Category Archives: Nature

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

One week on Brazilian Ibiza

On the most southern-east point of Baia dos Todos os Santos (the Bay of All Saints) there’s a lighthouse. 40-meters-high tower perks on a steep hill – not the biggest on an island but the utmost. I take a trail to the left and soon from above I can see an ancient walls – it’s an old Portuguese fort, “welcome” for those, who come to Morro de São Paulo from the north.

More modern picture opens to my eyes as I follow a trail to the right. From there I can see famous beaches on the ocean side: the First, the Second, the Third… They have names but no one remembers them, just numbers.

There’s a quick way from a hill down to the beach – rapel. 30 reals for fast and safe “delivery” of your precious self. For experienced extremals like ourselves – of no big interest, so we save money for famous pastel.

Little tents that sell famous baiano dish pastel have occupied the right side of the Second beach. Pastel is bakery with various fillings inside: from palm hears to carne-do-sol (kind of meat). We choose a table on the corner and watch vacationers.

In summer (from December to March) Morro de Sao Paolo is overcrowded. People come to spend time on a beach, spend money (Morro is expensive!) and party. Parties start after darkness, when children are taken to numerous pousadas (any kinds of hotels/hostels), lined up along the coast, and clubs open their doors. When tide goes down, beach becomes a place for fun too.

Young people love Morro, where DJs play electronic music that can’t be found in Salvador “at daytime with a light” and that is conservatively dedicated to traditional dancing style axe.

But that’s at night. And now sun is shining brightly and time to chill myself. As long as we have come by yacht, we don’t spend time with a crowd but go to a tiny island – reef that is almost covered with water at high tide. Waves are turbulent here, and we can anchor just for a short time, just enough to have a look at local inhabitants.

I put a snorkling mask on – and meet many eyes. Eyes of tropical fishes that scurry all around. Together we are swinging in waves – right-left, roooouuund, right-left. It is so pleasant that in my next life I decide to be a fish near Morro de Sao Paolo.

During my journeys I always tend to search for places more deserted. I love to have solitude or, better to say, – companionship of nature. And that’s why the best part for me wasn’t Morro, tho in southern parts of it and on other islands of the archipelago we could find untouched pieces of nature.

Anchorages around the southern part of Morro de Sao Paolo don’t provide hope for calm sleep. All nights from our week-long stay on Morro we spent on a continent that is in 15 minutes by boat from an island.

Long sand stripe of Curral separates Southern Atlantic ocean from the river. Anchoring on a calm side, in less than 5 minutes walk across the narrow land we admired ocean tide. The only company for us there were… little crabs, with whom side by side we used to farewell the last beams of evening sun.

Curral S13 22.922 W38 57.574

Tip for sailors: going inside the straight to the right from Morro de Sao Paolo (if to arrive from Salvador), keep closer to the island and go all along till the small town with a beach, where many boats are anchoring. There’s a big sand bank on the right that is seen in low tide, but disappears under the water in high. Turn to the right after you will see a long peer on the island and head to a sand strip on the continent.

Tip for travelers: Boats from Salvador to Morro de Sao Paolo are pretty expensive. If you travel not on board a yacht, much cheaper way is:

  1. To take a bus from Salvador to Valença:

  2. Take a bus (or taxi-bus) from Valença‘s bus station (rodoviaria) to Ancoradoro – 20 minutes ride.

  3. Take a boat from Ancoradoro to Morro de Sao Paolo.

Vale do Pati: inside a fairy tale

Chapada Diamantina is like “a kingdom behind thirty-nine lands” in Russian fairy tales. You need to cross mountain ranges, walk turbulent rivers, overcome tiredness of rocky ascends and leave behind many kilometers of plateau, burnt by ruthless sun.

The plateau ends up in a precipice. Beneath - the Valleu of Pati, which rocks we can see from far away.

The reward for that will be an oasis deep into shadowy valley that lays among centuries old giants, unreachable and severe like ancient wise men. Life streams there in tranquility and no hurry, filled with simple and natural joys: singing of birds, gentle chatter of creeks and whispering of wind in high tree tops of wise forest.

There we went one summer day, to Vale do Pati.

The dusty road brings us from a tiny town Guine (that is on the south-west border of Chapada) to the base of a mountain range. There we leave the car and start ascent.

Little wonders of the plateau

It’s morning, and the first climb is easy. Soon we observe a huge plateau in front of us. Behind this vast space – the valley of incredible beauty. But we can only guess about it now, keeping in sight whimsical rocks far away.

Here we go for the next 1.5 hours – across shallow rivers, among low bushes and sea of grass, trying to keep our feet away from mud pools that have appeared after the rain. The water in streams doesn’t reach higher than our ancles, and it pleasantly chills our hot feet.

Finally, we reach the edge. Last steps towards the abyss – and Vale do Pati lays right under our tired feet. From the top like on a map we can see all trails that cross the valley. On the left of it there’s a church (Igrejinha) with camping nearby.

But we plan to go further – deeper to the valley, where in solemnity of wild nature lives Dona Rachel, Wilson, Dona Le and some other very few locals.

Road to Dona Rachel.

Before we get there we need to go down. Straight from a place we stand there’s a path down the grand rock. Or better say – a steep. It’s not hiking anymore, but rock climbing. We descend from stone to stone, trying to keep safe our knees. And entertain ourselves with idea that on way back we need to climb this mountain up.

Wild orchids of Pati

The next hour we walk by a dusty road (the next day, when we’ll go back this dust will turn into thick layer of mud) into the depth of the forest that is crossed by a river. There’s plenty of waterfalls around, and, probably, this stream gives birth to some of them.

This photo we think of selling to Coca-Cola : )

Finally, there’s a white house among trees – Casa de Dona Le. In a backyard a guy is cutting wood. A cock hisses on us, staying in fronts of his hens. Kittens stare at strangers from behind of a huge pot.

We pass Dona Le and go further, passing lazy burros – a mix of a horse with a donkeys.

These animals are slow but resistant and strong and used by locals to bring supplies from Guine. They choose long way, around the range. It takes them 3 hours to pass the route that would take a pedestrian 2 days.

There’s many people in hospitable house of Dona Rachel (almost all locals recieve guests): mostly Brazilians who have escaped frenzy of Carnaval but also Spanish travelers. Photos on walls are from gratefull guests. Some of them return here to the magnificent valley again and again. Hope, I will too – one day.

At the entrance to the plateau from a side of Guine

Deep into the Canal da Itaparica

They say: “There’re more than 300 islands in Baia dos Todos os Santos (the bay of Salvador, Bahia)”. Well, if to count all minor rocks and reefs that almost disappear under water durinhigh tide, probably, there’re.

Anyway, the bay of Bahia is the second biggest in Brazil after Guanabara in Rio de Janeiro.

The biggest island is Ilha da Itaparica. It is well-populated and lays on the south-west of the bay. Its beaches on side of Itaparica are famous among tourists and vacationers. But we go to less crowded and more virgin places – inside the Canal da Itaparica.

From Marina Bahia in Salvador we first go in northern direction. A bit later turn to the north-west and make around the northern cape of the island. On the other side we enter a narrow straight (between Itaparica and the continent), where there’re no touristic boats with drunk youth and hysterically shouting music. Either very few motor boats, who hurry somewhere on the full speed, rising 1.5 meter wave.

We reach shallow part, and depth indicator turned on an alarm. Now depth won’t drop more than 3 meters.

 Many of beaches and even islands here are private. People slowly occupy every piece of wild nature, making it serve for their comfort.

The nearest point to stop after the shallow part is Itororo – deserted place with a waterfall right on a beach. The only inhabitants of this piece of earth are crabs, and there’s many of them! We scared the hell of them, going after dawn to take a shower under the waterfall.

Our previous attempt to pass till Itororo was unsuccessful. The straight is very shallow, and with a boat of 1.8 meters draft you need to know the way for sure.

For this time from dusty depths of the boat we digged out old maps of Bahia dos Todos os Santos.

They contain exact coordinates that, if being uploaded to MaxSea or other navigation program, show exact way. Here I share them with you, friends. Hope it will make someones life easier. Our previous attempts to find them in the internet didn’t lead to any significant results.

First – way from the town da Itaparica (on the northern cape) to Itororo. Coordinates are taken from the book “Roteiro Nautico do Litoral da Bahia”.

Nome do waypoint (name of the waypoint)
Coordenadas
(coordinates)
Distancia
(distance)
Curso
(course)
MARINA S12 53.249 W38 41.231 0 ft
ACMARI S12 52.998 W38 41.446 0.327 nm 320º true
TUBARA S12 55.312 W38 42.530 2.88 nm 205º true
CARAP1 S12 56.496 W38 42.951 4.13 nm 199º true
CARAP2 S12 57.069 W38 43.340 4.82 nm 214º true
SARAIB S12 58.038 W38 44.737 6.49 nm 235º true
IDACAL S12 59.570 W38 46.066 8.50 nm 220º true
PRAIHA S13 00.741 W38 46.965 9.97 nm 217º true
ITOROR S13 01.318 W38 47.015 10.5 nm 185º tru

To pass from Itororo to Caixa Prego we need to wait for low tide. Otherwise, it’s not possible to cross under the lines of electric wires and the bridge that contact the continent and the island. In maps this route marked “red” and has caution note that warns to watch out shifts of the tide and – even then – if the height of the mast allow to pass under the lines (ours is around 11m high).

Table of tides can be found here:

http://www.mar.mil.br/dhn/chm/tabuas/index.htm

From Caixa Prego there’s a way to cross from the Channel to the open ocean but the depths there are so little that we wouldn’t risk. If only with experience local on board.

But it’s possible to enter the river till the town of Jaguaripe – calm countryside place with an old church.

Nome do waypoint (name of the waypoint)
Coordenadas
(coordinates)
Distancia
(distance)
Curso
(course)
ITOROR S13 01.318 W38 47.015 0 ft
ITORO1 S13 01.797 W38 47.254 0.533 nm
FUNIL S13 02.659 W38 47.316 1.49 nm 184º true
JIRIB1 S13 02.798 W38 47.438 1.58 nm 221º true
JIRIB2 S13 03.220 W38 47.862 2.17 nm 224º true
JIRIB3 S13 03.470 W38 47.966 2.44 nm 202º true
JIRIB4 S13 03.997 W38 48.014 2.97 nm 185º true
CATU1 S13 05.310 W38 47.955 4.29 nm
CATU2 S13 05.716 W38 47.782 4.74 nm
CATU3 (Caixa Prego) S13 06.368 W38 47.981
JAG1 S13 06.834 W38 48.128 0.489 nm 197º true
JAG2 S13 07.718 W38 49.100 1.30 nm
JAG3 S13 07.450 W38 49.966 2.67 nm
JAG4 S13 06.774 W38 51.404 4.23 nm
JAG5 S13 06.782 W3851.753 269º true
JAG6 S13 06.372 W38 52.755 293º true
JAGUA S13 06.621 W38 53.488 6.39 nm 251º true

 P.S. I have maps and routes with waypoints of the whole Brazilian coast. So, if everyone is in need, I will be glad to share with you. Just drop me a message or a comment here in the blog : )

The river Paraguaçu: in search of pink dolphins

For one week my life had become implementation of ideals from “Emile” by Jean-Jaques Rousseau.

On Sunday we left the marina for search of pink dolphins that Amazon is also famous for. Here the place of their habitat is the estuary of the river Paraguaçu.

Around 1.5 hours took us to cross from Marina Bahia to the island Itaparica. The bay is not a sea and definitely not an ocean but even here there’s some wind. Weather forecasts claim winds up to 20 knots. But even 10 is  enough for good sailing.

From Ilha da Itaparica is close to the entrance to the river. By the way, Paraguaçu crosses the whole state Bahia, taking its origins in heights of the national park Chapada Diamantina.

The first night we spent in the estuary. The place carries the nameTubarão, which in portuguese means “a shark”. Probably, they inhabited this bay millions of years ago.

No sharks today tho, and the place is just charming: wrinkled brown rocks come close to the water of the river and are separated from it by narrow white ribbon of sand. The beach ends on one side with little village on the tip of a peninsula – just several houses. At early evening we didn’t meet anyone there.

Gold of the river Paraguaçu

The sunset reminded me of evenings in Atlantic, when the sky was overwhelmed by invisible battles, pouring clouds with scarlet fire. Idyllic picture was ruined by oil platform in the depth of the river.

“ If we build too much, we destroy”, – says the slogan of Greenpeace. Here’s an obvious example.

The next day we go deeper to the river, in direction of a town of Maragojipe. The regata Aratu – Maragojipe is well-known in Salvador. Then more than 300 boats in some years fill narrow river of Paraguaçu.

The town lives in its own pace, much different from its big neighbor. Along the pier went a horse carriage – it brought wood for a barge. On the square there’s old building titled Mercado. There was a meeting inside, lecturer reading something loudly, people holding paper booklets. Our first thought was that the old market was transformed in a church. Later we changed our minds to some professional meeting.

Brazil is very religious country. You can see the name of God mentioned everywhere: on shops, numerous churches that look more than ordinary houses, on walls and T-shirs. Even cargo cars carry banners, claiming “Deus e Fiel”.

Citizens of Maragojipe are not in a hurry. Everyone leaves his house in the evening to spend last hours before the sunset in relaxed and themeless chat with neighbors. Fishermen’ boats swing silently near the shore. In dawn turn to go home late saveiros – traditional boats of Bahia, used for sailing inside the bay.

Unfortunately, we haven’t seen pink dolphins – the main reason I wanted to make this trip. But, well, Amazon is waiting for me ; )

 For sailors here’s the information how to get safe to Maragaoipe. Coordinates are taken from the book “Roteiro Nautico do Litoral da Bahia”. Can be uploaded to any electronic navigation program a la MaxSea.

The bay of Paraguaçu (Barra do Paraguaçu – BRAPAG) to the town of Maragojipe (MJIPE)
Nome do waypoint (name of the waypoint)
Coordenadas
(coordinates)
Distancia
(distance)
Curso
(course)
BPARAG S12 50.155 W38 47.771 0 ft
BROQUE S12 51.070 W38 48.851 1.40 nm 229º true
PARAG1 S12 51.081 W38 49.580 2.11 nm 269º true
PARAG2 S12 49.728 W38 51.497 4.42 nm 306º true
PARAG3 S12 48.949 W38 51.860 5.28 nm 336º true
SALAMI S12 47.878 W38 51.559 6.39 nm 15º true
FRANCE S12 46.713 W38 52.442 7.84 nm 324º true
MJIPE1 S12 46.449 W38 53.076 8.52 nm 293º true
MJIPE S12 46.976 W38 54.339 9.86 nm 247º true