Day One*: The Czar’s Retreat

Mongolians packing a LOT for the trip

Moleskine entry: April 14th, 2011

Where do I begin?

It’s 11:30 Moscow time* and we’ve just woken up somewhere in Siberia. It’s OK, we are actually on a train (the trans-Mongolian express don’tcha know) and after a first, somewhat restless night of sleep, we’re around 850km outside of Moscow with another 3800km to go – it should be a long five days of travel ahead.

But that’s just it, it should be. However I doubt very much that it actually will. My four travel companions are quite frankly, awesome and last night – our first night aboard – was hilarious.

First there was the smuggling incident.

Some background: each cabin beds four. There are five of us. The others are two pairs and then there’s me. Which in turn means that there was every chance I’d be rooming with three random Mongolians. Except, I’m not. I’ve got the whole frickin’ room to myself [for the time being, at least]!

Which brings us to the smugglers. Marina, our Honcho in Moscow, had warned us about them already and – before we left – offered some handy advice:

“When you get in your cabin, check everywhere. If something looks like it doesn’t belong, put it outside your room. Not out the window, just put it in the corridor. The smugglers will just take it and move it elsewhere.”

Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong.

I checked my compartment quite thoroughly and still managed to miss two bags of stuff and one plastic torso [don’t ask] – the cabins aren’t even that big! Next door however, a mad Mongolian woman had started taking stuff out of their ceiling!

Mongolian. Smuggling.

The woman was fairly camera shy [they’re smugglers after all], but I managed to get this one of her son who climbed up after her to reach into another compartment within the ceiling.


Later, after said smuggler had left, we realised that my room was free [apart from me – see above] and have since transformed it into a makeshift bar – aka ‘The Czar’s Retreat’.

3800kms to go. This trip, like I said before, is going to be – in the truest sense of the word – epic.


I’m just wrapping up this diary entry and I need to add in one more thing. Sally has just asked if someone could go with her to get beer. “I don’t know where the bar is.” she says. “It’s OK…” we reply “…we’ll draw you a map.”






*Day One on the train, obviously…

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Author: James Whatley

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4 thoughts on “Day One*: The Czar’s Retreat”

  1. Sounds like you had a great time on the train. I’ve always thought a train ride across the country (any country) would be an entirely exciting and romantic way to travel.

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