Thursday, July 13, 2006

In the Transsiberian

We leave early to be at the train station around 8 AM, where our new friends (and our bikes) are waiting for us. It takes a couple hours to prepare the bikes (fortunately they had given up on requiring a crate), weight them and pay for it. They don’t speak any more English, but once they know what we want, the rest goes easy with some gestures and a handful of Russian words.
At 1:30 PM we board the train for a 3-days journey across Russia toward Krasnoiarsk. Our train is not one of the fast express trains that most tourist choose (it takes just 10h more on this one), but a “local” train where most travelers are Russians, which makes it all the more interesting. But we quickly meet this Dutch couple sharing our wagon, and later on a Russian girl who speaks English, and could translate some phrases for us.

The train stops for 10-20 minutes every 3-4 hours or so at a main station, which enables us to get out and stretch our legs, and buy some food and drinks from the kiosk or the local “baboutchka”. Hot water is provided in every wagon on a samovar (running on wood!), so we spend the day reading books sipping tea, watching through the window (trees.. and more trees), sleeping (a lot) and occasionally chatting with people (those we can understand). I must admit that it gets a little bit boring so we’re pretty happy to leave the train after 3 days. And it’s only mid-way the whole transsiberian!

We find our bikes and baggage all right in the wagon where we strapped them (quite relieved; we weren’t totally sure the cargo wagon was even part of the train), and with the help of the station guys we quickly unloaded them. Hooray! The hardest part is over, now we’re independent and free (well.. read on) .

Why Krasnoiarsk? some people called us crazy as that is where the road gets pretty bad. Well, that’s precisely why we skipped the former part: riding on paved highways is not our cup of tea. But the stretch from Krasnoiarsk to Irkutsk (1000 km) is another matter.
The city itself is not very interesting, but the little booths they set on the side of the Yenissei are quite enjoyable, and the weather quite nice. We spend a couple days here to relax and pack some food for the departure.


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