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Day Five - Crossing into Asia
I awoke around 9.30 feeling much refreshed. I was alone in the cabin and the first order of business was to sort out the dirty clothes. I usuallly have a systems whereby the clothes are placed in a black bin bag as they are used, thus saving much packing time later on in the trip. A little more difficult to achieve in the confinement of the railway cabin but none the less I managed to establish a similar system. Hopeful, this would keep the odour of stinking clothes down as well!
Next, I went to get my first wash in the carriage compartment. This was the first time I had suffered a "sink-wash" since yachting in The English Channel five years ago in a very rough force 7 gale! And the experience wasn't much different apart from the absence of sea sickness.
I found Cousin Pete enjoying breakfast so I joined him for eggs and coffee. The coffee had a sludge element to it, no doubt unfiltered and so retained a rather crude element to it. Also, our problems with the laguage are persisting but we are persevering with our Collins phrasebook. The Russians are slowly getting used to us, and we to them.
Next stop is "Krov" some 911 kilometers outwards. We get out and watch the engine being changed. These are very large locomotives - must be twice the size of ours at least. Krov smells like Bilston did 30 years ago when the steelworks were still manufacturing. These stops are pretty much the highlight of the day, apart from eating and washing.
Whilst we wait at Krov, the Chinese run Moscow-Beijing express follws us into the station and comes to rest in the platform opposite us. Painted a dark green, they are the same design of carriage as ours; where they are manufactured I don't know but it does seem an interested example of Russo-Chinese co-operation. Also of interest is the perceived stand off between the Blue coated Russian attendents who eye warily the opposing Chinese attendents, dressed in a military style uniform. Amongst this scene of Cold War like tension, the locals are running around trying to sell fruit, huge soft toys and any amount of old tat! This scene is to be repeated a number of times down the line.
We reboard the train and we're off again.By this time, only two days into the actual trip, Cousin Pete is getting fed up with the proliferation of Silver Birch Trees as the space between villages is filled with little else. Russian much have as muich timber as Brazil - I'll have to ask Greenpeace Gav when I return.
And so to lunch which was a rather nice Chicken noodle soup with black bread which retained it's vinegary taste and tea with milk! How English is that! Over lich we discss the trip as tonight we'll be crossing over into Asia, which will be a new continent for both me and Cousin Pete.
After lunch, we cross the Volga and stop at Perm to restock the train. The temperature has dropped quite a bit so I needed my sweatshirt for the first time when we got onto the platform. Also, I got a dose of "train-leg" as when I stepped off the train, my legs went really wobbly and I retained the swaying motion of the train! Not a good sign! Oddly, there are no locals selling on the platform here - the station has all small shops. Obviously, all of Perm's one million inhabitants have some form of occupation that keeps them away from the station.
We've made the aquaintance of a middle-aged German couple from Nurnburg who are travelling in the cabin three down. They are travelling to Beijing the easy way - a guided tour run on typical German style practise, with two nights in Ulaan Baator, and four in Beijing itself. They looked at us in amazement when we said that we were doing the whole trip in 7 nights!
Having digested a really good pork dinner, we settled down to a couple of Russian brewed Millers in the cabin. As the sunset dwindled into darkness, we lashed past the obelisk that marks the division between Europe and Asia. Not much to look at and gone in the blink of an eye. So, we are now offically in Asia - cause for a celebration I think!
Our next stop was Yekaterinburg, the first city in the Urals. So far, these mountains have been nothing more than a series of low hills which has been rather disappointing as we were expecting something more spectacular. However, we did pass some mountain streams and some "young" river systems that remined me of the Severn Valley.
Once at Yekaterinburg, we descended once more onto the platform and experienced again "train-leg". It was much colder here, probably as we were much higher than we had been ini Europe. . We took a quick look at the city which seemed most interesting, the place where Boris Yeltzin came from apparently. This place has a note of notoriety about it as it was the place where the Bolsheviks murdered the last Tsar and his family in 1918.
The German duo were there and two guys from The Russian Army, one of them claiming to be a "Keptain", but looking rather more like a lieutenant. However, having taken some group photos and discussed Blair and Bush, it was time to board the train again and we were off. We setup the cabin for sleep and dropped off, but were awoken a few times during the night by the severe rolling of the train as the driver evidently wanted to get a crack on! In fact the train was going so fast it felt as if it was going to leave the track!