Khabarovsk to Ulan Ude
08 June 2019
Saturday 8 June
The warm sunny weather we have had since our arrival in the fr east, apart from the briefonpour at Khabarovsk, persists. Temperatures got into the high twenties yesterday, with the train's air conditioning systems keeping us mostly comfortable. This is our second day with no scheduled stops for us, so more on-board entertainment to come. Meantime here re some reflections on the experience so far. The train ambles along at an averge of 40mph, giving us lots of time to look at the landscapes, take photographs, and get on with life. Mostly we re looking at expanses of natural forests, many silver birch, hawthorn, some conifers, nd lots of low scrubland. Very few signs of human habitation, roads or people, but in the last two days tht has changed a little as we approach Lake Baikal. Some power plants, presumably to keep our environmentally friendly electric locomotive happy.
We are beginning tomcross time zones, and now have had to change our watches back an hour twice since we started. This is usually done in the restaurant at dinner time, causing me a strange groundhog day reaction when 9 o'clock or the end of dinner suddenly becomes 8 o'clock or the start of dinner again, except we've already eaten! Mercifully the kitchen only produces the food once or we would be completely stuffed!
Speaking of stuffed, the variety and quantity of the three square meals we are offered on board every day is excellent, and it requires great self-control not to overindulge. Loads of fresh fruit and salads too.
Among the passengers the three language groups tend to stick to themselves so far, although the common factor of having luggage gone astray has given me a chance to talk quite a lot with one of the French group. We arre actually amazed there are so many French people here, while there are no Americans or Germans, no UK apart from us two, with three Spaniards and two Brazilians.
The train proceeds on its curving track, and is so long that on most curves we can see the engine and front carriages head of us. None of our windows open, and so the only chance we get to sample the fresh air outside the train is on the trek to the restaurant. Beside the kitchen there is an open door, blocked only by a loose iron grating, tied in place with string.
The major revelation today is that the huge long goods trains passing us are doing so every five minutes. That makes this the busiest cargo railway that I have ever seen. The economic value of this line must be central to the economies of the republics we are voyaging through.
Tomorrow we spend the day in Ulan Ude, with a number of exciting activities lined up. This afternoon was spent in the restaurant car with the tables cleared away, singing and dancing to an accordion accompaniment. No vodka tasting this time, alas!
This was the view of the rest of the train when we briefly stood on the platform after lunch.