Wear the Fox Hat
'Severobaikalsk,' says Chris for the fifth time.
'Severobaikalsk,' says Chris, tiredly.
The train passes another rundown train station, the first in about four hours. A couple of kids, brothers perhaps, are watching us as the train goes by. They wave sticks above their heads. One of them salutes us with his middle finger. Up yours train!
'I still don't know where the f-ck that is,' I tell Chris, as if it is somehow his fault that I am completely lost as to where we are. Nick: 'Have you even read the itinerary?'
Back in Australia I have two copies of the Lonely Planet guide to the Trans-Siberian railway (2001 edition). In typical fashion I forgot to bring either of them along. Because I'm the kind of guy who can happily spend a whole day looking out the window of trains with nothing more than the gentle rocking of the carriage, a cup of tea and a liberal dose of sodium pentathol to keep me amused I hadn't needed to know where we are heading. Right now though I feel that I should read up on the next town because I have about 26 hours to kill. I grab Nik's 2006 edition of the Trans-Sib guide which has a Mongolian warlord on the front cover. 'There's a brief mention of our guide in there as well,' says Nik.
Rashit Y____: This experienced full-time travel fixer, guide and ex-BAM worker is quick to reply to emails and always keen to please. He rents a brilliant, central apartment for a negotiable US $15 a night. Since an immobilising stroke he remains disabled and his spoken English can be hard to follow.
'What kind of a name is Rashit?' I ask, mind filled with images of a wheelchair-bound Siberian gangster.
'Dunno. Kazakh?' One of Borat's people.
'The other guy in Severobaikalsk seems kind of fun too. Listen to this. This guy Vladimir is apparently a "proverb-sprouting John Cleese lookalike".'
I'm torn. I want to meet the proverb-sprouting ex-Python as well. The train keeps moving steadily forward.