08/08/12 – 13.15 (Day 1, 0 hours into first leg)
OK. So for this Trans-Siberian blog we are going to try and write it as we go to get a true feeling for this epic journey. Although we have already done a couple of overnight Russian trains to get this far, one from Riga (Latvia) to Saint Petersburg and one from St P to Moscow, this is really the start of the journey for us today. Right here, right now. We are sitting on the train waiting for it to leave in a couple of minutes. Our route is Moscow to Omsk and is expected to take 42 hours. Yep, 42 hours. All in the same carriage with nothing more than a few 20-30 minute stops at a couple of the larger stations along the way. Well that is what we have heard anyway. By the time we arrive in Mongoloia in two weeks time we will have done three train journeys, each in the 40 hour region, and stopped at a couple of cities along the way to recharge our batteries. On this leg alone we will go through 3 time zones. Also just to clarify, we are actually doing the Trans-Mongolian, as it goes through Mongolia, but as it follows the majority of the Trans-Siberian line and that is the one everyone knows we are calling this the Trans-Siberian Blog.
Tess is already into our food supplies and we haven’t even left the station yet. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts. We bought a few things from the supermarket yesterday. Mainly dried food, chips, crackers, etc. Plus some bananas and apples. And also some 2 minute noodles, though not sure if we will get boiled water. There is a restaurant cart, but that is meant to be expensive, so the tip is to buy from the vendors at the stations. Given our lack of Russian that might be fun, but we will see how it goes. Either way I don’t think we will go hungry.
And we are off. The train is slowly chugging out of Kazanskiy Station, Moscow. We were meant to leave at 13.20 and it is now 13.32. This is going to be one crazy journey. Will be interesting to see how fast this thing goes and how many stops we make.
08/08/12 – 22.00 (Day 1, 9 hours into first leg)
Only nine hours in. No worries so far. We have done plenty of journeys this length or more in our travels, so with the distance expectation so much greater it has been an absolute walk in the park to this stage. We just got back from the restaurant cart, which pretty much went as expected. There was no English menu and the attendant lady spoke no English either. With a basic translation from a guy sitting near us we ordered the Russian soup staple, Borscht. We managed to work out which ones the beers were so we got a couple of those too. We were thinking we would eat more than soup, but it was hearty enough and we didn’t risk the “point at the menu and hope” option, that we had decided would be our last resort if we couldn’t read the menu. We definitely aint going to be going hungry, but we might eat a lot of beetroot soup, which we don’t mind at all.
So for the journey has actually seemed super quick. Jared has spent the majority of time on the laptop, catching up on photos and blogs that we want to get together from our previous couple of weeks. Plus he has managed a few TV episodes. Tess has her double book combo going. She has lots loaded onto the phone to read and if that runs out she has one thick Steven King number to get her through. We don’t have a power outlet in our cabin, but there is one just outside the door. We were able to set up our adaptor, with the multi-plug and then both the phone and laptop charger earlier, so we both have fully charged devices to get us to sleep. Hopefully we will be able to use these to keep powered up for the duration.
In terms of the cabin, we are in a 4 berth second class sleeper, which is what we have booked for the entire journey. We have air-con, which is a necessity we have found, after we went to restaurant cart and saw that the thermometer there was still sitting around the 30 degree mark (we hope the rest of our trains have AC, but aren’t so sure as it doesn’t say it on the tickets). Our two cabin-mates are a couple of old Russian guys who have pretty much slept the entire journey so far. Our guess is that they will be hopping off somewhere during the night and are trying to get a good sleep in till then. We had heard the Trans-Siberian was known for its party train atmosphere and vodka drinking but we haven’t seen none of that yet. Maybe in third class? Time for a bit of reading and laptop TV before bed.
09/08/12 – 11.30 (Day 2, 22 hours into first leg)
First night’s sleep wasn’t too bad for a train. Jared on the top level and Tess on the bottom. Air-con was a little on the chilly side, but definitely better that way than being too hot. Tess could hear someone in the next cabin snoring, but apart from that there was little interruption. The train is a bit bumpy so you do get woken up a bit but no more than you would expect in such a situation. Time has jumped forward a couple of hours, so when Jared thought he had slept in to 10.30, it was only 8.30 Moscow time, but guess we got to adjust to the right time anyway. Maybe that’s what the old fellas in our cabin are doing who went to bed so early and didn’t get off during the night.
09/08/12 – 16.30 (Day 2, 27 hours into first leg)
Just had our second substantial stop at a station, maybe about 15 minutes. There are people selling things on the platform, but not the array of food we had expected. When we stopped yesterday people were selling more random stuff, goblet sets, stuffed animals, vases, chandeliers, jewellery, but today there was at least some more food. All pretty basic though: packet noodles, ice creams, drinks, etc. One lady was selling cooked chicken and potatoes, but as it was about 35 degrees outside and it didn’t seem to be refrigerated we decided to give it a miss. Hopefully we will have another stop nearer to dinner time as we could eat something locally produced (that isn’t out of a packet). Beers were a lot cheaper on the platform than the train, so Jared picked up a couple of these (about $2 each compared to $4 on the train).
Omsk – 10/08/12 to 12/08/12 (Day 3, 4 & 5, Beginning of Leg 2)
Well the last part of the train journey was over so quick there was hardly time to add to the blog. Although we arrived in Omsk at 9.25 local time it was only 6.25am Moscow time, which was more where our body clocks still were, so we pretty much had just gone to sleep and woken up and we were there. One of our elderly male cabin companions exited during the evening, so it made it even quieter for our last night’s sleep. We pretty much finished off all our noodles (there was free boiling water, luckily) and other items so have decided we estimated the food requirements quite nicely.
We had arranged for the hotel to have someone pick us up at the train station, so it was all too easy when there was a lady standing outside the train carriage with a sign with our name on it. We were whisked through the station and at our hotel in no time. We were even lucky to be able to check in before 10am, which is a rare occurrence. We definitely felt a little wiped out, but didn’t need to go straight to sleep, so headed out to get some breakfast/lunch. We were pleasantly surprised by the number of eating options and the modern Siberian city of Omsk, which is a little more Asian feeling compared to the Western Russian cities. After a relaxing afternoon spent in the hotel room, we headed to the local river/beachfront marquee style restaurants, just outside the front of our hotel. Although these had some nice smelling BBQs going we struggled to be able to order much here and had a dinner that consisted of one pork shish kebab, a packet of crisps and some beers. The cool thing was the setting, right on the river with plenty of activity on it and a great sunset. The next day Tess was a bit ill, so maybe it was a good thing we hadn’t eaten more at the restaurant. Though we are not sure what caused it, as could have been something on the train, the water, either meal we ate in Omsk, the terrible breakfast at our hotel or something else. Whatever it was it meant we ended up having a very low key day, only making it out in the evening to stock up on supplies for our next train journey and some dinner. After a couple of quiet days we were well recharged for our next train journey, so after breakfast and a hair-raising 90km/hr taxi ride through the city streets, here we are waiting for our next 40 hour train, deeper into Siberia to Irkutsk.