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Ulan-Ude Travel Blog

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Frescoe in the train station
The bus drove me and Rusty Jr. to Ulan-Ude, about 100 km back the way we had come, along a bumpy, windswept road. Upon arriving in the city, I asked the driver to direct me to the hotel. I noticed his interest in my caribeners, so I offered him one as a "gift." He drew me a surprisingly accurate map, guarded my bike while I took a piss, and even gave me some pills for my stomach, which I hesitantly ingested. I checked in to the same hotel as before, this time paying the cost of a double room all by myself (i.e. paying way too much). I headed to the train station and tried to find out about train tickets to Mongolia. When I approached the ever-so-helpful ladies in the "information" booth and tried to speak English, I was quickly sent away. I also tried the cashiers, and the special "help centre" upstairs, but no one seemed keen to assist. At the very least, I managed to decipher on the self-serve information machine that there would be a train leaving in two days. I headed back to my hotel, a plan slowly forming in my head.

The next day, I packed up the bike, checked out of my hotel, and rode to the train station. I brought my bike inside the station and sat beside it, looking lost and confused. Yes, this was my brilliant plan. Surprisingly, it worked! I attracted a lot of attention and several people approached me inquiring in Russian about me and my bike. Many of them were just curious, but one wanted me to buy him some booze. Eventully, a guy named Stas began to chat with me in his limited English. We managed to communicate quite a bit, albeit very slowly, and he soon realized my situation and offered to translate with the ticket agent for me. With him helping, buying the ticket was terribly simple. Afterwards, he even stayed with me for several hours, telling me about his life. He served in the army when Russia invaded Afghanistan and was caught in an explosion. He told me that he spent two years in a Moscow hospital with his eyes covered in bandages before he could see again.

As midnight approached, he eventually became tired and headed home, leaving me to pass another night in a train station. Coincidentally, there was a movie about Russia's war with Afghanistan playing in the waiting room. I didn't follow all of it, but I understood the main idea (the same as all other war movies: war is hell). I tried sleeping in the waiting room chairs, but I spotted a heater near the wall and passed out underneath it for who knows how many hours. I woke up in the morning, darkness still covering the sky, and began dismantling the bike for transport in the train. Fortunately, there weren't too many people on this train and I stashed the bike right beside my bed, under the dining table. I slept fitfully for a few hours and around midday the train arrived at the Russian-Mongolian border.
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Frescoe in the train station
Frescoe in the train station
photo by: orcio81