All entries for Thursday 01 September 2005

September 01, 2005

The Russian Experience (part 3)

(The new one)

Hello again all,

It's been quite a while since the last e-mail due to not being near a computer for a very long time, so this one comes with a health warning: only read this when you have plenty of time and if you can be bothered to read quite so many pages.

Also, due to how long this took to write, I'm not going to have any time now to check it over, so I apologise if it makes no sense!

Day 7: On our second full day in Ekaterinburg we woke early, I had my cold shower, and we set off to the Ural Mountains back in Europe.

The drive was one of the most scary I have ever been on (though not quite as bad as having Tessa drive!): we spent half the time on the other side of the road dodging pot-holes that put mere holes in the ground to shame! We had to stop quite a few times as well to check that not all of the cooling water had leaked out, or so that our driver could get branches to hit his friends in Saunas with (we didn't ask…).

We arrived, and after a short stroll over bridges with "do not cross" on them we inflated some rafts and paddled down the river for a while. It was a very sunny day with a perfect blue sky, so this more than made up for the nastiness of Ekaterinburg itself!

At the end of the float down stream, we went on a short hike to some caves and down the "stairs of death". Actually, we just went down half of them as the other half had already collapsed into the depths of the cave. After another quick hike we had some sausages freshly cooked on the open fire and headed back to Ekaterinburg, braving the pot holes once again.

Our train was leaving the next day at 4 in the morning, so we decided to go out and have a few drinks instead of getting any sleep. Firstly we went to a Scottish Pub, with all the locals dancing to the Braveheart theme among other Scottish classics! It was definitely the hub for young people of the city. We moved on after a while to a German pub (we couldn't find any Russian ones…) where we drank more over-priced beer and Tim admitted his fetish for Bavarian Laderhosens!

We made it back to the hotel later that evening and headed over to the train station…

Day 8/9: (Hrm, I'm starting to realise this will get much too long if I don't hurry up… So here goes) 52 hours on the train, drank the cheap beer, met a Hawaiian environmental scientist, Tim's diarrhoea finished.

Day 10: We arrived in Irkutsk in the early morning and were whisked off to a little fishing village on the shores of Lake Baikal (the deepest and oldest lake in the world) for a home stay. The house we were in was absolutely amazing, even the outdoor toilet was brand new and didn't smell at all (very unusual for the ones in the area). We went for a tour of Bolshoe Golovestoy (the village, I think that was how it was spelt…) and relaxed the whole day in the glorious sunshine. Tim and I went for a quick dip in the lake (it's meant to add 25 years to your life) and found it even colder than the shower water in Ekaterinburg (which I thought was going to be impossible!).

In the evening a couple of Eton boys were staying, so we had a quick chat to them, ate their caviar and let them have a little of our vodka.

Day 11: The caviar was a bad idea for Tim it seemed, bringing on a resurgence of the diarrhoea, but he still came on the "relaxing stroll" we were promised. This ended up being a long hike, quite a lot of which was down the lake's beach jumping the waves or clambering on the sides of the cliff to stop getting soaked. It was a lot of fun though…

Halfway through the walk we had a home-made soup of home-caught fish. This was very nice, but I didn't quite know how to react to getting boiled water with a few potatoes and a huge hunk of fish in it. Tim didn't appreciate the toilet at the camp as well, it was what the outdoor toilets are like after a few years I think…

On the way home we bumped in to a Polish girl called Magda who could speak not only fluent Polish and English, but could speak Russian like a native as well. We ended up eating the nuts from pine cones and having a bit of a beer tasting night with her.

Day 12: Either the pine cone nuts or the dinner didn't react with me very well, so after a morning on the toilet I decided to not get too far away from the toilet and read books most of the day. I have been fasting since then (24 hours so far), as that's the best way to get rid of it from Tim's experience.

Day 13: Came back to Irkutsk ready for the train on to Ulan-Uday this evening, wrote this epic and we are then going on a quick potter to see the sights of the city.

Hrm, sorry about that, was a bit too long. Almost half-way through this holiday now, that's a strange thought….

Sam


The Russian Experience (part 2)

Hi again all,

I wrote this a little time ago, but the computer I did it on was so slow it wouldn't let me post it on my blog:

On our last morning in Moscow, we tried to see Lenin's sarcophogus but the queue was just too long, so we had to leave to go and get our train to cold, smelly Ekaterinburg.

The 30 hour journey to Asia was quite fun, we stopped off at various small stations on the way where there were always locals outside trying to sell us local goods from chandaliers to stuffed squirrels! We were in a four berth carriage, so to begin with we had a (very smelly) Russian with us until she left due to us not being able to communicate with her at all. Sleeping was OK: I don't think any of us slept straight through the night but just that kind of hazy collapse where you remember your dreams very well… I just dreamt about being on trains (I have no imagination it seems!) but I don't think I should repeat what Tim was dreaming about!

Now in Ekaterinburg we went out for the best food we could find in the area last night (congealed cheese and tomato pizza from the originally named "American Hot Pizza, Est 2004"). We all smelt a little after the journey, so tried to have a shower but found out we had no hot water. It turns out now that the boiler that heats the water for the entire city (all 1.5m people) is broken, and no one knows when it's going to be fixed. I was the only one to brave the cold shower this morning.

The city itself doesn't seem to have that much history, we had a guided tour this morning with two London-dwelling, Aussie nurses on the same route as us (Tanya and Bo) and I think I'd have found more of interest on a Southampton City Tour…

We're all having fun though, even Tim with his mild diarrhoea. Tomorrow we go hiking, and then have a 52 hour journey onwards to Irkutsk!

Hope you're well,

Sam


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