After our second flatmates, Juliane and Stefan from Germany, left us, we are for the first time “alone” in our base camp. Well, as alone as you can be with 49 other beds in the same wagon and people passing you for hot water every now and then. For the first time in three days, we also got a baby on board. A crying one. Luckily, it falls asleep quite soon – the angry train rocking from side to side while rushing through Siberia does its job well. We have perfectionized our toilet visits by now, with professional squatting over a metal bowl, or professional cleaning of such. We also must do a pretty good job in cleaning ourselves with wet wipes, according to our latest roommates. We don’t smell, yet! Unfortunately, everyone else does. Oddly, as they haven’t even been here as long as we have. Well, except for the conductor, who will even beat us on this trip, timewise. Judging by his odor, there seems to be no shower on the entire train, assuming that at least the conductors would be able to use it. Our written down Russian notes asking for a shower and how much it would cost are useless.
We are unsure by now when it is eating time – the train counts in Moscow time all the way till the end, while the sun sets and rises according to real time (surprise). Zaira woke up at 6 am Moscow time this morning. Her screwed up inner clock could also be due to her extended naps throughout the day, though.
However, when one of us starts preparing food, the others automatically get hungry, as well, anyways. Things I learned today: One pack of noodles is not enough for lunch. I need at least a second one. Also: Don’t go off in Omsk. Stefan and Juliane have 7 hours to spend in that 1.2 mio inhabitants, industrial city. Next to a brownish, dirty river, it looked almost like Duisburg with its crane-dominated skyline.
More things we learned: Sisu is good (ask Simón!), and the window can be opened (which helps a lot with the heat and the smell). Also, the travel guide is not always right: The scenery, which is said to be less exciting at this part, changes from forests to vast, steppe-like fields. This is how we imagined Siberia! You can literally see until the horizon.
After the stop in Barabinsk, our travel guide promised us a change of smell – and indeed, everyone seems to have bought fish from the street vendors at the railway station. The fresh-and-old-sweat mix gets covered by an old-fish-smell. We can’t really tell what is worse. Maybe we should stop going off the train at the longer breaks to get some fresh air, as this resets regularly our tolerance levels to zero. I remember even smelling some bad odor of sweat at night (it actually woke me up), and I thought now it’s the time that I too started being smelly – only to realize in the morning that it was simply my newly arrived neighbour.
We have one more big stop left: Novosibirsk. According to Moscow time it’s just 7 pm, but in reality it is already after 10 pm. We stop for almost one hour, enough time to roam the railway station, take a picture of the WWII memorial at track 1, and even to go till the front of the train and take some pictures of the machine that has so reliably brought us this far already. The train engineers (pilots?) proudly pose, and when they honk the train horn we almost get a heart attack, which amuses them immensely. There is even enough time to use a real (!!!) toilet! The woman demanding 20 Rubels toilet fee of each of us wants something else, but it takes another Russian woman to interpret that she wants some kind of a souvenir. When I find 10 cents in my wallet we make her the happiest person on earth for a moment.
In theory, would even be enough time to take a shower – but we decide to not cheat and instead follow strictly our no-shower-for-4-days-policy. We are hardcore!