The last long train journey of the trip.
Sometimes silly things annoy me.
I was disappointed not to be able to get a ticket from Kazan to Moscow, meaning that again, I had to drop Kazan from my plans. That's the 4th time that it has happened, and it's fast becoming my #1 must get to destination, just because it's proving so hard. But as I did manage to get tickets through to Moscow from Tyumen, it wasn't the end of the world. It meant that I would still be able to keep other commitments, leave the country before my visa expires and also get there without flying.
The thing that really annoys me is that after being told that there was no space on any train between Kazan to Moscow, the train I got to Moscow went through.... yup, Kazan. So no space on just K-M, but if I want to travel for the 18hours before Kazan as well, I can get a ticket no problem. Grrrrr.
Ah well, that's life I suppose.
The journey itself was somewhat interesting. I ended up opposite a family of mother and 2 young kids. The kids were wonderful and after the initial few hours distrust of the new strange person on the train became extremely friendly. Both kept bringing me 'gifts', at the quiet behest of the mother. I played football and hide and seek (not two of the easiest games to play in a train carriage, i must admit) with the 4 (?) year old boy, and then had a long session of learning Russian and teaching Swedish to the 9 (?) year old girl, with the aid of a Russian equivalent to an etch-a-sketch. I must admit that using an Etch-a-Sketch to make conversations etc on trains when there is no common language is a stroke of genius, especially when coming from a young girl. Admittedly, it overlooks the fact that I can't draw AT ALL, and my attempts at drawing simple objects for the naming in Swedish-Russian game were at best, abysmal.
The mother, whilst not admitting to speaking anything other than Russian spent much of the day watching me with a strange look in her eye that confused me a tad and worried me slightly more. It's a look I try and stay well away from. And it go worse after the kids had started to adopt me.
What I certainly wasn't expecting was that during the night when i was asleep (in Platskartny, or open dorm bunk style carriages), she decided to crawl into my bed with me. To say I was spooked when I rolled over to discover this strange woman lying next to me - on not un-cramped bunk - is an understatement. A mother and a young child, yes, but I have never even seen two people a bunk on Russian train before. Not couples or very close friends or even when dozing during the day. I somehow managed to wake her and to persuade her that she should possibly be lying somewhere else, but suffice to say i was a tad restless for the remainder of the night.
Why do I manage to attract such people on such a regular basis??
By morning, nothing was indicated about it, although the woman (and the man who had been on the bunk above mine) both suddenly discovered the ability to speak some English, and the woman also gave me two pairs of socks as a gift. I have a feeling that she must have been sent by the "good" people at T-K, as they are the only people I can think of who would be worried about the potential imminent return of my holey socks...
When I disembarked in Moscow, I admit to a feeling of sorrow. Not only had I passed from Asia back into Europe - and all that that entails - and made it to Moscow in 23days, but I was also getting off what was the last long through journey of my trip. From here on in, it's Europe where distances are relatively short and journeys faster, and there will be no more 24hour+ trips for me for a while. In fact, journeys of over 15 hours or so are now just a memory (until the next trip) and I wasn't happy by this fact. I really like long, slow journeys, and have grown to like them even more. Hmmmm.
And so, Moscow. Again. But that can wait.
Sadly, to end, I have some tragic news to impart, regarding my very good friend and long time hitch hiking partner, Erik. Erik, as some of you probably know, is a life sized inflatable (one hump) Camel who I have long hitched with for the simple reason that a heck of allot of people stop when they see a camel by the side of road, who would sure as heck not stop for a normal hitch-hiker. Especially when the camel is in Europe and with a sign saying somewhere as likely as 'Vladivostock' or 'Singapore'.
Erik was left in the care of a friend and hasn't accompanied me on my trip, for the simple reason that he is too damned big and heavy when deflated to be worth travelling with when you are not hitch-hiking the entire time.
Tragically, I have been informed that Erik - and he was an inflatable of growing years - has perished. He was being inflated to check all was well before he was due to meet me in Germany in a few weeks, but had given up the ghost instead.
A long time companion, he will be virtually impossible to replace, and in more ways than one.