December 06, 2006 GMT
'Russian' for the border

The weather was closing in. My visa problems at the hotel in Krasnoyarsk, made me concerned about my date with the russian border guards.


Without my merino thermals, I was already numb with cold.


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God bless these roadside cafes and the cute waitstaff.


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After 400 miles of freezing rain and terrifyingly slick roads, I reached Kemerov.
With my steering compromised by a nasty pothole, my fingers numb with cold and my extended visa due to expire (again), I thought I'd catch the train through the Russian Steppes.

Not so easy. With Nikolai translating on my cell phone, it was established that I needed a train that carried cargo AND passengers leaving from a town called Taiga - 120 clicks north. The very nice station master (strong babushka type) gave me a beautiful old map of the area and directions to Taiga. The train was leaving the next morning at 10.15.

I had the choice of staying in Kemerov for the night or risk the 120 km journey to Taiga.

Chose the latter and paid a taxi driver to show me the route out of town. It was beginning to get dark, still raining and I had 120 kms to ride with suspect steering and poor lights.

I stopped for gas, but when I tried to restart...the battery was too weak. I started pushing my bike down a side road behind the gas station but the further I went, the grimmer it became...then a flash of genius...my spare Russian battery connected to the main weak battery by jumper cables gave me just enough juice to start up.

By now it was dark and still raining. I started back to Kemerov to find a hotel, but instead opted to set up camp just off the main road behind this (I hoped) abandoned building.

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I set up camp...English agent....deep behind enemy lines

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In the morning, still raining and I had to reach Taiga for the 10.15 to Moscow. The bike wouldn't start again but I used the old spare battery trick to get her fired up.


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Freezing cold again, pouring and a map written in Russian! I was never so glad to see this sign (Taiga!)

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The ethereal mist around the sign is my exhaust condensing in the cold.
I wasn't home yet. I still needed to find the train station. Seconds after I took this shot, the rain turned to heavy snow. I flagged down some cops and they led me to the train station.

With only seconds left on my simcard, I had to get my bike and myself on the train.


Sergei, the station cargo master helped me out.

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He was smiling because he just made a quick 1,200 roubles 'helping' me out with some currency exchange...only gave me 4/5's the rate...but at this point was glad to be out of the snow and the train beckoned.


Wot's the plank for?

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Oh...

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Four burly Russian train men muscled her up the final push onto the train.

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and lightened my wallet by another 500 roubles for 'uncrated cargo' fees.

All aboard for Moscow!
The bike fare - 3690.00 roubles ($140.00)
Personal train fare - 1670.00 roubles ($ 65.00)
currency 'exchange' fee - 1200.00 roubles ($ 46.00)
'uncrated cargo' fee - 500.00 roubles ($ 20.00)

total fare to Moscow - 7060.00 roubles ($271.00)

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Third class on the TranSiberian Express!

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Oh yes, my friends...those sweatstains are real!

but sure was nice to have a bunk to call my own

This is my 'glad to be out of the cold, still moving at 50 m.p.h and ready to crash for the night' cheese-eating grin.


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Not so fast...remember the two guys who helped load my bike onto the train?

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Sergei (on the right) and Nikolai invited me to their private cargo cabin...

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for dinner...very nice

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and of course....

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one for you...

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one for you...

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one for you...

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Hey Kirsten....recognize the ol' vodka eyes???!!!

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Not to mention the spagetti sauce.


When I tried to explain the battery charger had 6 amp for faster charging or 4 amp charge for more of a trickle charge, Sergei expounded his battery charger knowledge by pointing to the 4 amp charge and making slow lewd motions toward his lady friend. With the 6 amp, he did the same - just twice as fast!!! Ah, the universal language of love!!!

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I have no idea how I returned to my bunk that night....eight coaches away. It was a relief to know all my valuables were exactly where they should be. I had developed on unconscious knowledge of the whereabouts of valuables by this time because I had been using the same pockets for the same items for over three months....serious security system!

Next morning...with me a tad hungover, I took this snapshot of Marina - our coach matron - one thing I learnt quickly was that no-one messed with the coach matrons! But she was very helpful and sweet.

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Each coach was equipped with it's own hot water heater. What a blessing this was. With instant coffee (bought from Marina or bring you own) tea, soup, pot noodles etc...this water heater was the social center of each coach

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It was fueled by coal and trash from the passengers....brilliant!!!!

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Then there's the potty.

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That's the daylight of the tracks underneath... a foot operated pedal released the flotsam and jetsom straight onto the tracks....no holding tanks on the TranSiberianiski!


The ends of each coach was reserved for smokers.

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The very nice dining room never had any business

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Maybe the food was crap?

This cute Ukranian clothes seller tried to sell me a sweater

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But my Russian travelling neighbours soon took up the transaction on my behalf led by this lady opposite me,

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who demand the Ukranian burn a tuft of the sweater to prove it was indeed real animal hair...it was. She then negotiated me a better deal...about $14.00....and had the deal wrapped up in no time!

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These two scamps spoke very loud Russian for three days and nights

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After three delightful days and nights we pull up in Moscow.
A fond farewell to my cargo trainmen friends

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and welcome to Moscow

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Posted by Richard Lindley at December 06, 2006 09:00 PM GMT
 
 

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