Get out of Jail Free Card

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
On a train leaving Moscow

Flag of Russia  , Central Russia,
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Woke up about 9am we are getting used to this. Showered changed and waiting in the common room from a member of staff at the hostel who we bribed to scav off work for half a day to be our translator for our big day out at ..... Central Police station Moscow. The owner of the hostel asked who was taking us and we tried to be as vague as possible however he pressed us and thinking she had half a day off the info came out. The owner had a small tantrum and said "no way shes working all day find someone who's day off it is", unfortunately it was our last day in Moscow so we had no option and someone probably got told off when they got home. I hope our small payment was worth it.

Before we left we were chatting to the hostel 'manager' who boldly stated "the owner lives in a fantasy world I'm the one who lives in the real world and sees things day to day, the likely hood is you will be removed from the train at the Mogolian border sent back to Moscow and have to reapply, in the mean time your visa will have expired and you will probably be deported". Cue the owner pops his head around the door and says "who's living in a fantasy world" very uncomfortable for us but the owner was a very sound English guy and I would strongly recommend the Godzilla hostel in Moscow to anyone. The owners advice was not to worry as a bribe of 5000 rubles would solve the problem and gave some good advice on how to bribe the border guards. I told Erica we are on a budget so I would see her in Australia thus doubling my daily budget, I may even be able to afford something other than rehydrated mash and cat food.

When both the manager and owner disappeared she told us the coast was clear and we could leave. A quick metro ride brought us out in the middle of some major industrial and communist apartments which were.... erm, interesting. Then our translator (remaining nameless for obvious reasons suggested she would flag down an illegal taxi, put your arm out and the first car that was passing pulls over, amazing! We jumped in some kind of time warp into an old heap of a car which reminded us of grand theft auto, the radio station and bizarre and very erratic driving in which we nearly crashed at least once trying to cut through three lanes of speeding traffic head on at one junction almost made me skid my underpants. This cost about 3 Pounds about 1/4 the cost of a proper taxi which there weren't any anyway.

We spent an hour waiting for someone at the downstairs reception with no chairs and the friendly locals a mixture of criminals, mafioso, serious gun wielding and truncheon wielding policemen / general thugs and two fools one of which had lost a migration card. The building was enormous and had some very impressive Stalin busts (oo eer).

Another 1 hour wait stood outside the office was very pleasurable especially for our host who was getting into more and more trouble. Just like any good public servant they sat and drank tea and coffee, had a lunch break and generally just minced about while we stood outside the door looking at them. It was like a power crazed headmaster keeping you stood outside his office for no other reason than making you sweat. When someone finally managed to get of there fat ars* we did everything in about 5 mins our interpreter wrote a letter in Russian which Erica signed (I'm convinced it was a new will) and she got her new card dated that day. This meant Erica didn't even have to register her application (which costs 10 pound in each city as she was stopping for less than 3 days in one place).

Went back to red square and got some replacement snaps but the Lenin Mausoleum was closed so we didn't get to see a dead historical figure.

At 20:00 we headed for the train station, via a few changes on the metro that we were finally starting to get our heads around, to board the trans Mongolian express.

I had to leave Erica in the train station while I hot footed it around the station and far far beyond in search for the necessary supplies for a 6 day train journey, yes that's right, Vodka and rehydrated mash with a sachet of cat food and some noodles. We were told it is illegal to buy or sell vodka at train stations so new this was our only chance to get our hands on the evil stuff. (I already had my pickles so with a few litres of Vodka in hand we managed to find our platform. Well here unfolds one of the most bizarre experiences I think I have ever had.

For other travellers reading this we were on train number 006 from Moscow to Ulanbator. Now neither Erica or I had preconceived ideas of what to expect and we had been told that there were a number of hawkers on this train. As we approached the platform we were there earlier than most ( due to time paranoia obviously and the phobia of being late) and out of nowhere sprang hundreds and hundreds of Mongolians, who were not evident anywhere around the station. Some had huge amounts of luggage, boxes, laundry bags that were so heavy they were being dragged around on trolleys. I said to Erica "look at what that woman is wearing spandex", clearly my eyesight has been fading for a number of years and has been a bit of a joke. The woman in question did not have a body and was half a mannequin. It was just all very odd.

What we probably expected was about 35% Russians, 35% Mongolians and 30% mixed foreigners / travellers. As the train pulled in we were the only non Mongolian people there. There was a right kerfufal to get on the train so we stepped back  due to raging theft paranoia from Moi. By the time we got on we were shown to our cabin by a smartly dressed hostess who when she opened the door of our cabin shouted "no" and started pushing me backwards down the narrow hallway which I couldn't turn around in and whispered 'police'. eh! we there got pushed into another cabin. Clearly any paranoid Stephenson insists on good practice. I put our bags away under the seat of one side of the Cabin and said "right drugs search, I ain't carrying nothing out of Russia that isn't mine. Opened up the other under the bed storage compartment and found a whole set of luggage, cardboard boxes etc. About two hours later a chap walked in, looked at us as if to say "who are you" and demanded his luggage. It turns out its just a free for all and I'm not even sure anyone else had any tickets. After this we just couldn't settle in. A fight and major argument kicked off further down the corridor, then a major row kicked off next door and sure enough from our cabin pops a police man shouting at some lass he had (maybe literally) in there.

Had to get on so drank beer and vodka, had a portion of mash and a portion of noodles and tried to go to sleep. This was our welcome to the Trans Mongolian.

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farknash on

vodka, pickles and smash. absolutely excellent

This is fecking excellent reading - keep it up...

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