Nov. 29 – Beijing
It smells like snow even though there is none. The bleak, dense, expectant sky reminds me of winter. That’s as literary as I get on what will be a very prosaic post.
I spent today preparing for 2.5 days of continuous rail travel, which will take me from China, through Mongolia, to Siberia. Laundry, of all things, has provided the most excitement. Daniel’s away on business, and in his absence I failed to make the washing machine work. Rather than risk some flooding or electrical mishap, I hand-scrubbed my small pile of laundry. There is no dryer in the apartment, and it is now a race against time to get the clothes dry enough to pack for tomorrow morning’s departure.
A trip to the supermarket yielded the following supplies: instant noodles, oatmeal, rice chips, banana chips, and tea. Also, a travel mug, plastic bowl with cover, spoon and fork. At lunch, I tested the noodles and dishes to ensure no surprises in taste or functionality. The train will have a dining car, but bringing a reliable stash is a good precaution. This leg will be about learning what works and what doesn’t. As I continue westwards, I will adjust my mix based on experience.
Yesterday I bought the Let’s Go travel guide to Russia. I know this could doom me to following the beaten path, but it is important to have basic information at hand. I’ve contacted a hostel in Irkutsk – stay tuned to see how that goes. Anyway, it’s better than showing up with no plan in a place where Friday’s predicted high temperature is -7 degrees Celsius.
One thing I don’t have is Rubles. I failed to get some at a bank in Beijing, but I’m not too worried. I’ve got Yuan and a few Yankee dollars for the train, and Let’s Go says ATMs abound in Irkutsk. As a reference, I also know the exchange rate.
If things go according to schedule, I should be in Irkutsk (and blogging) on Friday. But I’ve pre-written a couple of short travel-related posts to tide over my absence from the wired world, which will appear on Wednesday and Thursday.