Train ride from Ulan Ude to Irkutsk

Previous page - The Old Believers in Ulan Ude



It's time to leave Ulan Ude

We left Tatiana's (we should call it Olga's I suppose, but we never saw Olga again after her initial introduction) after being served a substantial breakfast. We devoured hot rice with dobs of butter on it, sausage, sliced gherkins, sliced cucumber, French stick, jam and cups of tea. It was quite tasty.


Miserable taxi driver

I had lots of hugs from Tatiana and we walked back down the steps to the outside world. Out taxi was waiting nearby. The taxi driver seemed determined not to help us by staying inside his dirty car and talking on his two-way radio. I decided to open up the dirty boot myself. We struggled to get our luggage into the boot when the boot lid fell down and hit me right across the top of my head. It was quite painful and caused an instant lump. We were sitting in the back of the taxi when Tatiana raced down the steps to the taxi for one last hug.

We had been in Russia long enough to get a sense of value so I was determined this driver was not going to get anything extra than a basic amount for the ride. When we arrived at the railway station I handed him 100 roubles and we walked off with our luggage. Two days prior, when we arrived at the B & B we had paid 150 roubles for the same trip. Tatiana had told us she only ever pays 80 roubles. The Italians said they had been charge 200 roubles.

View of the train yard from the bridge View of the train yard from the bridge
Front of the Ulan Ude railway station Front of the Ulan Ude railway station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ian sorting through our baggage Ian sorting through our baggage

Finding our train to Irkutsk

Each station has a large board that details train numbers, arrival times, departure times and more information. We found our train listed on there but there was no platform number listed for it. Our rucksacks weigh a lot plus we have various other items with us so we need to know the correct platform we should be waiting on well in advance. How will we know which platform on which to stand?

I tried desperately to ask the question, in Russian, to the lady at the customer service desk. She kept babbling in fast Russian which I didn't understand. I must have asked a dozen people nearby me if they spoke English. "Niet" was always the reply. Finally we found an older man who told us it was platform number one.

It seems platform numbers are not announced until immediately before the train pulls in to the platform. In this instance it was not announced until the train was actually visibly arriving. "Only in Russia ! " we continually say to ourselves.

Added later:

This is common practice at most stations.

 

Second class wagons

Seeing as this is an eight hour day trip we had earlier decided that we would save money and go second class instead of the usual first class which we like for overnight travelling. We were sorry we made this decision. Because it is still a long distance train, our compartment had four beds – two either side. The top beds are in a permanently horizontal position. The idea of this is that the occupant can lay down on his/her bed during the day if he/she desires. Ian's seat/bed and mine were both on the same side of the carriage so that was good. We both sat on the lower berth and placed some of our lighter gear on the top berth. One of the two big rucksacks went into a hidden compartment under the seat.

Second class compartment Second class compartment
Corridor on train #349 Corridor on train #349

The other big rucksack didn't have a place to sit. One of the carriage occupants was a big guy who easily picked it up and lifted it over his head and put it in the space above the passageway. He was a nice friendly fellow who spoke a little English. It turns out he lectures in Philosophy, somewhere or other. The fourth carriage occupant was a young guy in his mid twenties. He occupied the top bunk and Vladimir the Philosopher was down beneath him. We never learned the name of the young guy. He had masses of gold teeth. He was forever up and down, to and from his top berth. Nearly always it was to take or make phone calls on his mobile phone. Unfortunately for us, he spoke no English so sometimes Vladimir did a bit of interpreting.

 

My cold is revolting

At this point my cold is terrible. I am continually blowing my nose and I feel guilty that my germs must be getting passed around to these guys. Ian had to be his own company as I wasn't feeling very sociable. There were lots of kids in the carriage. They were quite young and bored so they constantly ran up and down the length of the carriage squealing. Ian and I both felt we had no space to move. Even if we were to simply stand up we had to watch we didn't whack our heads on the top bunk. It was quite warm in the compartment and there was no air conditioning either. We couldn't easily get stuff out of our big rucksacks as they were both stored away in obscure places. It was a nightmare journey that seemed to last a lot longer than eight hours. We've decided that from now on we'll go first class for all journeys of great length.

 

Snow on the peaks of distant mountains Snow on the peaks of distant mountains
Forests between ulan Ude and Irkutsk Forests between Ulan Ude and Irkutsk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ice around the edges of Lake Baikal Ice around the edges of Lake Baikal
Picturesque scene of Lake Baikal from the train Picturesque scene of Lake Baikal from the train

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Meet Leonid From The Admiral Hostel

We got off the train and immediately found a smiling Leonid waiting for us with a sign with our names on it. He helped by carrying my big rucksack which was most appreciated seeing as I felt so lousy. We climbed up a huge lot of steps to the main station level.

Irkutsk railway station at a very quiet time of day Irkutsk railway station at a very quiet time of day

Ian and I were annoyed and surprised by the barrier of people standing in our way at the top of the steps. There were hundreds of them all obscuring our exit. Couldn't they see we were carrying bulky, heavy loads and needed a bit of room?

We found out later that the crowd was a mixture of taxi drivers hoping to get passengers and on-going travellers waiting to head down below to the platforms but not being able to do so because the wretched platform numbers hadn't been announced on the notice board. It would make it so much easier for travellers if they knew in advance which platform to wait on. It would save a hell of a lot of congestion.


Leaving The Railway Station

The station congestion was not a patch on the congestion going on outside the front of the building. At Irkutsk railway station cars park two deep, one behind the other! Too bad if yours is the car closest to the curb. You need to wait until the car behind you moves so that you can get out. When the outer-most cars want to reverse out they have to back into a moving hodge-podge of cars, buses and trams. It's quite a terrifying experience with a lot of horn tooting and close shaves. Leonid had a 4 wheel drive vehicle which was quite dirty inside from road dust. We loaded our gear into the back, knowing it would come out a lot dirtier than it went in. We wondered what Leonid's hostel would be like.

 

Next page - Admiral Hostel, Irkutsk

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Our trip in the order it happened:


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