Six days and about 150 or so hours on trains tends to give you enough time to get bored to do some good thinking about the meaning of life. Or enough time to delve into your spare hard drive’s video collection and become a vegetable.
I did a little more of the latter than the former on this particular trip.
In 2009, during my round-the-world (RTW) trip, I did the Moscow to Beijing train route via the Trans-Mongolian railway, and I stopped twice. One stop for a day in Irktusk and one in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. This time, the Ultimate Train Challenge crew did the route that goes over the top of Mongolia through Manchuria, ergo, the Trans-Manchurian, and we did it straight through in six full days.
Right up front, I want to extend my special thanks to the sponsor of this part of our journey, Real Russia U.K. They have been truly amazingly helpful and knowledgeable in the number of times I have had to deal with them, from train information to visas to how to get around Moscow. I could not recommend any company more highly if you are thinking about traveling in this part of the world.
As I write this, the train is less than 12 hours away from Beijing and I am frankly just flat wore out. I think I was in a lot better shape back in 2009-10 when I did this last. I had been traveling for about eight months straight at that point and was used to the whole grind of constant movement a lot more than I am now.
Yes, I am up for as many “you are getting old” jokes as you are willing to tell at this point, just make sure they are actually funny.
The scenery was similar to what I remember from last time, since I took that Trans-Mongolian in September also. This has to be the best time of the year to do this trip, as the leaves on the trees are in their full fall splendor. The food was considerably worse, or perhaps I just blocked that particular memory out from last time. I seem to recall a lot more women selling fresh food at the train stops last time. On this trip, those women were few and far between and we did not do very well on the eating front.
What was considerably better than last time was the company and my skill with a camera. Jeannie and Nora were (and are – we still have a week to go together on trains to get to Saigon and the finish line) really wonderful friends to have on this trip. They put up with my snoring and occasional bouts of grumpy anti-socialness with nary a word.
Then again, I haven’t read their posts they are scheduling up for this week yet, so perhaps I speak too soon.
As to the camera skills, I will never confuse myself with any of the truly excellent travel photographers out there, but I look back on the photos I took in 2009 and cringe. Between my knowledge now of some basic editing and a bit more knowledge about the mechanics of my camera, I am much happier with the shots today than then.
And Nora and Jeannie added a new addiction to my already-full backpack of time killers – video. My new Nikon D7000 has video capability, but I really haven’t taken the time to mess with it too much. I pulled out the manual on this trip (yes, a male reading the actual manual) and did some fooling around with it. I think I have the basics down on how to make sure most of my videos are going to be in focus and such now, after trashing a couple dozen trial efforts.
More importantly, they stepped my through the basics on iMovie. All I can say is…. be ready for a good number of videos from me in the future. I have had so much fun fooling around with that program and the various options available in it in the last few days.
My first video effort will be up on the Ultimate Train Challenge blog this week — assuming . Nora’s really great “movie trailer” for the train challenge is up over there now. We’d love to hear your feedback, and as usual, I am always up for constructive criticism, of which I am sure there will be a good bit to educate me on.
I posted this up a few days ago on the Ultimate Train Challenge site, but we need to get the word out to as many people as we can… so here goes here:
Side note on the charity topic. Nora and Jeannie talked me into a bit of insanity. Our charity fundraising goal is $10,000.
If we reach our fundraising goal,we will be doing a poll on this site to determine my next hair style.
Shaved? Mohawk? Pink? Green? UTC carved on the side?
All options will be open for you, the readers and followers, to decide on…. so if you really, really want some good and embarrasing photos of me in a few weeks… you know what to do.
Give and give generously. Thanks, guys.