December 25, 2012


Distance so far: 7622 km, -30 C (estimate), cloudy. Local time: GMT+8

Just a short update from Ilanskaya. I got off the train to have a look at the new locomotive whilst we took on more coal. The temperature has dropped considerably since yesterday. There was no thermometer on the platform (often there is a digital clock and thermometer) but a local wrote “-35” in dust on the side of the train. It’s so cold now that my camera shuts down in a couple of minutes if its out of my pocket.

Stephan went to see our train commander to ask if he could move into a warmer carriage, but the request has been denied. Whilst this delicate negotiation was taking place on the platform, Russian fighter jets screeched past the train several times. I didn’t take any pictures of this spectacle as I don’t want to be arrested as a spy..

The time zone issue continues to confuse all us foreigners – today we are running on Moscow time but yet the local time is 4 hours ahead of this. I’m no longer sure if my breakfast is lunch or my lunch is in fact dinner.

On the subject of food, I must confess that I am getting a bit bored with the Russian restaurant carriage. I wanted to try some pancakes with jam today for my breakfast, but Chef doesn’t seem keen to make them (they are on the menu). The food is actually fine, but it is expensive, and service is always provided with a sense of overwhelming indifference and unhappiness. Still in two days we lose the Russian restaurant car and gain a Mongolian one. I’m quite excited by the prospect of this, as I hear it can be quite good, but only if you like mutton..

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