Marcin Konkel

Kamchatka travel diaries

Voulcanos on Kamchatka. Photograph (C) by Jolanta Siedlecka. See for more.

As we dig in deeper and craft the draft plan we find that not much is written about Kamchatka, the remote peninsula or Russian Far East. Or it's not easily accessible at least. We are reaching out to people and talking about our plans. Jola is one of these people. She has visited this remote land few months ago and has agreed to support us in terms of gathering information and contacts to locals. Jola is a traveller and has seen quite a bit of the world. She is blogging in Polish at "Dzienniki z podróży" (en. Travel diaries). Her last posts are about the journey in question. I've asked Jola about the impressions on Kamchatka and what were the highlights of her journey.


What were your first thoughts when you got out of the plane at Yelizovo Airport?

First thought - oh no! It's raining! Next one - how beautifully the peaks look on the horizon. In my memory I recall the feeling of these first moments on Kamchatka, as it was a return back to the 90s - the buildings, the way people dressed and behaved - similar scenes have reminded me of Poland 20 years back. I was delighted that our journey on the peninsula is starting, that we are there already, that it is happening! In my mind there was also anxiety what awaits us. When we were on the airfield asking people if they knew a any place around for pitching a tent - every other person was more and more surprised. I thought to myself -there are many adventures on the way.

Did you visit Russia before going to Kamchatka? What impressions did you find about people living there?

I was interested in Russia for a long time and I had my first journey there in 2013. I spent two weeks travelling from Moscow to Vladivostok via Trans-Siberian railway. During this I met many people, in different age and with different background. Russians were very friendly, hospitable, open to us and started conversations about life, family, and the Western culture. It was similar on Kamchatka. Here, we also met interesting people with various stories, sincere, helpful. On the peninsula there are many migrants from former Soviet Union who have moved here few decades ago looking for work or were resettled. The younger inhabitants, if only their families can afford it, escape to larger cities. Most frequently to Moscow. Those that stayed often share their nostalgia and longing.

How did you get interested in the East?

Instinctively, somehow East always attracted me more than West. Conscious interest begun to develop after summer holidays on Podlachia (pl. Podlasie). I spent there a few weeks, closely village of Mielnik next to Bug river. It was in 2000. The nature and lovely wooden houses with colourful windows have stolen my heart. I was also traveling to the surroundings of the city of Białystok - untouched nature, openness of local people, cultural otherness and their hospitality captivated me. Someone has mentioned in passing - (If you like this) "You'd like it in Russia!". Thus, I started to dig into the subject and, in my dreams, travel farther and farther, to the Siberian taiga and villages beyond the Ural. After few years an opportunity came up to verify those images. I really did like it! After coming back from Russia I knew I will be going back again.


What do you find in travel? What does it have that pushes you further to subsequent journeys?

I find quite a few things in travelling - new perspectives on the places I visit and people living there, the distance to the surrounding world and.. calm. I discover myself and get to know better. Thanks to the way of travelling that I prefer (with a tent, without guides and a fixed plan) I start to know my strengths and weaknesses. I switch off the routine and with a more mindful approach observe the world. After each journey the world changes it's colours. I don't think stereotypically about a particular region and I refer to what I have observed and experienced myself. Discovering the unknown, getting to know myself and the urge for an adventure push me towards new destinations.

Which moment, during your journey through Russia, was the most insteresing and which brought disappointment?

First trip was full of interesting moments - the nature, people's behaviour, their customs and manners, food, Baikal lake, villages and towns. On the Far East it was a bit different. After experiences from the former expedition we knew, more or less, what to expect. On Kamchatka, an interesting adventure was going out trekking in the area of Klyuchevskaya Sopka. Though, we did not complete it, not having a several-day march, the beautifully sun-lit volcanos that we had the chance to see and what we managed to experienced was surely exceptional. That maybe the effect of my attitude towards this country but I never felt disappointed during my journeys through Russia. Well, maybe a small disappointment were the bears which did not welcome us when we arrived to Kamchatka.


During your journeys you started writing your travel diaries. What is your approach to writing? Why that form of expressing yourself?

That's true. Nearly four years ago I've written my first travel diary. Since then, there were few of them that I filled. The first thought was that I will only note the names of places I visited together with dates and a comment if it was interesting there or not. Over time, somehow spontaneously, I was writing more and more - adventures on the road, people I met, accommodation, prices, transport details, some phrases that were coined. I have never placed attention to the style of writing - what came to my head was written down. Chaotically filled sheets of paper with noted thoughts on margins are, for me, a very valuable, and in most cases only (apart from photographs), souvenirs from travels. It's known that our memory can play tricks on us. Thanks to my "travel books" I have something to get back to. Up till just recently, "diaries" were existing only in a paper form. I didn't think that they might be interesting to anybody. The coincidence of few events has caused that I started to publish them on the Internet and it happens that there are people willing to read them. This makes me very pleased. Maybe some day I start making movies from my journeys. I don't know. For the time being, writing gives me great joy.

On your blog you use the subtitle "based on the notes from "lieary" (lie-diary, pl. "na podstawie zapisków z kłamiętniczka"). Why "lieary"?

It's connected with a certain story that I always recall with a smile. In 2013, before travelling to Russia, I received a thick notebook from my friends with a inscription that it is to serve as a diary. And it did. I was noting all the adventures, everything that I found interesting, important, funny and not-so-amusing. One of my travel mates asked why I am writing so much if not that many things are happening around and that I must be surely lying. How otherwise you would explain these notes? One time, when I was writing for a longer period already, the same friend of mine asked if he can borrow the notebook for a moment. After a minute he gave it back with an altered cover to "lieary". This is how it was since then, the name stuck and among my friends it was used regularly. I, myself, from that moment on don't write travel diaries but travel "liearies". My blog is based on them. 

The ultimate destination that you dream about visiting?

The biggest dream is to drive through Russia, paying a short visit to the mountains of Pamir, later on continuing through Siberia, Yakutia, Chukotka to Bering strait. From there going straight to Alaska. I hope that there will be a time when I'll be able to fulfil this dream.

Thank you Jola for your time and helping us out with the expedition. It was a pleasure to talk to you.

PS. Jola has bought a ticket to Peru last week and with her friends she also plans to spend a month in Bolivia.