Am i on a RISK boardgame or what.......Irkutsk..

Trip Start Jan 12, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Russia  ,
Tuesday, November 7, 2006

All i knew about Irkutsk before i started this trip was that it was a hard to pronounce name of a country on the RISK boardgame that my friends and i shared many laughs over trying to pronounce it as we dominated it.....

What follows though is a brilliant, amazing and unforgetable journey....

At first i was a little uncomfortable with what i was about to embark on (first time this whole trip i think). Was about to jump on an old train full of Russians who didnt speak english and travel 5185 kilomtres (no that is nt a typo) accross 4 timezones and 2 continents (Europe and Asia but still in Russia!!). Was worried about the cabin bed (would it be full of bugs and smelly), the people i was to share with (were they snorers, hard drinkers, stinkers etc etc), the food (did i need to bring it all or could i buy n the way), hygiene (where was i to bathe, what were the toilets like).... all this on my mind and sooo much more.....

All these concerns were put to bed within an hour.... my cabin mates (3 Russian men, 2 young and on old) made me feel comfortable and welcomed me with open arms... We were drinking Vodka, eating, lauging and teaching each other bad Russian & English within the hour.... Within a few hours i was drunk and having a ball.......

The bed was small for me, most nights i slept with one leg hanging out the cabin! classic! But it was comfortable and with the amount of alcohol i had inside me i could have slept anywhere!!!

The peole sharing my cabin didnt smell (well not till the last day anyway, and they still had another 3 days to go on their trip!), nor did they snore thankfully.

Food was no issue at all, i had supplies for 2 days but found myslef buying food from babushka's (old Russina women) on train platforms and running into stations to buy other supplies. Never went without and experiemented some awesome food (and some no so awesome too!!!)

Hygiene wasnt an issue either. O.K so there werent any showers but an armpits and groin wash wasnt impossible!!! i never smelt (at least to me i didnt)

The trains were unbeleivably on time, think about what i wrote above - 5185 klms, 4 time zones and 2 continents and these trains arrived when they said they would! Not about the time, exactly on the time. If it was to arrive at 11:43, you could bet that train stopped at that station at 11:43. And every stop was perfectly timed too. if the stop was for 17 minutes you knew that train was pulling off in 17 minutes. No one stop exceeded 25 minutes so it didnt leave much time after stretching your legs and buying food.

I was loved but they thought i was a carzy Aussie. Here it is, zero degrees outside and i am out there buying food with shorts, thongs (flip flops for the yanks) and a light jumper! They thought i was mad as they were wrapped up in all they had. But i serioulsy did not feel cold, maybe it was adrenalin but i didnt feel a thing.... On board they loved me, i met so many people and was invited into their cabins to drink vodka, eat, see pictures of their family (i showed them mine) and to try and communicate... it was brilliant.

And the landscpae...... BRILLIANT!!! I went from Snow in Moscow, to mountains in the Urals, to dry barren landscapes in Siberia, lakes, villages...... it went on and on..... AMAZING!!!

O.k, O.K i need to stop writing....but it was an amazing experience! I dont think i could have asked for anymore on this trip. All was perfect.... the amount of time was brilliant too. Just towards the end i was looking forward to getting off.

So now i am in Irkutsk, 70klm away from lake Baikal which is the worlds biggets lake. I plan to be here for 4 days doing some tours of the lake before i leave here on Sunday towards Mongolia..

HOT TIPS for travellers:
(1) Irkutsk Downtown Hostel - Zaina St Bld 12, apartment 12. 400 Roubles a night, inc a cheap bfast. Not the safest area though but a good hostel close to the train station and not far from town.
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