Last Minute Worries About Our Epic Russian Holiday

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It's now Thursday April 8th 2010 and only 7 weeks before we leave Australia to head off on our epic journey. Still no one understands why we want to do it, especially seeing as there have been dreadful bombing incidences in a couple of the Moscow railway stations.


Worries with our Qantas tickets

Although we fly from Perth to Vladivostok using Cathay Pacific and Air Korea, we are coming home with Qantas. Just lately there have been some incidences involving technical/safety issues with Qantas. It seems to have been one incident after another over the past 2 weeks. I got myself in a bit of a state and decided it would be best if we changed our travel plans and came home with Cathay Pacific instead of Qantas. It would mean travelling via Hong Kong rather than Singapore but that was only a minor detail. My idea was very short lived. A quick phone call to Cathay Pacific revealed there were no seats available at such short notice to come home with Cathay Pacific anyway. The return trip is about 12 weeks away but already there are no seats left for us. I was told there were first class seats available but they would cost a heck of a lot more frequent flier points or dollars than what we had paid for already. I was quite prepared for us to pay a fee to switch airlines using our Frequent Flyer points but an upgrade to first class was beyond us. To be honest I was far more worried about our trip home with Qantas than I was about being bombed in a Moscow railway station.


Qantas is still the world's safest airline

But then this morning on the Sunrise Show on TV there was an air safety man being interviewed by the Sunrise team. He is quite independent and not employed by Qantas. He feels no one should worry about Qantas and their recent issues. Qantas is still the world's safest airline. He explained that some of the safety precautions and tests that Qantas takes before their flights take off are not even done by other airlines. He says the airline is facing industrial action by its engineers over pay and working conditions and he feels the engineers are highlighting these incidences to create scare mongering and to further their own cause. They seem to be very minor incidences in the scheme of things. At least that is what I'm going to tell myself........ From now on there will be no more stewing about our Qantas journey!


Russian travel books we've been reading

What has Ian been doing of late? He's been reading a book written by a girl who Couch Surfed through Russia and other countries and has written about it in her book. He has been somewhat horrified at the conditions she has experienced in some CS homes. The homes this girl has visited seem to be quite spartan and some of her experiences were far from positive. The book was written a few years ago but nonetheless is not that old. I think Ian is a bit worried now about the whole Couch Surfing idea. I guess if we don't enjoy it we can always shift into a hostel, although hostels are a bit thin on the ground in some parts of Russia. I'm sure we will take it in our stride.

Talking of books I've been reading "The Other Side Of Russia" by Sharon Hudgins. I ordered it via our town library. When the book arrived I was told I could only read it in the confines of the library. It wasn't possible to take it home with me. It must be quite a rare book. So, once a week I trot into the library and I sit down for a good read. The book is mostly about Sharon's and her husband's lives when they lived in Irkutsk and Vladivostok back in 1993. Hopefully 17 years down the track things will be different now. Here are some of the things I read in her book:

In July 1994 traffic rules changed in Vladivostok. There was to be no more driving up and over footpaths to get to your destination quicker. No more reversing through intersections when pedestrians were on the intersection and no more driving at night without headlights on.

Sharon and her husband were on a long distance train and this relates to the toilets: there were two toilets in the carriage but one was always locked and kept purely for the Provodnitza's use. The Provodnitza is the caretaker of the carriage. The one remaining toilet had problems. The Provodnitza was not keeping it clean. The sink was blocked and there was water all over the floor. There was a hole in the floor right near the toilet. Cold air was blasting in through this hole. There was no toilet seat and no toilet paper. The toilet was icy cold, so much so that wee was basically freezing before it hit the tracks below. The wee became icicles and then the poo started sticking to it rather than falling out down onto the tracks. The whole place stank to high heaven. Passengers complained to the Provodnitza who seemed to be quite a lazy person. Eventually after lots of complaints she eventually proceeded to "clean up" the toilet. She used some hot water from the samovar (hot water urn that passengers can make drinks with), a hose from next to the samovar, a rag and a water bottle. When the sink was unblocked and the toilet was cleaned out, the same rag was used to wipe the floors in the corridor. The hose was placed back by the samovar for some innocent person to unwittingly use. To balance up these comments I have also heard elsewhere that some of the Provodnitzas are wonderful.

The whole time Sharon and her husband lived in Russia there were ongoing problems with lack or water, lack of electricity and lack of heating. On many occasions they were lacking in more than one of these essentials at the same time.

During their time in Russia they made beautiful friendships though. They found very Russians to be generous and helpful people. If you can get a hold of this book you would have a very interesting read. The reference number on the book is 915.70486 H860.


Last minute purchases

We pretty much now know how much we have to pack. I've bought anti-diarrhoea and anti-vomiting tablets today. There are only a few other little items left to buy. We have purchased a very small laptop computer which we will use to record everything ready to go on this web site when we get home. I want all the information formatted and finished before we leave Russia so it is just a matter of copying and pasting into the site when we get back. We probably still have a few more Aussie presents to buy for our Couch Surfing hosts too. On the weekend we must take a look at the various presents we've purchased to see what else we need to buy. Some of the hosts we are staying with are males in their 20's but they still live at home with Mum. We need gifts for the boy host plus we reckon we need gifts for Mum too seeing as she may cook some meals for us. Plus, I suppose we should get a few more gifts to have spare in case some other kind soul helps us en route.


Next page - Use of travellers cheques in Russia


Our trip in the order it happened:

Travel Planning Necessities
World time zones, world weather, currency converter, language translator services.

Search over 25,000 hostels.

Trip Advisor Forum - Russia
The place to find information about Russia when you can't find it elsewhere.

Way To Russia
Another very good forum

Getting A Russian Visa
The process is explained

Trains between Moscow & Saint Petersburg
Explanation of the types of trains on that route.

Firmenny Trains
An explanation of what they are.

Moscow's Railway Stations
A map of their locations and proximities.

Learn How To Speak Russian
Free lessons.

Map of St. Petersburg
Lonely Planet's map of the city.

Map of Moscow
Lonely Planet's map of the city.

Moscow Times Newspaper
English version.

The Russia Club
A forum for all those interested in anything "Russian".

Russian Rail Timetable
It takes a bit of mastering but Ian managed it (eventually).

The Art Of Travel
Very interesting travel information for all locations.

Smart Traveller
Australian Government's site dealing with current travel advice.

Travel Independent
A site written by travellers for travellers. Lots of information.