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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Kamchatka, Russia - 14 July, 2003

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Camp at a dacha on the Kamchatka River near the Milkovo Settlement N5437.568' E15828.084' 169 meters .
Kozyrelusk . . . .
Lake Domashneye . . . 100 km (by mini-bus)
Finish Tolbachick Base Camp at Lunakhodchikov N5544.368' E16016.765' 1,190 meters 75 km (by 6WD truck)

Total (by train):

766 km

Total (Kamchatka):

520 km

Total (other):

139 km

Total:

1,425 km

 

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

 

 

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Another day of driving until we get to the base camp where we will begin our trekking. We wake up to a tent that is just covered in all sorts of bugs.  We are dreading the moment that we have to get out of the tent, but we must get up.  Once up and out of the tent, we apply our DEET.  Then it is breakfast time out at the gazebo.  We have pasta with sausages.  We pack up our stuff and hang around and wait to leave.  One thing we discover about the mozzies is that they are quite slow.  They only seem to be focused on trying to get to suck some blood.  So, if you see them in time, it is easy to kill them.  The only problem is that there are millions, if not billions, of them in Kamchatka.  And they are big - the largest we have ever seen anywhere in the world.

 

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We head off in our tough little mini-bus just before 10 AM.  We are told that this small, four wheel drive bus is only one year old, but has 130,000 km on it.  But it just keeps on going. We stop in the nearby settlement for a short while to go to a shop as some people want some more insect repellant - the threat has become clear to us.  It is an amazing little shop - almost like a mini-Wal Mart.  They have everything, including the kitchen sink.  At the small little food section, half the display counter at the back is taken up by alcohol.  They have their priorities straight.

 

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Once we leave the settlement, we drive on along the dirt road through a forest dominated by birch trees.  Just before 1 AM we arrive at the Kamchatka River, which we need to cross by ferry.  It is a very simple, but effective affair.  The dirt embankment has been plowed into a barrier where the ferry rides up to where the ramp is lowered and the cars and trucks can drive ashore.  The ferry itself is a barge, to which a small boat has been attached.  The boat powers the barge across the flowing river.  We drive our bus aboard and enjoy the short ride across.

 

At the other side of the river, we get aboard the bus and carry on our way.  After about 20 minutes we come to Kozyrelusk, a small town where we stop at the police station to register ourselves.  We also take advantage of a well with fresh water to top up our water bottles.  We then have a short drive (where we seem to get lost) to the nearby Lake Domashneye (Home Lake) where we stop for lunch.

 

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Now here we experience the mozzies in full force.  They are everywhere.  Thousands of them swarming around you at one time.  We have no choice but to get out the head nets and put them on.  We load up on the jungle juice.  But they always seem to find a spot you miss.  And going to the toilet is a nightmare, where you have to try your best to swat them away.  The ladies have a tough time, as they have to expose a larger surface area of bare skin.

 

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Lunch takes a while to prepare as they are cooking hot soup, which accompanies bread, cheese, salami, biscuits and fruit.  We finish off with tea and coffee.  While we are having lunch, our new transport shows up - it is a big orange, 6 wheel drive truck.  The road gets a bit tougher from here.  We finally finish lunch just before 5 PM and load up the truck.  We head off at 5:15 PM.  We are soon on a rough dirt track that runs through the forest.  It is a very uncomfortable ride - not because of the bumpy ride, but because of the virtually unbearable heat inside the cabin.  The windows do not open and soon the interior of the truck must reach temperatures in excess of 40C.  Our shirts are soon drenched.

 

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After about an hour we come upon a wide, dried up river bed.  We stop here to collect dry fire wood that is scattered all over the place.  This must be a rushing river in spring when the snow first begins to melt.  But we must soon get back on the truck, and our short respite from the heat is quickly forgotten.

 

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After another hour, we come upon a very muddy section of the trail.  we stop and they get out to inspect.  We take advantage of the break to also get out.  While the mozzies are soon out in full force, they are better then the oven that the cabin has become.  They chop down some trees to try to make a new path around the deep, muddy patch, but the driver does not feel comfortable.  We need to turn back and try out another route. Our two to three hour trip will now turn into a nightmare ride of over 5 hours.

 

We have a long stretch of track which is very narrow and the trees are hanging over the track.  As we pass along, the branches and leaves scrap along both sides of the truck and it's windows.  It is just like a car wash, but the scratching noises are like fingernails on a chalk board.  The trees slowly thin out and we come upon an open area covered with black volcanic ash and rocks.  We have a short break before carrying on.

 

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We arrive at the campsite just before 11 PM.  This is the base camp used for the climbs up the Tolbachick volcano and it is in an area called Lunakhodchikov.  The name comes from the lunar like surface that covers the surrounding area.  This is where the Soviets tested out their prototype lunar surface vehicle which they wanted to send to the moon.  It certainly does look like the moon.

 

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We set up camp.  We had arrived shortly after the sun had set, so it begins to get dark and we want to make sure we are all ready and organised before it gets completely dark.  After getting everything set up, we go and hang out and relax.  The temperature has dropped, so we need to get out some of our arm clothes.  We have gone from an oven to the freezer.  Our wait for dinner is lightened by the sight of the rising full or near full moon.  It is a great sight seeing it come up over the mountains - it is a huge orange ball.  We also have a very nice view of Tolbachick volcano - the clouds have cleared from around the peak and it looks very nice in the last rays of sunlight.  Dinner is served just before 1 AM and it was worth waiting up for.  We have cabbage wrapped meat with buckwheat.  It is amazing what our cook, Victor comes up with in these conditions.

 

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It is then time to head off to bed.  We have to snuggle deep into our sleeping bags as the temperature has continued to drop and it gets quite cold overnight.

 

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