Today’s the day. At 11am Anna came to the hostel, and we said goodbye to Godzillas and hello to the Trans Siberian Express. Bags were packed (and then conveniently abandoned outside a supermarket with Anna) while we shopped for 4-5 days worth of supplies. It’s a tricky task trying to figure out what to buy that will:
A) Last that long
B) Won’t cost a fortune
C) Won’t be completely sick of by day 3.
(As it turns out, we over-prepared. After a few hours on the train, the conductor brought us a bag with cutlery, a bottle of water and some coffee/tea bags. Then a mere hour later, brought us an actual meal – we were reluctant to take it, positive it was an extra cost. Turns out no, they give us a meal a day. Would have been nice to know that beforehand. Anna had told us not to expect cutlery, cups or meals, so we had spent money we didn’t have to. As one guy said, “we should have bought more booze, and less food.”)
Another surprise was that Anna got us on the train, then said her goodbyes. I (and several other members) had thought she was coming with us. But no, we’re on our own until Irktuusk where we’ll meet a new honcho. Hopefully we won’t have any trouble getting off at the right place.
The train itself is exactly what you’d expect – small room with a pair of bunk beds and a half table. Not enough room to swing a cat, but enough that four people can live in it tolerably. In fact, the one issue we had was the HEAT. Honestly did not expect to be having problems keeping cool in this part of my journey. The train is kept at a regular temperature of 22 degrees – and when you shove 4 people into a room, that heat and humidity sky rockets. When you do what we did, and shove 8 people in one room to socialise, you create a sweat box.
The only relief was stepping between the carriages, which wasn’t fantastic because that’s where the smokers live. So you have to wait until the train stops at a station for a significant time (stops of 20 minutes plus happen around every 2-4 hours) and walk onto the platform to stretch your legs and enjoy the cool brisk air. Of course, they don’t always say when they’re leaving, so when the train shifted about a foot, I got to enjoy a look of utter horror on my tour mates faces as they bolted back to the train. Wasn’t going anywhere, but they were still a little shocked.
As an added bonus, there are usually people hawking food and souvenirs, so if you’re hungry or in the mood for cheap tat – that’s your place. Our group got a little bit gypped by one of these ‘babushkas’. She was selling some kind of wafer cone with a chocolate coloured solid. They bought a few, expecting them to be sweet – and immediately regretted it. Nobody could figure out what the centre actually was – the best descriptions to describe the taste was ‘ass’, ‘feet’ and ‘cheese’. They ended up in the bin, and the group consoled themselves with downing vodka shots – and I joined in with Fanta.