Alaskan Janet Read traveled to Kamchatka this past summer; here she shares her impressions and advice. Last Spring she attended travel blogger Scott McMurren’s special event, “Travel Secrets Revealed” in Anchorage and was the winner of a prize sponsored by AirRussia.US: round-trip tickets to Kamchatka, Russia.
Q: Tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
I am the very Lucky winner of 2 roundtrip airline tickets on Yakutia Airlines to Kamchatka to be used in summer of 2015.
I am a 55 year old woman that has lived in Alaska for 50 years. I love to explore other cultures, experience natural outdoor environments. I love to hike, sea kayak, bird watch, fish, fly in small airplanes and be on the ocean, meet people of the world and photography. I only know a few phrases of a few languages other than English. I am getting in better shape for my next trip to Kamchatka and other parts unknown.
I grew up in a remote area of Alaska. Lived in Anchorage, Alaska for 30+ years and now have returned to my roots for the last 6 years, a rural area that isn’t as remote as it once was.
Q: How long was your trip to Kamchatka, and what was your itinerary?
My trip was 2 weeks. My friend Paula joined me for the first week and then the second I was on my own.
The first week we had booked a float trip, 1 overnight, 2 partial days of floating, an Avacha Bay scenery and marine mammal/ birding tour, 2 separate Heli Tours to UNESCO World Heritage sites, reachable only by helicopter. They were each a full day – South, to the Southern Kamchatka Natural Reserve- Lake Kuril for Brown Bear viewing and North, to Kronotsky Nature Reserve, which contains Valley of Geysers and Uzon Volcano Caldera. Also included in this Heli trip was 2 other landings and natural hot springs soaks in Nalychevo Nature Park. Both Heli tours included walking/hiking tours of their respective areas. The Heli tours were postponed due to weather, so our schedule was easily rearranged. We stayed our first two nights in a hotel in Parantuka Hot springs area. We also stayed at Explore Kamchatka B&B. This became my home base. Martha Madsen at Explore Kamchatka B&B arranged all of our tours, translator, transportation, lodging and is the general all around miracle worker. I also stayed in a country side Dacha for a few nights my second week. Great experience! This trip was truly amazing and worth doing again but differently.
Q: How did you react when you realized you won the tickets to Kamchatka and what made you want to go there?
Yes! I am supposed to win this trip! In the early 1990s, shortly after Russia opened up travel restrictions, I hosted several different Russian groups at my B&B in Anchorage, AK. They were from Moscow, Magadan and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. I have always wanted to go there ever since. That is why I was so delighted to win those 2 roundtrip Yakutia Airlines tickets to Kamchatka!
Q: It’s no secret that Americans need a visa to travel to Russia. Tell us about your experience of getting one for your trip.
It was very involved and time consuming. Just pay the extra money to a tour outfitter to do it for you! And go for the 3 year visa- you’ll be wanting to go back!
Q: What was one of the best moments of your trip?
Realizing how close and easy it is to get to Kamchatka from Anchorage, Alaska! And seeing the nesting Steller’s Sea Eagles.
Q: What is the best piece of travel advice you can give to Americans who come to Kamchatka?
Plan ahead one year if possible, be patient, get in good physical shape and go for as long as possible. Have few expectations and be ready to be surprised and delighted!
Q: You don’t have to speak Russian to go to Russia, but tell us about your experience breaking down the language barrier.
Paula used a language translation app on her smart phone. It would translate out loud and that definitely broke the ice and brought smiles to faces. Also, a real life translator was really great when she was with us. And of course we learned a few key phrases that were always welcomed by the local people.
Q: Now that you’ve been there yourself, when you think of Kamchatka, what’s the first image that comes into your head?
I have to go back! For its really amazing, unparalleled natural environment and multiple cultures to explore!
Q: What was the hardest or most frustrating part of the trip?
For me the most frustrating part was securing the visa. For Paula, it was the endless waiting, usually caused by weather delays. Also, I felt too rushed on the tours of Uzon Caldera and Valley of Geysers.
Q: Now that you’ve been to Kamchatka, do you have any future plans for travel to Russia? Are there other parts of Russia that you’d like to see?
Absolutely! I would love to return to Lake Kuril and other areas in the Southern Kamchatka, Natural Reserve & Nalychevo Nature Park – to be dropped off for multi night/day camping trips. I would like to visit Esso, as well as Lake Baikal in interior Russia. Thank you so much!