6/27 - Yekaterinburg
I thought of going out and getting beerfast at the market, but (initially) decided against it; the tomato and half-liter of milk from the night before will do for now, and I can probably score something edible by the station for brunch while getting a decent chance at new caps.
A Few Words On (15):
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (A.C. Doyle)
I'm not sure how many times I've read this collection since I was first able to, around age 10. It continues to be wicked good, though, so the value holds; this is the one with the Speckled Band, the Blue Carbuncle, and a bunch of other really definitional Holmes stuff. No rec needed, it's practically Western Canon at this point.
Ok, breakfast -- and three of a possible ~8 caps -- getted after all. These waffles are an excellent with-drinking food, and this Щербаковское (Scherbakovsokoye, approximately) is among the better, simpler beers encountered thus far. Look for the tree mark!
Having gotten change twice outside Moscow, I've twice seen truncation to 10k (0.1 руб) and cotten a 50-kopeck and 4 10s back on change of 20 and 70k. It's safe to conclude that mostly, the kopeck is being decirculated (a ruble is worth about 0.03 USD), and the 5- and 1-kopeck coins are probably gone for good. This being the case, I'm personally decirculating all the kopecks that come my way for collection purposes, the same way I hold on to Greek euros. Yeah, it's money, but soon it'll be history besides.
My biggest personal haul, caps-wise, was 2012 Germany, which ended with 25. I already have 20 as of now, and still need to hit the stands at the station here, maybe the station at Irkutsk, and all of Vladivostok, to say nothing of China, Korea, and Japan. When I was a kid, I must have been the only one not bored by Bert's bottle cap collection. Now I use my own as an excuse to get drunk in the morning on the other side of the world. Not so boring after all.
If you want to see the real urban Russia, and stock up on provisions for the next week on the train, the Fort (Форт) Hotel in Ekaterinburg comes highly recommended. If you want easy access to the train station and reliably functional internet, maybe not, but it's worth mentioning that you are in goddamned Siberia, and this is maybe too much to ask for. I enjoyed my time, and could have hit my two main tourist points in this city with ease if the train wasn't late, but to each their own.
0105. Baked Siberian soil. As dry as the air is here, the land is even more starved for rain.
0106. Getting an early start.
0107. This factory should instantly remind Dresdners of a certain stretch of the Koenigsbrueckerstrasse.
0108. Getting closer to town.
0109. Old brick building opposite the station.
0110. Tanker statue in the plaza in front of the station.
That tea purchased this morning will do sovereign service; no beer oppos at the station (at least for my shitty Russian), and the embark was marred by a thoroughly unpleasant Ukranian woman fighting with the provodniks about her dog. At least she's only on till Krasnoyarsk, at the end of tomorrow, and at least my compartment-mates this time are old, bourgois Wessis -- if desired, I can have a conversation, and I can be pretty sure they won't try to jack my shit. Well, they did jack most of my pack allocation, but my heroic 18/25 strength will try to clean that up by jacking their stray bag up to the upper level where it belongs.
0111. Old ironmongery over the exit steps.
Not pictured: soldier with an AK-74 guarding some boxcars on a siding outside of town, bayonet fixed, but without a care in the world. Crazy country.
0112. Optical illusion - a sea of lupins.
0113. This train is old enough to have a stowaway ladder instead of the folding steps...and given the other occupants of this compartment, this may be no bad thing.
Russians, of course, can all boost themselves up with just their arms -- even me, and the dude as, or slightly more, stoutly built as me on the last train, with a little strain, but it's an easy feat for everyone else. The crushing domination of the old Soviet Bloc in men's gymnastics is thus a little more easily explained.
0114. Streaming heavens.
The toilet on this train is simply too vile to be believed. It is awesome. It is simply the most nasty-looking, by far, of any public toilet I have ever used outside of a metal festival (and remember, I went to O'Brien's before they fixed it up), and worse than many Dixi-Klos. It's not as impressive as the landscape, but it's something weak-hearted people have to see before they set sail.
0115. Beeches and fields.
0116. The distances are starting to open up. Too many woodlots, but it's coming.
It's amazing to contrast the two sides of Yekaterinburg. To the west, poverty, emptiness, dirt tracks. To the east, well-maintained buildings, industry, paved roads. The transition from Europe to Asia is indeed marked, but different from what might have been expected.
For synchronization purposes, I've left my watch on Moscow time; the Germans want local time for some reason, but they don't get off until Ulan Bator, so why do they care? Inside the train, it's always Moscow time by rule.
0117. Clouds sweep across the heavens.
It looks like rain, but I'd rather it didn't; the heat always comes back, and storms can bring delays, and I have little enough time on the ground in Irkutsk as it is.
The country's changed; the scales are less obviously great, and the trees stand differently, like in the forests of the Great Lakes -- Wisconsin, Minnesota, the UP. Little has struck me as more familiar than these latest lands.
A Few Words On (16):
The Hound of the Baskervilles (A.C. Doyle)
This is probably the best of the Holmes stories -- as a crypto geek I have a soft spot for the Dancing Men, and a sentimental attachment to the Speckled Band, because you never forget your first, but this cuts through those -- and one of the best gothic horror stories ever written. Doyle picks up threads from Wuthering Heights for his moorland setting, then finds a way to bring a John Silence bogle into a series focused on serious science. At the least, it's the best long-form Holmes, and quite deservedly the most-filmed: not just a great character in full flow, but also badass craft twists to pull a conventional love triangle into a love rhombus, and make a monster both real and fiction. Read it whenever; you'll surely do so again.
0118. Cathedral in the distance, just as it was about to fall out of the shot.
0119. A brief clear shot across the landscape. These birch windbreaks are a damned nuisance to the tourist.
A Few Words On (17):
The Valley of Fear (A.C. Doyle)
I have no idea what made Doyle think that underwhelming paint-by-numbers western yarns were a good thing to pad Holmes pagecount with. This one's better than "Study...", but it's till wholly unnecessary in its volume and detail. It reads like a pack-in EP from a side project, and the message is the same: "we couldn't get this distroed on its own, so here it is to gum up the thing you actually wanted". Just skip to the last page when you see the flashback start.
0120. Station/line watcher house with year of construction.
0121. End of the trap. Russia takes train crossings seriously. Accidents can cause great delays to the main way of moving people and material around this country, and you only have to watch a couple minutes of one of the Best of Dashcams shows on Перець (Perets') to quickly get the impression that Russians think their car keys are something like the star from the original Super Mario. Thus these traps in the road -- this road, and every other road that crosses a train track carrying something bigger than an elektrichka. Drivers should stop for the crossbar -- the iron trap makes sure that their vehicle does stop while the police arrive.
Thus, even though the picture kind of sucks, I had to keep it. I'll try to get a better one later.
A Few Words On (18):
The Spiral Stone (A.W. Colton)
This is the kind of ghost story you don't get (published) any more, because the genre sucks. People still write meditations among ghosts on life and the living that are all allusions to stuff not in the narrative, but the supply of emo goths writing this garbage fills and overruns the demand of emo goths to read it. Ignore.
0122. A very Shinkai skyscape from the window.
There are apparently plain "cheese" (сыр) potato chips in Russia. This immediately suggests my workmate Piotr's favorite anecdote about the Klitschkos and their bewilderment at American deli counters.
The birch starts to give way to pine, but of a bad sort. Most of the damage is probably from emissions, the rest from protracted drought. Not a good look on a forest.
A Few Words On (19):
Collected Stories (B.M. Croker)
This is not a collection so much as a double-A-side single, or maybe a standard one -- some post-metal band could maybe adapt it as is, but "Number 90" is weaker in the plain literary format. The theme of empty haunted houses is in both, but Croker finished the first story and didn't really finish the second. "To Let" is great stuff, maybe good enough that you don't bother flipping the record over.
My knife doesn't get out of the bread clean. This is potentially worrying, but it's nothing a blast out of the samovar won't fix. At least I'm doing well on making thin slices; this one should last into breakfast, at least, the day after tomorrow, with the meat being gone by this time in 24 hours. The dry climate helps, the sun hurts. Meat first, then cheese until the 400g of cheese is gone, because the cheese won't go bad under seal. After that, the apricots, which won't go bad, and when the bread is gone -- hopefully not before Ussuriysk -- there are still the potatoes. It's a little grim, but if you eat off the cart, it's 80 руб for a bag of chips, where a thousand in Eкатеринбург got me a full seven days' provender. Think smart, eat smart, save money.
0123. Birch rank and sky.
0124. A view into the depths and immensity of the land. Probably too blurry to come out, but that rank of trees in the background is almost over the horizon.
0125. Train at Тумень and bad window damage.
A Few Words On (20):
God and the State (M. Bakunin)
Bakunin, in a different age, would have made an excellent blogger. His rants are powerful, but he gets easily drawn into tangents; the biggest difference between him and the great As'ad AbuKhalil -- who likely took stylistic as well as intellectual influence from Bakunin -- is that the Angry Arab knows enough to hit Submit Post between digressions. There is a lot of brilliant verbal science dropped here, but unfortunately, no realization that anarchism is bound to fail as long as most humans are stupid, greedy, jerks. (Libertarianism has a similar failing, but tries to force itself to pretend that greedy jerks are actually awesome.) This book is a better argument against God than against the State; while any reasonable person can see that "nothing" is a more than acceptable replacement for the regular conceptions of god, there are few indeed who can look at their fellows and believe that "nothing" is the best and most productive organization of society.
Sitting in station sucks. There's nowt to see outside, and it's blazing damn hot in or out. I want nothing more than to get moving again, and get some air flowing through the compartment. The time is impressing me only with my lack of tea: only 25 bags for 5 1/2 days, at the rate I'm pouring it back so far, is inadequate by half. There is a long stop at Novosibirsk around noon tomorrow, though, and if I can't find a supermarket in 15 minutes in Novosibirsk, I'm not worthy of the title "traveler".
0126. A swamp in earnest.
0127. A long look into the marsh country.
0128. Even here is settlement.
A Few Words On (21):
King of Claw and Fang (B. Byrd)
If you're looking for a mostly non-racist Tarzan knockoff that bothers to set up an almost believable backstory, you have it here, in a punchy bit of fluff about a planewrecked kid who grows into the king of the jungle. Fun and fast-paced without being too potboilery, this one also sets itself apart from other "white man in the jungle" tales by not shitting on the native Africans too much. It's not perfect, but if you expect racial transcendance out of a book of this age with this kind of title, yhou mest lead a life of constant and bitter disappointment.
0129. These landscapes seem to extend forever to all sides. Marsh and forest, wood and swamp.
0130. Finally, an unblurred impression. Shooting forward is for mugs, but I'm not sat to shoot backwards.
0131. A plantation of birch. You don't get this many trees, all at about the same age and height, without the wood being under active management.
0132. Yalutorovsk station building. You probably don't get the lazy cottonwood puffs that blow around everywhere in the summer here, giving the impression of a lazy, ethereal snow globe. It's a truly beautiful and peaceful scene.
0133. Just a great damp emptiness, for leagues and leagues.
0134. To the literal ends of the earth. There's no horizon enforced by anything but the curvature of the surface.
This may not be so significant to Midwesterners or other people from away, but I come from New England, where there are limits to the land, and earth behaving like water is kind of weird.
The station at Zavodoukovsk is identikit to the last one. The squat brick building with its German-influenced tiled roof fits the climate, and the Russians/Soviets really needed only one architectural plan, in simple, universal materials, to fit out every hamlet worthy of one, but never needing to build bigger, with a permanent station house.
0135. Station and clouds at Заводоуковск.
A Few Words On (22):
Legion of the Living Dead (B. House)
This is a shitty Batman-clone two-fisted detective story that reads like a video game played with wall hacks and immortality cheats on. Fortunately, it's so bad it's funny, rather than being so bad as to be tiresome. If you see "Secret Agent X", think "shitty pretend Batman" -- and go read something else.
0136. Birch rampart on the crest of the embankment. There's a farm, fields miles long, on the other side.
0137. Farmhouse and crossing -- but the traps aren't in the frame.
0138. A motorway embankment rises out of the empty plain.
A Few Words On (23):
The Fear Merchants (B. House)
This is another instant-ramen pack of absurd pretend Batman on the same level as the last one. As a positive, slightly fewer people get massacred and the scientoid dei ex machinae are slightly more believable. For the negative, it gets racist as well as subtly anti-Semitic. It's redeemed, though, by an authorial aside that uses the word "crookdom". Crookdom. Lulz. Never stop, '30s pulp crank-turners.
0139. A barricade of pines.
It's only about 9:30 (local, my watch is as noted on Moscow until I get to the Pacific), and my unwelcome habit of waking up with the dawn is biting me on the ass. I've been up and going since 4 (local, again), and I want to see Omsk, which we'll hit sometime around 0130 tomorrow. This is buttvomit, but we all have to sleep sometime. I'll try to tick over by staying up as long as I have light to read, without disturbing the Germans in their sleep, but I don't want to end up sleeping through Novosibirsk and that errand.
0140. Birch rings a clearing.
video3: There are miles and miles of this. Rank on rank of birch, going back forever into a primal green dark.
Shooting video absolutely murders the battery. It revives if left alone, off, in single-shot mode for a while, but it's not out of the question that I might need to go to one of my spares.
0141. Like and unlike the salt marshes of Newbury.
A Few Words On (24):
The Torture Trust (B. House)
This is probably the least stupid and definitely the least racist of House's pretend-Batman stories, its gimmicks restricted and more uniform in theme than the apparently later ones. The dumbsel-in-distress bits are laid on a little thick, but overall this is not a bad substitute for a pre-West Batman comic.
With that done, I'm into the Burroughs. It's all Tarzan, John Carter, and Pellucidar for at least today and tomorrow -- oh wait, Carson of Venus is in there too. Ok, and Beyond the Farthest Star, which I'm looking forward to, but not The Mad King, which I read in Canada while waiting for the customer there to break their system.
The light is also starting to fail. It's about 9:30 local unless we're in another time zone, and I estimate only about another hour, hour and a half of daylight. I may just watch for traps as we come up on Ishim.
And yes, lulz, "only" getting dark at 10:30 or 11.
0142. Giant factory outside Ishim.
0143. Rail cars with the Novotrans livery -- or, Hobo-tpac as Roman-readers will insist on seeing it. There aren't many words with all common letters, and this one's funnier than pectopah.
No pic of the Ishim station. The Brest-Novosibirsk train pulled in on a closer track just as we pulled out. Click-blocked, trolled hardcore. No more chances tonight.
0144. Little river flood, headed out of Ishim.
Tried to shoot a bridge before we crossed it, but there's no light for zoom work, and soon it will be gone altogether. 10:30, right on time.
0145. Long view from over this huge marsh. No light, will barely come out if at all. But after today, I can hardly complain.
Similarly, I, who have already slept through St. Petersburg and Kazan, can't really complain about missing Omsk. It's not impossible, this trip being finished, to come back at some point.
From Germany, I gained the ability to drink a gallon of beer in the morning (or whenever) without blinking. In Korea, I learned how to cold-steep green tea by the glass. And now in Russia, I've learned the virtues of black tea steeped hard hot forever. Addiction is too strong a word, but I have a feeling I'll be on this horse at least the rest of the trip...however long this too-small box lasts notwithstanding. Drink tea like this, and Russia opens up for you like a book with a broken spine.
The night winds are getting cooler, but I have guts and despite the ongoing hunger act, still a good bit of blubber for a blanket. And if I have to rig something up to use my jacket as a cover rather than a pillow, there's enough loose cloth in the sheet pack to get it done.
6/28 - past Chany
Overnight, the wind did get to me, but it was handled easily enough with a sheet -- and sometime after that, one of the Germans apparently closed the window vent. Regardless, a good 4 1/2, 5 hour sleeped, which is apparently good enough with this much lassitude.
0146. It's dry, so it's marginally less horrible than yesterday.
0147. Endless plains outside Chany. (DNCU.)
0148. And on the other side, miles of marsh.
0149. A lake in the endless sea of grass.
There being no time like the present, I ate breakfast immediately after "shower"ing, and was pleased to stay on-ration. The meat will finish at lunch, so it's cheese for dinner, and the heel end of the loaf this time tomorrow. On that pace, I won't need to touch the potatoes.
0150. Village on some open water.
0151. Another lake in the marshland.
0152. Trucks on flatbeds at Barabinsk.
A Few Words On (25):
A Fighting Man of Mars (E.R. Burroughs)
Burroughs made his bank with Tarzan, but Mars gives him a bigger stage and more room for imagination. This tale is Conan with rayguns -- and scientists for wizards -- and as prime a chunk of red-blooded, swashbuckling, sword-and-sandal fantasy as ever graced the pages of a pulp. And it's free now, what are you waiting for?
0153. By the side of the road behind.
0154. Squat farmhouse and fields.
We're currently stuck, presumably a few miles outside Kargat. Every minute is of concern: that hike over the river will be in twilight at best, and I'd rather not do it in the dark. Knock-on effects knock on.
A Few Words On (26):
A Princess of Mars (E.R. Burroughs)
This isn't as fully involved as later stuff in this millieu, but Burroughs has a world to build here as well as a tale to tell, and the costs sunk here earn back over the course of the series. Even so, though, there's space for a roaring intercontinental (piss off, the sea bottoms and highlands of Mars under Burroughs count as separate continents) epic of love and battle. It gets better, yes, but it starts here.
0155. Factory complex by Каргат.
We're ten minutes late; Novosibirsk is next, and I fain that 30 minutes' ground time would not be too long. I've got to be real quick on my Tevas to not get stranded.
0156. Smoke on the distant marsh.
I'm progressively getting more and more used to the great spaces here, the immense barren vistas. We're more than a third of the way through the marked 9288km of the Мос-Влад route, and when we hit Irkutsk in another 1900km or so, I'll have crossed half the continent.
A Few Words On (27):
At The Earth's Core (E.R. Burroughs)
The first of the (relatively few) Pellucidar stories, it's a little strange to come back to this and read it -- as Burroughs may or may not have intended it -- as an anti-colonialist allegory. Marooned at the center of the earth, the narrator sets about rousing the natives against an alien white race who see them as unintelligent animals, the native humans being only unlearned. It's a perilous business attributing progressive thought to a pulp write, but this one at least can be read that way, and in light of the contemporary American drive for a nominally anticolonialist empire, especially with the circumstances at the end of the book, maybe should.
It's cooler today than yesterday, which is welcome; less to sweat, and I at least remain comfortable in shorts and fitba shirt. Others, dunno, but it's still only midmorning.
0157. The forest rises again like a hill from the plain.
0158. A much clearer picture of the closure traps on most road crossings.
0159. A dried-up mud sea before a village.
0160. Hовый квартирый, Hовосибирск.
0161. City view from range.
0162. Dock house in the river.
0163. Sand barge under way.
0164. Towers over an old locomotive.
0165. Station outbuilding; Euro style as done by Japan.
0166. Main station building.
0167. Tea getted; this is the first item I purchased in Russia by communicating in Russian.
As the pictures should show, Novosibirsk strongly suggests Hong Kong: an Asian city built by Europeans that cannot hide from its true nature. The old Second-Empire Tsarist blocks try to hide it, but any new construction or new additions to the old make the sense of the place crystal clear. I could have done more exploration in 45 minutes, but 1) I had my flipflops on rather than my boots; 2) the main priority was extending the tea supply; and 3) I am wicked paranoid about missing trains. There's an ice cream cart directly outside my window, but even that won't get me out again: I've done out my ration, and it ought to last.
Lunch is over and, as anticipated, the meat is out, so it'll be cheese for dinner. More importantly, only half the loaf is gone after 3 meals. Cheese will require thicker cuts, so I'm hoping for 2 1/2 more meals from this one, but that takes us past the point at which the compartment clears out a little, and I can get at my next loaf in peace. Yes, it's entirely possible that I could change three for three at Tashent, but as distances go longer, arrivals and departures get fewer, especially on the sub-10-minute stops.
A Few Words On (28):
Back To The Stone Age (E.R. Burroughs)
Burroughs, having built a world, had an inextricable compulsion to reuse sets. Thus this one, in which another white man wanders around Pellucidar and ends up banging the beautiful native princess who's been tsun tsun tsun to him all book. This one has some novel elements and actually developed native characters, but it's weaker than the first book, and the lack of original things to do with the concept is probably why Burroughs put fewer of his stories here, rather than on Mars or in the African jungles.
A Few Words On (29):
Beyond The Farthest Star (E.R. Burroughs)
This was my favorite Burroughs story growing up, but at the time I was as obsessed with World War II as the author was when writing it. It's a unique but somewhat ham-handed utopian critique: anti-war and anti-pacifist, pro-socialist and proto-fascist, scientarchist and thoroughly opposed to the surveillance state. The plot around the polemic is a little shaky, which is probably why the thread wasn't continued -- even if Burroughs had lived, there probably wasn't another of these coming.
0168. Swirling sky over a dirt road. It was sprinkling a little on the platform at Novosibirsk, but the ground by the tracks is still too parched and baked to admit current rain.
A random conversation shows that I'll probably sleep through Krasnoyarsk as well. At this point, I don't even fucking care any more, as long as I can accomplish the on-and-off in Irkutsk.
0169. Clouds gathering up again. We're on time for the moment, and I'd hate to get delayed again.
0170. A knoll forces a curve in the track.
A Few Words On (30):
Carson of Venus (E.R. Burroughs)
This one is about 30 pages longer than it needed to be. Burroughs' satire of Naziism, the core of the book, provides what should have been a fulfilling conclusion, and then he starts throwing subplots at it, one after the other, like anime filler episodes, until the desired pagecount is reached. Yes, it's more swashbuckling and derring-do, but all it does is postpone the inevitable resolution and climax, and annoy the reader who expected the book to be over when the last Zanis (super-imaginative name there, guy, at least you didn't reuse it for BtFS) were deposed.
It's been raining now, and it's wet as well as cool in the wind, having passed mile post 3455. Bolotnaya should be coming up any minute now.
0171. Village before Bolotnaya under the clouds.
0172. Rain-soaked wild country between Bolotnaya and Yourga.
0173. A spur line cuts off before Yourga.
The 'you' transliteration for Ю is my own,a nd I'm not sure of it; in German I'd write 'Jurga' and be done with it, but English is a more distant relation.
Taiga is next; pronounce like the Korean 'tae', or like the terrain type, which I suspect isn't a false cognate. We'll see in an hour or so.
video4: Crossing a large river in the rain. Video because shooting single-shot through the supports would have been a waste of time and battery.
Pics are a waste of time until the windows get drier. The water beads force a close field, and everything interesting in Siberia is far away.
0174. Trees, clouds, and reflection. It's been less than an hour since the rain, but the air here is just ceaselessly dry.
Losing track of local time means losing track of mealtimes. It's somewhere between 3 and 6 -- 1300 Moscow time -- and thus 3 1/2 hours out of Novosibirsk, where I ate lunch. I think I'm hungry, but I'm on short rations due to inactivity, and eeating whenever you're hungry is a great way to live on 80-ruble chip pokes for the last day into Vladivostok.
I bought "with services" for that last leg, but I need to double-check what that even means. Back at home I could have considered three and more days on rationed bread as unendurable, but I've been living on trains for about as long by now, on similar rations, and now I have a good long stock of the strong black tea that in Russia is near as good as a meal. If the food's free, sure; if not, it's still not worth the hike to the ресторан вагон, whatever the discount.
0175. Village and a few remaining drops.
A Few Words On (31):
Escape on Venus (E.R. Burroughs)
The title is more heroic than "Constantly Captured on Venus", but hardly less apt. In the third tale in this series, Burroughs ships his hero and heroine through the dungeons of half a dozen or more Venusian races and cultures, jammed together like a Jonathan Swift mashup tape, and the forward cycle of escape-flee-get captured serves for the place of a plot to keep the story moving. There's no real setup, and no conclusion at all, just more episodes in a serial that is thoroughly sunken into monster-of-the-week.
0176. Crane moving over boxcars, Taiga. There's maybe not enough pines here to make the cognate completely true.
0177. Neo-impressionistic sky and trees. Others are "blurry", this one came out as intended.
0178. Taiga landscape, on the way out of its namesake town.
0179. Pines and sky, shot ahead of a charging phone pole.
0180. Ahead into a serpentine.
The camera is on about half power, consistently, so I am probably ok to wait and recharge in Irkutsk. However, it's not impossible that I'll have to go to one of the spares, or that I'd get less than a full charge, and have to shoot spares through Primorskiy Krai to Vladi. Getting them in was absolutely correct.
Bit of a row around dinner; I was unfed as yet and cranky, but don't really feel at fault. Srsly, ASK before you fuck with other people's stuff. Most of the time, especially in this environment, they're perfectly willing to help.
0181. River after crossing the bridge. Patience has utterly deserted me, in this pattern where a shot not taken can never be called back, and I wasted charge shooting from the bridge as well.
If I have to crack my ears, it's either the weather or the elevation. This time, it's both, and I'm excited to see what's in the hills ahead after a whole day across swamps and swamp forests.
0182. As it turns out, it's higher marshes. :P.
A Few Words On (32):
John Carter and the Giant of Mars (E.R. Burroughs)
This is a decent entry in the John Carter series, but not much more; the gimmicks are underdeveloped and some of the action is wicked dumb. Any time you have a duel to the death on the skullcap of a moving giant, you've got something not worth discarding out of hand, but overall there's a kind of mailed-in feeling to the book.
This is my climate -- this chill, this dampness. The others in the compartment don't seem so enthused, but until one of them dares to close the transom, I'm fine with leaving it open.
0183. Birch forest on a long curve.
0184. An opening in the wood.
In the distance, mountains. And not wee, worn-down hills such as the Urals. To the south, the first real and concrete signs of true Middle Asia, the tertiary and quarternary reaction products of the subcontinental collision that builds the Himalayas with its primary fusion. Not "soon", but within three days, I'll be among the Amur ranges, where Asia feels the crunch of the Pacific plate instead.
Either we're time-slipping or we picked up more than expected -- that or my watch is running down. We're in Mariinsk 3-5 minutes ahead of schedule, and I don't fancy doing the morning hike in Irkutsk with an unreliable timepiece. There's always the clock, but it's a little unwieldy to carry by hand.
0185. Leaving Мариинск; a range of hills brings the horizon close.
0186. A river oxbows around.
A Few Words On (33):
Llana of Gathol (E.R. Burroughs)
This is not so much one Mars book as four slightly short ones glued together. Individually, they're all terrifically compelling, but so self-contained, for the most part, that the eventual resolution comes off as sudden and jerky, as Carter goes back to tie off the threads of the previous plots.
0187. The land's higher and more rolling; the clouds and damp remain.
0188. Line-watcher house by the tracks. Peasants recruited to watch and maintain a few kilometers of track out through these wastes were an important source of Siberian settlement.
0189. Into the great vast distance.
It's 1630 in Moscow. The sun is still up here, but hidden by clouds. In Eкатеринбург, it's 1830. In Иркуцк, it's 2130. I have no idea how many time zones are in between, or which they are. All sense of time, beyond a watch set to a place a continent away and the rising and setting of the sun, has been completely lost. Am I jet-lagged? No -- I'm just completely unmoored from the timestream of the civilized world, for as long as I can move with the sun alone. I may be jetlagged when I have to switch to Vladi time, but that's an issue for later. Four full days and a half until I need to worry about that.
0190. Settled hillside, coming in to Tyazhin.
0191. Pixel art on the old Tyazhin station.
0192. Church spires over the station parking lot.
0193. Lucky shot -- I'm not gonna say well-timed -- of a crossing with all traps up, head-on (nearly).
Finally, I can stop turning the camera on and off to shoot these stupid things.
The land continues to rise, and the birches are almost gone. Stands of pine take their place; hardier trees for a colder and harder place.
0194. Preparing to enter a serpentine.
0195. Bank of another curve.
0196. The broad valley below.
This is the reason so much of the journey, by time and by mile, is past Irkutsk. A train this big can climb hills only on a very shallow grade, so the line wraps around any mountain insufficiently big to blow a tunnel through. Switchbacks on switchbacks, all along the Chinese border through the rough Amur country.
0197. Itat station tower and coal stacks.
Most of the houses around here have wood stacks, presumably for heat and cooking, so this is likely for the factory north of the tracks or, possibly, farm machinery.
You won't find Итат on the route map; this was not a stop but a pass-through.
Missed: a church under construction. Not quick enough with the camera through the few breaks in the foliage.
0198. This one was timed. Distant hills -- almost mountains, but not quite -- brought close.
I'm going to change batteries tomorrow morning just on principle. It's been a full week since they were last charged, and they've been under a lot of demand in the last couple days.
Based on light loss, we are about one real-world hour east of where we were at this point in the sun cycle yesterday. Slowly, it'll get dark, not just cloudy, and I'll get a better idea.
0199. Main station building, Bogotol.
The clock at the front allayed my fears: we did get in 5 minutes early, and my watch was not 5 minutes behind.
A Few Words On (34):
Lost On Venus (E.R. Burroughs)
From the sudden start, this is the second Carson of Venus book, and it better be showing sophomore slump, because I haven't gotten to the first one yet. The plot is glacial, there is too much time spent running away from retarded zombies, and there is a huge pro-eugenics digression that Burroughs must have had great difficulty reconciling with his later anti-Nazi stuff. The popular mind can change in an instant; individuals, especially authors, must continually analyze their choices in stances and the consequences thereof.
Ok, closer to two longitude-delta-hours west. This assumes roughly equivalent latitude and sundown within 30 minutes. We'll see, but the first is pretty reasonable.
0200. Freight markings, in a 2-minutes-longer 3-minute stop in Achinsk.
So I've got the clock out and set for 0400 Moscow. After the stupidest and worst-informed argument on energy use, conservation, and sourcing that I've had since I was in Texas, I HAVE to get these Wessis out of the compartment on time, if only for the sake of my own sanity.
6/29 - probably outside Kansk
As it turned out, the clock was unnecessary, despite the chill of the night keeping me up until I finally closed the transom. It's still a little chilly, but fucking duh, you are in fucking Siberia, what did you expect? The frost will be a good whip to my legs this time tomorrow, and cut down on potential aggro.
0201. Off into the sunrise.
0202. Rolling fields, even out here.
We're about 10 minutes late into Kansk-Yeniseisky. Every one of those will count later, but there's little I can do about it. Five more stops until I can take a nap about it.
0203. Clearing off ahead. This is good news: as far as the horizon is, we're going farther, maybe even before the sun's all the way up.
0204. Despite occasional settlements, still a fair wild country.
I went ahead and changed the battery despite it not being completely dead. I'm not expecting the sub to hold charge as well, but it should get me to Irkutsk.
Eleven minutes late into Ilanskaya. This trend is problematic, but there's a 20-minute stop here to cut short if needed.
The hall, narrow as it was, is now apparently full of luggage. If I had met these people first, rather than the grounded and sozial folk of the old Ostmark, I too might slur their homeland as a country of towel leavers.
0205. Pond outside of Ilanskaya.
Ingashskaya, exactly on time. Ok then. We'll see how long this lasts.
Response not fast enough: a fitba pitch in the woods, as in the Swedish Baltic islands before. We're about 3000 klicks out of Kazan and still almost 5000 away from Luch-Energiya, but this is still, regardless, the world's game.
0206. Here, at least, the motor road follows the railroad right-of-way. I suspect this is a Ohio/Indiana Turnpike situation: there aint enough "there" anywhere else to justify keeping them separate.
0207. Houses and ranks of pines.
0208. Another "clouds over trees".
0209. Traditional house between two tank cars, Reshoti.
We actually got in ahead of schedule, leading to a longer than expected stop. I should worry less about timing; in the end, only my feet can save or damn me, as usual.
0210. Peak rearing up.
These mountains are covered, as the above implies, with just trackless forests of pine and birch.
0211. Towards the distant forest.
0212. This embankment was built up much more than it was cut in.
0213. Empty highlands, mountains beyond, coming in to Yurti.
0214. Hебо на земле.
0215. Long marsh in the highlands.
0216. Live factory/plant, dead buildings, broken ground.
0217. (Orthodox) cemetery outside Tashyet.
0218. This transport provider uses Necrophagist's logo font.
Three Germans out, one Russian in, weiter, weiter. At least I can go get a damn mug of tea.
Over a sample space of three Germans and four Russians, the results are uncanny. All three Germans put their heads by the door when lying down, and all four Russians put their heads by the window. The one American in the study also put his head at the window, but he is kind of a paranoid nutcase.
A Few Words On (35):
Out of Time's Abyss (E.R. Burroughs)
This is billed as the third Cespak story, but it kind of runs in parallel with the second, which it mainly repeats. The Weiroo murder-rank lore is pretty good, but this is ultimately another "white man fights prehistory, fucks cavegirl" story that Burroughs apparently had in mental autotext and tweaked occasionally whenever he needed to get another book out. Probably not worth it.
0219. Lumber mill -- and yes, they do appear to be replanting.
A Few Words On (36):
Pellucidar (E.R. Burroughs)
There are places where this one gets a little crank-turny, but for the most part, it's a strong and well set-out fictistory of Garibaldi among the cavemen. The heroine is a little too abduction-prone here relative to previous, and the "no time hurr durr" thing means any kind of continuity, especially at the end, is shot, but this is a pulp adventure story, and you don't read these if you're inclined to get hung up on such points.
0220. Pines in a sand wash. We're out of the rain, and the sunshine is absolutely beautiful. It's also warm enough to open the transom again, and the fresh air and chug of the wheels gives a great feeling.
0221. High summer.
0222. Pines on a far slope.
0223. Another one ahead along the embankment.
0224. Towards distant mountains.
0225. ...and with less lens glare.
0226. Bowl in the curve.
0227. Straight out to the range.
0228. Still across the valley.
video5: Worth every cent it took to get out here.
In around taking the above, I sawed up my remaining open bread and did lunch. The loaf lasted two full days, and I'm approximately 1/4 into the cheese. I know that doesn't work out exactly, but there are apricots as well, for more than just digestive effect.
The Nizhnyeudinsk station stop is the first past the halfway point by the final milepost, counting from Moscow. I cut off about 150-200 km by doing the first leg over Kazan rather than Yaroslav, but I also consider myself to have started this trip in Helsinki. I'm more than half done by both distance and time, but it's worth noting this point.
Apparently, I didn't sleep as well as I should have. If another mug of tea, after we start moving again, doesn't fix it, I'll set an alarm for 1500 and try to nap a while. My schedule's already broken; no problem breaking it some more.
0229. Town and acres of sky.
Most Siberian villages are this uniform brown: unpainted wooden walls, rusted corrugated metal roofs. It's got to be damn rough living out here, but even at such there's something picturesque about a tumble of brown saltboxes between the green earth and the endless blue sky.
A Few Words On (37):
Pirates of Venus (E.R. Burroughs)
While the Venus stories would get better, this is pretty crap in comparison to A Princess of Mars, dominated by a clumsy satire of communism, subtle racism, and yes, you read that correctly, a shoutout to the KKK. What up, 1920s? Seriously, Burroughs' Venus is well behind Mars and probably Pellucidar overall, so don't be afraid to skip early volumes and come in later.
0230. Flower-ringed marshpond on the taiga.
0231. A reminder: if you see a beautiful stretch of water below you, shoot fast, because someone has put a railway bridge over it.
0232. Shining country.
0233. Good enough; the damaged windows are pulling focus.
0234. Thickly settled.
A Few Words On (38):
Savage Pellucidar (E.R. Burroughs)
This is a seriously long book for a Burroughs adventure, and it pays for it by getting quite Wheel-of-Timey in places, following four groups of characters through immense distances as they constantly miss each other. Burroughs tosses in more than a few jabs at religion, colonialism, and progress-ism on the way, but by the end, it's obvious that the story has gotten away from him, and it's barely within his powers to tie everything up.
At Kuitun, the mile plate reads 4874 where it should, by votpusk, indicate 4883. I'm not complaining, and 9 km isn't much to disappear, but hopefully it won't come back with reinforcements.
I'm probably going to need to change pens today as well, but this is kind of why I brought three spares, so I wouldn't have to ration my thoughts the way I ration bread.
0235. Open fields outside Kuitun.
0236. Streaks and steppe in the sun.
A Few Words On (39):
Skeleton Men of Jupiter (E.R. Burroughs)
This is the most self-defeated book I have read in a long while. It takes forever to start due to an extensive preamble whining about how all Burroughs' recent fan mail has been all "lol no martians durr", then sends John Carter off to another planet to be heroically wrong about. Worst, the conclusion is rushed, half-assed, and incomplete, because the author ran out of wordcount due to that idiotic tantrum at the start. As I guess, Burroughs knocked this one out in about a weekend, starting with only three things: a typewriter, the phrase "skeleton men of Jupiter", and a roaring case of butthurt.
0237. Past a river bend.
To be sure, there are fewer people on the train now by headcount, but you don't much think of younger people being quieter than old. The difference is that we've replaced old Germans with young Russians, and while Russians are famous for their inside voices, Germans, especially Wessis of a certain social position, are decidedly not.
Next up is a city of very interesting name, and a 30-minute stop to go photograph the station sign. Trololololol....
0238. Lolololololol Z-- no, transliterate it yourselves, I'm not going to do ALL the work here.
As the angle would indicate, I didn't need to get out after all. It's kinda troublesome; there's no direct link, but I'd rather have bad luck now and good luck in five hours, when I do my first hike through Irkutsk, and in 13 when I do the second.
0239. Other things we're wicked mature about.
On the subject of the language reference card, 'sok' is from the same Indo-European root as the English 'sap' and the German 'saft'. But no, lololol COCKS LOL. :roll:
A Few Words On (40):
Swords of Mars (E.R. Burroughs)
This is a really good adventure to the point where John Carter lands on the moon of Mars; Burroughs does an excellent job of getting the cast there, but confronts them with third-rate D&D gimmicks and brings them back to Mars in about the most disconnected and unsatisfying manner possible short of a bamf. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.
Somehow, we're in Zalari five minutes early. This two-minute stop will take a while, but it's only about 3 1/2 hours to Irkutsk. The sun'll be up when we arrive, and I don't have that long to pull and eat dinner, then get my shit packed. This last will go in at Angarsk as planned, but I'm lightheaded enough to get the bread out and switch from tea to water now.
I'm not sure I still have 5/6 of the current bread left, but all I need is 3/4 -- that's 11/4 bread to supply 10 meals at a 1/4:1 burn rate. No idea on the cheese.
Such immense green spaces, and then a piled-up town of brown wood and browning metal. Horse-carts on the roads. Vegetable patches between the town and the cut. Collectivization. As an idea it wasn't terrible, but you've got to wonder how the people stacked up in this sea of industrial farmland felt about it. Where were they before? Siberians, or was this dumped on them? Did they leave their own farms, or a prison, or a subway grate in Moscow? How did their descendants, now, feel about staying? Every pattern of settlement brings questions; some just harder than others.
Cheremkhovo. Two more stops, and I need tos tart packing, but it's another 90 minutes to Angarsk...20 of which is spent sitting at the next stop. They can't all be 2-minute goers.
Now and then, you see ruined stone structures, large or small, in the fields or smack in towns. They endure, desolate, and I'd dearly like to try to learn their history.
A Few Words On (41):
Synthetic Men of Mars (E.R. Burroughs)
This is one of Burroughs' finest works, and may lap ...Princess... for me at least, due to the care and originality of the craft done on hormad lore, and the horror fan's immediate attraction to the thing in tank 4. The plot is kept focused, the gimmicks are few, linked, and reasonable, and it keeps on the pounding pace needed for a sword-and-raygun pulp adventure. No qualms except that its equal is not likely in the pile of Burroughs I still have to get through.
The likeliest explanation for the ruins and the collectives both comes from intimations from Olga and Piotr on that first night: that Irkutsk was a center for expulsions, so it'd be natural for its surrounding environment to have a lot of the ultimate results of those expulsions. I don't know. With so little time in the city, I didn't bother to investigate on the pre end.
0240. One of the infernal railway bridges that keep bedeviling me.
Significantly earlier than expected, the provodniks scrambled at least the Irkutsk passengers. The schedule is the same, but when a provodnik tells you to jump on a Russian train, it's a good idea. We're only in Angarsk now and may have as much as an hour, but I'll watch out for STVO.
0241. Angarsk station. Not kicked off onto buses or shit.
0242. Gasworks. The source of the Russian oligarchy's wealth is out here under the hills.
0243. Lagoon headed out of Irk-Sort.
0244. First view across the bridge.
0245. Along the east bank.
0246. Crowned dome over the trees.
0247. Another neat-looking building to the north.
0248. Upriver towards Baikal.
I got in after a meandering hike around a big intersection, and fought my way through setup, then crashed from pure exhaustion for nearly six hours.