This leg was an entirely manageable 30hrs. Funny how your perspective shifts, normally the thought of being on a train for more than 24hrs would be an ordeal. We’d also managed to book early enough to secure a top and bottom bunk, however we later agreed that we preferred both being at the top, as it felt more private, and as well as feeling like we were travelling together, as we could actually see each other. Sitting on the lower level is marginally more comfortable, however you’re stuck facing a stranger during the day.
The cabins didn’t have a window that could be opened this time, and when we arrived the heat inside was quite unbearable (though, we were sweaty from walking around all day). Thankfully the carriage was air conditioned, once we got moving.
We were eager to find out whom we’d be sharing our little cabin with, and it turned out to be an Italian living in Kazan. Unfortunately he didn’t speak any English, so we had to resort to communication via the translators in our phones again. He was quiet and clean, so again, it was another win for a cabin mate.
The only seats we were able to purchase this leg came with meals, which I’d completely forgotten about, as we’d stuffed ourselves before leaving Irkutsk to avoid having to buy food on the train… So when the provodnista came and dropped off two brown paper bags, with a bottle of water, a tea bag, some instant coffee and a slice of bread, we knew we’d made a mistake. Dinner arrived soon after in a polystyrene box. I did my best to guess ‘what’s in the box’. Turns out my imagination wasn’t nearly creative enough… I guess the restaurant carriage is actually sometimes a superior choice. Perspective is a funny thing! At least we had the MotoGP to watch with dinner!
Outside things had changed subtly. Colours had shifted, and there was green and life in the vegetation. There were enormous rolling plains of green grass and freshly sprouting wheat now, too. We were starting to leave the wilderness behind.
We arrived at Ilansky early on Thursday morning. Risa was still sleeping, but I ventured out to see if I could find anything for breakfast. It was a mission just to get off the platform! The trains seemed to stretch for hundreds of meters. I grabbed a large piroshky to share, combined with the fruit we’d bought from the markets yesterday, and the left over bread from last night (with vegemite).
With almost comedic timing, as I’d finished eating my breakfast, the provodnista arrived with today’s meal bag, containing another bottle of water, a tea bag, some instant coffe, and another slice of bread. At least there was nearly an hour before the actual brunch (soup and meat/rice) came. It was a challenge to push more food down, but at least it was better than last night’s sad meal.
The sun was out again today, and it was vibrant and alive outside. The forests of silver birch were no longer bare white skeletons, but were covered in vivid green leaves. The polariser seemed to cut through a lot of the haze of the train’s windows, too.
The landscape really didn’t shift today, which gave me time to tune out and do some reading (currently on the third book of Asimov’s Foundation series). It was still entertaining (and a little hypnotic) staring at the world outside, it’s just like watching re-runs – though, of a two-minute episode dozens of times over.
About lunch time, we pulled in to Krasnoyarsk. I’d originally wanted to spend a day here hiking in the Stolby National Park, but as always, we couldn’t do everything we wanted with the limited time we had. The station was enormous, as was the excellent soviet mural just outside. The thirty-minute stop was just long enough to quickly wonder around and stretch our legs. The heat and strong sunshine was still a surprise to us.
The sunshine and beautiful weather didn’t last long, and soon it was grey and stormy outside again. The countryside was once again gloomy and depressing. It’s strange to say, but I felt like we were back in Russia.
A thirty minute stop in Marinsk was long enough to make it to the shops by the main station, and to pick up some food from one of the small shops. Sadly there weren’t any local babushkas selling homemade dishes, so we settled for another piroshky with some smoked chicken and a beer, with a tomato to keep it healthy.
We were due to arrive in Novosibirsk just before midnight, so after finishing dinner, and with the help of that can of beer, we had a nap for a few hours. The provodnista woke us a few times before we arrived (I had multiple alarms set), which was annoying, but it was good that she was actively monitoring us, making sure we’d get off (and vacate the bed for the next passenger).
We were now well over half way to Moscow, and the whole process was starting to feel easy and familiar, rather than an exciting challenge like the first day or two was. Things were becoming routine.