20,000 leagues under the sky, 2004- travel blog

Nik 2 and Jane.

White Christmas.

8729km from Hong Kong.

By the time Jane and co got back from the Restaurant car not many hours later, Jane was roaring drunk too and told me that he had to lie down and sleep. I was reading so said it was no problem but every time he put his head on the pillow he thought of something that he had to tell me or say. Most of the gist of it was that he wanted me to get off at Krasnoast station with him and go to his house in Northern Siberia to stay. He told me (mimed) that we could hunt bears, catch fish and of course get monumentally drunk. As I declined on grounds that my visa was to go to Moscow and only valid until 2 days after I got off the train he told me that the papers were no problem he could sort it. After a few more failed attempts to go to sleep I invited him to come for a cigarette with the idea that I would let him return on his own and hope he would pass out. Niks 1 and 2 were also there and they laughed at his plans to hunt bears saying (miming) that they would all be asleep and we could just walk up and catch them.

All of a sudden, Rochelle, a Kiwi girl who I'd shared the compartment with from Beijing to UB came through the train. She was immediately pounced upon by my Russian friends and got a barrage of questions as well as cuddles. I couldn't help finding it funny after having put up with it for nearly 2 days myself by then. Rochelle thought I could speak Russian as I translated all of the questions but it was only the fact that I had figured them all out after about the hundredth time I'd been asked them. I used Rochelle's presence as an opportunity to escape and went back to the cabin she and Lee her boyfriend were sharing.

I couldn't believe the difference, both cabins were identical except that they had their own after their original sharing-baggage abusers also got off in Ulan Ude. There was no overpowering smell of stale alcohol and it seemed much brighter as they had the top bunks folded up. Lee and myself went off to explore the entire length of the train to see if there were any other Westerners on as they were going to invite people for Christmas snacks in their cabin the following day if no-one had taken the other two bunks. We couldn't find any others and stopped for a couple of beers in the dining car.

When I went back down to my cabin that evening Jane was awake again but Nik 1, who I hadn't seen since he left for the "bar" that morning, was still comatose next door. This time I did have a drink with them, first their beer then my vodka. I was hoping to save the vodka for xmas day, but felt it was worth the sacrifice if it sent them over the edge and off to bed. Jane told me that his stop was the next morning and that I should come and shoot bears and if any police had a problem with the visa he would shoot them too or send Nik 1 after them who used to be a sniper. Again I declined and just swapped (false) addresses with him. He said that when he got off that I would have a first class compartment as I would be the only one in it. I didn't want to get my hopes up falsely, but assumed that he meant that once a berth has been taken that it is unavailable for booking for the rest of the journey.

I think we finally went to bed at about 1am (my time), at about 3 or 4 we hit a major town and there was lots of commotion outside, eventually our door opened and people came crashing in, more Mongolians and strangely enough a few tonnes of luggage. They must have spent most of the night moving it around the carriage and back and forwards to other carriages. Jane woke me up (from my half sleep) when his station arrived to say goodbye and fortunately not to try to drag me off with him.

Soon after this as daylight arrived; I got up and couldn't believe it when the new Mongolians took this as the time to go to sleep. After the banging and crashing they had made throughout the night I refused to make any concession to them and came in and out of the carriage to make coffee or noodles etc as I pleased. When I did go out into the corridor and the end of the carriage to smoke I found that the train had been blocked up with big stripey plastic bags everywhere.

At around mid-day I went down to see Lee and Rochelle, but returned to my own compartment as we approached a major town to keep an eye on my belongings. The stop was chaos, all of the Mongolians on the train ran off to the platform with arms full off the goods they were carrying to have a frantic selling spree with the locals who were obviously waiting for them. This went on for the entire 20 minute stop with a few trips back on the train for more stock from the Mongolians. I saw a few scuffles and at least one person run away under another train, obviously with some grabbed loot. The next hour was spent rearranging stocks about the train and counting money, at least I knew now why they had loaded so much.

That evening we reached Novosibrisk, the biggest city in Siberia where the rest of my Russian drunkards got off, they all came to say goodbye first though and bequeathed me their undrunk beer, 2 bottles which I took back down to L&Rs cabin and had an evening of cards, vodka-coffee and beer.

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