Howdy all from Russia. I’ve been on another long train journey. A very long journey – I left in the evening of Monday to get to Irutsk, near Lake Baikal, on Wednesday morning, so that’s two nights and one day on the train.
I boarded in Ulaan Baatar at around 8pm. The train was much nicer, more modern, than the previous train, although on this train I was sharing in a four-bed cabin. I had a bottom berth too which was preferable to the top one I had from Beijing to Ulaan Baatar. There were three Australians on the train, and by coincidence (maybe…) we were all in the same compartment! The result was good company and lots of laughs all the way to the Siberian City of Irkutsk.
So it wasn’t too long before I was attempting sleep. I got a decent few hours, and when I woke the train was stopping for passport checks and customs exiting Mongolia. This was pretty painless.
Suddenly all the carriages were gone, and they swapped engines to pull our single carriage over to Russia. That was another 21km or so to the Russian border town of Naushki. There passports were checked on the train and bags were searched.
Then we received the news that we had to wait for three hours there. So three hours in a dusty border town. Couldn’t even find an open cafe, just a couple of mini-marts. It was a public holiday in Russia so that could have had something to do with it. The houses were wooden, and many of them were in pretty rickety condition, to say the least. But the station looked pretty new. Some of the kids in town were dressed in military uniform for V Day celebrations and happily let me take a couple of photos.
And so I spent the last hour or so waiting on the platform, listening to Soviet songs probably from the 1940s (the holiday was Victory Day) blaring through the public address system. I watched on as they added eight or nine carriages to the train. And an engine! Finally, at just before three pm, the train moved off into the Siberian countryside. And to be honest, it’s quite attractive – rolling hills, greener than Mongolia, as you’d expect.
The sun went down. We the last carriage on the train and so could see out the back which was nice. So was the stunning sunset out the window over the interestingly named ‘Goose Lake’.
Night fell, and we pulled into Ulan-Ude station, the first city/town of any size since the train had left Ulaan Baatar. The train doubled in length there taking on another ten carriages, and it was time to attempt sleep again.
We woke to a different scene – far more trees. This was how I had imagined Siberia. Shortly before 730am we arrived in Irkutsk and we could finally get off the train for good, 35 hours after it had rolled out if Ulaan Baatar. It had been quite the journey. May the Journey Never End!