Covering new ground – the adventure really begins!

When we were planning our trip, one of the really exciting parts was the journey across Siberia and the mass of nothingness…. So it feels slightly surreal that we are staring this stage of the trip square between the eyes, and we both really have mixed emotions about it.  How can it have come round already?  Are we really about to do this?  After months of planning it is actually happening!

During a stop on our Vilnius to St Petersburg journey

During a stop on our Vilnius to St Petersburg journey

I have been lucky so far.  I’ve had my own personal (Trafalgar accredited) Travel Director / travel buddy to show me around all the places we have been.  We hit the ground running in Warsaw, sought out the back streets in Vilnius, strolled around like a local in St Petersburg and rode the Metro with ease in Moscow (without Dean I think I would still be doing loops on the brown line!).  So for us, the real adventure was always going to begin when we left the comfort of where at least one of us had been before and where be both started to experience something new.  That in itself is exciting.

We (the Royal ‘we’ of course) have spent months planning this trip, pouring over train timetables and deciphering schedules, only to come up with our perfect route.  The choice of which train(s) to take was made for various reasons.  We could have split our next 72 hour journey up into smaller sections, stopping more often or evening staying on longer.  However we thought 3 ½ days on the train was long enough to get a real sense of the scales and size of the country and for us, it worked perfectly.  Besides we are travelling in winter, and some things are closed, fountains turned off and plants covered for the winter, so we had to be realistic about what we see and do. Seeing Red Square and St Basil’s with a dust of snow was magical, so for me it is a very special time of year to be here and I wouldn’t trade it for peak season for anything.

We are hoping for Animal Print covers on this train again...!

We are hoping for Animal Print covers on this train again…!

I remembering sitting on a bus from Alice Springs to Cairns, and it was one of the best things I did in Oz.  Watching cattle station after cattle station and kangaroo after kangaroo pass by reaffirmed what I already knew – Australia is a big place!  I’m sure this journey will do the same.  We have got some great stop overs on this epic journey, but first we must tackle the long first stage.

We are likely to drop at least 10 degrees along the way – and coming from a temperature of -4 today that won’t be pretty, but we are prepared.  We have our cold weather gear (not forgetting my awesome funky boots!) and our cameras at the ready.  We have our Vodka to keep us warm (!) and games to keep us entertained.  Above all we have our provisions – porridge, tea, noodles, soups etc. all to live like kings on this magical journey.  For us this is the really start of our trip, the exciting venture into the unknown and we can’t wait to get going… but we don’t want it to go too quickly!  Dean remembers talking to me in Africa and apparently I said to him that the next and last big trip I wanted to do was the Trans-Mongolian Train across to Beijing.  I don’t remember that conversation and neither of us knew at that point we would be doing it together!

All set and ready to go!

All set and ready to go!

So all that’s left now is to hope we end up with good cabin buddies on the train… who don’t make us drink TOO much Vodka. See you on the other side of / in Siberia!!!

–          Natalie

Start as you mean to go on…

Our plan had been to have a couple of simple meals out and get into the throw on being on the road again before we went hard core cooking for ourselves….  However after a slightly more extravagant night in Warsaw, we decided Vilnius was the night to switch to hostel cooking.

Fortunately I checked out the kitchen facilities before we went off to buy food.  I was met with two VERY scaly kettles, one toaster and two microwaves in various states of (dis)repair.  Hummm – now being here for only one night we didn’t want to do anything fancy or buy anything more than we needed, as space in our backpacks was at a premium.

After looking round the supermarkets we were met with problem number two – lack of funds!  We had arrived into Vilnius quite late, meaning all money changers were closed, and our bank cards were locked away in the safe.  We did have some Euro, but only the very upmarket hotels were willing to take those.  There was nothing for it – time to start on the noodles already!!

So we strolled back to the hostel and chose our provisions carefully.  After some canapés (left over ready salted crisps), I polished off todays cheese, which was a sign things were desperate!!  Dean opted for the two course dinner – Tomato and Veg soup, followed by 19p Morrisons Saver noodles.  We had expected to at least get to the train before we used them, but unlike ready meals we had discovered two-minute noodles were not in short supply in Lithuania!  I went for the one course – noodle only option, and did mine first to make sure our skills were up to the task!

We trotted down to the kitchen armed with our supplies – cups and all and made our feast.  Well the cups worked a treat and the noodles provided us with 250 calories of err goodness!

Gourmet dinner - all with change out of 50p!

Gourmet dinner – all with change out of 50p!

So now we really have started – proper backpackers on the road eating dinner for less than 50p.  My only fear is that we will have peaked too soon on the noodle front and will be fed up of them by the time we get to Russia…

Dinner in a pot!

Dinner in a pot!

– Natalie