Day 4 – Khabarovsk to Irkutsk Train Part 1

Since we would be spending such a long time on the train (57 hours) beginning at 9 am Khabarovsk time and getting off 2 days later at 3:30 pm Irkutsk time, I thought morning run would be a good way to start of the day. It was so peaceful at 6 am that morning, and of course I captured some pictures.

I tried to get some pictures of the hostel once I got back as I was showering and packing up.

Overall, I was really impressed with how clean and comfortable it was at such a reasonable price ($15 CAD per bed per night). For me, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that the shower pressure and temperature were fantastic – a huge contrast from South America. Additionally, another funny thing to me was that there were tons of adults staying at the hostel, even a mother and son (13 year old). We were also the only tourists there, the rest seemed to be locals stopping over at the beginning of the long weekend (the Monday we were leaving, June 12, was a national holiday). Both of those themes persisted as we saw two more hostels later on: great showers and a large number of adults living the dorm life.

Another thing I can recommend about the hostel was that they “registered” our visas with the Russian government for free. It’s required that all tourists have their visas registered within 7 days of arriving in the country, and many other hostels seemed to charge about $8 for this service. It was done within the one day we were staying, and the hostel handed us a small slip of photocopied paper, about a quarter of a letter-sized page. We couldn’t read the Russian text written on it, but trusted that everything was in order.

The walk from our hostel to the platform was a bit of a struggle, since we both embarked with 2.5 days worth of food and a few litres of water each. The water was necessary because the trains only have boiling water available. An idea of mine the previous morning was to freeze our giant 2 L bottles, and usem to keep our perishable food fresh for as long as the were still melting. This ended up being a great idea in the long run, but the 10 minute walk to the platform, up 4 stories of stairs, was definitely a harder workout than my entire run. And see the hot water dispenser below.

Once we were on the train, we noticed that the carriages weren’t as modern as the night before. Our 2nd class compartment didn’t have it’s own set of outlets (we would have to share with the rest of the carriage from 3 outlets stationed along the outer hallway) and the air conditioning wasn’t very strong, but other than that, it was still clean and comfortable.

The train attendant showed us a menu to pick our included meal, expecting to serve us at lunch that day, but we had a different idea. With the help of Google Translate, we convinced her to give it to us on our final day, when we would have already finished our perishable food items. At least there was English available, a snapshot of the first menu page below.

Beyond the one (tiny) included “meal”, options for food for people less prepared than us included snacks sold by the carriage attendant (provodnista) or food at different stops along the way. Offered by the train includes the selection below, with prices on a very helpful (sarcasm) Russian menu. Still not overly expensive when I compare to airports and airplanes.

Regarding stops along the way, the stations and stopping times are conveniently located on a sheet of paper printed in the carriage. 

Some stops are very short, just enough time for someone to begin or end their journey. Other stops are longer, either because it is a planned location for the train to refuel, fill up on water, or receive a change in locomotive, or because it is a major town/city. At the former, you can buy homemade food from locals who go out and sell it on the platform (first picture below). All longer stops also have small convenience stores stationed on the platforms. 

And even very small stations are beautifully designed.

Trains and stations are still a novelty to me so I captured all views from the scenery, to platforms, and more.

And the scenery.

I didn’t think still pictures could sufficiently capture the Siberian scenery, so I also made a series of video clips of the passing nature and small towns.

On our carriage, we were again graced by the presence of many children (6) and had a 5 year old boy, mother, and baby girl below our bunks in our compartment. At times they were very cute, but of course that didn’t make up for the times that they were crying.

What a good big brother, trying to calm the baby sister as their mom was using the bathroom.

In the evening, the train passed through the most beautiful views of the day.

At around 7:30 pm, I was so so tired, either from the jet lag or the 6 am wake-up (or maybe both). The Siberian weather was also getting hotter the further west we traveled, with the air conditioning barely trudging along. At that point, I decided quitting the day would be a good idea and crashed soon after.

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