This is the blog of Martin and Caroline as they go out and see some of the world

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Midnight Madness - Mongolia

Thank goodness to be off the train.  We headed straight to our hostel which was only 10 minutes walk away.  We woke the poor lady up to let us in at 06.30 and she did not mind at all and let us into a room which seemed huge compared to the train cabin we had just come from.  An ensuite bathroom completed our heaven and the shower was lovely.
We went out and had a walk around Ulaanbaatar; we were surprised but pleased that almost everything is in English which made life a little easier.
Mongolia has a population of 2 million and over 1 million live in UB and it shows.  They are building anywhere and everywhere.  The pavements and roads are like buildings sites and I don’t think they have heard of the works Health and Safety.  The ‘no win, no fee solicitors’ would have a field day out here.
In the hostel there was a sign for a trip to go to a soviet built observatory to see the stars in a clear Mongolian sky.  We thought that sounded quite nice and so we said we would give it a go.
The hostel arranged the transport to the observatory and we were told to be in reception at 10pm.  The man on reception took us out to a very nice looking Prius but little did we know the journey would be more eventful than the observatory.
We headed off and driving on the Mongolian roads is like something out of a movie, they overtake on the inside, jump lights, ignore pedestrian crossings and stop for nothing.  We came off the main road bumped along a dirt track to a gate and it seemed we were in the wrong place so after many phone calls we headed off again, we went all the way back through town at break neck speed and then onto a dirt track.  This turned into what can only be described as an off road track.  The car was bouncing around everywhere but the driver didn’t seem bothered.  Then we reached a tiny tunnel that was very small.  The car was lined up and looking at it there was no way we were going through there but after phone calls to the manager she insisted that everything was fine.  We asked to speak to her and told her that there was no way it would fit but she was having none of it and said don’t worry the car had been through before – she must have really wanted her money for the trip.
With lots of inching his way through we came out the other side – amazingly.  We headed on up the hill and arrived at another security guard that let us through after another call to the manager and we were led up to the observatory by the man who worked there who we don’t think knew we were even coming. 
It was a proper old fashioned observatory and as the roof opened it creaked and groaned and he pushed the big old fashioned telescope into place and we saw a new star, an old star, a cluster of stars, canyons on the moon and Jupiter.  It was great and we would have liked to have seen more planets but it was not to be.  We said goodbye to the very nice man who showed us the sky and headed back for the off road journey home. 
We ended up getting home about 1am and it was defiantly a night to remember.

2 idiots abroad - Russia

We decided for our last night to go out and have a meal and a few drinks.  We found a nice restaurant and managed to order caviar.  We had salmon caviar which was 300 rubles, we could not afford Russian caviar as this was 2250 rubles and we are glad we did not order that as it was the most awful taste you can imagine.

A few beers were in order after dinner and we went to the KGB bar, it was empty except for a very funny drunk who we chatted to for an hour or so, we did not stay too long as 4 beers costs us £20 so we called it a night and headed home to prepare for checking out in the morning.

We had to leave our hotel in Moscow by lunchtime which was a real pain as the train to Mongolia did not leave until 21.30 that evening.  We decided to try and waste a day in the mall at Red Square.  We managed to make a drink at McDonalds last about an hour and a half.

We sat and people watched out in the mall and Martin lost count of the young trendy good looking women that walked past.  Once we got bored of that we headed over to the station that we had to leave from called Yaroslavskiy.  This part of town was a far cry from the classy area of Moscow that we had just left.   We wited around until our train was called and it was time to see who we would be sharing our cabin with for 5 days and nights. 
Martin said he would be happy as long as we weren't sharing with a man or  the French but was really hoping for a young good looking chick
We ended up sharing with  a nice gentelman who was a Biology proffessor at the UB university and our neighbours were a French couple going off back packing for a year.

The cabin was bigger than the previous cabin from Warsaw but not much bigger!

Luckily it was only us 3 in our cabin for the whole journey, the French couple ended up having their cabin to themselves for the whole trip - lucky sods.
We had many people join us and leave us over the journey but they were only really around for 1 or 2 stops.

The toilet / bathroom was very very basic for washing but there was hot water - well in one of them anyway. The toilet was nothing fancy, once you had finished you pressed the pedal and it emptied on track.

We were lucky and did not have to live off dried noodles for 5 days as we shopped before we left and we brought some bread and vegetales from the babushkas who sell their wares on the train station's when you have stop overs.

The rules of the railway are very different out here, it seems that if you want to get to the other platform, you just walk accross the track.  At one point they were coupling a new engine to our train and rather than go around it or wait for them to finish people just carried a baby in a pram accross in between the engine and the train. Astounding!

We were very pleased when the train journey was over!!

Wednesday 12 October 2011

A day on the Metro - Moscow

We never managed to make it our for dinner last night as we were too full up from lunch so we decided to see what Moscow looks like at night and it is lovely all lit up.

We went into GUM for some window shopping but it seems nothing is priced, if you have to ask how much it costs then you can't afford it!

We were suprised this morning to be able to visit Lenin's Mausoluam which had been closed every day so far.  There was no queue either so we went in and made our way past a very waxy looking Lenin. 

We then went off to visit some of the Metro stations that we had heard so much about.  They are great, nothing like English stations.  Some of them have mosaics some have statues and most have marble columns.

We are hoping to make it our for dinner tonight and try caviar, not sure if we are ready for that!

At 21.35 local time tomorrow we join the train to start our 5 day journey to Mongolia so I doubt we will have Wi-Fi in between here and there so will catch up soon.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Cold and Rainy Moscow

We have arrived in Moscow. The train journeys to get us here seemed quite dull and there seemed lots of waiting around but we had a good day in Warsaw and went and purchased a new camera (thank you for the offer Nigel but I am far to impatient to wait).
We had high hopes of our 1st class carrage from Warsaw to Moscow but the reality was quite different to what we expected.  To say there was not enough room to swing a cat is not an exageration.  We were lucky as there were only 2 of us in our cabin and almost everyone else had 3 in them. The toilets were NOT nice and there was no hot water for washing.

To pass the time away in the evening we went to the bar with a lady called Estelle who was from France but lived in Germany.  It was here that we had our first Vodka on Moscow soil. 

We managed to negotiate the Metro and found our hostel OK.  We decided to go out and explore and were suprised at how close to Red Square we were and we also timed it well as it was the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier as we arrived.

We have visited The historical museum, The Armoury Chambers and the Gulag Museum so far but the best place we have been was the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour where the painted murals and icons took our breath away.

We went out this morning but it rained and so have decided that an afternoon indoors doing washing and catching up on the blog was called for.  We are going out for dinner tonight to try some typical Russian food - cant wait!

Friday 7 October 2011

Off and plodding

We have survived our first day and all is good.
Unfortunatley our brand new all singing and dancing camera decided to stop working before we even got on the first train to Brussels, what are the odds on that happening?
So now we have to carry a broken camera half way round the world to get it fixed when we get home.
We speant last night on the tran from Cologne to Warsaw in reclining seats that were not too bad in the end.  The lights going on every hour for tickets to be checked was not too good though.
We are planning to find a luggage storage at Warsaw station and head out for the day and find a new camera. It will be nice not to haul our backpacks every where for a while.

Thursday 6 October 2011

Now it's time to panic

Time seems to have flown VERY quickly and what do you know, this time tomorrow we will have barged our way through the rush hour London commuters with our backpacks and be settled on the train to London to start our trip.
The 1st leg is London to Brussels then Brussels to Cologne.  We have an overnight train to take us from Cologne to Warsaw but no chance of a decent night’s sleep as it is reclining chairs! That takes care of Friday.
Saturday we arrive in Warsaw and have a few hours to see the sights and have some dinner before we head off from Warsaw to Moscow overnight. This time we are travelling 1st class, but not by choice it is just because that was all that was available when we booked but after a night on reclining chairs I think we will need it.

There is just time for some last minute checking, double checking and triple checking we have everything and then it is just one more sleep to go .......

Saturday 1 October 2011

Is it time to panic yet????

OK, so quite a lot is already sorted out and ready but oh my life there is still so much not ready.
As an example we have no sleeping bags which we now realise are very crucial as quite a few nights on our Tibet to Nepal trek are spent at 5000m in monestary's like the one at Everest Base Camp with no heating, rock hard beds and no electricity. 
We have not yet downloaded as many books as we can onto our Kindle's to entertain us on our train journeys.
We have tried the super noodles we have brought to eat on the trains and they are pretty rank, but they are edible .... just, so some more food is in order to take I think.
We have no itinary for China and India yet and the list goes on and on. 
But to be fair, in our defence we do have all the train tickets to get us from London to Beijing arranged, the hotel in Moscow,  hostel in Mongolia and Beijing are booked.  The trek from Tibet to Nepal is booked and deposit is paid for and the youth hostel in Kathmandu and Pokhara are booked.  Everything else will be booked as and when we decide where we are going.
6 days and counting