We arrived at Yaroslavsky station quite close to departure as my son and I had made one more pointless journey to the Airport as our luggage was apparently found – sadly it was not. We had anticipated something like this and looked around the station the day before. Across the road their are a number of shops where you can stock up on provisions. The most vital things are just add water food and drinks, toilet paper and set wipes (which are actually a form of currency on the train), sweet things. While you can acquire most stuff on the platform when it stops I never saw wet wipes.
At the time of writing Komsomolskya Metro station is undergoing works so areas are closed off. But you exit the Metro sort of at the back of the station and you need to go right and then left to get to the front. Russian stations all have scanners and security so be prepared. We were in the 04 Chinese train, one of the older carriages in 1st class with a shared sink and shower of sorts. We had bought all sorts of things with us backgammon, go, a handpresso machine, cups, sporks, towels, slippers and sandals and a sleeping insert. We ended up with none of these. However, the only thing I missed were sandals, the coffee, and the spare battery and charger for my phone. We had ereaders, bought cups spoons and Turkish style coffee, plastic storage containers. On day one we fashioned a Go board from paper and coloured pistachio shells, we just looked out the window realised our mobiles couldn’t capture it. We read and we eat.
Figure 1: Staring out the Window
Over the 4 days we fell into a pattern quickly. Morning coffee with black bread and those strange croissants in packets, lunch black bread sweaty curd cheese and meat, afternoon the loose leaf green tea we bought by accident brewed in the plastic pots purchased last minute. We got to know people, the journey is very socialable. I met my shared shower neighbour through his concern for the water coming up through the shower drain and the odour, I met others through shared wonder at the view, and generally people kept their doors open. We had “people round”, someone around my age heading home to Australia the long way, a young Austrian couple on a world tour, before going to find work in New Zealand. Meanwhile the Chinese gaurds prepared amazing noodle meals for themselves most of the rest of the train lived through collecting boiling water from the samovar at the end and pouring it over dried noodles. As we went back and forth it became like a familiar street where people know you, they stop talk, kids play, often you just stand staring out the dusty windows.
Figure 2: After the Birch, endless fields
You can easily lose yourself on the train, lulled until you arrive at Irkutsk at around 720am. Collecting hot water and visiting the bathroom we nodded and talked through the open doors. Travelling East in a train and adding +1 to local time once a day does something to your sleep patterns. In 4 days it’s 5 hours. On the last day we woke at 5am – midnight in Moscow. It was a bright morning and we eat the last of our provisions. Going along the corridor I noted the open doors, and others also awake and wondering why. My son pointed out he was wide awake, yet back home it was yesterday.