145 Hours - 6th June 2008 @ 4:18 pm «   »

Location: China, Russia : 145 Hours

145 Long hours on a single train journey accross the biggest country in the world with no shower, one enormous carriage attendant, multiple cabin companions and unlimited boiling water… heaven.

We boarded train number 20 in Moscow at 23:55 on the 30th of May to start our adventure travelling across the whole of Russia to China. To give you a sense of scale, we actually crossed the Chinese border 2 days ago but only arrived in Beijing this morning.

Due to all the horror stories we’ve heard, we were prepared for the worst and had plenty of provisions to keep us going for the 6 days on the train. We bought loads of noodles, soups, some canned fruit & sweetcorn and chocolates & biscuits. We also had enough coffee, tea, sugar and powdered milk to keep us going for days. But despite of all the nasty things we’ve heard, we were pleasantly surprised..

It was a fairly new train with snug, yet clean compartments and we even had our own TV (albeit with one or two Russian-dubbed movies a day). Our second class tickets meant we had to share a 4-bed compartment (we had the 2 top bunks) and started the journey with 2 Russians. None of the others went all the way to Beijing, so during the course of the trip we had a total of 5 different room mates – all Russian and all very nice, friendly and quiet (which translates into no snorning) – even though most of them couldn’t speak any English.

However the last girl that got on at Ulan Ude had a, shall we say, slight flatulance problem while sleeping :). The first night we were amused at the sound of repeated “gun fire” from below which would have made most men (of a certain inclanation) very proud.

It is amazing how the hours and days just went by and melted together. We spent the average day sleeping late, reading, eating, sleeping again, drinking, sleeping some more and then repeated the cycle. Jan even finished his first book of this trip!

We expected to have a few meals in the train restaurant, but after checking it out on our first night (their menu had pictures of animals, including a Springbuck! so we knew we couldn’t trust it) we decided that it was way overpriced. In the end we managed to go the entire trip fueled only by our own provisions, augmented with 2 loafs of bread we bought from private sellers on the platforms. It worked out perfectly.

The 5th day was the toughest by far and encompassed the most insane border crossing we have ever experienced! Arriving at the Russian border post at 08:30 we were chased off the train in order to change the wheels (Russian train tracks are more than 1.5 m apart but Chinese tracks a few inches less) which took about 3 hours. We had to hang around the platform because there was nothing to do in the little town, expect a very small corner shop. Once this operation was finished, we had to get back on the train and then the passport control and cabin searches started. This took another 3 hours.

At our delight we started moving again just before 15:00 only to stop again at the Chinese border post 15 minutes later. This was much more intense, with 3 officials per cabin – searching and unpacking every piece of luggage. We had our Chinese Lonely Planet hidden in Marizanne’s bag and despite it being searched twice they never found it. The Chinese government is not too happy with some of the comments about China/Tibet and will happily confiscate the books if found. The passport controls were also over the top with individual freckles and moles being analysed and compared with the passport photograph.. all very tideous! 7 hours after arriving on the Chinese side, we took our leave and were on our way again. We spent 13 hours covering a total of 10 km!

At this point it was just us and our farting friend who we finaly lost at Shenyang, leaving us with a glorious 9 hours (out of the 145) to spend on our own.

The train steamed into Beijing Railway Station at 05:30 this morning and we went straight to the closest hostel we could find (directly opposite the train station). It was too early to check in at this stage, so we spent an hour having our first helping of dumplings and Beijing noodles for breakfast.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

2 Responses to “145 Hours”  
Brutus Says:

surprised that you didn’t introduce her to the blouvlamme…
glad you there safely.
bring on the amusing stories.

Mamma van PE Says:

Hullo julle 2-tjies. So bly julle is veilig en dat dit nie te bad was nie. Kon my amper nie indink dat veral jy Jan, solank ingehok kan wees nie. Dis ook weer ‘n ondervinding wat nie baie mense beskore is nie.
Ek wil weer dankie se vir die ongelooflike duidelike oproep met my verjaarsdag.!Dit was awesome om met julle te praat. Sondag het die hele Conerroe-fam met koek,kersies,geskenke en baie liefde vroegoggend op my bed tuisgemaak en Luca het help oopmaak! Toe het ons 2 ‘n sessie in my PJ’s op die trampolien gehad!! Ek is ook getreat met ‘n heerlike ete by ‘n wonderlike restaurant!
Hulle nuwe plek is eintlik nog ouliker as die vorige. en julle het gesien hoe pragtig die kleintjies is.
Hoor graag van China. Liefde Mamma xxxx