The busride from Petropavlovsk to Esso takes a day, and after the break in Milkovo I spend several hours chatting to a girl from Bashkortostan who gets off in Atlasovo to teach English and, after twenty years, in me finds her first foreigner to talk to. Riding the last stretch over a gravel road through Bystraya valley adds to the feeling of being far from everything. When the bus pulls up to a small bus-stop, this turns out to be just as small a stop as the ones we passed on the road. Almost no one in the streets, I walk uphill to where I hope to find accommodation. I find the guesthouse locked when I arrive, but after a while, an older man shows up, opens the door, gives me a room, and before I know it, I am out again looking for a place to eat, and to get a feel of this town. It sits at the crossroads of two valleys: from the west, Uksichan river, and from the south, Bystraya. Every house is surrounded by its own yard delimited by a wooden fence, and every house seems to be defended by one or more dogs. When one starts to bark, it serves as a reminder to others to copy their barking. There is an abundance of trees in and around Esso: its name in the local Even language means larch-tree. After a good meal at a teacher's party, I return home in utter darkness.
My main reason to come to Esso is to hike the surrounding Bystrinsky Nature Park, but I soon fall for the charms of the town, too. In between hikes, and walking from one end to the other, I criss-cross through town, looking at the colourful, charming wooden houses, the monuments, bridges, the small shops, am amazed at the meagre choice of restaurants, learn to love the dogs, and visit two museums. The ethnographic one I had heard of before coming: it depicts the life of the local Koryak and Even people from Kamchatka, before the arrival of the Russian colonisers. This must surely have been a harsh environment to live on for the indigenous people, considering the volcanic character of the peninsula, and the brutal climate. The museum manages to show how they were able to use all available materials to fabricate all the utensils and weapons they needed, and to build houses that protected them against the severe cold of winters.
In search of Internet, I make it to the small library with a wooden sign of a bear family outside, and even before I enter, a local boy shyly greets me, and guides me inside. He talks to the lady behind the desk, who comes with me with a key to open a door. Inside, I find a bear museum: just one room of the library. It is dedicated to the famous mammal of Kamchatka, in rare items such as statues, dolls, pictures, stories, memories of famous people who were killed by the furry and fierce animals, books, paintings, the inevitable life-time size stuffed bear, and more. The library lady starts a video in Russian, which I watch if only for the images of bears, until it turns out that the second video is actually dubbed in French, allowing me to understand what is being said. When I leave the delightful museum after thanking the lady, I hike up Pionerskaya Hill on the west side of town, to watch the sun set over the mountains, and to get a good view of this attractive town in central Kamchatka.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Esso (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Esso.
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