Saturday, 15 January 2011

Transiberian Winter Leg

High contrast monochrome, shadow and glare,
black specks of crouched Baikal fishermen on vast flatland of pure white.
Pocked betulla trunks streak vertically a wide angle vista
while a logical chaos of twigs and branches adds depth and texture.

As dark cross-hatched promontories elbow out onto the Persil™ nothingness,
the juggernaut centipede carves its inexorable advance through the frozen silence.
Its rumbling roar and rolling heartbeat lulls us into a satiated stupor,
soft flowing landscapes stream past our thirsty eyes.

Like a breaker through pack ice, the desire to feel the sharp wind on our faces
and explore villages of stained logs and brightly coloured shutters
slices into the coal warmed womb of a 10,000 tons of steel.
Inside, the odorous presence of humanity pervades the thick air,
lucid spirit vapours and cured meats, tinned fish, artificial flavourings, breaths and armpits.

The subdued quietness is at times shattered by the clumsy crow of drunken laughter,
the rocking stillness interrupted by the shuffling of lost souls towards the samovar.
In the restaurant car the provodnitsas listlessly play a worn game of cards,
their once provocative allure tarnished by leery stares and long hours of tedium.

99 and 53 minutes for us two
between the thin bunks and the corridors of the Kupeyny Class Wagon Lits,
The Master and Margarita and Murder on the Orient Express
as we make our way
towards the Sea of Japan and the Golden Horn Bay.

4 handed written


Monday, 10 January 2011

Dear Tanya and Vladimir

thank you for the lovely couchsurfing review and voucher. Yes, we are in Novosibirsk, Siberia. We got here by train from Ushtobe via Semey-Barnaul after spending a week camping in rather chilly conditions. We decided that, actually, we are not really really prepared for the Mongolian wilderness in the depth of winter when, on New Years Eve the temperature outside our tent plummeted towards -30°C. We slept in all of our clothes (3 wool thermal layers, 1 down vest, 1 down jacket, phat pants over thermal pants, 2 pairs of expensive thermal socks) and still felt the cold attacking us inside our expedition -40°C sleeping bags. The day after, on Isla's birthday, we had to do a small pass to reach Талдыкорган (Taldıqorğan) and the wind was blowing quite strong. By the time we reached the top of the pass our noses started to freeze in front of our eyes (well, they do tend to be in front of our eyes all the time) and our fingers were getting rapidly bitten off by the frost. Luckily, in a dire moment of near panic for our slightly desperate situation a group of Russian hunters picked us up and carried us off the remaining few km to Taldıqorğan. It was a fearful and humbling experience. Our happy-go-lucky attitude got slapped back into the reality of severe cold weather.

Our finger tips are still not completely healed up but our noses were still there the last time we looked. We felt quite demoralized for a while, realizing that we either needed to throw a whole lot more money in getting better and better equipment (and still suffer through months of winter) or we had to stop cycling and camping altogether. Neither option really appealed.

So, somehow, we hatched a new-fangled plan which will not stop us from cycling and will not cut short our trip. Instead of (not) cycling towards Japan through winter and then trying to catch the Transiberian all the way from Vladivostok to Moscow and St. Petersburg, we will catch the Transib to Vladivostok tonight. There we'll jump on a ferry to South Korea and Japan. After spending a couple of milder winter months cycling around Japan and hopefully witnessing the beginning of the blossom season, we will slowly make our way back across China and spend the late spring/early summer on our bicycles in Mongolia. We should arrive back in the Russian Altai around mid summer (visa dependent). From there, after spending a little time looking around and experiencing the Siberian summer (whoopee) we will catch the Transib back towards home.

I (Pietro) feel slightly reticent in admitting this is a much better plan than trying to face a brutal 3-4 months of winter ill prepared. Sometime in the future, maybe with better knowledge and better equipment I might try to push my boundaries further on a forgotten mountain somewhere. But that is not for today.

So that's the new oiooio trx Coldcut remix. Of course things change at all times when you are on the road, but this is the general direction we are trying to move towards.

By the way, fancy reaching us in Altai this Summer? *** If you have some time and are going to visit parents, it would be great to meet up and maybe do some mountain trekking together!

Much love from us

Big hug to you

Isla & Pietro

Tanya and Vladimir Muravskiy wrote:
>Hey Dear!
>It shows that you reached Siberia already, did you take train or bus? Where are you now and how it's going on? Hope you're alright.
>Godspeed and good luck!

*** Actually this invite/tease is also directed to you, [INSERT NAME]. How about a little vacation in a splendid bit of Siberia? Or cycling across Mongolia?

Go on, you know you want to!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Peek Preview: Isla's Birthday Post

Plenty Frosting Zero Cake

Mascara Kazakh Stylee


vveely, I'm twing tvu smile

When I grow up...