All aboard the Trans-Mongolian Express!

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September 9th 2008
Published: September 9th 2008
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The Trans-Mongolian Route

Point 0 MOSCOW Point 1 Vladimir 191km Point 2 Novgorod 442km Point 3 Perm 2 1194km Point 4 Yekaterinburg 1816km Point 5 Tyumen 2144km Point 6 Omsk 2712km Point 7 Novosibirsk 3335km Point 8 Tayga 3570km Point 9 Achinsk 1 3917km Point 10 Krasnoyarsk 4098km Point 11 Angarsk 5178km Point 12 Irkutsk 5178km Pont 15 Ulan Uday 5642km Ponit 16 Ulaanbaatar MONGOLIA 6304km

Our faithful locomotiveOur faithful locomotiveOur faithful locomotive

well one of many they changed on occasions
Here we are again only this time over 6000kms more traveled!

We boarded the train at Moscow although making the train was a close shave! Our transfer to Moscow train station did not arrive and cabs were in short supply due to Moscow road works. A cab was booked for us which was going to take 15 minutes, it takes half an hour to get to the station, it was 9.00pm and the train was leaving at 9.30pm; you work the maths out!!! Luckily for us a cab was dropping someone of at the hotel and the receptionist had to plead with him to take us, I am not sure if it was Rob's face or my face he did not like, but for whatever reason he did and he was not happy ........that is until a bundle of dollars was handed to him, he even managed a little bit of English after that! All the astute among you may be wondering why we paid in US dollars, that was because during our drive to the station we realised that we did not have enough roubles to pay our 800 rouble fare, thank goodness for the US dollar we tried in sterling and he laughed at us! Our generosity was down to the sheer relief of getting to the train station on time!

Our train cabin was a two berth East German carriage; imagine a black and white movie with Carey Grant entering the scene on a smoky train about to chat up his leading lady and you are pretty much there. This was our cosy home for the next 5 nights. For those who have never traveled overnight by train we can now share our top tips of tried and tested ways to uninterrupted sleep:

* get out the playing cards at least two hours before the required lights out time; games of choice: snap, rummy and s*ithead
* whilst playing cards crack open the whiskey, a quarter of a litre bottle should do it, this should be drunk at room temperature from a thermos flask
* apply lashings of Molton Brown relaxing Ying and Yang and other nice smells to the appropriate pressure points (thanks R&N for the invaluable pressie), if you do not have any nice smelly's Chloroform should also work
* once in bed before turning out the lights apply ear plugs firmly to ears, these are not to be taken orally
* apply eye mask and then rummage around with the various light switches available for that all important disco effect
* This ensures at least half an hours sleep but thereafter you will be awake for the rest of the night being shunted around the carriage. Nobody said the uninterrupted sleep was all night!

The train journey was amazing and we loved every minute of it, there is nothing else to do but kick back, relax and watch the world go by and what an incredibly diverse changing world it was from Moscow to Mongolia. One minute flat grasslands where people are farming by hand, The Urals - rolling foothills with Autumnal colours; industrial towns where industries have come and gone and life looks hard for those still there; country residence where people are self sufficient and display the perfect vegetable patch whether it is in a house of bricks or a wooden shack. Siberia has a harsh beauty and a bleakness you could not even begin to image having to endure. There are reminders of the past atrocities and the shameful killing of 30 million people under Stalin.

One of the highlights of the journey was witnessing a sunrise over Lake Baikal; it is the oldest and deepest lake in the world, at over 400 miles long and 5371 feet deep! It holds 20% of the worlds freshwater; it is strange to see a lake that looks more like an ocean, we felt privileged to see such an amazing sight that so few people have seen.

We now have an appreciation for how big Russia is after traveling constantly for 5 days and 5 nights and only getting half way across the country.

We have now arrived in UlaanBataar where we are about to go exploring.......but that's another blog!

We are heading off on a 12 day tour of Mongolia on the 11th Sept and will be out of contact until the 23rd Sept.

Additional photos below
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9th September 2008

the train journey sounds like they have better facilities that london underground, what happend to the vodka shots with the locals or did you not join in the fun? we looked at fares for Aus over xmas but our bugdet does not exceed £3000 will have to wait a little longer before we can catch up. However as i'm still finding bits of Robs washing and the endless amounts of his body hair in the bathroom you still seem close by. love B & J

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