Saturday, March 7, 2015

Kamchatka. Or Stay At Home.

Just say it a few times.  Let it roll slowly off your tongue.  Now with more confidence, say it again.  Kamchatka.  You've only thought about it briefly while playing a board game of world domination, but now it is time to seriously consider a weekend vacation getaway.  Kamchatka is awaiting, full of surprises, and soon enough you will have enough stories to liven any afternoon tea party for years to come.



The board game Risk has popularized the location of Kamchatka, albeit with questionable cartography.
Kamchatka is the peninsula, jutting into the north of the Pacific.  And to get there, you will need to either come by sea, fly, or have access to a dogsled, because there is no road or rail leading to this hidden treasure.  More on dog sledding later, for now, I just recommend you book those tickets.

I travel a lot and visit a lot of interesting places, but this is only the second time I have been behooved to write a travel blog.  That's because in Kamchatka you can do what this blogger is doing:


And if you don't understand why that's awesome, just stop reading.  Because if you don't think relaxing outside in a swimming pool when it's 30 degrees below zero (Celsius) is amazing, just stick with your staycation.  I can't help you.

But, if you want to get away to where nearly no one gets away, and in the process open a whole new world, consider swimming in the thermal waters of Kamchatka.  I recommend the thermal waters the first evening you arrive.  Move over Melatonin, there is a new sleep aid in town.  After spending an hour or so in what was described to us as the "heavy water", you will sleep like a baby through the night.  

Ah yes, the jet lag:  you see, no matter where you are right now, Kamchatka is far far away.  It is a 9-hour flight from Moscow.  For comparison sake, that's roughly the same amount of time it takes to fly from Moscow to New York City.  And even if you look at a map, you might be tempted to believe that Vladivostok is nearby, but it is a 3-hour flight from Vladivostok to Kamchatka.  When you fly from Moscow, you keep on wondering when this great nation of Russia is going to end.  I am speaking strictly geographically, of course.  

I am guessing that the Moscow-Kamchatka flight is the longest contiguous domestic flight in the world.  Perhaps there is a longer domestic flight somewhere on our fine planet, but Kennebunkport-Guam is not contiguous.  If you know what I mean.

The thermal-spring swimming pool, it turns out, is for the winter visitors, but if you come during the summer you can do this:





The stream that is depicted in this fine piece of photography is ice cold year round.  The calm pool to the left is steaming hot.  Word has it that during the summer, the big form of recreating here is to go back and forth between the latter and the former.  And then vice-versa.  I believe that a barbecue nearby and tents is all part of the fun.

And if you don't get it, just stay at home and read about it.  I really can't help you.  I also can't help you if you don't like fish that tastes like fish:






So, if you're that guy, don't come to Kamchatka.  Because you will eat boatloads of fish, and it will be smoked fish that tastes like fish.  And it will taste amazing.  But if you don't think it will taste amazing, stay at home.

In Kamchatka, sometimes it snows.  It snowed when I was there.

A man discovers his car in the snow as a beached ship silently looks on.


Then you will go dog sledding.  We went dog sledding the day after the snowstorm hit.  My friends Andrey and Anastasiya have set up a dog kennel.  They are involved in dog sledding competition, but also have opened up their kennel to tourists, just like me.

The dog kennel.


Oh, I'm sorry.  Are you looking at the breathtaking beauty of the volcanic mountains in the background?  This is a picture of the dog kennel that Andrey and Anastasiya run.  Note that the doghouses are not attached to the ground because they need to raise them out of the snow throughout the winter, until they are literally 15 feet higher off the ground than when the first winter snowfall struck.


This guy will meet you at the kennel and tell stories of the local people and bears, as you enjoy some hot reindeer soup.




If you're a tourist, like this guy, you take a picture with the bear:




Later on, you get to do your selfie of the year:


\

Then it's off to view some more of Kamchatka:



I know a guy who can organize the dog sledding.  I know a guy who can organize airplane or helicopter tours around the volcanoes.  I know a guy who can organize skydiving.  And I know a guy who knows a guy who can organize rafting.

So, with that, I have the idea of opening "I Know A Guy" Tours for visiting this wild land of thermal springs, volcanoes, rivers, forest, and ocean.  Or if you prefer, you can just stay at home.

A big shout out to the unrepeatable Evgenii Shulgin for the finer of the photographs featured in this post.

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