In two hours I board another train – this one to Mongolia.
I should give you the story of the first train now. Here goes:
Do you ever wonder how Chewbacca feels when Han Solo isn’t around to communicate for him. He’s just reduced to howls and sign lanuage (did you ever feel sorry for Chewbacca because he is actually incapable of pronouncing his own name?). That was (almost) me.
The story goes:
Moscow. I board the train and find myself in the company of a Buryat woman on her way to Lake Baikal to seek sponsorship for Tibetan massage training and an eighteen year old Tartar on his way from San Deigo to his home in Siberia (there are many distinct ethnic groups in Russia). He speaks English and she doesn’t. I am somewhat left out of there conversation after introductions have been made because I don’t speak Russian. After we set off, they go to sleep for a while. At one of our first stops a new passenger enters our cabin. He promptly forces us to rearrange every piece of baggage in the compartment to fit him and his huge bag in. He sits opposite me and (although he also doesn’t speak English) offers me a drink. Beer and then whisky. Siberian whisky.
I’m no connesieur but I don’t think whisky should be translucent white. I express my concerns regarding the curious whiteness of said whisky but because he doesn’t understand and because I’m slightly scared by him I decide it would be rude to decline. After all I can handle my whisky right?
Seven or so shots later, I feel something in my stomach twang like a taut bowstring. Something is wrong. I casually ask the one person in the cabin what’s in the Siberian Whisky (also known as samiegon I think). Milk. Milk that has gone rotten and then some how been distilled. I think the lactose somehow becomes alcohol. That is why it is off white in colour. The man made it himself, but he doesn’t remember how. The fear sets in. Maybe it’s rotten milk mixed with ethanol? It does taste a lot like actimel and bleach.
I have to be sick. The toilet is locked. The only place I can go is to stand between the two moving carriage and vomit down the gap whilst trying not to decapitate myself on the moving parts of the train (* I told you so). It was whilst I stood there I had a strangely lucid moment and realised that I had made many regretable decisions this year.
Later it transpired that the guy with the whisky was actually a Russian police officer who turned out to be okay. However slightly later on when the train stopped I got out to sober up and as we were standing there, the one English speaking guy in my carriage translated something another groups of Russians were saying about me “They say you are extremely hardcore to be on your own in Siberia…but they also say if they can make you any drunker they will still everything you own”.
I swiftly learned the Russian for “Please don’t be offended but I don’t want alcohol”.
When I woke up the following morning it felt like a mule kicking me in the stomach. A mule with solid gold hooves.