Sing a song, merry wind

Perhaps, not everyone would agree but I would mention Elbrus among the symbols of Russia. Aren’t there enough reasons for that? It’s the highest mountain of Europe, one of the seven summits, the place of the battle for Caucasus during the Second World War and the symbol of the European south of Russia. The routes of Elbrus are not of difficulty – from 2A to 3A. Despite that, it has fame of a demanding climb. The climate on the 43th degree is capricious.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We decided to ascend from the north, by the historic route of the first explorers. The main reason for this choice was to avoid the crowds of skiers and pseudo mountaineeres that “ascend” the mountain with the help of the funicular on the south face. Tho the amount of expeditions we met amused me, and the majority was from abroad: not just Europe but also groups from South Africa, India, Venezuela and Jordan!

For 1500 rub we joined a touristic group from Kislovodsk to the thermals of Djyly-Su. Took longer but much cheaper than a private transfer. Then we walked up to the Emanuel glade (2500m) – it is  from here the general Emanuel was tracking through binoculars the advance of his team towards the Eastern summit of Elbrus in 1829. The name of Emanuel is not forgotten and, I notice, is remembered much better than that of the kabardinetz Killar Khashirov, who was the first (and the only one in that day) to reach the summit. The rest of the group – scientists from the Saint-Petersburg Academy of Sciences and Cossacks from plains turned back. Well, acclimatization on Elbrus is particularly important. Taking into account that the attack is 1800 m in vertical we’ll have to gain. And the weather that might happen dud.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Even with a heavy backpack it’s an hour-long hike from Djily-Su to the base camp. Some adrenaline into blood I received crossing the Malka river. The bridge is a heap of barely nailed planks supported by the only tube 10-cm in diameter. The angle of this shabby construction above the mountain stream made me crawl and hold my breath.

A quick dive into Malka river – cool glacial water – express  way to get the fighting spirit back.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The next day we’re leaving for the high camp to drop some supplies and equipment. The high camp “Northern Refuge” is on the altitude of 3750m, right at the foot of the glacier. We can clearly see the Lentz rocks from there – that very spot where the physic Emily Lenz returned back. From these rocks to the summit – a gradual inclined ascent. Another 800m – very long as it’ll seem to me on the attack day.

On way up to the high camp we follow the river, the beautiful canyon, for thousands of years water was working on these curves. Actually there’s a sign from the side of the Emanuel glade: Prohibited to pass. In bad weather the trail turns into a muddy slide. There’s a way around through the hills.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The trail takes us to the Aerodrom – a huge glade at 2867m. Here during the Great Patriotic War the Nazi planes landed. In these mountains the fights for Caucasus took place and both Nazi and Soviet divisions were counting mountain climbers.

The landscape is pastoral: grass is green, flowers flourish. A bit higher the panorama changes – we enter the moraine of Mingi Tau – another name of Elbrus which means “One of thousand of mountains” in balkarsky language.

We set our tent next to the tiny blue lagoon, in the middle of the moraine, away from commercial camps. I fell in love with this beautiful spot and a view on the double-headed mountain and was really sad to leave it after the mountain let us summit it. From here it’s obvious how fast the climate above Elbrus change.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Under the glacier the streams sing, ice the clearest water is seen through the spoungy ice. We had  impression that a river runs under our feet. Splits start a bit higher. Early morning they are covered by snow, later at descend, melt under the sun, they impress me with ice stalactites.

Acclimatization hike – “acclimukha” –  we do till the mid-Lenz rocks – 4600m. Honestly speaking, after two days of hikes between the base and the high camps I had no desire to go further. But that was enough for the day – a half of what we’ll have to make on the attack night. The Eastern summit – 5621m.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the rest day I fully recover.When I woke up at night, the sky was starry and clear. Elbrus was here, solemn and calm, so near and so dear.

Beautiful! – I could only wisper.

Despite the blizzard and 1800m we had to hike up on the attack, there was no mountain in my life where I would feel so energetic and inspired as on Elbrus. At our attack day Elbrus greeted us with сalm, then frosty sunrise, strong wind, feasted us with blizzard and the sun.

«Sing a song to us, merry wind». My mother used to sing me this Soviet pioneer song when I was a kid and was tired to walk. She, probably, couldn’t imagine I would murmur it in a gruffish voice walking up Elbrus 25 years later.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Honestly… I’ve never seen such a beautiful view in my life as from the summit of Elbrus. After many hours walking up that amazing harsh world of the steep show peaks of the Greater Caucasus lays at my feet…

On the summit I dropped a tear of happiness. So many foreign trails, countries and summits in 7 years – and finally I’m here, on dear Elbrus, the roof of my Motherland…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Kabardino-Balkaria: ancient graves, greek temples, Ginggis-khan and kidnapped brides.

To have a better image of the place where I invite all my flying friends to visit at least once in their life – a post about Kabardino-Balkaria and the Gorge of Chegem in particular.


Kabardino-Balkaria is one of the republics on the south of Russia. Its main ethnic group is called Kabardintsy – more than 50% of the populations, followed by Russians and Balkartsy. The most numerous tribe counts its history from VI BC, from the ethnos of Adygy – those mentioned by the authors of the Antique world.

Nazir, my dear friend, in his turn belongs to the group of Balkartsy, representatives of the most ancient native Koban archaeological culture of the Central Caucasus. His ancestors were hunting in these mountains already in XIV-XIII BC.

I won’t get too far into the history of this region but believe me it’s very fascinating. Such a central” location between Asia and Europe attracted here all types of battailous tribes and conquerors, including inglorious Genghis-knan and Tamerlane.

Flag of Kabardino-Balkaria.svg
The flag of the Republic. As you can guess, the mountain in the middle is Elbrus (5642m), the highest mountain of Russia and Caucasus.

Kabardintsy and Balkartsy traditionally have big families and very strong tights between their members. Though, between two ethnos there’s not too much mutual sympathy. I heard the story that a young Balkar woman was prohibited to get married with a Kabardin man. So the latter had to kidnap her. This tradition is very ancient, and my mother still is very preoccupied every time I go to travel around Caucasus. But, honestly speaking, such occasions nowadays happen only from mutual agreement between the enamored. If you ask me, I wouldn’t mind being kidnapped by my beloved man 🙂


The gorge of Chegem is called after the mountain river and cuts all the  Kabardino-Balkaria in two halves. “The Broken land” – this is how its name might be translated. In the narrowest part of it the waterfalls attract heaps of tourists: Su-Auzu or The throat of water. They break forth from the rocks 50 m above the bottom of the gorge.The legend tells:

One Balkar village was famous for beauty of its young women. Once enemy entered the gorge and enslaved its inhabitants. The girls escaped from their native settlement to the  edge and jumped down to the abyss. While falling, their gorgeous long hair clung to the rocks. This is how the waterfall were born. By the way, they freeze in winter, and I was told it’s a marvellous scenery.

These’re not famous Chegem waterfalls. But around the gorge you’ll find plenty of hidden streams and cascades.

Chegem Paradrom is a walking distance from the Balkar settlement El-Tyubyu (Эл-Тюбю). Some of its houses were built here several centuries ago. The tower of the principles Balkarukov is a monument to a love story. According to the legend, Ahtugang Balkarukov constructed it to protect his lands from the family of Kerime, a woman he kidnapped in Dagestan (another Russian republic). But the Middle Age is not the most ancient period of time that remembers the Gorge of Chegem. Not far from the village the Greek temples cut in rock massifs are found. There locals hid themselves from numerous conquerors passing through the gorge.


Dead of ancient times still stay around the lively village. A bit up the hill – and I’m surrounded by mausoleums – dolmeny, how they are called here. Estimated X-XII centuries.


And the last fact to leave you interested: not far from El-Tyubyu the abnormal zone was found. Kum-Tyube, “sandy hill”, a volcanic massif, is notorious for mysterious events happening around it….

Well, there’ll be something to do there in a rainy day, don’t you think? 🙂


As I mentioned in the previous post devoted to the Chegem Paradrom and paragliding, it’s possible to make a cross to Elbrus from the Gorge of Chegem. I haven’t done that but I summited this mountain through its Northern face (the opposite side of Kabardino-Balkaria). On foot 🙂 So my next post will be about that – I hope you’ll be interested 🙂


The skies of my Motherland

It’s been a while I didn’t write to my blog but kept wandering the world. My life has changed when I learnt the art to fly – PARAGLIDING. Since then, me and my Independence Dragon have been to many amazing corners and would love to tell about them to everyone! 🙂

Recently back from Caucasus, in my electronic box I’ve found an e-mail from National Geographyc – an invitation for another photo-contest named «From Above». I’m quite skeptical about my own chances to attract attention in the community, where there’re so many professional photographers, but still – I sent a couple of my photos. Couldn’t but send when I look from above on the land of such an incredible beauty!

“From Above”

This is Kabardino-Balkaria, the republic on the south of my Motherland and the most beautiful spot I’ve ever flown!


Honestly speaking, my breath stopped when I saw the Chegem gorge from above!
Already from Saint-Petersburg I called to Nazir Bashtakov, “chief” of the Paradrom Chegem. He and Marat – the chief of the second younger base – generous hosts, who receive pilots and people who come there to fly tandem.


Nazir, thank you so much for your hospitality! These were fantastic, beautiful, generous and inspiring days! Nazir offer a couple of containers-hostels with beds and warm blankets – like at home. If you wish it’s possible to camp, there’s lots of place for that. “The base” has a shower, a kitchen and a dining room under the roof. And a place for barbeque.

A place in the container is 300 rub. per night. The menu is combined of all the traditional Caucasian dishes – home-made and very reasonable priced. Sofyad, Nazir’s wife, cooks them right there, on the little kitchen of the camping ground.


I was in Chegem at the beginning of August, and the morning we spent waiting – for valley breeze to set. As soon as the flags were waving actively enough, we were leaving for the start. It’s not far on foot, if lucky – a car with tandem passengers might give a lift.

The plateau behind
The plateau behind “The Triangle”

Flights: thermodynamic. Two take-offs – the lower «cucamber» and the upper one. Altitude of the take-off – about 1600m, 170m about the landing. Coordinates of the take-off: N 43° 17′ 27” E 43° 10′ 12”


The first step – to gain altitude in the dynamics of the valley breeze along the “shovels” of the mountain Zinki. Then more variants emerge. For example,

  • head to the “Triangule”, where normally it’s not hard to find a “duty termal”. After reaching the summit – to the neighbor watershed, where it’s already much easier to gain altitude. From there – feel free to try a cross along the spurs of the Greater Caucasus.
  • head to “the red rocks”. They face west, so they need time to warm up in the morning. If to grab luck to gain altitude, it’s possible to aim at His Majesty Elbrus – the highest summit of Russia and Europe (5642m) – according to some versions. Nevertheless, attention – the currents of air on “the red rocks” are capricious.


The cloud ceiling in a clear day is more than 4000m.

After midday clouds arrive. Rain doesn’t happen every day though. Even if comes, the pilots fly almost till the first drops.
What a view from above – words can’t express! Snowy shiny slopes of the Greater Caucasus, enormous rocky plateau, villages in the depth of the valley stretching to Georgia. By the way, the border is not far.


How to get there: the closest big city – Nalchik, it’s easy to get there from any Caucasian city. From Nalchik at 17.00 every day public bus to Bulungu leaves. We’re going 75 km from Nalchik, 16 km on a dirt road after the touristic Chegem waterfalls. Hop off on the stop Paradrom – have to ask the driver in advance, and from there to the Paradrom the dirt road goes. The base of Nazir is in the depth of the gorge, the last one.

TO BE CONTINUED… (In the next post  I’ll tell a bit more about this piece of land – about hot-blooded tribes, ancient graves, wonders of nature and local legends)


Parati: on a Trail of Gold

– I lived in Rio for five years. Then moved to Paraty.

– Do you like it more than Rio?

– Of course. It’s so relaxed here…

That’s Umberto, a driver that gave us lift on the coastal road BR101. I met him again while strolling around charming evening Paraty, soaking up its music, its soft light, its slow pace.

– Francesco is a painter. He’s working now. Go, have a look at his picture.

Francesco is submerged into inspiration and creativity but gladly greets me, when I emerge at his side.

– What’s that?

– It’s a naked woman, doing “shi-shi”.

I see…

The word Parati, synonym for cachaça, gave name to the city, which grew on a trade way Caminho de Ouro (Trail of Gold). It still brings money, the trail to Paraty but for now from tourism.


Little cute monkeys dine on bananas.
Little cute monkeys dine on bananas.

IMG_0318 IMG_0321 IMG_0345 IMG_0347 IMG_0350

Paraty is surrounded by jungles of Southern Brazil, always wet and foggy.
Paraty is surrounded by jungles of Southern Brazil, always wet and foggy.

IMG_0356 IMG_0361


They say there’s nature in Rio-de-Janeiro!

– I love nature. It doesn’t bore me. It surprises. Always

– Here’s nature, right in front of you (with a wide gesture pointing to the Atlantic swell, dotted with popping heads of people in a wave foam and a dark-skinned “gondolier”, without rush rowing on his surf board in direction of Barra da Tijuca…)

Reminded me… “They say there’s nature on the Brighton beach!” (“Madagascar”)

That was yesterday, when right after arrival me and my new acquaintances were killing time on the Ipanema beach.

– What do people do on a beach? I have no idea…

– There’re lot’s of things… like digging neighbor’s feet in sand, for example…

– That I see… what else?

…I don’t know…

That’s why today I head to Jardin Botanico (Botanic Garden). There’s nature there and there’s definitely something to do.


Dry leaves are gliding on me from above, scratching my skin. Here they die not because of luck of sun, but of its abundance. It ruthlessly dries me out too. Because I’m also here, in Brazil.


To the right of me – completely naked giant. Unfortunately, he’s not a man. He’s a tree. Perhaps, it feels hot too, that’s why undressed.

Green birds, looking like parrots, are fighting on flight and crying loudly. Louder than parrots are only school boys, who came here with a tour.



This little guy could make nervous a ballet dancer - so graceful!
This little guy could make nervous a ballet dancer – so graceful!


Flowers smell amazingly! But are so heavy that very soon fall down to the soil.
Flowers smell amazingly! But are so heavy that very soon fall down to the soil.

IMG_0217 IMG_0212

Orchids were used by witches to prepare "love spells"
Orchids were used by witches to prepare “love spells”


Jaka - very smelly and very tasty fruit.
Jaka – very smelly and very tasty fruit.
Palm leaf
Palm leaf

IMG_0159 IMG_0134

And those water plants reach 2m wide and can carry 45 kilos easily.
And those water plants reach 2m wide and can carry 45 kilos easily.

IMG_0121 IMG_0111

I’m back! Back… to Rio : )

…And the fog swallowed us. I felt like a hedgehog in the mist (google Soviet cartoons).

YozhikThat fog was my welcome back to Rio de Janeiro, the first thing I saw landing in its national airport this morning.

This time I came not only for Brazil but for other five or six South American countries. In two days my friend arrives, and we set about several hitch-hiking journey around the continent. Yes, that’s what I promised you before my previous trip. And I keep my word : )

All in all, there’s no certain plan. There’s road. There’s hot sun. There’s song. And wind (hopefully!). And we follow them. Where we will end up – let’s see all together.

And as aperitif… no, not the Christ Redeemer statue on Corcovado hill… Copacabana is also a wrong guess… well, for the starter – a portion of Brazilian street art. This time – from RIo-de-Janeiro!

DSCF1487 (Копировать)
Be nice with Brazilian women!

DSCF1510 (Копировать)DSCF1526 (Копировать)DSCF1522 (Копировать)

Random doors of Rio.
Random doors of Rio.
Real and imaginary Rio exist side by side.
Real and imaginary Rio exist side by side.
In Lapa, artistic and touristic center. Behind musicians - Lapa's famous arches.
In Lapa, artistic and touristic center. Behind musicians – Lapa’s famous arches.
And this is how a stair way to Heaven looks like. Rio style.
And this is how a stair way to Heaven looks like. Rio style.
This is probably what every Brazilian dreams about in rare minutes free from wild parties : )
This is probably what every Brazilian dreams about in rare minutes free from wild parties : )
And this is what I dream about. No matter when.
And this is what I dream about. No matter when.
Ugly truth on ceramics.
Ugly truth on ceramics.

DSC00095 (Копировать)DSC00090 (Копировать)DSC00096 (Копировать)

DSCF1492 (Копировать)
This one is my favourite – in Lapa.
DSCF1507 (Копировать)
The crazy party people wait for you right after the Lapa arches.

DSC00110 (Копировать)DSCF1489 (Копировать)DSCF1481 (Копировать)DSCF1475 (Копировать)DSCF1474 (Копировать)

Ordem e progresso.
Ordem e progresso.

DSC00010 (Копировать)

“Pearls” of Brazilian street art

In Brazilian cities it’s possible to find real “pearls” of street art. And, although wandering though yards and narrow streets can be dangerous, some pieces of art we’ve found are really worth being discovered. Especially if you are accompanied by a local friend : ) These’re pieces of the capital of the state Bahia, Salvador.

Cute Kuza lives on a wall of a coastal road in Salvador.
Mosaic is not rare on walls of the city.
Full car of love : )
Cheerful road creatures. They live on a market on the square 2 de Julio too.

Social art: If a field is not planted, the city doesn’t dine.

This guy is a famous street artists in Salvador. Don’t remember his name, I guess the surname is Eden. But I really like his works.
Had an idea that someone tried to copy the previous artist…

This cool cow stays in Pelorinho, on Praca da Se.

Sculpture in a park of MAM (Museo de Arte Moderna).
People come to MAM park for rest. View on a sunset is one of the best in Salvador there. And every Saturday jazz concerts are held.
My favourite guy : ) The note under the sculpture says: “Abraço” – “I hug you”. If to look more thoroughly, he doesn’t desire just to hug, but to kiss too : )
After 20 minuted spent there with this hospitable creature, I started to feel that he’s beautiful too in his own way…

Beautiful dream

– I’m so jealous of losing you to this world you want so badly.

Smoke in Alps.
Sunrise in Atlantic ocean.

To possess and not be able to embrace, to admire from a distance, being a part of it. Perfect harmony and painful craving hand in hand. Isn’t that what happiness is: to desire the most what we do possess…

The shore of Norway.
Sunset in a desert Namib.

– Each time I cross the border, I lose illusions. And I move further and further in search of home.

Islands of Abrolhos, Brazil

Leaving pieces of my heart on my way, one day I won’t have any for myself. And then I will repeat my journey to collect them back…

In search of happiness that is already mine.

Across Pelorinho: an antique shop (part 3)

For me and my friends the concert of Geronimo is a meeting place. To get the staircase of Igreja do Passo on Tuesday night, we usually don’t take straight way through overcrowded Rua do Carmo, but reach the church through Rua do Passo that goes up to the left.

Where on Tuesday there’s no space for apple to fall, today only children are playing on steps.

To the left from the staircase there’s a cozy bar “Alkimia” (Rua do Carmo), where in evening you can meet travelers from all over the world. The place is tiny but they have Caipirihna and Caipiroska, and what else your soul can desire for relaxed chat?

Street art of Pelorinho

Caipirinha is made from fruits and Brazilian rum Cachasa. Caipiroska – from vodka and fruits. Depends on which fruit you use, the name transforms: morangaroska – with strawberry, uvaroska – with grapes and so on. As we accidently discovered, the word Caipiroska is created according to grammar of my native language and in analogy with Portuguese Caipirinha: -shka is a diminitive suffix in Russian, -nha – in Portuguese.

Rua do Carmo

I make my way further, along a huge building that now host one of the most expensive hotels in Salvador. Lovely houses, some of them on sale. Just 20 years ago you could buy them for pretty good price, tho in huge need of restoration. Today Pelo is definitely not the cheapest place, crowds of tourists that visit it every year.

Among souvenir shops that are pretty alike there’re art galleries, whose owners are artists themselves and glad to share some thoughts with curious customers sometimes.

My revelation was an antique shop that sells everything that you can imagine: from books to Tvsets, from keys to jewellry, from toys to coins. It occupies three floors of an old house on Rua do Carmo. And don’t be lazy to climb creaky staircase to the last floor: erotic Chinese pictures are situated right there : )

Hosts of the shop are not very talkative – apparently tired of unpolite touristic interest, who wander around shelves but buy nothing. So I murmur my “boa tarde” (good evening) and leave. Dusk time is close so I need to think of a place to watch the sunset – lovely tradition of Salvador and coastal Bahia.

And I know one.

I pass the square with a Saint virgin in the middle. The Jesus’s mother is accompanied by bar dwellers, who spend their evening, drinking beers under her kind protection.


I enter the restaurant on the left side of the street, but don’t stay for a drink and cross the whole place to a balcony. As in many other old houses in Pelorinho, it faces Baia dos Todos os Santos. The sun has already touched the horizont and turns burns red. Right in time!

Old fountain on backwards of the restaurant.

Beginning of the journey through Pelorinho, Salvador is here:

– new life of an old execution place:

– Afro-Brazilian spirit:


Across Pelorinho: Afro-Brazilian spirit (part 2)

Despite rich religious heritage, in Tuesday evening Pelorinho turns into main party place, in truly Brazilian spirit. Then streets are filled with drum bands, who march all around with loud batucada (drum playing). On squares stages are set, and crowds of people come in Pelo to dance, drink and chat.

View from Largo do Pelorinho

But now it’s day, and I don’t go to my favorite bar “Cravinho” on the right side of Largo Terreiro de Jesus (the bar is named after tasteful sweet herbal liquor that is popular in Baia). Wave to capoeiristas, who make their performance near the fountain and quickly check today’s program of a small but cozy comida a kilo on the corner of Rua das portas de Carmo: sometimes they have live music in the evening.

Rua das Portas de Carmo is full of artists. They paint their pictures right on a street – on canvas, woods and T-shirts. I give a hug to a cat (there’re dozens of them, living in Memorial of Brazilian medicine of the left side of the street), a wink to an artist and a smile to Baiana woman in traditional costume, who ask me if I want a photo with her.

I don’t stop in a cafe on the left side of the street, where they serve cheap soups and sandwiches for lunch and tasty cakes for desert; and so I don’t in Casa da Nigeria – a gallery of Nigerian modern and traditional art, where they have concerts sometimes and even language lessons of Yoruba (the language of one of Nigerian tribes and candomble – widely spread in Brazil cult).

Soon I’m on Largo do Pelorinho, where on a right side the studio of precussion maestro Macambira is situated (there’s a plate above the door). I’ve been studying with him for 3 months, and he’s really a person who love drums passionately and gives inspiration to study and play.

He always welcomes new students. So here’re his coordinates:

Professor Macambira

Address: Largo do Pelorinho, 7; Salvador – Bahia – Brazil

Tel: (71) 9172 5576

A short video of his playing is here: Youtube. And here he’s only with one drum, usually he plays at least three at the same time.

The next door to Macambira’s studio is a language school, where I studied Portuguese and taught Russian for a while.

I pass Fundacao Casa de Jorge Amado and follow down the Ladeira do Carmo. On the left – huge staircase that leads to an old cathedral. This is the place that on Tuesday night is so tightly packed that you can hardly pass from the top to the bottom. Here the concert of Geronimo, whose songs everyone in Salvador knows, is held. Dancing place, meeting place, singing place.

Igreja do Passo, on which steps performs Geronimo. During the day - empty.

To be continued…

Beginning of the journey through Pelorinho is here:



%d bloggers like this: