To say that this blog post is belated would be an understatement. Travel blogger fail. It’s been a whirlwind returning to the UK but that’s something I’ll write about another day (hopefully within the next 6 months). For now I’m going to focus on my final stop in Russia…. Moscow.
27th – 28th April 2016
Location: Nizhny Novgorod
Towards the end of my journey I’ve hit a bit of writer’s block. The train journey between Krasnoyarsk and Nizhny Novgorod really took it out of me. It wasn’t the longest stint but finally getting out of the East and making my way through time zones started to play a little havoc on me. Both nights I gained two hours so I was waking up at 5 or 6 am feeling rested and that made for very long days.
25th – 26th April 2016
The train between Irkutsk was a reasonably short and uneventful one. This was my first time on a journey that felt like a much more local route and you can tell the difference. I felt a little intimidated alone in a cabin with three butch Russian men. I tried to chat a little with the one guy who was willing but the other two seemed to roll ‘bloody tourist’ eyes at my every movement. I’m certain I was being too sensitive so I channelled my inner Baikal fisherwoman, grabbed my book and let myself get sucked into the world of Thomas Harris instead.
22nd – 24th April 2016
If I thought my time in Ulan-Ude was quiet, it was simple a practice round for my experience in Irkutsk. After a short night on the train, I arrived in the city in the early hours of the morning and waited in the minus degree cold until I could get into my hostel. After unloading my bags and treating myself to a hot shower and quick nap, I set off to explore the city.
Tuesday 19th April 2016
After driving through empty fields and tiny, ramshackled villages, I was finding it hard to imagine arriving into a city that supposedly had a population of over 400,000. But then, all of a sudden, it emerged on the horizon. Ulan-Ude hardly stands out from a crowd but compared to the last day and a half of woodlands, farmlands and empty space, it looked like a capital city.
Sunday 17th April 2016
Location: China (somewhere!)
Today is my first day of waking up and falling asleep on the same train in the same country. I wasn’t expecting quite so much of the journey to be through China but then it’s easy to forget how bloody big the country is. I’ve officially been travelling in China for 48 hours (minus the layover) and I’m still not due to cross the border into Russia for another five. I’m a little apprehensive about the 2am border crossing but I’m certain that all will be well. All of our passport details are with the friendly guard so time will tell whether we’ll have an early morning wake-up call.
So it turns out getting visas for the Trans-Siberian, East to West, when you’re a British citizen in Hong Kong is a little awkward. For my trip I need a Russian tourist visa and transit visas for China and Belarus. Here’s how I obtained them with a little (read ridiculously big) help from Real Russia and CIS Tour.
My major life decisions have always been a little impulsive. I moved to Hong Kong with two weeks notice and then stayed ‘just one more year’ three times. I’ve been getting itchy feet for a while and, call it a gut feeling, I’ve started to feel the need to move on. I want to take some time at home to recuperate and reflect, to figure out what on earth is next. Since last summer I’ve had an idea at the back of my head but it took a bad day at work and a glass of wine to suddenly go out on a whim and book it. So, dear readers, in two months time I shall be heading back to dear old Blighty by train.