6 days aboard the Trans Mongolian Express!!!
Trip Start Sep 02, 2009
72Trip End Oct 30, 2010
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Okay, the beginning...
We didn't get off to a good start. I had loaded Dave up with about a million kilos of food when we left for the metro, headed to Yaroslavskiy Station, one of the 5 train stations running out of Moscow. I was very aware (even though he was being very good about it) that he was finding carrying the load a real struggle and it was causing him some strain on his neck. To our horror the metro was absolutely heaving and we had to queue for a long time to get a ticket. I felt awful that Dave had to carry so much so in my haste to get to the train I forgot to look at the metro signs and we ended up on the wrong tube... headed in the wrong direction. Thank goodness we set off 2 hours early!
After a lot of, 'Where are we?!' 'How did we get here?!' and 'I don't understand this?!', mostly due to the fact that we had an English map and everything was in Russian, we found our way to the correct station. What should have been a 15 minute journey had taken us over an hour.
We had been feeling quite anxious about the journey ahead due to the cramped conditions on the Budapest to Moscow train, and also because we had read a lot of reviews which said that the journey and the scenery were very boring and you are guaranteed to get muscular atrophy. Not the romantic image I had being trying to convince Dave of since we first decided to do the journey.
We couldn't find any where to exchange money at the station and we had about 50 quids worth of Rubles on us so we made an executive decision... let's blow it on the journey! First port of call, chocolate for me and a hot dog for Dave!
The train finally arrived at the station and my anxiety turned to pure 100% excitement, I could hardly contain myself! We found the correct carriage easily and boarded. The conductors were all Chinese, which Dave and I were glad of as the only word the Russian conductor on the last train could say was, 'England??...Chelsea!", which is quite worrying in itself
The cabin was just as I had expected. 4 beds, 2 bunks on each side. A table in the middle with a table cloth and a thermos for hot water. The beds were hard and the sheets had stains on them, but it didn't really bother us. The sliding cabin door had a mirror on it and there was plenty of room under our beds to store our luggage... and our vast amount of food. To our relief it was a lot more spacious than the other train we had been on.
At precisely 21.35 the train set off. Right on time! Our carriage was only half full, and no one had come in to our cabin. We were in disbelief. Surely we're not going to have a cabin to ourselves?? My disbelief soon turned to dread (I've realised how much of a pessimist I am!) at the prospect that we could be joined by someone from deepest darkest Russia in a couple of days. I was on edge!
Once we had settled in to our cabin Dave went to fill the thermos up with hot water (which was free) and we had a cup of tea and some food. We also met our neighbours, two Dutch guys called Anand and 'Nuf (short for 'Enough'... haha) and a German lady and Chinese man who we never actually got to know the names of. The Dutch guys didn't have any local currency so we swapped our Rubles for their Euros... we all won! Ace!
A few days in we were having such a wonderful time! We were so worried after the reviews we read that we would be disappointed with the journey but it turns out that the people who wrote those reviews must have been either blind or miserable..
Sleeping on the train was quite difficult due to the beds being hard and also the fact that we crossed 5 time zones! We tried to adjust so that we wouldn't get jet lagged, but we ended up just confusing ourselves about what time it actually was. A common conversation when something like this:
'What time to we get to Lake Baikal?'
'Is that Beijing time or Moscow time'
'So what time is that Moscow time?'
'And what time are we on now?'
'So what time is it??'
'So what time do we get there local time????'
'But aren't we 4 hours ahead?????????'
'Lets just wake up a 1am and wait'
We arrived at Lake Baikal at 6am Beijing time
We woke up at 2am Moscow time.
When we woke up it was still dark. We had gotten up early to watch the sunrise over the lake so we got wrapped up warm, ready to pull down the window when the lake came in to view. It felt like Christmas morning! We were both very excited.
The lake came in to view just as the sky had begun to lighten on the horizon. We opened the window and it was absolutely freezing! Dave poured a hot cup of tea for us both and we sipped it as we looked at the small lakeside shack villages with their chimneys smoking and windows lit up. It was such a homey sight. We felt like we were the only ones witnessing this wonderful view. Gradually, as we snaked along the lakeside, the lake got larger and larger, until you could hardly see the other side. Watching the sun rise over it, was one of the most spectacular views either of us had ever seen, especially as the train was moving so fast along the one track line.
We were joined by some more Dutch people in our cabin some time later as their window couldn't open. They had boarded the train at Irkutsk. As a thank you one of the ladies gave us some hot chocolate (I had been looking for hot chocolate since we arrived in Moscow!), I was ecstatic... I think she may have thought I had some sort of... problem?
Once we had frozen enough, we pulled up the window and had breakfast. Jam and bread and a cup of tea for me, peanut butter and bread and a coffee for Dave, and Bob Dylan on the iPod
The next day we we're passing through Mongolia and the Gobi Desert. It was strange how the scenery had gone from lush green countryside to a arid Martian like landscape in such a short amount of time. There was wasn't really much to see out of the window that day, but Dave and I had managed to entertain ourselves with drawing competitions and 20 questions. The air was quite stale as the weather outside was hot and opening a window was not advised, unless you wanted to turn your cabin in to a mini Gobi Desert (we found this out the hard way: as Dave's bed was on the windy side of the cabin his bed got a thick coating of sand when we attempted to take a picture out of the window).
When the night began to draw in, and the sun began to set, the barren view became breathtaking. The moon on one side of the train, and the setting sun on the other. The wind had died down so we opened the window to see the train snaking magnificently, and commanding the landscape. Tight turns to the left: pictures of the moon. Tight turns to the right: pictures of the sun.
Finally, the last day arrived. We had stayed up late the night before to watch the wheels of the train get changed to Chinese wheels. It was a long processes but a fascinating one. In the morning we saw that once again the landscape had completely changed. We were now passing through huge mountains and over fresh rivers and viaducts
To sum it up, the Trans Siberian is an amazing trip and anyone who complains about it is an idiot...
Amy and Dave xx