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Day 10 - Khabarovsk and more drunken Russians
Another uncomfortable nights sleep thanks to the points and aggresive driving of the train. However, we did manage a mere six hours in the end. This morning its really raining hard and we wake up in the middle of a thunderstorm.
The cabin smells like something out of Das Boote; just like we've been on patrol in the North Atlantic in some submarine. I don't know what it must have smelt like after three months; imagine that if your dare! No proper shower, no hot water and the smell of 40 odd sweaty bodies locked up in a steel cabin. You must have something very special to do that. We were just on a train for 8 days and it was getting bad, so fumigation of the cabin was priority number one today.
We are also crossing our last timezone and should be in the last and most easterly province of Russia and the furthest east I'll have ever been. Just 16 stops to go before we make Vladivostok. The scenary has changed too; wide open plains with thankfully few trees and big wide rivers.
Cousin Pete is amazing really. Given his job as a plasma cutter, he's not married and his only real love is track mileage. Being on this trip is a real privilege as he never ever complained about me being a moaning old so and so; he looked after me in my darkest moments and has shared what we all want from travel really - to experience life as seen through the others in this world. When we reach Vladivostok he will have nearly circumnavigated the world - by train. From the western shores of Canada near Vancouver to Halifax, through Ireland and Europe to the eastern shores of Russia. All by train. No planes, just trains. Just comprehend that for a moment; forget your Palins and Brysons, an ordinary Steel Worker travelling around the world by train. Amazing isn't it?
The guy is so affable he gets along with absolutely everybody from the elder Germans to the drunken Russian Captain. His foreign languages are absolutely minimal, but some how he gets his point over - even in Russian! It's been good for me to share this trip with this special member of our family.
8104,8175,8203 - we're counting down the kilometers. Its still raining even though it's now well into the afternoon. I've managed one book on this trip and Joseph Stalin is going ever so slowly. I look out of the window and see very little due to the rain - I hope it stops before we get to our destination.
Our next major stop is Khabarovsk which will be the signal for our turn south along the Chinese border which will be interesting if we can make it out. I'll be glad to get to the hotel and a hot shower and most of all, a hot shave!
Last Evening on the train
The last evening drew to a close with yet another drinking session, this time with a businessman called Alexandreyev. He was dressed in a 1970's style shirt open to the first few buttons, and lots of designer gold and a big fake watch with black trousers and a big leather belt with "D & K" on it. He imported spare parts for Japanese cars, of which there are increasingly many to be seen. The Russians complained endlessly about it! He was based in Tokyo and bought over about 40 containers at a time, so it was quite a business he was running! He seemed to spend a lot of time between te two countries and his English wasn't bad. He was kind enough to buy us a drink - or two - but bored us to tears about US President G W Bush putting some missiles in Poland; bit like the Cuban missile crisis I suppose. He wanted us to "have a word" - as if we could tell George W what to do! Get real man! He had a point and most of the Russians we spoke to were equally upset about this. Old Vladimir Putin was speaking about it today apparently which we didn't know about this and shows how out of touch we had become! Could have been WWIII and we might have been stuck with the enemy and interned in a Gulag. I suppose though with our heavy Black Country accents we could have passed for Roumanians! "Don't tell them your name Pete!"
Anyway, Alexandreyev was grabbed by his mates and marched off to the restaurant car and we breathed a sigh of relief as he was getting more aggressive with each tin and we were getting quite nervous as he wouldn't leave, despite us doing things like yawning a lot and looking bored. Like most drunken Russians, he was getting quite unintelligable as well, even in his own language I suspect! We locked the door for the only time after this as we suspected he would crash in on us and we turned in - with one ear on the corridor in case he came back....