Ice Caves and Fumaroles – South Kamchatka’s volcanic Soul

Mutnovsky and Gorely are the names of the volcanic protagonists in Kamchatka’s South; two places known to many tourists visiting Kamchatka as almost every tour makes a stop over there to bring humans in touch with the admittedly weaker appearances of the biggest force on our planet. South Kamchatka is more inhabited than the north, which is no surprise as it is home of the regional capital Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and its suburb Yelizovo, the airfield welcoming the big and small airplanes from coming from Moscow and elsewhere. Landing there is something absolutely unique in the world since you automatically make contact with Kamchatka’s volcanic soul when hovering along an impressive guard of honour formed by majestic Koryakskaya Sopka and fiery red Avachinskaya Sopka volcanoes. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky lives its own way and in particular at rain and wind bad weather mingles inseparably with the rough charm of the market-women

Yelizovo – Kamchatka’s Gate to the World

When leaving Berlin my plane was already delayed by one hour. Firstly we caught up somehow and “won” 30 minutes, but now we’re getting mouldy while standing on Domodedovo’s runway for no reason. 45 minutes idleness and my transit time to catch the flight to Kamchatka melts down to 30 minutes only. Reaching that flight is actually impossible as one has to pass immigration as well as customs successfully plus also pick up the entire baggage from the belt in between. I run and jump the immigration queue to get my passport stamped. I run again to the baggage claim, go down on my knees and send an arrow prayer to Heaven when my backpack and equipment was literally the first on the belt to pick up.

The customs guys wave me through and I can re-check in. Once more I run and push myself through security checks and hundreds of uncoordinatedly walking people. At the last second I reach the already closing gate door and dive through it headlong like Indiana Jones. Unbelievable but true, I am on board, but hopefully also my baggage… From Berlin to Kamchatka I flew TransAero all the way and now, aboard the long haul flight, thinking about my potentially missing baggage and equipment gives me no moment of sleep. Having landed in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky I push myself through the tangled mass of people and there it is, first one on the belt again, my backpack. A relieved “Yeeeees!” shout escapes my lips.

Photographer Denis Budkov picks me up at the airport and we drive straight to the dacha of Grandma Galina that is located to the north of the Yelizovo airport. From time to time it is rumbling as the jets are flying over it, but in general over there it is quiet like in heaven. Her dogs bark like stung by a viper. Do they welcome me or go crazy about Galina’s luxurious welcome dinner? Later in the evening my travel companions volcano cameraman Marc Szeglat and volcano photographer Martin Rietze joined in as well as Steffen from 360 Grad Ost, a Potsdam-based German photographer who travelled Kamchatka for many years now. The sunset starts and we grab our equipment to capture the volcanoes Koryakskaya Sopka (or Koryaksky, Корякская сопка) and Avachinskaya Sopka (or Avacha, Avachinsky, Авачинская сопка) onto digital celluloid.

Both volcanoes are impressive, but in particular the Avacha – by the way one of the worldwide few somma volcanoes, a volcano growing inside the caldera of its historic antecessor – looks wonderful when its reddish rock formations get touched by the sidelight of the descending sun and framed by surrounding clouds. The flies and midges surrounding us become a pain in the ass. Of course they also fly through the line of photographic fire and become sensor dust a different way. We have dinner, go to bed and start our journey to the northern volcanoes on the next day with Alexey.

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