Thirty degrees displays the thermometer on the screen. Next to the departure times of the trains, it’s the only thing I can understand. It’s September 2015, Leslie and I just arrived at Jaroslavskaja station in Moscow. Here we start our trip on the longest train ride on the planet: the Trans Mongolian Railway. 8000 k., passing seven time zones, seven days and six nights, until our final stop; Beijing. In between we get out at Irkutsk to visit lake Baikal, the biggest sweet water lake on earth. The second stopover is 18 days in Mongolia. During the trip the weather forecast is good, but East bound it gets colder and colder and it might even snow and freeze in Mongolia.
Exhausted of the weight of our heavy backpacks, we stare at the departure screen to find out where we need to be. My snowboard jacket is in my hands and drops of sweat pearling down my red face. It’s hot in Moscow. With sign language, English, two words Russian and Dutch we find our train. The provodniki (train stewardess) checks stern our tickets and passports. She nods and we get on board. We find our coupé and share it with two guys of 18 from Paris. We are relieved we have an immediate click with the guys. More then 100 hours on a couple square meters, with people you don’t get along with, can make the train ride a lot less enjoyable. Next to one other Dutch women and a French girl we are the only foreigners we see on the train.
The train begins to shake and slowly starts moving. Leslie and I look at each other, it’s for real, the start of our world trip. I can’t suppress a scream. We pinch each other and laugh out loud. I feel fucking happy and have goose bumps all over my body.
The next days we slow our pass. Without wifi and a set plan for the next four days, I can ease my mind and relax. We fill our days with writing, photographing, reading, filming, making new friends, drinking beers, daydreaming and staring out of the window at the amazing, changing landscapes. After the suburbs of Moscow we ride through a beautiful fall scenery. Green, yellow, orange and red trees are passing by as far as you can look. Now and then varied with open lowlands, lakes and colourful Wicky-the-Vicking houses.
The train stops often. Stops are changing from two minutes at small villages to forty minutes at bigger cities. The further we drive in to Russia the more blunt the expression on the faces of the Russians get. The trains, railway stations and buildings we pass look old-fashioned. Baboescha’s sell homemade snacks from old strollers. Smoked fish, boiled potatoes, huge marinated pickles, and Russian pastries. Gypsies with children are begging for money and Russian, staring men are hanging and drinking on the railway stations, morning, afternoon and night. It looks like time has stood still here.
I wake up from the shaking wagons. Outside it’s still dark. What time is it? Where are we? The two main questions these days. Dimitri and Max, our two French roomies, are still in a deep sleep. I do hear something out of the bunk above me. I look up and Leslie’s long curly hair and face appear upside down. Our eyes cross and we giggle quietly like little girls. It’s round 5am but I’m wide-awake now and make two instant coffees. With the mugs in our hands and underneath my blanket we watch the sunrise over Siberia. The colours in the sky go from dark purple to pink, red and orange.
We are almost at our first stop; Lake Baikal. I thought at this time, I may would have been sick and bored of the train and the small space you live in. But the opposite is true; I loved these first four days and I’m already excited for our next part: crossing borders to Mongolia.
For a film impression of life on board check life on board the Trans Mongolian Railway