Last night, with a very heavy heart, I said goodbye to the last of my trans-Siberian travel group chums. I’m on my own again in China. Shit…
Its been sad seeing our little group gradually break up these last few days, as we’ve reached the end of our tour. We all met up first in Moscow, three long, eventful weeks ago. Since then we’ve enjoyed and endured the trans-Siberian railway together as a team. We’ve suffered as one the endless pot noodles three days on a creaking Russian train brings; the hangovers that result from long nights drinking vodka; and the lurgy that we passed around as readily as our biscuits.
But, more than anything else, we’ve shared some simply stunning experiences. It was together that we rode camels in Mongolia, together that we wandered into the freezing midnight Siberian wilderness to go star gazing. Together that we ran out steaming from a boiling sauna only to plunge into Lake Baikal’s icy depths, together that we saw Lenin’s prostrate body, the vast nothingness of Russia unfolding from a train window, Buddhist monks chanting eerily in a Mongolian monastery, and China’s unbelievable karst landscapes. And it was together that we demolished bottles of vodka as if they were water, toasting the world and suffering the consequences. Its been a blistering three weeks, that feel closer to months or years, such is the sheer amount of stuff we’ve got through.
But you know, at bottom, beyond all the things that we’ve done, its just very simply been a bloody good laugh. Some really weird things have happened, that we’ve just had to laugh about. For example, turning around at the end of our late night Siberian star gazing to discover a horse had wandered over and was looking at what we were doing. Have you ever found yourself face to face with a Russian horse at 1am in the morning in the middle of nowhere? It’s a moving experience, I’ll tell you.
I’m going to miss them all, utterly and totally. We’ve gone our separate ways now. Jenny and Antonia – ‘Switzerland’, as they collectively became known – are off to South Korea and then Thailand, carrying on their own stunning experiences. Dave is continuing on a new tour through China before carrying onto India. Annie and Ella, meanwhile, are returning home to finish University, and to actually become grown ups!
But wherever they go, and whatever they do, I know all five of these utterly wonderful people will have a bloody good time doing it. They’ve done some amazing things these last three weeks, and they’ve got some amazing things to come. They’re natural travellers, people who aren’t content to see the world through a TV screen, but who’s instincts lead them to seek it out for themselves. Its been a privilege to travel with them these last three weeks.
In total, our journey from Moscow to Beijing covered just over 4,000 unforgettable miles. If I had the chance too, right now, I’d go back to Moscow and do it all again, just as we did, without changing a single thing. To all of you – Ella, Antonia, Annie, Jenny and Dave – good luck in whatever it is you’re about to go and do.
And thanks for a fucking blast this last month! The Kinder Schender will forever be in my heart…