So with the assistance of our hotel reception we purchased the most expensive transport tickets since arriving in Thailand. At first it was a shock but then we realized we would be on the train for 55 hours, pass through 3 time zones and get 2 nights sleep. Lucky we could only get tickets on the “slow” train, I imagine the express charges a little more!
At the station we met a Kiwi guy called Steve who was on the same train – it was obvious who was on our train as it had been delayed and no platform number had been determined so we all just hung around in the waiting hall.
The train was older than most we have managed to get so far but it was quite comfortable and as the journey went on, it was often quite empty – quiet, no queues for the toilet and a clean toilet – for me this was our best train experience. Steve dropped in for a beer as we headed on – I think he was wondering what to do with himself past Yekaterinburg as he was on until Moscow – a further 30+ hours!
For us it was fun, lots of cards and yahtzee – and to Molly and my delight Julia agreed to play charades!! We had several sessions of charades and I highly recommend it for train journeys – of course you must leave the door open to panic the other passengers as Julia did, pretending to be a thief and darting out of the cabin straight into one of our barrel chested neighbours!
By far the highlight of the trip was the endless forests of the Siberian plateau. It is how I have always imagined Russia and it is still overwhelmingly impressive. Interrupted by small villages of wooden huts, the occasional soviet industrial town, often abandoned, and areas of vast wetlands. We crossed some of the biggest Rivers in the world, their water from Mongolia and Kazakhstan heading North to the Arctic.
At every station there seemed to be a lone Lada sedan waiting for it’s owner to return. At some stations people with bucketfuls of potatoes would run along selling them and we had a fur salesman try his luck with us a couple of times. Yet it was the scenery that remained the most lasting impression of Siberia.