A Travellerspoint blog

Sydney Blog

different web address

Hey

I've written a bit about whats happening in sydney, but its under a new blog title, and appears to have a new webaddress

http://gt248sydney.travellerspoint.com/

so if you want to see how things are coming along you need to go to this website instead.

Cheers

Gem

Posted by gt248 04:16 Comments (0)

Yekateringburg and Moscow

The last one (for now)

rain 5 °C
View Guyana, China, Mongolia and Russia on gt248's travel map.

Final two cities and last few days before the adventure is over :( . Plus a day of birthday excitement too :)

So last time we were still in Irkusk and spent the morning seeing the sights before catching the train. Again there wasn't an awful lot to see (unless you like churches, which we used to but have seen alot of them now...). We set off armed with our stunning map (road names in english actual street signs in Russian brilliant) to see the Decemberists house, we weren't really sure who they were but it was a marked highlight. We may have found the first one but it didn't look much like a museum so we took a sneaky picture before trying to find the other one.

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Behind a heavy gate saying beware of the dogs (smally yappy thing was on the loose) we found a museum, "yes we will learn who they were" we thought, or as it turned out maybe not as it was all in Russian. But it was a nice old wooden house with some plants and photos of some people in it. We were the only people except for the millions of ladies working there.

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So none the wiser we kept on going with our make it up as you go along city tour. There were some really old wooden houses that were pretty good. Sort of falling down, at funny angles and looking slightly rotten but amazing they have lasted so long without catching fire.

We walked on to the river where we then found some churches, all very lovely

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I then decided that as we were riding the trans siberian railway we should go and see the obelisk built in its honour. So we found the spot and there was a statue of a man. I went hunting for and obelisk but I couldn't find one. It was only later I found out it had been taken down and the statue had replaced it!

I was beginning to dislike Irkust. But then we had only seen it in the rain (in fact it seems it only rains in Russia, never any sun). Thankfully it was time to leave so back on the train. This time for two whole days. The time went surprisingly quickly. We shared a cabin with a Russian lady whose daughter was travelling 3rd class (but spent the entire trip in our cabin, thankfully there were only the three of us). We played cards, read, caught up with diary writing and talked to the two Australian sisters in the cabin next door. We even ventured to the restaurant car!! It was kinda fancy and well the sauce of much amusement and the hang out for the drunken somewhat scary Russian men. The men have really red eyes, probably due to the fact they seem to start drinking as soon as they get up.

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At one such meal time the 4 of us headed off to eat together, thankfully we filled a booth, when three drunk Russians came to talk (only one of them spoke English and he was most upset we didn't speak Russian "its a beautiful language why you no know?"). They wanted us to join them for vodka shots, but we said no, so they bought us wine (which we don't think they could afford), but we didn't really want to drink with them and much to the amusement of the waitresses legged it. Oops they really will dislike the English and Australians now!!

We stopped at various points along the way, some stops were for 2 minutes, others long enough to go for a bit of a walk. One such stop somewhere in Russia
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So in glorious sunshine we arrived in Yekateringburg. Many people in Cambridge say there is nothing higher between the hills there and the Ural mountains. Well the ural mountains aren't exactly high here. In fact it was very flat and it was only after climbing a tall building could we see the slight mounds in the distance. Yadia a Russian girl with a strong american accent gave us a tour of the city, from the old dam (built of larch trees in 1735 and is still standing) to a new church that had been built on the site of several old churches that were blown up during the communist era. Finally we visited the Romanov church built of the site where the Romanovs were killed.

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Romanov Church
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The next day we went on the rafting trip in the Ural mountains (small hills). Amazingly there were other people on the trip, 6 of us in fact. An english australian couple, Jodi a canadian and Bryce an american. So we headed west and 17km out of town we crossed back into Europe. (Pictures on Brendas camera so will have to wait to see them). So on my birthday I stood with 1 foot in europe and 1 in asia. Most exciting! We headed out to the country and walked a short way to a stream and floated down it a short distance. It wasn't deep and the rapids were pretty non existant. However due to all the rain lately it was apparently flowing quite fast. We then hiked out to some caves, which I went down into. It was pitch black and freezing, but the hike there and back was fun. Our guide produced a bottle of Vodka for lunch. After toasting my birthday he toasted the weather. Obviously at that point the heavens opened and we found ourselves hiking back to the car in the rain again. Not sure we will dry out till we get home.

We arrived back in town to meet two English guys James and Michael (we met on the train) for dinner. It had rained so much the water in the streets was faster and deeper than the river we had rafted down!

Over dinner with Jodi, Bryce, James and Michael Jodi had asked if it was ture the British didn't tip. We looked at each other and said we hadn't tipped in China, in fact if taxis were a bit over they rounded down. No one on our trains (east to west) had left money for the carriage attendents so we'd never thought to tip, and so hadn't tipped the guides (we'd figured they'd been paid by Russia Experience). Jodi was shocked and said we were meant to. Oh well we weren't going to change now so continued not tipping.

Another 28 hours on a train and we arrived in a rainy Moscow. We saw red square, the outside of the Kremlin, and the armoury as well as more stautes of Pushkin and a supermarket that I think he started
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A fountain
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And st Basils cathedral. It was stunning on the outside, but inside wasn't so well decorated, some of the chapels only contained tat stalls, which seemed a bit wong for a cathedral.

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The following day it rained so we spent much of the day touring the subway stations (cause we hadn't spent enough time on trains in the last 3 weeks). A lot of work had gone into them, they were quite stunning. I did feel a bit of a twit taking pictures but never mind.

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Posted by gt248 10.09.2008 08:50 Archived in Russia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Lake Baikal

Same same but a nother country

rain 19 °C

After a bumpy nights sleep of the train we dumped our stuff with our host family in Irkusk and headed out to lake Baikal for 3 days of trekking. We were met by a very serious looking Russian man whose name we instantly forgot or he never told us or it was something like Gimmal (he could however have been taking the piss out of my name). Brenda named him Russian Ray Mears (RRM). He presented us with a roll mat and sleeping bag which we attached to our bags in a similar manner to our trek 2 months ago in Guyana only then we had hammocks. We met his girlfriend (we think she was his girlfriend) and boarded a hydrofoil and headed to the lake.

We reached the starting point for our trek in glorious sunshine and with the thought of only having to go 9km we set off

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We followed the edge of the lake (It holds 1/5 of the worlds fresh water, a whole load of unique fish but I don't know what they are called but I can't tell you its a tad cold) along the bank, at times goinging uphill at times coming back down. It was a very gental walk. Then we hit the uphill section, up and up and up and was the only time Brenda and I walked faster than Mrs Russian Ray Mears. We were beginning to suspect she was the Russian walking champion from the Olympics because we had only just started and she'd vanished round the corner miles up ahead. But on the hills we could out pace her, but then we had small backpacks and hers was substantially bigger (she was carrying our tent).

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The views of the lake were pretty good from the top of the long uphill section. Here is RRM at the top

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and me at the top

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Following this we headed down to the pebbled beach and walked along that. This really zapped your energy, and at times I was beginning to doubt RRM as we'd come across vertical rocks that went straight into the lake. How are we meant to get past that I thought, simple take your shoes off and walk. Cold water and pebbles, was great fun. But we made it in plenty of time to camp 1, 9km from the starting point. Here we set up camp and had pasta and sausage cooked over an open fire - was pretty good. However after this I think RRM and Big Fat Dave have got together and played "what Gemma Doesn't like" cause for breakfast we got porridge. Yum, I ate some of it with huge helpings of sugar and then we were off again (more on the food shortly).

With 23km to cover today I guess the walk woudn't be so bad and to start with we walked through a lovely meadow, then the rain started and we got soaked. Much like guyana we had rain coats hanging from our bags in an attempt to keep everything dry, and by lunch my shoes had taken on so much water I felt like I was walking in a swimming pool.

So lunch was a welcome break, RRM had obviously been talking to Elvon and produced canned fish soup for lunch. Yeah!! But it was warm so I ate it. In the afternoon we were clambering over more rocks, balanced pricariously above the lake (ok it was only about 20 cm above but I could have got even wetter if I'd fallen, umm come to think of it no I couldn't). So on we plodded, it was decided that camping was not going to be the best idea, so rather than stop early we walked on to the village we were due to get the bus home from the following day and stayed in a house there.

After a warm night (shoes are still we though) we had semolina for breakfast (how did he manage it) and came back to a wet Irkusk. Lake Baikal was great fun, and the trek was brilliant, RRM was funny, he spoke some english but not a lot but was very funny nevertheless and congratulated Brenda on her Russian skills despite not really understanding her.

I am having slight computer issues and it won't let me upload the pictures in the text so they are coming at the end, you'll just have to fit them with the story.

Gem

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Posted by gt248 04.09.2008 00:52 Archived in Russia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Ulan-Ude (Ула́н-Удэ́) Russia

Umm I think we're missing something??

sunny 25 °C

Off to Russia

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We left UlaanBaatar in the evening, and were in a cabin with a Dutch Guy going to Russia to learn Russian and a local girl (complete with pet terrapins). I figured it was a long way to Ulan Ude as we weren't meant to arrive until 9pm at night (although things get a tad confusing now as we aren't on Moscow time but the trains are!!). But we would have been there so much sooner had we not spent 10 hours waiting at borders.

So we woke up stopped somewhere and upon leaving the train we found our long train had shrunk to 2 carriages and no engine overnight.

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The customs guys boarded the train, stamped us out of Mongolia and we rolled over the border to Russia, where slightly stricter looking guards came aboard and searched the train (prior to this some of the people in the carriage had been hiding trousers about the cabins), asked us if we had anything banned, what is banned we don't know but we were stamped in fairly fast. However we remained stuck there for several hours. I needed the toilet, but gave up after being directed firstly to the customs hall, then a room where peope were being fined for bringing in too much stuff. But eventually we got going again, and I passed the time talking to a Russian Family in the next cabin while Brenda slept as she has a cold (who ever said you can't get sick by being cold was wrong).

On the train:

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The Mongolian train was nice, not was good as the train out of Beijing but comfortable, although there were no barriers to keep me from falling out of my top bunk.

We arrived in Ulan-Ude and were transferred to our host family, a lady who lives right in the centre of town with the softest beds in the world. After the hard table I got in the Ger it was great.

The following morning we were picked up by Andrei who took us on a tour to the home of Buddism in the area. I confess I switched off, but they all seemed enthuastic about it. I think I have just seen too many Buddist temples in the last few weeks.
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We had lunch with a local family, where we ate more traditional food and played bones and archery again. This time we also got to dress up too:

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We were then dropped off in town with a map and let lose to explore ourselves. But there didn't really seem to be much to see. In the central square is a giant statue of Lenins Head, around town is a statue of a tank, a MIG15 and a woman. All sights seen in about 10 minutes. But there was a talent show in the square so we watched some of that and then it may have become a political rally or a save the enviroment show, but some important ministers gave speeches. We gave up and went home. I have also given up hoping for food I like, I have drunk more milk than ever (with stomach rumbles that go with it) and then last night Brenda made some comment about wouldn't it be funny if it was fish, then we got mashed potato and fish. Brilliant. Although our host is a very healthy cook, so that makes a change from Mongolia.

This morning we went on another tour to another temple. They still seem to be building this one:

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Then we drove through some traditional towns, all the houses made of wood and brightly coloured

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and then we reached Siberia (although with my lack of russian I could be anywhere)
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After driving through Siberia we went to a church

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Where the minister had formed a museum full of artifacts collected from the region.

It does't feel like we are in Russian as the majority of the people are of Mongolian descent. Tonight we are off to lake Baikal for 3 days of trekking. Fingers crossed the weather holds.

We have resorted to surfing the net as we have seen the sights are thought we'd look up the town and see if there is anything we have missed, but sadly no.

Right best go as a guy is waiting for the computer.

Love Gem

Posted by gt248 01.09.2008 00:16 Archived in Russia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Mongolia

Bring back the heat

rain 12 °C
View Guyana, China, Mongolia and Russia on gt248's travel map.

After taking 4 hours to get through immigration (they come and collect your passport while you are on the train and bring them back later) we arrived in Mongolia after 30 hours on the train. During this time the carriage attendant had cleaned the windows about 20 times and then we'd upset her by refusing to pay 10 yuan each for tea (I'd not drunk any) but it turns out the money was for the bed sheets. Brenda further upset her by not paying to get changed in the shower room. yup the train even had a shower!!
From the train you could see miles of nothing:
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Most notably no trees.
We passed through the central square where big screens were showing the Olympic games and Mongolia were about to win their second gold medal. The city went mad flags and cars beeping everywhere.
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We freshened up at a hotel (up market travel now) and headed to the tourist ger camp an hour outside Ulaan Baatar. It was in the middle of nowhere and on the drive there we went from the centre of the city which consists of falling down soviet looking apartment blocks, through the suburbs (gers in their own little plot surrounded by a fence) to nothing ness then the ger camp. Now at this point the weather turned and the 28degC heat in Beijing was replaced by 8degC and wind, so much wind and rain it was amazing. But here are some photos of the camp while the sun made a brief appearance
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We ate so much food then retreated to our ger for the night. The fire in the middle kept us warm once it was lit but it went out while we were asleep and then it started leaking. We were frozen. But the inside looks really homely

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With the rain hammering down and the wind well blowing a gale we stayed inside the first morning and played with bones.
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Toya our guide taught us several games you can play with ankle bones, from flicked them, to jacks and horse racing. One one of the games I spent a long time in hell (I didn't like that game!!) After lunch the sun tried to come out and while it was dry I packed away my sowing kit and hiked up a hill. On top was a mobile phone mast, I still can't get over the fact that phones work everywhere. The views were pretty good but the picture trying to demonstrate the wind, doesn't quite work

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If you squint at the picture you might be able to make out the camp where we were staying in the middle of it.

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We spent the time with George and Margaret a couple who are traveling everywhere now they are retired and have the time. They joined us for a spot of archery. It was still windy but Brenda looked like a pro
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After freezing for another night we headed to the nomadic camp, about 7 hours away. There were roads in places and the rest of the time you made your own road. Miles and miles of nothing, but some how the scenery was beautiful (what I saw of it, after a few hours of bouncing around I was feeling very car sick).

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We arrived at the Nomadic camp and Brenda was less than impressed. We were given fermented mares milk to welcome us, it was horrible, but I had a cold so couldn't smell it. Brenda on the other hand said the whole ger stank of it. Outside was even worse as there were hundreds of goats, horses and cows and funnily enough it smelt of a farmyard. Oh well. The price you pay for being in the middle of nowhere - with mobile phone reception though.

The nomadic family seem to live on a milk based diet and spend their days drunk on the fermented mares milk. They eat curd, again smelt bad, and milk their cattle once a day and the goats 5 times a day to get enough milk. They have solar panels, TV and mobiles. But wear traditional dress
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We were also next to the gobi desert. We walked to escape the smells and walked to the sand, finally we were warm, but as darkness fell the temperature plummeted and we sought shelter in the kitchen Ger where we helped Toya make dumplings for dinner. Just like the ones from tesco don't you think??

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The sunset was pretty good
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ad as we are such party animals we decided to forgo the fermented mares milk and went to bed early. Even with the animal dung fire it got a bit cold.

We thought we'd said goodbye to the squat toilet (even the train had a super clean western style toliet that was continuously cleaned by the guard) but not quite. The nomadic toilet was the field but for us guests they had built a long drop toilet screened from the world by a sheet. It was cold, and when it rained you got wet!!

The best weather day so far and we headed out to a monastery which was build on a settlement Genghis Khan would have known as Karakorum.
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At various points around Mongolia are piles of stones with blue ribbons, sites for worshiping nature. You pick up three stones and walk round in a clockwise direction three times, after each lap you throw on a stone.
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We headed back to camp and rode camels into the desert. They spat like crazy, mainly over Brenda and hers must have spent the entire hour journey peeing.
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Toya cooked up a storm for every meal, all traditional mongolian food. So beef with potatoes, rice or noodles. Not sure what you would have if you were a vegetarian. So any weight lost in China has been regained.

We arrived back in UB last night and went with Toya to a fashion show. We were a bit late and missed the contortionist, but did see the throat singers (I think I have more chance of being in tune with them) and some traditional clothes
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UB itself is not a pretty city and we have spent the time shopping for warm clothes. It also turns out not to be the safest city. There are loads of signs warning about pickpockets, and Toya had her phone stolen last night!

I never realised people still live in Gers, but most people do. I thought they would be really warm, but they are cold. Part of me wants to see what they are like in the winter when it gets to -40degC. But I feel like I could lose my toes to frost bite at the moment so dread to think what it would be like. We are off to Russia tonight. At least I now have a warm coat, but have been on the hunt for gloves all day, the only ones I've found are really expensive (more than the coat) so I am still looking.

Hope all is well at home and you are warmer that us

Love Gem

Posted by gt248 29.08.2008 01:44 Archived in Mongolia Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

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