Monday, August 28, 2006

Always russian somewhere new

There never seems to be enough time to write even a smidgen of what we have been getting up to!

Crossing the border from Mongolia to Russia was a trippy experience. The whole trip took 30+ hours and the border crossing took 12 hours! Why? weeeell.. we arrived at the border at 4am and the customs officials only start work at 9am... so we sit and wait.. and we can't leave the bloody train and you can't use the toilet at a station! So much bladder fun!

Once across the border (where angry russian big-hats demand you fill out the forms in russian and ONLY RUSSIAN (Or ELSE!)) the cabin stewardesses (plural of stewaredess?) try to scam you 5 rubles everytime you want to use the FREE hot water... they also try and tell you that coffee and tea costs 200 rubles as well! When crossing the border you get the excitement of watcing people trying to smuggle goods (shoes, toys etc) across the border. Things are cheap in Mongolia and expensive in Russia. They hide the stuff everywhere... they even try and push it in your cabin when you are not looking. I ruined Austro-Mongolian relations by refusing adamantly :) The biggest crooks on the train where the cabin attendents. They had boxes of DVDs, shoes, jackets and everything else in hidey holes under the floor.. they even locked one of the toilets and stuffed it full of contraband. When the officials came on board they were openly bribed to ignire it all... it was scary.. and then funny as hell.. especially when we started taking photos of people (hehehe). All in all a real 'travel' experience!

We alighted at Irkutsk in the early hours and then took a bus out to Lake Baikal. It is the biggest fresh water lake in the world. It holds 20% of the worlds fresh water.. queensland should run a pipe up here! It is also very cold even in the summer sun. I went for a dip (actually a double dip) in the 5C water... ye gods! frozen goolies ahoy! Supposedly I will live an extra 25 years now i have bathed in the waters.. but i wa taking the chance of dropping dead from shock as soon as i hit the water!

We had a authentic siberian sauna last night. we all had to get nude and wrap ourselves in a sheet. Then we had a dry sauna until the first sweat. We all jumped out of the sauna and threw freezing water over ourselves and jumped back into the sauna... then the real heat and humidity began. 110C! bloody hell! When you cant take the heat anymore you jump out and some mad russian bastard throws more freezing water on you.. then you go back in the sauna... rinse and repeat until dizzy. Costya (our young russian guide) offered to beat us with birch leaves.. when in russia!. It was very relaxing.. Funny thing is you haver to do it one on one in the sauna. You lie there.. he beats you. When he kicked everyone out of the sauna he turned to me and in his best Bond villain russian accent (and being russian he could do it well) he growled "and now... we talk" I giggled for ages... as he beat me :)

We walked along the lake (Nat and I.. not Costya and I.. though he was there too :) ). It is amazingly beautiful place. 600 km long and 60 km across and growing 2cm every year due to tectonic action. We had amazing hots chocolates and i even bought a local knife (yes yes.. i am blade obsessed) It has a jade blade and a blue Chirite (the local semi precious mineral) handle.. gorgeous. Costya was very impressed i knew who Baba Yaga was.. not many tourists (in fact.. i am the first he said) know russian faerie tales.

Russia (or at least the far east of russia) is a interesting mix of 19th, 20th and 21rst century technology. You can walk down a muddy lane and watch women bring the cows home and then go inside to there satellite television. madness!

We have a 4 day train ride to Moscow.. so send happy thoughts our way :)

From Russia With Love! (yay.. i managed to fit that in somewhere!)

Travel Wah


Anonymous said...

sinff. i feel so betrayed, that you let another go at you with a birch branch....

and after all these years....

the fiend
oh woe

Anonymous said...

And there I thought that He / She was related somehow to Baba Ganush

Why, Oh why do I have these weird vision of people dashing back & forth alternately sweating and shivering and waving sticks Horror

As far as living 25 year longer presumably this is as long as you don't drink the water
Go Go Go

Kath said...

Loving reading your adventures Greg - the Squids miss you!


Anonymous said...

Yay, enjoy Moskow!! (Keep your wallet in the inside jacket pocket, and anything important in the money belt. Lotsa pickpockets :) And watch out for gypsies). Look out for that squid, he is probably hiding in the sewers.

May I request a cheesy souvenier, please? A kitchy hedgehog toy of some sort, or failing that - a photo of one? I've got a little collection of them. Pretty please?


The Wah said...

Squid Sighting!

There is a fashion shop called Kocmoc (hehe Cockmock... no no.. it is Cosmos)they have their nude female model covered in squids!


The Wah said...


I was cold... in a sauna... full of vodka.. and he was built like a brick privy

I had no choice!

forgive me!

Anonymous said...

I have a question about the mineral Chirite on your sword. I had a dream about chirite. I didn't know if it was real, so I googled it. Yours was the only site that came up. Are you sure it was spelled right and what does this mineral look like?