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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Kamchatka, Russia - 24 July, 2003

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Esso settlement (guest house) N5555.426' E15841.532' 510 meters .
Tour of Esso . . . .
Milkovo settlement . . . .
Finish Petropavlovsk (Hotel Petropavlovsk) N5304.026' E15837.597' 182 meters 540 km (by 6WD truck)

Total (by train):

766 km

Total (Kamchatka):

1,339 km

Total (other):

139 km

Total:

2,224 km

 

Weather: Clear, sunny hot and breezy.  Cool overnight.

 

 

Breakfast is at 7 AM this morning and people stagger in at different times - we are surprised to be the first ones to the basement dining room.  Some people had more to drink than expected.  In fact, despite being one of the last to leave last night, it appears that a number of people had rallied and carried on the drinking at some of the local establishments.  It appears that the Russian vodka got the better of them.  There were some interesting stories about horses being kissed on the backside, dancing with old ladies, eyeglasses being sat on and wanderings through the back lanes of the town trying to find the guest house.  They should have borrowed a GPS to find their way back.  A number of them resorted to the hair of the dog to get going this morning.

 

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After breakfast (which was rice with fried salmon and the usual bread and salami and cheese), we packed up our stuff and got ready to leave.  We then, shortly after 8 AM, walked through the dirt lanes of the town, admiring some more of the wooden houses along the way, over to the local museum dedicated to the culture and lifestyle of the native people.

 

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We are not sure what to expect to find here in a small little town in the middle of nowhere, but in the end we are very impresses and pleased to find such a gem of a museum.  It is a small place, with a number of wooden buildings on a grassy spot besides the river that passes through the town.  We are met by a local Russian, shaved head and bushy beard, who enthusiastically greets us.  He turns out to be quite a guy - the classic Energizer bunny.  Going non-stop.  Running here and there.  So proud of the museum that he helped develop and runs.

 

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We are greeted by the banging of the local drum, that looks like a shield.  Then he asks one of us to light a small fire, into which he pours various bits and pieces as offerings to the spirits.  Then when that ritual is done, he has one of drill a hole in a piece of wood with a mechanical, hand powered drill.  Then he shows us one of their wooden sleds and how it works.  It even has these nifty little brakes.  Finally into the museum itself.  It is a small building, but the interior is packed with stuff.

 

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One could spend hours inside there, looking at everything and trying to absorb it.  It is all in Russian, but he gives a rapid and excited explanation which is translated by our interpreter, Lena.  He is jumping around, showing us this and that and how the native people lived.  There are plenty of pictures (many of which he took when he lived with the native Even people for three years), maps, reproductions of dwellings, costumes, tools and instruments, stuffed animals and other artifacts.  It is very well done.  At the end of the tour, he presents a brief slide show showing the lifestyle of the Even with their reindeer herding.  There are some graphic images showing how they butchered and ate all parts of the animals.

 

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We finished off our tour by giving a small donation and writing in the guest book.  Then off to the gift shop - we were not sure what to expect, but this place had some amazing stuff.  Small, but on par with any museum shop in the West.  Great stuff - we had a hard time trying to make a selection.  All the crafts and things were made by the native people and the sales proceeds went to them and to support the museum.  In the end, we bought some wood carvings and a bottle and shot glass set made out of birch wood and bark.  The carvings on it were very intricate.

 

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After we finished there and used the loo located in a small log building (all of us very patiently queuing up for our turn), we were directed to another craft shop across the river.  But this was a bit more of a disappointment.  Not as large a selection and the prices seemed much higher than at the museum shop.  We hung around for a while and then slowly made our way back to the truck, which is waiting for us by the museum.

 

We are on our way in the truck shortly after 11 AM.  We have a long drive ahead of us and we try to make ourselves as comfortable as possible.  While the truck is not as hot as yesterday, it is still very warm and stuffy as there are only two small windows.  It is clear and sunny and the rays of the sun heat up our little metal box.  A fan in the truck would have been nice.

 

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Shortly before 3 PM we arrive in Milkovo where we stop at one of the local cafes for lunch.  A very interesting place - a concrete building that looks like it comes out of the 50s or 60s - which maybe it did. It is quite run down and we head inside to a large room that appears to function for a variety of purposes, from restaurant to bar to disco.  The winters here must be pretty brutal - the walls are lined with double layers of heaters stacked on top of each other.

 

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We all sit down at a long table and are served a number of courses, along with all the cheese, salami, bread and other tidbits that are already on the table.  It is not bad food.

 

After finishing our lunch, we load up into the truck and go for a short ride down the street to the local supermarket and department store where we wait for the crew, who have gone food shopping.  While hanging out there, we notice that even here, in this small, remote town with its dirt and stony paths and lanes, the ladies dress very fashionably and sexy and wear very, very high heels.  The shoes must not last very long and there certainly must be the need for a foot doctor in these parts.

 

We head on again and continue the long drive back to Petropavlovsk on the dirt roads.  We make one more stop along the way at a small town where we are able purchase these local pies.  We get some filled with apple and honeysuckle.  They are deep fried and are very tasty.  Just outside the city we stop where we transfer most of the other passengers to another smaller truck.  They have opted to go and climb another volcano just outside the city.  We decided not too - we have lots to do (laundry, journals, shopping and packing) before we head off on our trans-Siberian train journey.  So, once we have said our good byes (it was sad to see them go - it was a good group) and sent them on their way, we drove the last short distance to the hotel.  We arrive at hotel just before 10 PM.

 

After checking in, collecting our left luggage and dropping our bags off in our room, we went down to the dining room for a late dinner.  We sat around with three other members of our group, had a drink or two, enjoyed our meal and had looked back on our recent adventure.  Then back to our room to organise some of our stuff and then to bed.  This time our beds were not so comfortable.

 

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