10. At the End of the Rails: A Train Buff’s Russian Trans-Siberian Adventure

10. At the End of the Rails

On Saturday June 24th, finally Rossiya, train# 002, the superfast express train, pulled into Vladivostok train station exactly at 7am, local time, or give or take 23:45 Friday night Moscow time. All along the 7 night, 6 full days travel (144 hours), the train was running on Moscow time. Our carriage had an electronic board on both sides of the carriage number, and Moscow time only. No local time is visible of train or train station platforms. Even platforms go by Moscow time. Since it changes to 7 time zones, after leaving Moscow to Vladivostok, the time on all long distance trains within Russia, maintain Moscow arrival and departure time.

I spent about 90 minutes packing my two bags on Friday afternoon. By Friday dinner time, I was already packed, went to dinner at the train’s diner, came back and climbed into my upper berth bed, with my black pants, black socks, a shirt hanging on the hanger with my jacket, that’s it. I set my watch alarm to 6am, but, I was up by 5:30am on Saturday. Just went to the toilet, freshen up a little, removed the white bed sheets and pillow case, and give it to the attendant, while she came by to collect it.

The train was on arrival time: 23:45 Moscow time, by the time we got off, it was just about 7am, Saturday, local time in Vladivostok. As we stepped down the last step of the train, I said to the attendant: “Dasvidanya” (goodbye). She responded “Dasvidanya”, with a smile!

 

 

Dasvidanya Rossiya 002!

 

 

 

 

 It was quite an adventurous train journey. I enjoyed it very well. Never crossed my mind to get it over quickly. I was enjoying every minute of it. Sure there were few hick-ups in the 7 nights, 6 days journey, but they were manageable. There were few foreigners on this train.  Its one of those bucket list item that I wanted to accomplish, and in the planning and research stages for the past 7 years or so. I had to make it happen with finances, planning and a ton of moral support and encouragement from Denise.

 

 

 

 Hello Canadian? It will be Denise and I on this one, perhaps next year?  Look up “The Canadian” on internet, you will get the gist of it!

 

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8. Getting Cash Presents Challenges: A Train Buff’s Russian Trans-Siberian Adventure

8.  Getting Cash Presents Challenges

On Wednesday morning June 21st, 7am local time, got my ATM cash at Irkutsk. Was early to get cash. One of my debit card from US was not accepted with the pass code at the train’s dining car, but did accept the pass code at the ATM machine. 2 passengers we met got off in Irkutsk. There were no food vendors in Irkutsk. All my bananas gone.

 

 Took several pictures of Lake Baikal. Most passengers on the train got off in Irkutsk.  The train ride is very choppy, will continue to write tomorrow morning. The train slowed down a little bit. The train electric poles was a hindrance while taking pictures. Lots of pictures of hills and trees, farm homes. Lot of them rickety ones.

 Had chicken and vegetable soup for lunch. Michael and I joined to have lunch. Had eaten dinner, and had chicken, vegetables and potatoes. Michael and I ate at the same table for dinner. Again took several pictures after dinner. Stayed in touch texting Denise , and a text to my sons Steve and Dave. Waiting for a larger station to arrive, so that I can buy some bananas.

On Thursday June 22nd evening, a new passenger boarded the train. He is Vladimir. Working as an Engineer with Russian railway. Young fellow and inquisitive, spoke very little English. He said his sister goes to college in Miami. Michael and I took picture with him.

 

First time I had baked cod for dinner with cucumber and tomato at the diner. I’ll rate the dinner as average, and it cost 450 Roubles, plus I tipped 50 Roubles.  As the train is moving, lots of grasslands and trees, and small huts with tarp and wooden frames. Took several pictures of sunset to the west. Daylight through 10:30pm.

 

 

 

 

 Passed through couple of rivers. Also bought two large bottles of water for couple days. I am enjoying the train travel.

 

 

7. Too Much Daylight in Siberia: A Train Buff’s Russian Trans-Siberian Adventure

7. Too Much Daylight in Siberia

My body clock has changed, due to time difference with    Moscow time on the train and local weather and day light.  I was not eating plenty of vegetables. Taking vitamins, Pycnogenol and Psyllium on a regular basis. Taking the pill for cholesterol at nights, as regular as possible. It’s about 5pm Moscow time or 9pm through Siberia, it looks like 9pm or even 8pm in this vast Siberia, with green trees and farms. Moscow time on train is 100% consistent, and throwing many travelers off base. The best time to use the bathroom is around 6am Moscow time. Many are still sleeping, but very bright day with sun light through Siberia. The night is very short, more like 3 hours. I’ll cover my eyes with eye covers tonight, so that I can sleep for longer hours.

 Been listening to Mariachi music on my CD the last couple nights before sleeping. Also listened to a Russian folk instrument pop music, before falling asleep. Russian pop is on my cell phone, recorded from YouTube back home. The restaurant train car meals are fine, and have many choices. Russians eat too much pork and beef, very little chicken. Also Salmon is there, but does not look baked, it is smoked. It will be interesting to see, what the next two travelers will be like, after those two Michael and Vladimir get off in Irkutsk. So far, the train ran smoothly, no problems.

6. 2nd and 3rd Day Plenty of Trees, Farm Homes: A Train Buff’s Russian Trans-Siberian Adventure

6.  2nd and 3rd Day Plenty of Trees, Farm Homes and Eat on the Diner Car

On Monday June 19th, during the day passing by, plenty of thin trees and few rivers. The farm community homes are smaller, and rickety, with wood and tin covering. Train is moving at a fast pace, maybe 65km per hour? Or 70km/hr or even higher? I tried to text Denise at three smaller cities, including Ohms, but service is not available. Sent a couple of words on Michael’s phone via Facebook to Denise, saying all is well and riding well. I’ll try again in 3 hours to see if I can send a text to her. I took several pictures in the morning and in the afternoon, mostly trees, open spaces and the sky with some clouds.

 On Tuesday June 20th, traveled through low mountains, trees, old tiny rickety homes. Mostly farm homes. Also, got to see old style Soviet apartment buildings. Lots of trees, along the way. Two of our cabin passengers getting off in Irkutsk, half way point to Vladivostok. They get off at 2am Moscow time, but Irkutsk is at 7am.

Met a fellow traveler in dining car, and he is from Belgium, another train nut, he appeared to be about 30. He is traveling through Russia, and SE Asia and New Zealand. He spoke good English. While in the dining car, I got Eggs were sunny side up. I tried to use my debit card in the dining car, But did not take the pass code, which is correct. used cash to pay for the eggs.

 

 

 

 Today used my “No Rinse” shampoo for my hair, after 3 days . Worked fine.  None of the carriage car attendants speak English. Occasionally using google translator with the attendants. Stocked up with bakery for breakfast for next three days. I’ll use the ATM at Irkutsk station, to get some cash. Shared wife and grandkids pictures with the German and Russian travelers in my cabin. German traveler spoke manageable English, an army man. He helped me and Michael to translate from English to Russian with the cabin train attendant. Google translator is a god send.

 

5. First Full Day on the Train: A Train Buffs’s Russian Trans-Siberian Adventure

5.  First Full Day on the Train

Woke up Sunday morning Moscow time, and looked outside. All long distance trains and train stations in Russia are on Moscow time, regardless of the time zones in various regions. During the day on Sunday, June 18th, the train went through hundreds of miles lined with greenery trees, most of them  birch and other trees, and farm lands. Lots of small houses, and very few train stops, because this train is the fastest train, called Rossiya, and stops at 25 or less stations between Moscow and Vladivostok. The weather changed from sunny to few showers, and sunny again.

The train the first day traveled through Ural regions and few rivers. Also the weather is slightly cooler, but comfortable. Passengers are friendly. Two other cabin mates in our cabin, is one Russian man (Vladimir), and the other a German who spoke fluent Russian (Michael). Both were very helpful and courteous, and spoke Russian with the train attendants, and the Michael the German, translated into English. None of the train attendants or servers in the diner spoke English. I was ready with my Google translator, if it was required or necessary. All four of us had breakfast together at the trains diner (restaurant) and shared conversation.

The other two cabin travelers are going to Irkutsk, a 4 night journey. They are very good cabin members. In the afternoon around 3pm, I bought two more large water bottles at the station. Now I’ve enough bottled water for 3 days. I’ve enough provisions for at least 3 days or even more. Maybe in Irkutsk, I’ll buy more provisions for the remaining 3 nights. So far on the first day the journey on the train has been very comfortable and very little stress. The train attendants (women) also sell coffee, bakery, puzzles, to raise revenue for the train system. The attendants stand outside the carriage steps every time the train pulls into the station, and they stand there until the train leaves. Kind of precision work.

By 8pm, the train covered 1436km to Perm II, from Moscow. There is a list of complete train stops and the time, in the walkway for the passengers to read.

2. A 30 – Day Train Ride: A Train Buff’s Russian Trans-Siberian Adventure

2. 30 – Day Train Ride

  In late 2007, I had this bug to get on long distance trains in India and sleep on these trains as many nights as possible. By this time I am married to Denise in 2006, and I held a part-time job as a volunteer coordinator with a non-profit organization in Las Vegas. Yes, Denise and I moved, to Las Vegas in 2001, from San Diego area. I told my wife Denise, that I long to travel on long distance trains in India, and not stay on many hotels. She agreed and with her blessings, I quit my part-time job in early 2008, and bought a 30 day Indrail Pass on AC2 (Air condition) trains.

  On this journey, my sleeping berth and seat reservations were made by an agency in London for free, because I purchased the Indrail Pass from them. This time I traveled on 19 express trains, and slept 24 nights on various trains. I traveled on the longest distance and lengthy time on Himsagar Express for 72 hours (3 nights and 4 days), from Kanyakumari in deep South India to Jammu Tawi in Kashmir North India. Another train journey which was 3 nights and 4 days, and took 72 hours with few hours delay was Guwahathi Express, Ohka in Western Gujarat to far Eastern city Guwahati in the state of Assam. All the other trains were mostly one night journey.

Just a reminder, India is one-third the size of USA. So short one night train journeys are the majority. This trip in 2008 I traveled on four Rajdhani Express trains, and they provide meals on their trains, of course its included in the ticket price. Rajdhani’s have fewer stops and run faster, and have “right of way” when delays occur. I enjoyed the 5 week trip to India, and thought I got fulfillment and content with long distance trains.

1. In My Early Years: A Train Buff’s Russian Trans-Siberian Adventure

  1.  In My Early Years

 I love train travel. Ever since I was 12 years old, I traveled overnight train from outside of Bombay to Hyderabad in South India. It was twice a year to the boarding school in Hyderabad, for 6 years till I was 18. I was the only student in the boarding, coming from a distant region to attend school and stay in boarding, and go home in summer and Christmas holidays. All the locomotive engines were steam from Pune to Hyderabad.

At age 18 I moved to USA in 1964, joined my dad and family. First time I returned to India was for 3 weeks in 1987, and most of the travel was by plane inside India, and one overnight train journey. It all started back in 1998, when I took off to India for 60 days. I quit my subcontractor position as a financial analyst at an aerospace company near Los Angeles, and told my girl friend Denise, I want to ride the Indian rails on a mass scale. She encouraged me to take that long trip. I let go of the apartment I was renting.

 So there I went, with a 60 day Indrail Pass, which allowed me to travel on any train, but had to make reservation for a sleeping berth. Indian trains are crowded , and requires lengthy planning. It helped getting reservations on AC2 (Air Condition) carriages on various trains, due to foreign reserve quotas. The longest duration I traveled was on Kerala Express, from New Delhi to Trivandrum. Kerala Express was a 3 day, 2 night travel. The train went through various states, all the way to deep South India. Some were electric engines.

On this trip all the other train journey’s were a one night journey, and did visit few relatives in various Indian states. I enjoyed the 60 day trip to India. This was primarily a spiritual pilgrimage journey. I thought I had a good fill with trains, for a while. I stayed at many hotels close to train stations, about 15 of them. Just before starting my journey, I came across “India by Rail” guide book, and was a great asset.