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As on our previous two visits we travelled via Moscow and enjoyed a visit to the Kuskovo Museum in the morning before the second leg of our journey from Moscow to Petropavlovsk. It was an apt tour as this magnificent wooden palace had been home of Count Sheremetev, after whom Moscow's Airport is named - "Sheremetyevo".
The 9 hour flight to Petropavlovsk was as thrilling as always. We had daylight all the way giving us clear views of Siberia below us. Rather than snow we could see forever green expanses dotted by the smoke of destructive forest fires. Cloud covered the Sea of Okhotsk and our first sight of Kamchatka was the peaks of the volcanoes, some smoking, as we came in to land at Yelizovo.
After a few hours sleep in the flat we were staying in, we took the opportunity to enjoy the city in its glorious sunshine. We visited Avacha Bay, Mishennaya Hill and the Museum. Luck was with us and the weather was excellent for our stay in Petropavlovsk. During the next few days we prepared for our trip ahead, had a wonderful visit to a Dacha and of course enjoyed the dusk to dawn Petropavlovsk nightlife.
On the morning of day 4 we left the city in the 6WD for our rafting trip. The lorry was loaded up with all our gear as well as our transport for the voyage - the brand new wooden raft. We enjoyed travelling up front in the cab with Andrei and got completely hooked on his Russian Rock music. The sight of a bear crossing our path was breathtaking and as we travelled north we felt the temperature rising with every kilometre. Our great friends Nikolay and Ioulia were joining us for our trip and after a short stop in Milkovo to collect lorry inner tubes and oars we headed for the mighty Kamchatka River.
The following morning we successfully launched the raft into the swift running and icy cold river. The raft had an oar at the bow and one at the stern; and after a little practice Nikolay and Gary became "masters" of the river taking the raft wherever they wanted it to go.
We spent 5 days and 4 nights on the river camping by night on the riverbanks. We averaged about 40km a day travelling through the most beautiful wilderness. Apart from the occasional splash of an oar, the wildlife, for the most part, was our soundtrack. We sighted wild horses, hares, Stellar sea eagles, terns and wading birds. We saw the footprints of bear, fox, and moose and ate the freshest salmon. The Kamchatka River meanders it way to the sea in the north and at every turn we had a new view of the passing landscape - fir trees, birch, tall grasses interspersed by magnificent volcanoes, many of which were snowcapped.
The weather was with us throughout the trip, with temperatures in the high 20s the whole time. Whilst ashore we had to get used to the mosquitoes and horseflies, but out on the river we were rarely troubled.
At the end of our river voyage we were met by the 6WD at Atlasovo and taken to Esso for a 3 night stay. We had last visited Esso in the depths of winter and now really enjoyed the contrast of the summer heat and the stunning alpine-like scenery. We all stayed in a flat in Esso and enjoyed bathing many times in the large municipal hot springs swimming pool, climbing Pioneer Hill, horse riding in the beautiful meadows, visiting a local Even family in their summer camp, having a guided tour of the library and enjoying the wonderful hospitality of our Esso friends. Esso is, so far, our favourite settlement in Kamchatka.
From Esso we drove south, down the only vehicle road connecting north and south on the peninsula, to a special volcano a few hours out of Petropavlovsk. Vatchkazhets Volcano gave us our second climatic season of this trip, greeting us with an autumnal chill having not yet shaken off the effects of winter. We spent two glorious days and nights here enjoying the company of our friends in this magical place. We walked across snow, ate pinecone nuts, watched the mist coming to and fro off the top of the volcanoes and enjoyed the novelty of gentle rain in this lush green place.
The trip ended all too quickly with our retreat to the city and the inevitable journey home. We left Petropavlovsk on a high putting its nightlife to the test and from Vatchkazhets Volcano were back at home in a mere 36 hours (taking advantage of the time zones - of course!)
Although these articles are getting shorter our love of the land is growing stronger by every trip.
Our friends are the real reason we return and we look forward to another trip with Nikolay, Ioulia and our "two" Andreis in the very near future.
See more pictures of this trip here