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Traveling Will & Robin

Current travels: Three months in the wilderness of Siberia, Mongolia, and the South Pacific


Jun '12

From Russia, with love

June 5, 2012

On the rim of Mala Simyachik with our MI-6 helicopter in the background

“Your attention please. We have landed on the crater of an active volcano. We will not be staying long. OK? Everybody out.”

Artyom had to yell as the rotor blades were still spinning. We couldn’t stay long, he explained, because the sulfuric acid rising off the lake just beside us would damage the helicopter.  The volcano we were standing on is mala (little) Semyachik. When the volcanologists were here, they lowered a steel cable into the acid lake. It disintegrated in minutes.  To the right we could see the smoke rising from the volcano Karimsky, the most active volcano on the peninsula. It has been spewing ash continually since 2006. This cone, and it’s ash, would come to be like dear friends over the next few weeks, as we would use it to navigate and spend nights listening to its jet-engine like sounds. It was just yesterday (the 20th of June) that I finally cleaned the remaining volcanic ash out of my contact lens case.

Kamchatka covers 100,000 square miles and houses 320,000 people. The brown bears are renowned for their size.  The roads on the peninsula are disconnected from the rest of Russia, so access is by plane or boat.  There are 19 active volcanoes, and some, including Karimsky, have been continually active for years.  The most recent eruption of a volcano in Kamchatka was June 16th, 2012.

Over the next two weeks, we would learn the many faces of Kamchatka.  It would challenge and scare us, inspire and excite us. We would be coated in volcanic ash and chilled by the endless rain. We would navigate down the Zhupanova river and trek over the tundra. Best of all, we would learn that Kamchatka meant so much more than the place in the board game Risk where you need to leave at least three armies.

Active Volcano Karimsky (no, that is not a cloud)

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