad here - we are slowly getting prepared for the worst that is to come.  Some of us grab our head nets in addition to the DEET.  But it is uncomfortable having all this bugs buzzing around you.  For some time we hang out in the dacha itself, but it gets a bit warm in there.  Then it is time for dinner - 9 PM - and we sit outside in the gazebo and enjoy our burger with rice, salad, dried salmon, chocolate and biscuits.  We wash this all down with beer and vodka.

 

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After hanging out for a while enjoying the drinks and snacks, it is time to head off to bed.  In a nearby field, we set up our tents and settle in for the night.  Getting into the tent is a bit of an operation to try to minimise the number of bugs that enter.  Once we had set up the tent, it was covered with thousands of little white bugs (not so bad as they do not seem to bite) and mozzies.  When we enter the tent, many take advantage of the breach in the defenses and pass inside.  We spend the next 15 minutes going on a massive hunt and destroy mission.  We eliminate dozens of bugs.  Only then is it safe to go to sleep.

 

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The biggest problem is getting up in the middle of the night to go take a pee.  This was a good practical lesson to learn for the next few weeks - make sure that you do not drink too much before going to bed.  First, a quick exit must be made from the tent.  Then as you are trying to go about your business, you have to use your spare hand to make sure that they do not attack any important and sensitive parts of your anatomy.  But that means that other parts of your body are vulnerable to attack.  Upon the return to the tent, I discover my lip swelling up and beginning to itch.  It felt like I had just been to the dentist.  And before going back to sleep, another search and destroy mission had to be undertaken.  But worse was to come ...

 

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