Once it was difficult for me to leave home for more than two weeks, I could not imagine how you can travel without a ticket, a good hotel, a pot-bellied suitcase and a noisy company. I meticulously drew up a vacation plan, where every day was scheduled by the minute, and started packing my suitcase two weeks before the trip. Even if it was about a couple of days at the dacha with friends. Then everything changed, and the reasons were commonplace: the work was depressing, the relationship with the guy came to an impasse and I felt an urgent need for new sensations. Thus began my love for spontaneous trips, mountain hikes, confused plans and decisions that are not easy but never regretted. The last such decision was participation in a three-month volunteer project in distant Kamchatka.
The last few years I spent my vacation in the mountains: at first it was easy walks, then categorical hikes, and last year - mountain climbing in the Caucasus. There was no goal of becoming a climber, I just liked wandering in the mountains with a backpack on my shoulders, climbing higher and higher and discovering amazingly beautiful places. Clouds under your feet, it seems that meteors are falling somewhere below you, and at night there is silence and the sky is so starry that you cannot sleep.
In April of this year, I was sure that in the summer I would climb Elbrus with my husband, when I caught a glimpse of information about volunteering in Kamchatka on a friend's Facebook page. I read it for fun. The Bystrinsky Natural Park invited tourists under the age of thirty-five to spend three months in Kamchatka with full board. The park paid for air tickets (and this is the most expensive for those who travel to the peninsula), food, transfer to and from the place of work, and provided public equipment for the hike. Volunteers were required to lay trails for future tourists, open new routes and repair infrastructure facilities. In the ad it was in bold type: "Welcome guys."
Then I did not really imagine what would be required of me, but I liked the prospect of looking at the work of the natural park from the inside, and even in Kamchatka. It was something completely new, fantastic - something worth trying, if only out of curiosity. I sent a biography and a letter of motivation to the indicated address; I decided to lie a little about my age, writing that I was thirty. There weren't many chances anyway: I had little hiking experience, I wasn't seriously involved in mountaineering, so in my letter I tried to describe my other advantages, for example, that I teach yoga and can help group members to relieve stress after a heavy load. I also speak several foreign languages and have been living in my own house for a couple of years, so I know firsthand construction and renovation.
Clouds under your feet, it seems that meteors are falling somewhere below you, and at night there is silence and the sky is so starry that you cannot sleep
A few days after sending the letter, I studied volunteering materials and at thirty-one, I learned that this is an insanely interesting way to travel around the world. Projects are different: not everywhere is as lucky as in Bystrinsky Park, somewhere you have to spend money on tickets, accommodation or meals. But such impressions neither in the "package" tour, nor in the trip can not be received by a savage. One of my new acquaintances in Kamchatka has been traveling as a volunteer for several years and has already visited a horse farm in Greece and a reserve with tigers at a Thai monastery, where she looked after tiger cubs and independently fed huge predators.
In Russia, volunteers are mostly men. On the Commander Islands, for example, women are most often looked for as cooks, the same is on Sakhalin, not to mention the Far North.It is much easier to find an interesting project for girls with education in biology, zoology, ecology and related scientific fields - there are grants and special scientific programs for them. If you just want to travel, see the country and help the reserves as much as you can, without closing in the kitchen, you will have to look. I immediately liked the Kamchatka project because I didn’t say a word about cooking skills, but promised to work “in the fields”. Yes, it required special skills, but, as it turned out, I, with my three hikes and experience of life in the village, turned out to be more interesting for the park than mountain climbers.
They didn’t answer me for a long time, but then everything started spinning. They wrote that mine was chosen from more than four hundred questionnaires, and if I agree to spend three months in Kamchatka, I need to send data to buy a ticket. If not, my candidacy will be easily replaced. I sat in front of the monitor without moving for forty minutes. Everything was confused in my head. When it was just a dream, I did not even think about how I would leave my family for three months, what would happen to my job, to whom I would leave the house, private students, dogs, in the end. I was really scared of the need to quickly make a decision and be held accountable for its results. Volcanoes, the Pacific Ocean, whales, bears - is there such a chance twice in your life? Forty minutes later, I wrote a reply, and a few hours later I received an electronic ticket for the Moscow - Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky flight.
In Petropavlovsk at the end of June it was +14 and cloudy. With the difference with Moscow at nine o'clock, it is quite difficult to acclimatize. I got on the bus and along the only dirt road on the peninsula that connects the villages, in ten hours I got to the clean, asphalt and well-groomed Esso - the administrative center of the Bystrinsky district. Me and three other lucky ones chosen this year were settled in a big house, where volunteers from Russia, Belarus, Latvia, Germany, and France have been living since 2007, when the project was launched. The house was full of people: it turned out that only the four of us came for three months, and the rest live here for a year and a half, study reindeer husbandry, entomology, biological diversity of the region, help Bystrinsky Park to collect scientific data and manage the huge flow of tourists coming to Kamchatka … Most work in the park's office, occasionally leaving Esso as tour guides and handymen, for example, to paint gazebos along the route, to renovate campgrounds, and to set up signs.
Life is unhurried here. We had to wait two weeks for the promised transfer to the Ketachan cordon, during which we went out to mow the grass, then to repair the fence, and once we went out to reconnoitre the tourist trail to Lake Sludtse. This first joint hike turned out to be interesting and difficult, but we did not lay the path, because we had to climb through thickets of cedar dwarf trees, descend from a steep cliff, cross stormy rivers at random, and then also survive an unpleasant night meeting with a brown bear. Not everyone coped with this trip: one of the guys, an experienced mine rescuer, felt bad, so we dragged his things on ourselves, and the guys led him by the arms. The project coordinator sent him home and said that this was not the first time. Four of us went to the Ketachan cordon - the place of our main work: two girls, a zoologist guy from new volunteers and a group leader from those who have been volunteering for a long time.
The cordon can be reached along the path leading to the gold mines from the village of Milkovo. It is 120 kilometers of narrow, bumpy dirt road with access control. Naturally, there is no mobile connection; once a day we sent a message with the coordinates on the satellite tracker - that's all. Every day I wrote letters to my husband in a notebook, kept a diary and tried not to go crazy, being left alone with people with whom I had nothing to even talk about.
For two months we lived in tents, washed things in rivers, washed in lakes and cooked monotonous food on a fire if there was a forest around, or on a gas burner if we were surrounded by tundra. We walked in rain, heat, fog, climbed over ancient lava flows, crossed many kilometers of swamps, overgrown river floodplains. Often I had to walk all day in rubber boots, after which my feet ached; we spent the night anywhere, sometimes freezing, then suffocating from the stuffiness, climbing the slopes of volcanoes, almost collapsed on a melting glacier, and every day, meeting bears, we were forced to yell, scare, make noise, pretend to be fearless forest dwellers in order for the animal to leave. I had to grit my teeth and carry a backpack, which I would not have lifted in ordinary life, and most importantly, I had to become really fearless, because there were not a single person and crowds of bears around for hundreds of kilometers. The task of the group is not just to go out alive and well, but to understand whether tourists will be able to go here in the future.
I had to become really fearless, because there are not a single person and crowds of bears around for hundreds of kilometers
Previously, I did not think about the fact that before somewhere a well-trodden tourist trail appears, along which hundreds and thousands of people will go, breathing heavily and considering the route difficult, someone must develop this trail. We were not the first people here, but we were the first to record the track (the history of our movement), looked for a convenient path, climbed into any place that could be potentially interesting, thought over additional routes and parking places. Sometimes it was scary, hard, overwhelmed with fatigue, but with each new step I saw miracles that were worth any effort: frozen lava flows, gigantic volcanoes, endless mountain tundra, blueberry fields, herds of bighorn sheep, bear families, schools of salmon going to spawn. In the middle of summer, our diet was replenished with a variety of berries, soccer ball-sized mushrooms and fish that could sometimes be caught by hand. It was some kind of boundless happiness, and I wanted to share it with the whole world.
Still, this barrel of honey had its own fly in the ointment: here, at the end of the earth, in our tiny society of four people, some began to rebuild the hierarchy. In the city you communicate only with those who are of interest to you, and on the project we lived, ate and slept for two months, having nothing in common. At first, I wanted to get used to each other, to understand and love the people with whom you are going along a dangerous path, but ambitions - and this especially concerned the guys - terribly hindered the process, turning communication into a struggle for the right to have your own opinion. We didn’t come out as a friendly team, although at the end of the project we still showed excellent results. As soon as the group was taken from the Ketachan cordon back to Esso, we immediately crawled into the corners and tried not to meet again until the very departure.
In July, the most active volcano of the peninsula - Klyuchevskaya Sopka - threw a column of ash into the sky, and a long, calm eruption began. One boring September evening I received a call from the Bystrinsky Park office and offered to go to Tolbachik, one of the volcanoes of the Klyuchevskaya group. Several volunteer girls and I hurriedly got together, the former director of the park drove us to Kozyrevsk in a personal car, where we changed to a tourist rotational bus and five hours later seemed to be on another planet. The lunar rover was tested here at one time, since the surface of the earth almost completely coincides with the lunar. Flat Tolbachik erupted for the last time only three years ago, and the bizarrely solidified lava still glows with heat in some places, and at night you can see bright red spots on its black surface, similar to portals, and light a specially brought stick in them with childish delight. We climbed to the top of the crater of a living volcano that had recently erupted, and very close we saw the smoking and breathing Klyuchevskaya. It is difficult to convey the sensations when you are standing there.You seem to be deafening, your lips spread into a smile by themselves, and you stand as if spellbound, trying to forever capture these views in your memory.
After the alien Tolbachik, when there was a week left before the flight home, I hitchhiked to Ust-Kamchatsk. With a girl zoologist from Belarus, who hitchhiked half the world, and her friends from Ust-Kamchatsk, we went along the coast with black volcanic sand to Cape Kamchatsky, where the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea join. There we spent three days in a hunting hut, ate seaweed and fresh mussels, walked along the reef between the tides, admired the sunsets and seals swimming very close, photographed the bones of whales gnawed by bears and simply enjoyed the sounds of the ocean surf or the piercing silence that came at times. There I suddenly remembered what one artist in Esso said to me: "If you fall in love with Kamchatka, she will never let go." On the Kamchatka cape, I finally understood - I fell in love.
At first it seemed to me that three months was an awfully long time, but, having arrived in Petropavlovsk at the end of September, I realized that I did not want to leave. There are new friends in Kamchatka, thousands of untraveled paths, half-thought thoughts and kilometers of notes that now I want to turn into a book. For all the time in Kamchatka, I spent seven thousand rubles, and then only on souvenirs and pampering like ice cream and pies, which you dream of on a hike.
Before, I did not think that I could endure such an adventure and miss it so much, but this is almost the best thing that happened in my life. It's not just the beauty and complexity of the path. The fact is that in extreme conditions you begin to see yourself in a new way. Therefore, returning to Moscow, I gave up my previous job and decided to open my own yoga studio, and also returned to the buried dream of working in the theater. By my second education, I am an opera singer, I did not work for long right after the conservatory in Siberia, and at home, in Moscow, I could not get a job because of the crazy competition. In Kamchatka, I finally realized that I wanted to continue singing and, most importantly, I now have enough strength for any trials, and moving mountains on the way to a dream is a trifle. You just have to make up your mind one day, grit your teeth and step into the unknown.
Photos: kamchatka - stock.adobe.com (1, 2)