16.09.2015 - 17.09.2015
Alright, this entry will be out of sync because I need to get it out whilst the memories are still fresh.
We departed the idealic lakeside community of Litsyvenaka after talking an early morning swim in lake Baikal. Emma, Sarah, Dan, Karen and I headed down to the lake at 8am, outside temperature was a positively balmy 4 degrees, whilst the lake was a scolding 9 degrees. The team were in and out of the lake in about 2 minutes. That was the total time for all of us to de robe, brace ourselves, stumble in, exclaim various cries of pain, run out and scramble our clothes back on. A brisk walk back to the hostel, where a warm shower awaited us all.
Leaving for the trip back to Irkutsk, the obligatory stop at the supermarket was done to gather supplies for our 4 night train trip to Moscow. We were now well drilled in suitable supplies to gather. Shopping teams were formed, communal bulk items were reasonably distributed, 30 litres of water was collected, Emma and I made a prescient purchase of some party supplies. Our initial reasoning was it would be fun to have a party night and surprise the gang with the cheapest table wine we could secure. A 4$AUD bottle was purchased.
In Irkutsk, Roman our Honcho for this stop, attempted to hook up some of the members with SIM cards. This was a frustrating and ultimately vaguely successful endeavour. Not sure about the current status of this foray. A bit of retail therapy was had, H&M experienced a momentary surge in consumer confidence. Ran into Veronica and Jacob from the UK randomly. We first met them in Mongolia over a few bottles of Vodka in our Ger camp. We had ran into them periodically since. Emma shared a berth with them from Ulaanbaatar to Irkutsk. We were well ready for this train ride.
Marshalled at the station, we had enough gear to attempt an unsupported trek from the tip of Tierra del Fuego to Guatemala. Somehow this gear was stashed into our berths, and sleeping arrangements settled. It was to be, Karen, Haley, Kapil and Raesh in one berth as they were all sharing food. Emma, Blair and I in another, our fellow cabin member was a serious individual who Blair determined was a Russian Colonel. He declined to shake Emma's hand, so we decided to play it straight and disturb him as little as possible. Dan and Sarah were in the final berth with a Russian couple, the wife turned out to be an English teacher, so all in all cabin life had started with not too much foreseeable pain.
The dinning cart was the destination after a quick bowl of noodles. This cart looked like a throwback to a 50's American dinner. Except with a nice Russian twist and some surly looking attendants. A few rounds were had, then we started a disjointed conversation with an ample women who was sitting next to us. Broken attempts at translation elucidated that she was possibly from Ukraine however this was later confirmed to be Belarus. She had lost some children, which unfortunately seemed an all to common situation in these parts, as both the owner and helper man at the guest house at Lake Baikal had lost children. We tried to avoid the subject of family. I tried to drop some Spanish on her, causing derision and laughter from Emma. I mean why the hell would a Ukrainian/ Belarussian know Spanish? Alcohol may have been affecting my judgement. Then we hit the jackpot. Someone discovered that it was her birthday.
Yep. What are the odds that we run into a birthday girl on board. Emma and I scrambled back to our cabin, dug out our party hats and whistles and headed back. Our friendly carriage attendant, who had been pushing souvenirs and candy on us like a crack dealer, intercepted us en route. Having learnt to keep these keepers of bathroom keys on side, we showed her our supplies. Some fun was had. A few selfies were taken. Emma had cracked some big laughs from this knee high boot wearing, hairspray hungry, domineering, magnificent Russian woman. She was well and truly on our side. We moved on.
To the dinning cart, where our birthday girl awaited. We burst in, hats on, party whistles singing. Reader, she was almost moved to tears. We distributed the hats and all sang happy birthday to her. Never has happiness being writ larger on a lonely women’s face than in that moment. The beam lit up her face like a giant neon Justin Beiber billboard in Times Square.
The only downside to this whole encounter was she was a bit handsy and playful. So whenever a guy walked past her she would whack his butt, I had the pleasure (?) of this myself. Emma was the recipient of some very enthusiastic hugs, at one stage was lost in her ample bosom and we had to send in some miners to rescue her from deep within the fissures.
So, it was a good start to the trip. I woke up this morning, and not wanting to disturb the Colonel, have been waiting to write this for a few hours. Now the day is under way, will tend to creating some fingerless gloves out of actual gloves, eat some breakfast.............who knows what will be the next adventure.
As the Spanish say,