August 6th: We got on the train to Irkutsk last night to a lovely treat… I think we had been upgraded to a nice first class type compartment with just two berths. Nice way to spend 40 hours on a train. We were a bit disappointed we wouldn’t be meeting any crazy Russians on this leg of the journey as most people tend to stay in their compartments but it was a nice upgrade for sure.
We slept in…as we really didn’t have anything else to do. We had all day and night and we were only going to get to Irkutsk the next morning.
I spent a big part of the day catching up on ‘Game of Thrones’…it’s safe to say I’m now hooked to that show. Luckily I have all three seasons to watch!:)
We got out at a couple of stations.. At Krasnoyarsk, we saw a train from Moscow to Beijing…which was pretty cool. That is our journey too but none of the trains we’re on are going all the way to Beijing so this was a great sighting!:)
Siberia is beautiful…we were going right through the heart of it. Given that I didn’t really know anything about it…except that it gets really cold in the winter (that part is definitely true!!) I was expecting barren lands and not many trees. On the contrary, it is completely filled with lush forest..and when it isn’t, it is replaced by farmland. I can’t imagine how much farming they get done in a short amount of time as they only have around 100 days of summer. Their first snowfall can be as early as October. The Trans-Siberian railroad is the main medium of transportation(even though there are airports in the larger towns like Novosibirsk and Irkutsk). Most towns in Siberia are dotted along this railway line. 60% of Siberia is permafrost and to put that in perspective…Siberia is larger in area than the United Stated(including Alaska) and India combined. Wow! That is a whole lot of ice and snow and cold weather!
I also didn’t expect to see so many villages in this part of the country but every now and again we would we small villages, pretty close to the tracks(not more than 50 homes or so) in the middle of nowhere. One minute it’s a dense forest and the next, there are rolling hills with a clearing and a lake or river and a tiny village!
Summer time temperatures are also pretty warm(25-35 degrees Celsius) due to the continental climate and and this extreme fluctuation in temperature makes it hard to maintain the quality of the roads..which is why most people take the trains. Also, as the snow starts to melt in the spring, Siberia turns into the biggest marsh in the world..with plenty of dangerous bogs!
Also, Siberia’s biggest export is timber, given all the forest area, and so we’ve seen a number of freight trains going in the opposite direction back towards the Urals stacked really high with timber.
On this leg to Irkutsk, we’ve seen a lot more tourists….mostly French and British. I suspect Lake Baikal is more of a draw than Novosibirsk.
I suspect that is enough geography for one post! More from Irkutsk tomorrow. Instant noodles for dinner. Yum!:)