Stage Seven – Trans Siberian/Mongolian – overland UK 2 NZ

Friday 18th October – DAY THREE – Krasnoyarsk at 12:37

Barabinsk - call that snow?
In the region of Barabinsk – call that snow?

Our new landscape had hills!

Hills of the Berezovskiy rayon
Hills of the Berezovskiy rayon

Woke up to a dusting of snow over slight rises and dips. Forest lands. The trees had been sprinkled with icing snow overnight, icing their extremities. Us tourists gabbled excitedly about snow in Siberia. Anton merely shook his head and smiled. ‘Snow for eight months in Russia. This is nothing.’

Autumn undulations of Berezovskiy rayon
Autumn undulations of Berezovskiy rayon

The world rolled by and the hills rolled on their own tree-covered ways. Everything looked prepared for winter. The grasses were ribbons in tones of mud-brown to sand. Those trees that could de-leaf were entirely bare while the scattered conifers provided flashes of evergreen. The white tree skeletons made stark contrast with the deep green patchwork. Even though they were evergreen there was still variety in their dress, their tips of pale, greeny-gold seemed to give each tree an inner illumination.

We travelled through small towns featuring wooden houses; sometimes painted with vibrant aqua or red to contrast with their neighbours more natural wood. Sometimes the builders had built in diagonal or criss-cross patterns in the wooden structure, perhaps an elegant veranda or a bright yellow shed stood next door. Many houses featured vegetable plots, mostly empty, and ploughed for their winter rest. Still the odd cabbages persisted like pale green skulls and one garden wore a line of weeping brown sunflowers, turning their gnarled forgotten faces to the ground.

Yemel'yaanovskiy rayon looking down a hill
Yemel’yaanovskiy rayon looking down a hill

Lifestock was rare. There were a few cows, a donkey and some wild dogs. Saw some horses the day before, wandering in a kind of swamp. We passed a populous cow paddock, fenced with sturdy grey wooden beams half-way up a hill above a small village. The lands would soon be covered in snow until March or even April. Most animals would be headed indoors. Siberia would probably be glad of global warming.

The basic cleaning in the morning got more difficult as the toilet increased in stench value. I was still uncertain if we took our droppings with us or dropped them on the track as we moved along and too scared to look. I tried to have a little bird bath but with general agreement we must clean our teeth in drinking water it all got rather difficult knowing where to put things down on which surface. Luckily there were hooks upon which to hang one’s clothes and toiletry bag. I dreamed briefly of a hot shower but we still had three days to go so returned to my zen camping mind. I thought I should have worn shirt one for three days. It was shirt two’s second day and I hoped it didn’t smell too bad. Everyone else was in the same boat. Sorry, train. First-class could at least rinse their smalls but it would be impossible to hang out washing here. Especially if there were four peeps in the same compartment! I did wash one pair of knickers and hung them quietly in the corner with my wash bag, disguised as a wash cloth. Anton seemed so relaxed and calm I don’t think anything would bother him.

Chinese carriage badge - stopped at Krasnoyarsk
Chinese carriage badge – stopped at Krasnoyarsk
Krasnoyarsk station
Krasnoyarsk station for 22 minutes

Yesterday, Anton ordered my bottled water from the Russian saleswoman in the platform kiosk, a little room at the station. They were small rectangular buildings, about the size of a small container, the windows completely filled with the goods on display. The salesperson was just visible through a tiny window and offered you a tray to leave your money which she then draws into her brightly lit world and returns littered with your change. She passed through your water or whatever treat you chose. The Kiwi boys were very impressed with their Choco-pies.

The Kiwi Krew about to enjoy their Choco-Pies
Look at the Kiwi Krew, from left: Mark, Simon and Craig, about to enjoy their Choco-Pies

I jumped on the train at the nearest carriage where there was an open door and chatted with various folk on the way through, lingering with Marie and Sauli before meandering back to my compartment. There were surly Captain and Anton, looking at me like anxious parents. Where had I been? They were worried I’d been left on the platform!

Our Russian Engine on electric for now
Our Russian Locomotive Engine was electric

I said, ‘Duibūqī’ (‘I’m sorry’, sounds like ‘do bu see’) to the Captain and he even smiled.

Back end at Krasnoyarsk
Back end at Krasnoyarsk – best seen stationary.
You wouldn’t want that to start moving away from you, now would you?

Looked out on the different lines of fir tree leaves with the newer leaves lit up made me think of candles. That probably gave the Victorians the idea of decorating their trees for Christmas. Russia. Vast. Cold. And I hadn’t even read Gorky Park yet.

The novel Gorky Park cover
Gorky Park cover from;jsessionid=1036F8D7AF98E370BDBC2B6D3603930C.prodny_store01-atgap17?ean=9788852056031

I stood in the corridor charging my phone and replayed Monument Valley while I stood there. In the light of my visits to Hamburg and Warsaw the game took on a layer of poignancy. Work toward peace for all, my friends.

Charging the phone in the middle of the carriage
Charging the phone in the middle of the carriage.

This day was a day of quiet contemplation. There was less cheery greeting. More acceptance and perhaps a little weariness. There was a similarity to a multi-day bush walk. The smelly, long-drop toilet and the endurance of time. But out in the bush, or even on the Camino, there was clean air and the capacity to wash your clothes!

Rybinskiy rayon
Grasslands of Rybinskiy rayon

Maria and Sauli passed through after a chat with Father Will, full of amazement at his plans. Maria said, ‘I respect him. Like climbing a mountain.’ We seemed to agree his plan seemed antiquated, like our train’s coal fire. Sauli pointed out that one hundred years ago, going to Africa to teach hygiene and literacy made some sense. Now … ? A fellow musician, Sauli had learned Will played violin, so perhaps he will make music with the Cambodians and rise above dogma and the need to save their souls.

More cows in this tussocky brown grass landscape! Not sure if coal smoke is my favourite aroma. Getting a bit clogged in the pipes. Vitamins! Supplement!  Anton said, ‘Do not get sick.’ I didn’t.

Muted tones in Ilanskiy rayon
Muted tones in Ilanskiy rayon

18:00 – Almost directly East at 360 metres elevation. Dark. Confused about time. The restaurant car operated on Moscow time which had upset the Kiwis looking for morning coffee on Day Two.

The TransSiberian/Mongolian Railway is one of the great journeys of the world. The longest train track. Six days, one hour and four minutes. A journey many people, Kiwi Mark and Finnish Maria among them, have dreamed of completing for years. Not me. Never contemplated it even for a moment. I never dreamed I’d be on this train, heading to Beijing. Living the camping dream in a classic Chinese carriage drawn by an enormous Russian engine through grasslands, forests and hotbeds of industry where momentous history of mankind has played out. With a clatter and a bang and an ongoing drone of effort, ‘I think I can, I think I can’.

What’s the worst thing? I dreaded going to use the dunny because it smelled. But, we all survived. This far! Two and a bit more days … Could we last that long?

Hanging up the coal gloves
Hanging up the coal gloves

21 thoughts on “Stage Seven – Trans Siberian/Mongolian – overland UK 2 NZ

  1. Thank you, Nollaig! Sounds like you did much the same trip? Yes, the Chinese waiting room and holding pen are at Erlian for FIVE HOURS! Were you in Chinese carriages or Russian? I think the days of bogie changes may be numbered as the Mongolians are building a wide gauge to match the Russian. ( I agree, though, for the next trip I think it would be worth getting on and off the train for some tourist work, perhaps at Irkutsk, Ulan Bator and Ekaterinberg.

    • I was in the dreaded Chinese carraiges. The handle kept falling off the door from the inside, which meant I was locked in. One night I was bursting to go for a pee when the handle came off – had to keep banging for the guard to let me out !

  2. Great read Vickoz. Wish I had done something similar on my trip. Travelled from the centre of England to Beijing on four trains (Leamington – London, Eurostar to Paris, Paris-Moscow, Moscow-Beijing). Strangest part was when we were all taken off the train for hours at the Mongolian-Chinese border (think it was Erlian). The beautiful classical music and all the false rose beds – some juxtaposition. I thought I was the only Irish person on the train until a guy from Belfast got on at Ulan Bator. Next time I would like to get off at Ekaterinberg and see the house where the Tsar and his family were executed in 1918.

  3. the advertising you don’t know is encouraging people to donate blood for the people in need. The girl is the NO.1Female Pingpong Champion Ding Ning.

    • Spasibo, Tatiana! How wonderful you came along for the ride! Great to think of you in Moscow with your lucky students. I bet you are feeling cooler right now than I am here in humid Taiwan!

  4. Wonderful write-up Victoria, I feel like I’ve experienced it with you! I think it’s a great way to use your time, experiencing the reality of the non-flight long distance travel options and ‘seeing the details’ – whether the loo goes straight to the tracks, how cabins are heated and managed etc – you’re doing great. Also really interesting to get a glimpse of how some of those landscapes that people don’t usually see are managed and the variety of lifestyles of your fellow travellers. Good luck with every connection, accomodation and language challenge – we’re there with you!

  5. I do like you blog, Victoria. And your trip. It’s really fantastic! My English is not rich enough to express what I think about it. I feel like travelling myself!

    • Dear Begoña, I am very grateful you enjoy reading about my travels when you are such an experienced adventurer yourself! I’m very happy you feel inspired. I know you will have a great time where-ever you go – with your language skills and interest in other people – the world is yours!

  6. I have finally got through it.. wow, that was epic
    Page 6 best for me, i needed a sign of the step by step baby steps stepping stones
    You rock our intrepid reporter
    See you real soon in brissie

    • Thank you, Louiselle! Glad you managed to get through it. (Hope you were able to have a shower along the way.) Looking forward to landing in Port Brissie!

  7. OMG! Feels like I wrote that first comment days ago…. (it was after page 1 not realising there were 6 days of blog…YOU MADE IT!!!!
    Bloody hell, I was right there with you. Good job girl…show it how it’s done.

    • Thank you, MA! I am so grateful you managed to get through it all. I am trying to walk the talk but hadn’t realised how much fun it was going to be. Now I’m in hot, humid Taiwan it’s quite peculiar thinking I was looking at snow just a couple of weeks ago!

    • I send best wishes and good luck to all Antons, from Mongolia to Melbourne, may they be happy, healthy and looking forward to eating apples from their own trees.

Please leave a comment - would you travel this way??