Dreams come true-2. Trip to Iturup
Last year, during my visit to Sakhalin, I had the desire to continue exploring this land, the eastern frontier of our country. This year I used the services of the same Sakhalin tour operator and visited the island of Iturup. It is the largest inhabited and generally the largest of the islands of the Kuril Ridge. The population is about 7,000 people, including military personnel. The administrative center is the town of Kurilsk. There are settlements: Reidovo (the largest), Kitovo, Rybaki, Burevestnik, military units. On the island, there are twenty-two volcanoes, seven of which are active. Two volcanoes-Bogdan Khmelnitsky and Chirip are located in the vicinity of the villages of Kurilsk and Reidovo. In between these is the Yasny airport, through which communication with Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is possible. There is one flight per day. There may be delays and cancellations, as it happened to me. When the weather is good, right from the airport there is a great view of Bogdan Khmelnitsky (volcano).
There is a very good asphalt road between Kurilsk and Reidovo, but beyond them, this achievement of civilization comes to an end, and then you have to drive on dirt roads. The quality of some of them leaves much to be desired. Though reconstruction of roads now proceeds.
In fact, only the central part of the island is inhabited. The north and south of the island are not accessible. Somewhere can only be reached by sea. Previously, the island was about 150 settlements, especially during the Japanese rule from 1875 to 1945. Japan, as you know, even now disputes ownership of the southern Kurils, including Iturup. Interestingly, if you try to look up the weather on the island on your mobile, Google gives its name as Etorofu. That is the Japanese name. And the Japanese consider the island and its inhabitants as their subjects – residents of Hokkaido Prefecture, Nemuro subprefecture. The Kuril Islanders, according to the local people, are denied visas to Japan and are invited to come for a visa-free exchange (because they’re their own!). An employee of a local museum told us about it.
Most of the island is covered with forests. In addition, a lot of rivers. They are all spawning.
Between the trees are very often found thickets of native bamboo. It is unreal to get through it, so hiking in the “wild” areas of the island can be very difficult. In the northern and central parts of the island, the “windy” shape of the crown of the trees prevails. This is especially noticeable in stone birch and larch.
There is a “dead lake” not far from Kurilsk. Because of the high hydrogen sulfide content in the water, there is no life there.
All tourist trips around the island are carried out exclusively by jeeps. In ordinary cars to pass on the dirt roads will be unreal. The island is very mountainous and, as I wrote earlier, there are many active volcanoes. One of them is Baransky volcano (photo album here). It is available for visits. Local firms organize trekking tours to its crater. Below is a photo of the summit of Baransky volcano. On the first day, almost immediately upon arrival, we had a tour of the volcano.
We did not go up to the crater, and our trip included a visit to the mud and mineral springs on the slopes of the volcano.
Surprisingly, the weather that day was very hot. It was up to +30. And then everything around us was soaring! It was a little hard, but the whole group held on heroically. During the tour of the mud springs we were clearly warned to be extremely careful and not to stick their hands in the mud. The real burns are very strong, because its temperature can reach up to +200 degrees. On the way out, everyone was given a box of volcanic mud. As a face mask it works great. Great cleansing effect.
The island is a treasure trove of free geothermal energy. At one time a geothermal station was built and worked on the island. Practically free electricity! But, this is what is left of it….
A horrible example of mismanagement! Now there are diesel power plants on the island. The cost of electricity is off the charts! It seems that an agreement has been reached to revive the Geo TPP. The new plant will be named “Ocean”.
After walking along paths through bamboo thickets, we approached the Boiling River and beautiful blue lakes.
If it was not so hot it would be perfect. But the heat near +30 plus steaming lakes and streams created the effect of Russian steam bath. It was a little hard, of course. The guides had prepared a little surprise. They made a show of cooking eggs in the spring.
This show, of course, is often organized in such places, but then to the boiled eggs began to “look for salt and something to drink. In quotes, because they pulled out a can of red caviar as salt and drank champagne. Let’s say it was an original picnic. It was hard to go upstairs to the road, where there were cars. But as they say, we will overcome everything! Our way onward was to the hot springs, where we were offered a swim. Not all people agreed, because in this heat to jump in the hot water is still a topic. But part of the group and I went. Unfortunately I did not take a picture there. At this site is a small construction, all ocultivate and make a small tourist complex. What I want to note, even though the water is quite hot, but after bathing on the background of the heat feel very good. Water, by the way, has a slightly acidic reaction. The sources are hydrogen sulfide, but a strong smell is not felt, moreover, you quickly get used to it. On the way back we met a chanterelle. They say they often go out to the road. We baited her a little and managed to take a few pictures. The guys said, that it is possible to meet a bear this way too.
That was the end of the first day on Iturup. After dinner, according to what people in the group said, everybody slept like a corpse… In general, a huge plus of the trip was that the food was on the scheme “full board”. This is good, that it is not necessary to think where to eat. And we should say that the food we ate was excellent. The portions were huge! The fish and seafood were present, of course. There was no problem for those who wanted to drink alcohol. The only problem was the price. For example, 550 rubles for a glass of dry white wine (Chile). Vodka 50ml – 200 rubles, etc.
The second day was devoted to a trip to the Pacific coast in the Casatka bay (photo album here). The way there took a pretty decent time, about three and a half hours. But it was because of the stops at interesting places on the way. We had a rule: drive there with maximum stops along the route. Photo stop at the beautiful places, and back without them. This, in my opinion, is very reasonable. The first stop was at the observation point and Kuibyshev Bay. This is still the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk. The bay has a good observation deck. The photo below is just a view of the bay from there.
The hills are covered with grass, with many flowers among it.
Near Kuibyshev Bay we visited a place where there was supposedly a Japanese cemetery. This is indicated by a sign placed by the Japanese.
On the way to Kasatka bay we passed local “zero” kilometer. Near the fork in the road to the military unit, there is a sort of memorial. There is an old military equipment and a pole with signs indicating the distances to towns. The cities are almost all Russian and it is assumed that these are distances from the duty station to the home towns. But, interesting point! The lowest sign on the pole indicates direction and distance to Miami. Who served here from Florida and the distance to Miami was a mystery that even the locals couldn’t explain.
Here is an enlarged fragment of the photo with the pointer.
Then the way to Kasatka Bay was along Lake Blagodatnoye. According to the locals it is heavily polluted, as a lot of oil products are dumped by the military. On the shore of the lake there are interesting rocks with screes. They are made of loose shell rock, which is being destroyed intensively.
Driving to the coast of Kasatka bay we reached a sandy beach. Sand as usual in areas of volcanism in color from gray to black. The beach is called “Mirror”. This is because when the surf line is gone, the sand is covered with a thin film of water, which looks like a real mirror.
You can drive quite a distance along the tide line. About halfway down the mirror beach is a local landmark – a discarded ship.
In some places, the sandy beach is interrupted by rocky ledges. In them are the famous caves, carved by the Japanese. They were used as military facilities for various purposes from warehouses to hospitals. It is believed that somewhere on the island there are still undiscovered secret underground facilities, presumably weapons depots. Possibly chemical or bacteriological weapons. It is clear that there is no particular hurry to find and open them. In any case the information would be classified.
There were docks and an airfield in the area during the war. There is a military airfield even now. The attack on Pearl Harbor began from here on Iturup. In general, the history of Kasatka Bay has tragic pages. It was not the Japanese who built the underground facilities. They were in charge and in command. Actually the construction was carried out by the hands of the Korean prisoners. When construction was finished, about 1500 Korean prisoners were loaded on a barge and sunk in the center of the bay. This and other similar episodes complicate relations between Japan and Korea. On our return from the shores of the bay a visit to the “Bathtub” hot spring complex awaited us. They, according to the annotation of the composition of the water posted in the complex, contains a small amount of radon. By the way visiting all the springs for visitors costs 1000 rubles per hour. For locals – 200 rubles.
The next day we planned a boating trip to the White Rocks (photo album here). Because of the weather the trip by boat did not happen, and we reached the rocks by car on the shore. They are on the shore of Prostor Bay, which belongs to the Sea of Okhotsk. The white cliffs are a stunning creation of nature. They stretch for 28 kilometers along the coast. The rocks, consisting of soft light pumice formed after the volcanic eruption, impress with their beauty. Particular charm of this place gives emerald greenery, which frames the tops of the cliffs. The pumice undergoes severe erosion under the influence of the Sea of Okhotsk storms, rains and numerous small rivers and streams, which form bizarre shapes of rocks. The coastal sand is mixed: mostly white quartz. To it black titanomagnetite is added. As a result of their mixing, a gray color is formed.
15 Sights of Iturup worth seeing
Iturup is the jewel of the Kuril Islands, the largest island in the range. Like a giant jellyfish (from the Aivi language Iturup is translated as such), the island stretches for 200 km, washed on all sides by the waves of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk. Separated from the Big Land, a small “piece” of Russia is strange, exotic, fascinating and captivating. Island-tale, the island-paradox.
A trip to Iturup, the sights of which can give way to the most famous and popular places of the planet, is coveted by many tourists. Those rushing to Iturup do not think about what to see on the island. It’s as if the magician-nature has made a special effort to create a “Kuril masterpiece” – delightful and beautiful landscapes.
astonishing, unusually beautiful landscapes, harsh, impregnable cliffs and serene sands, active and dormant volcanoes, boiling lakes and cool, iridescent waterfalls, fragrant diversity of meadows and impassable forest storms. Sea of bears and sea of fish.
One of the most picturesque sights of Iturupa, unique natural formation which has no analogues on the planet is White Cliffs. The snow-white intricately mottled ridge looks like a giant heap of lace extends for almost 30 kilometers along the northern coast of the island. The highest rock points exceed 100 m. Top of the ridge is covered with emerald “topping” – the green cover. And at the foot of scattered anthracite sand. The contrasting combination of colors is a delightful spectacle.
Thousands of years ago there was a volcanic explosion on the island, generating piles of light porous pumice. Time and rainfall, like sculptors, have intricately refined the formations, lacing the light, white solid rock with an openwork network of gorges and canyons. The winds have carried the seeds of plants that have grown wild with the passage of time. And the local minerals are “to blame” for the dark shade of the sand mass.
Address: White Rocks, Iturup.
An amazing natural sight and an important from the scientific and historical point of view – Yanquito Plateau. The plateau is located near the volcano Bogdan Khmelnitsky, which, in fact, owes its origin to. Today’s gloomy scenery, looking more like the scenery of a fantasy movie, was formed from lava spewed by the volcano and flowing into the Sea of Okhotsk.
Chaotic piles of rocks, looking like strange beasts, frozen in a jump, were formed from volcanic lava on the border between water and land. The dark stone giants brightly shade the foamy waves beating in the wearer. The lava field is almost dead, only in some crevices, where the wind has brought a little bit of earth, weak grass is breaking through.
In addition to the unique natural landscape, the plateau can “boast” a rich historical past. Here were discovered the sites of ancient people who lived approximately in the 7th century BC.
GPS coordinates: 45.283620, 147.870739.
Baransky volcano and Boiling brook.
Baransky Volcano and Boiling Creek.
Unique and fantastically beautiful landmark and calling card of not only Iturup, but of the entire Kuril range is Volcano Baransky. This volcano is active, and its latest eruption happened in the early fifties of the last century. And there is still intense volcanic activity, “giving rise” to many thermal springs of mineral water, geysers, waterfalls, hot lakes, bubbling mud pots and fumaroles.
Around, mosses and ferns feel at ease in the warm vapors. The colorful landscape is complemented by hissing, coming out of the ground with the steam.
The pearl of Baransky volcano is the Boiling Creek. The name is not accidental, the water in the river is very hot indeed. And in a picturesque tiny lake with turquoise water and golden sulfur rim, where the Boiling Creek originates, the temperature reaches boiling point.
The flow of the river is swift, the “boiling” dead water is absolutely transparent, and clouds of steam hang along the bed. As you move away from the source, the water stream cools a little. At the altitude where the water temperature drops to a comfortable 43 °, developed a spa complex. The cascades of baths are beautifully decorated with local stones, and there is an 8-meter hot waterfall.
Address: Vulcan Baransky, Iturup.
Kasatka Bay. | Photo: wikimedia.
An atmospheric place in the eastern part of Iturup, where you can directly touch the Pacific Ocean, is Kasatka Bay. On the coast stretches a wonderful Mirror Beach with clear, glistening water under the sun’s rays. Nearby rises the bulk of Devil’s Rock. On the shore, on the eternal resting place stands a tugboat, thrown out by the waves, which is a favorite “decoration” for photo sessions of tourists.
The history of the bay is interesting. In 1941, the Japanese squadron, based on Kasatka, went to storm Pearl Harbor. To this day, the remains of the Japanese military base with fortifications and warehouses are still preserved on the former airfield. A labyrinth of tunnels was cut into the Devil’s Rock and a laboratory, called a “hospital,” where, according to some reports, the Japanese military and medics were developing bacteriological weapons. After the war was over, the underground tunnels were not explored and all the entrances were blown up.
Address: Kasatka Bay, Iturup.
One of the most beautiful active volcanoes in the Kuril Ridge is a volcano with the difficult to pronounce name Atsonupuri. The uniqueness of this natural landmark lies in the impeccable appearance due to the almost perfect shape of the cone. The perfect hill, situated on a peninsula jutting out into the sea, towers above the waves like a lonely giant, washed by water on almost all sides. The volcano has no dimensions, its highest point reaches only 1200 m, but its slopes are quite steep, entirely covered with dense vegetation.
The richness and diversity of flora is another peculiarity of Atsonupuri. Nowhere else in the Kurils one can find such an unusual neighborhood of northern and Asian plant species. At the same time, under the action of violent winds during a typhoon, trees and large shrubs acquire fantastic shapes, and the whole forest looks like a fairy tale storm.
Address: Volcano Atsonupuri, Iturup.
An interesting sight of Iturup, a whimsical natural anomaly – Limonite Cascade. At an altitude, wedged between two volcanoes, a stream rushes through the ground. Rushing downhill, it is fed with water from springs along the way and turns into the rushing North Chirip River. Closer to the mouth of the river, the water flowing, bouncing on stepped boulders and freely falling down acquires an unusual, reddish-brown hue. This is the Limonite Cascade.
The water owes its original color to the minerals deposited on the stones. The most “aggressive” is brown ironstone, or limonite, which colors the water in such an unusual color. The waterfall is especially picturesque, throwing down “bloody” streams from a height of 10 meters. The colorful apotheosis occurs at the source, at the confluence of the red iron water of the river with the turquoise waves of the Sea of Okhotsk. Two dramatically different in color water elements have a clear boundary and as if represent different worlds.
GPS coordinates: 45.360709654698866N 147.87138462066653E.
Lion’s Mouth Bay
The Lion’s Mouth Bay.
The Lion’s Mouth Bay sandwiched between rocky capes is one of the most interesting bays not only on Iturup but also on the whole Kuril Islands chain. On the map, the bay’s outline looks more like a crab’s claw, but the name was predetermined by the giant Lion-stone, “guarding” the entrance to the bay.
The bay owes its formation to the volcano of the same name, which erupted several thousand years ago and formed a caldera with high, curved walls. The rushing water from the sea completely filled the huge, empty bowl.
Over time the northern part of the caldera wall collapsed, and the only large above-water fragment that remains is the rocky island of Kamen-Lev. The emblematic object of the bay, sometimes called the local sphinx, rises to 160 m above the sea. The outline of the island resembles a resting lion, hence the name.
Address: Lion’s Mouth Bay, Iturup.
Ilya Muromets waterfall
Ilya Muromets waterfall.
One of the highest waterfalls in Russia, majestic and mighty – Ilya Muromets Iturup waterfall. The waterfall got his name for his impressive “dimensions”, the upper point, from which the steep cliff with the gloomy name Demon plunges streams of water, is 140 meters. There are higher waterfalls in the country, but the value of the free fall of water, without “jumping” on the stone ledges, Ilya Muromets is the most significant.
For the scope and rapidity of the water avalanche, the Ainu, the local people, even called the waterfall the Falling River. During strong winds, not uncommon in the Kuril Islands, the water stream turns into a wide, fan-shaking drip veil.
Scientists noted an interesting fact – the waterfall is favored by Pacific whales, which regularly swim up to the place where the water falls. The fact that the sea giants use it as a kind of “saniobrabotka”, the fresh water falling down with force, perfectly washes off the crustaceans clinging to their skin.
Address: Ilya Muromets waterfall, Iturup.
Windward isthmus meadows
Windward isthmus meadows.
“Neck” of Iturup, an extremely wet, narrow lowland blown by all winds, is the isthmus of Vetrovoy. On one side the land is washed by the waves of the Sea of Okhotsk, on the other – by the Pacific Ocean, there is only 6,5 km between the coasts. Proximity of powerful water elements maintains a particularly humid microclimate on the isthmus, and ocean and sea winds blow here without hindrance. Hence, in fact, the name of the isthmus came from here.
Vetrovaya is famous for its picturesque meadows with rich herbs. Despite the short Kuril summer, a few months are enough for the lowlands to turn into a fabulous grass forest. Plants grow lush and dense, reaching out to the sun vividly, the grass sometimes exceeds the height of a man. And flowers amaze the imagination with the number of species and the intensity of colors. In the middle of the isthmus is a small extinct volcano, because of the blooming splendor around it is called Klumba.
GPS coordinates: 45.248588, 148.301746
The most ancient volcano of the Kuril Ridge located on the rugged Medvezhy Peninsula in the northern part of Iturup, in a real “bear’s corner” where the real “hoppers” is immense – Medvezhy Volcano. It is a dormant volcano, the last eruption happened many thousands years ago.
A curious feature of Bear’s volcano is located on top of two craters simultaneously. And both active at the same time, spewing lava in the “double size”. Abundant lava streams flooded all around, reaching the Pacific coast. Over time, the slopes of the volcano are densely overgrown with cedar shrubbery and bamboo.
Address: Bear Volcano, Iturup.
A gloomy, quaintly exotic piece of land in the northwest of Iturup is the Chirip Peninsula. The relief of this narrow and long peninsula, which juts out far into the Pacific Ocean, is mountainous; the rocky masses and volcanoes that closely neighbor one another soar high into the sky. The height of two active volcanoes, Chiripa and Bogdan Khmelnitsky, exceeds one and a half kilometers.
There are many reservoirs on the peninsula. The water in the major rivers is acidic and not at all suitable for drinking, but in many small streams and springs streams the purest fresh water flows. There are several small lakes and a whole scattering of waterfalls. The most famous and universally recognized gem of Chirip is Limonite Cascade, which owes its popularity to the unusual reddish-brown hue of water due to minerals deposited on the stones.
Address: Chirip Peninsula, Iturup.
Volcano Ivan the Terrible
Volcano Ivan the Terrible.
Peculiarly shaped active volcano Ivan the Terrible is situated in the center of Iturup. Outwardly, the volcano looks like a fantastic three-humped camel. In a powerful explosive eruption thousands of years ago the huge dome collapsed, and in its place were formed three domed elevations, separated by hollows. On the top of the largest elevation, the union of two explosive cones resulted in an elongated, deep ditch with steep walls. On the slopes and at the foot of the volcano – a scattering of faintly soaring fumaroles.
Ivan the Terrible is an active volcano, a few minor eruptions were recorded in the last century. Already in this century there was an emission of ash that covered the area for several kilometers around.
Address: Volcano Ivan the Terrible, Iturup.
On the southern side of Iturup, a chain of volcanoes with the difficultly pronounced name Hitokappu form the highest and longest on the island, Bogatyr Ridge. The volcanic chain stretches for almost 50 kilometers, and the ridge is crowned by two “giants” – Stokap and Petrel volcanoes, whose height exceeds one and a half kilometers.
The most interesting volcano is Stokap, located on the southern tip of the ridge. Once upon a time, its erupting lava flooded all around, reaching the shores of the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean. Now the volcano is a complex “structure” of dozens of cones and craters, with a small lake splashing in one of them. With its 1634 m above sea level, Stokap tops the list of the highest volcanoes in Iturup. Currently, the volcano is asleep and shows no activity.
Address: Bogatyr Ridge, Iturup.
A picturesque body of water, located high in the mountains in the southern part of Iturup – Lake Beautiful. The bowl of the lake is the caldera of an ancient volcano, an area of not less than 6 sq. km, and a maximum depth of about 50 m. From the eastern side the caldera rampart is destroyed, and through the formed opening the water flows into the ocean through the short and not wide, but noisy and porous Urumpet River. Krasivoye is fed by seven small springs.
Krasivoye is a real “fish Klondike”, the largest natural spawning ground of salmon in the Kuril Islands has been registered here. During the spawning season, from early June to late August, a record “crop” of eggs is released. At the same time, the size of the lake seal is much larger than the statistical average. This is explained by the fact that only big, strong fish can overcome the rough and powerful current of the Urumpet and reach the lake for spawning.
Address: Krasivoye Lake, Iturup.
One of the most mysterious and little-studied objects of Iturup, occupying almost the whole southern tip of the island, is the active volcano Berutarube. Little information and a lot of mysteries around the volcano are caused by its inaccessibility. There are no tourist routes, much less guided walks on Berutarube, and scarce information about it comes from infrequent scientific expeditions.
The steep slopes of the volcano are often cut by ravines and crossed by canyons of rivers and streams. Among the piles of rocks and boulders there are often waterfalls, some of them quite full-flowing. The dense mixed forest at the foot and at the bottom of the slope closer to the top is replaced by cedar shrubbery. As if another obstacle for idle tourists are thickets of willowgrass, whose pretty leaves can cause a serious burn. Several craters were formed at the top of the volcano, and in one of them the saltpeter field is steaming and smoking.