26 May 2015
Kamchatka is a mysterious land of volcanoes where the winds whirl in mountains and the nature knows the creation and death of the powerful volcanic fire. Kamchatka is well-know in the world for its beauty, but not so many travelers have found their way to the far peninsula that is located 8 time zones away from Moscow. Kamchatka worries the travelers’ dreams, stories about the area seem amazing and unbelievable and the pictures enchant. Traveling season in Kamchatka is very short from July to October. The local weather is notorious for its changeability and makes the tourists mad - it may be overcast and snow in August and hot sun in September. But Kamchatka attracts like a magnate and once you have been there you are eager to come back.
Kamchatka’s main attractions are active volcanoes. The peninsula holds 28 active volcanoes and hundreds of dead ones. The most active volcanoes are located in Eastern Volcanic Area that also has the most famous one - Kluchevskaya Sopka. Active volcanoes always breathe with the light and white gases of fumaroles, but this breath often changes into the black smoke, tremendous ramble and ash fallouts. Sometimes eruptions may have catastrophic results. The most powerful trench eruption of XX century happened near Tolbachik volcano and left behind many square kilometers of Mars-like landscapes of a black ash desert and numerous red cones. Near Leningradka base camp of Flat Tolbachik, where the first Soviet moon-vehicle was tested, you feel like on another planet that is cold and merciless. Only two meaningful words: wind and fog can be applied to this area and two colors: red and black reign there. As far as one’s eye can see around Leningradka base camp there is a strange territory that has complete loss of vegetation and is erased with lava flows and voids of craters. The fog there is very dense and a lonely traveler without compass risks his life and can lose his way in the impenetrable white maze.
Sometimes volcanoes explode and create calderas - a huge natural circus up to 10 km in diameter which rims are formed with steep rocky cliffs. The most famous of such volcanic circuses is the caldera of Uzon volcano. It is a natural geothermal laboratory where new forms of life adjusted to high temperatures can be researched. on a wide valley of Uzon caldera boil many hot springs, bubbling mud volcanoes can be seen, thermal lakes steam and brown bears roam. Brown bears take bathes and cue their feet in the healing thermal springs.
Similar caldera of an ancient volcano is situated on the south of Kamchatka, but it is filled with pure water and has turned into unique Kuril Lake. The lake bottom and shores are made of light limestone and its tiny pieces float on the surface. Soft limestone is an excellent material for building spawning grounds, where fish can easily lay its eggs. Every summer more than 1,5 million of sockeye salmon come to Kuril Lake from the Sea of Okhotsk. Shallow waters near the lake shore boil and turn red because of numerous fish that in a red wedding dress is ready to lay the eggs and die. Easy game attracts the predators. In Augusts dozens of brown bears come down from the mountain slopes and valleys to Kuril Lake. They have only short season to get weight of fat for a long winter hibernation time. Kuril Lake looks like a resort for bears. They catch fish, swim in the lake, take sunbathes and the wind blow away the annoying mosquitoes.
Not every place in Kamchatka is so favorable for brown bears. In the central areas on the cold volcanic plateaus they have to cover many kilometers a day in search for food. Brown bears that have never tasted fish can be encountered there. They get weight on pine nuts and sweet blue berries that grow in mountain valleys. Sometimes brown bears, looking for a weak animal, pursue the reindeer herds that walk along the endless tundra around the huge Inchinsky volcano.
Ichinsky volcano is the only volcano in the Srediniy Mountain Ridge of Kamchatka. Its white hat of glaciers sparkling on the sun dominates the surrounding mountains. on its southern end the landscape is punctured with the splashes of solid lava and high rocky sculptures that remind strange animals. There are many creeks with crystal water that find their way through the lava flows among lash vegetation of alpine tundra. It’s the natural habitat of snow rams that hide in this part of peninsula from the curious humans. This area with its fantastic rock formation, mountain lakes and volcanic landscape is a paradise for photographers, but the glory of Ichinsky volcano has passed away. Active volcanoes should be looked for in other area, near the city of Petropavlovsk.
About 70 km south of Petropavlovsk there are two active volcanoes which greatness and impressiveness can not be overestimated. The way to each of them is not easy and depends on mercy of weather. The volcanoes are located near the Pacific Ocean, so fog and rain are usual guests in the area. Narrow path goes across the snowfield on the slope of Muntovsky volcano and dives into the huge crack in its crater. In five hundred meters fantastic view unfolds in front of the traveler who can see the clouds of steam and gas going out of the crater and melting ice on its colorful slopes. The crater looks like a workshop of an ancient Greek god of Hephaestus and its invisible crushing power can be sensed in the air. Mutnovsky volcano is well-know as one of the most spectacular volcanoes in the world. Gorely volcano keeps its secret till the last step, when after the exhausting ascend the traveler stays amused at the edge of a deep crater that has a bright blue lake on its bottom. The crater slopes looks like a big pie which layers show the vivid history of eruptions. Gorely volcano is an open air museum of natural science where all volcanic process can be seen. If the weather is good, the traveler can enjoy the panoramic view on far mountains and volcanoes. These moments give you the feeling that Kamchatka is a wonderful region of our planet and it is worth time and energy to get there.