The drive into Paratunka Valley is only intended to warm us up for what is lying ahead. Autumn colours on both sides of the valley help to make us look around the whole time, trying not to miss anything. We stop at a bridge over the Paratunka river to enjoy the views - unfortunately, clouds are hiding the top of the mountains from us. To our left, we see the slopes of Vilyuchinsky Volcano, the first volcano visible from Petropavlovsk across Avachinsky Bay, as well as Vilyuchinsky Fall that is a mere trickle now but, judging from the colour changes on the rock surface, an impressive waterfall when the snow finally melts. The drive up Vilyuchinsky Pass offers great views of mountain landscapes, and we take time at the highest point to enjoy the views. Mutnovsky and Gorely, two other volcanoes further south, are also covered in clouds. We follow the road, down, and up again, to reach the geothermal stations at the very end.
Here we are, near the base of one of the mighty active volcanoes of Kamchatka, Mutnovsky, and are surrounded by old Soviet buildings, part of a major power plant. Geothermal energy is taken out of the earth, providing Petropavlovsk with around 30 percent of its energy. Big metal tubes run over the ground, old trucks parked next to rickety huts, tin-roof buildings under which the guide tells us are 2km deep tubes tapping energy straight from the ground. A short walk takes us through an area with lots of bubbling hot water and curious colours of mosses and minerals, rife with life. A little higher up, the views open up before us, and we look straight into the small Valley of the Geysers. Steam hangs in the valley and over the surrounding mountains. The colours are striking: deep green, brown, red, yellow, white earth. What follows is an amazing walk, up a sometimes muddy slope, until we walk right through the smelly steam.
We hear a constant sputter of water, hissing sounds as if the water angrily was pushing itself out of the hot earth under our feet. In a few small holes, we see boiling mud, blowing bubbles that make for small explosions once they reach the grey surface. I am amazed that we can walk almost anywhere, and make sure not to step near any of the holes in the ground. Then again, there are so many, steam seems to be coming out constantly from everywhere. At times, the others disappear in the steamy clouds. I open up my sweater as the natural heating makes walking around here pleasant. Just a little higher up, I see a wall of snow, just out of reach of the heat constantly being spewed out of the earth. When we had enough fun exploring this fascinating valley, we walk to a nearby waterfall on the other side of the installations, under which a small pool has been installed. The hot water of the fall flows directly into it, mixed with hotter water from a nearby source, making for a perfect end of our exploration of the small Valley of the Geysers. While having something to eat before our drive back, the clouds lift a little, and the enormous size of Mutnovsky Volcano comes into view. To top it all of, we enjoy the ride back over Vilyuchinsky Pass and are back in the city as darkness falls.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
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