It is difficult to put into words what 5 days on a train, thrown together with strangers, covering five time zone changes, can do to your mind and body especially when much of the experience is personal without any sense or reason to those not present.
The train was not busy and our carriage and the next one carried a band of brothers all seeking their own particular experiences. The 20 somethings included Japanese, American, Swedish, Israeli and English, the 30 somethings English, Russian and Dutch and then myself and my chain smoking cabin companions from the north of Holland. A dutch couple were first off at Ulan Ude with their bicycles to cycle across Mongolia and China and the boat to Australia (a years trip). Others had even more challenges like the Belgium guy travelling with his terminal ill father-in-law who by the time he left train at Irkutz apparently had no energy to even speak and they expected him not to make it back to Belgium alive.
On a lighter note eleven of us took over the restaurant car on the third night and they ran out of vodka. I am afraid it all got a bit out of hand and of the eleven 4 hand to be carried back to their cabins. It was a quiet carriage the following day!! Five of our group jumped out at Ulan Bator and such was the camaradie that a group decided to stay up all night to send us on our way at 6.30am this morning. It is now 6pm and I am in the hostel with Dor, the Israeli student from the train, after sleeping off the effects of our last night.
Oh and I nearly missed the train at Moscow and was nearly locked out at the border crossing with Mongolia but thats another story. Pics to follow.