Tuesday (17th), in preparation for our longest train trip we stocked up on salami, flat bread, biscuits, sweets and red wine. With all of our luggage and food we had a transfer from the hotel to the station and after arriving to considerable confusion we eventually found out we were on a different train than what our itinerary indicated - which meant getting into Moscow 10 hours later at 4:40am Saturday morning instead of 6pm Friday night! Still, we were ending up at the same destination so it wasn't really a big problem. After finding our way to the platform and finding the train pulling in, we were greeted by Russian transport police, who were in plain clothes and singled Paul out by saying 'Paul Christopher? Hi, I am from Russian Police', and with no idea who it was, it kinda freaked us out! Anyway, they just wanted to look through our luggage to confirm that the camera was stolen and we were not filing a false police report! They were very nice and apologetic but it was still a nerve racking situation having them go through our luggage on the platform in front of a couple of carriages of people.
A little shaken and happy to be leaving Irkutsk, once on the train our disappointment at being on a different schedule dissipated when we found out that we had the 2 bottom bunks in the 4 berth cabin. This was a total score as we could sit opposite each other with the table and eat, play cards, drink etc. We had not been able to do this on previous trips because we had had the top and bottom on each side. Even better was that we had the cabin to ourselves the entire journey!
Us in our cabin, ready to eat, and a sheet of flat bread
Along the way we feasted not only on the supplies we had brought, but also purchased a fair bit of Russian food and beer off the friendly trolley lady from the dining car. She came down the train twice a day with deep fried bread like dumplings with meat in the middle (delicious!), boiled eggs, smoked fish, baked chicken, and some kind of meat roll. We played an enormous amount of cards (PM: I finished the book I set aside for the trans siberian trip, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintanence, a fitting read I think) and met a few friends. These included Azik from Uzbekistan, who gave us some chocolates and who we then gave a small bottle of Japanese whisky too in return. He then came into our cabin where we had a sign language conversation in English and Russian. And Sasha, a 15 year old girl from the Ukraine, who took quite a liking to Joss and kept coming into visit and chat in English. She first came into our cabin and spoke to us in Russian, then left a bit embarrassed only to return later with a notepad that read 'Do you know English' on one page, to which we replied yes, and then she flipped it over where she had written 'Can I speak English with you?' She also brought us a bit of food to share, including a pine cone! And yes at first we did think what the hell do we do with this, but she showed us how to peel back the segments to reveal the pine nuts inside! Delicious. We were the only foreigners in our carriage and there were only a few on the whole train, which was a stark contrast to our first train from Beijing! It is also worth a mention that the Provodnistas on this trip were the best we had had so far - contrary to what we were led to believe.
Cracking the pine nuts out, and a large cucumber
Joss and Sasha