Vestnik Bay in March
Our fourth visit to Kamchatka was as different and as exciting as our previous trips.
Landing at Yelizovo Airport on Sunday, 23rd March we were greeted with glorious sunshine and far-reaching views. Koryakski is the perfect volcano shape; and in her white coat against the beautiful clear blue sky she was literally a sight for sore eyes after our journey half way around the world.
As always our holiday starts as it means to go on with a late night and plenty of partying before venturing into the wilderness.
At one of Yelizovo's heliports we had our first surprise of the holiday meeting again our friends Sergey and Igor who had been our hosts at Golygino Lake 18 months before. We were to share the MI-8 helicopter with their supplies of building materials en route to Vestnik Bay.
Our flight South in the glorious sunshine took us by Gorely and Mutnovsky volcanoes before landing in the deep, untouched snow of Golygino. Here the MI-8 was relieved of her cargo before we took off again for the short hop east to the coast.
Here we were to spend the next 9 days in the company of our generous host Vladimir and his son Gregory. Their home was warm and welcoming and was a perfect base from which to explore Vladimir's vast territory by Buran (snowmobile). By evening, full with delicious food prepared by Ioulia, we would sit round the huge kitchen table drinking vodka and tea while discussing our day or visiting Vladimir's wonderful Banya. (It is still an extraordinary experience to be so unbearably hot with only a wood hut between you and a blizzard!)
The main focus of our trip was to experience the special wildlife in this area. On the coast we were fortunate to enjoy the amusing antics of the sea otters and their great friends - the fur seals. Above our heads, whether on the shore or in the forest, we enjoyed daily sights of majestic Stellar Sea Eagles, the occasional Hawk and the familiar seagulls and crows were always somewhere on the horizon. Below our feet, along the shore, the artic foxholes were difficult to spot at first but soon our eyes became trained to them.
Snow covered the black volcanic sand right to the tidemark and therefore wherever we travelled we saw the prints of all the animals in this area. In a typical day we saw prints of arctic hare, lynx, suslik, arctic fox and wolverine. Inland the snow was at least thigh deep and caused many amusing moments when we tried to move on foot. We were lucky to see artic hares dashing out of our way and grouse startled us from beneath the snow.
Vladimir has one neighbour - Alexander - who is the local fishery protection officer. We enjoyed two visits to his home to learn more about the wildlife of the area, his job, his way of life and unexpectedly the heritage of the Itelmen in this area. He often comes across obsidian and stone tools on his rounds and archaeologists have confirmed the location of ancient settlements in the bay area.
Our visit to this wonderful location ended with excitement as we hitched a flight back to the city with some marine scientists. Our journey took us all the way up the east coast, over islands covered in sea lions, across the opening of Avacha Bay (where we had our first ever site of the famous "Three Brothers" Rocks that guard the entrance to the bay) and finally behind the city and inland to Yelizovo again.
With 3 days left of our holiday we travelled by public bus to the old Cossack Settlement of Milkovo to visit our great friend and guide Nikolay for a one-night stay. Here we enjoyed the impromptu and overwhelming hospitality of his friends at their Dacha before returning to the city for a final day of excitement travelling along the Mutnovsky "Road" for a picnic in the snow.
Lost World excelled again in providing us with yet another
diverse and unforgettable experience of this unique land. Our thanks,
as ever, to Ioulia for keeping us well fed and allowing us to communicate;
and to Gennardy for being our specialist guide for this trip.