We bade farewell to Mike at Ulak, turning in well past midnight, and sleep was fitful at best. But there’s only a few hours remaining till Tynda is reached, so we decide to soak it all in. Our drawn curtains reveal the incredibly lush catchment area of the Lena River, and another glorious morning in the making…
It did get chilly at night, and we’re thankful for that. I didn’t quite need the blanket that Michael, one of our cabin mates, handed me as a late gesture, but at least I slept comfortably. We have no idea how today will turn out, but regardless, a decent nights rest is assured.
Sleeping in is not an option though, as the morning light, punctuated by patches of low fog, is far too pretty to ignore… Continue reading “Magistrale Diaries: Stalin’s Dream”
The clock advances to 06:27 and on cue, train 667 comes to a halt. On the wide main platform outside, dozens of people are waiting for family and friends to alight – its quite the reception party. Past the station building, passengers make their way through a sprawling plaza towards the parking area, to city buses and rickety old trams. We are the first arrival for the day, and Komsomolsk-na-Amure is slowly coming to life. Continue reading “Magistrale Diaries: The warmth of Komsomolsk”
The last time we passed through this way was over 3 years ago. The Rossiya was running 90-minutes behind, and our brief stop in the city was chilly and all too foggy. It’s a much clearer day today; temperatures are hovering around the 30C (85F) mark, and this time around we find ourselves on the business end of Khabarovsk station…
Continue reading “Magistrale Diaries: Khabarovsk, we meet again!”
Any hopes of eating southern-style barbecue are quickly dashed at JFK itself. Presidential activity, the pilot informs us, as we finally join the endless queue for takeoff. I arrive at ATL so late that even the airport’s own restaurants have called it a night. Save for a lone Diner, downtown Atlanta doesn’t fare too much better, and to make matters worse, its several degrees cooler than NYC…
How long are you in Toronto for? Just a few hours, I reply. I’m actually headed to Vancouver. How long are you spending there? Not a lot, I’m literally taking the train west and flying back home from there. Perplexed for a moment, the immigration officer at Pearson International hands me back my passport. Hope you’re carrying a good camera, he says, as he ushers me through.
By the time I’m done wandering around downtown Tee Dot – a city that looks and certainly feels very different in the winter – I saunter in to Union Station, with only a half hour or so to spare before departure. Blissfully unaware, all the while, that there is a special lounge for sleeper class passengers within.
Patagonia, that humongous swath of land, which makes up the southern half of Argentina, is also its least populated region. Only a handful of towns exist within, most of them established in the late 19th or early 20th-centuries. San Carlos de Bariloche, in the Patagonian province of Rio Negro, is one of its better known ones.
A favored winter sports destination by Argentines, Chileans and Brazilians alike, it is equally popular in the summer months, attracting hikers and mountaineers from across the continent. Not one to betray its European roots, Bariloche is also known for its alpine-style architecture, specialty chocolate shops, and an ever-expanding roster of microbreweries.
The demise of long-distance train travel in Argentina followed closely on the heels of the United States. Vastly improved highways, comfortable overnight buses, competitive fares; you get the picture. By the 60s, passenger trains were but a shadow of themselves. So if you were to ask any sane individual today, how they’d get across the length and breadth of this vast country, you’ll probably get “by bus or plane” as their reply.
But there has been a bit of a resurgence in the past few years – new long-distance trains, a revised schedule; and you’d never have expected it, online bookings too! So with an e-ticket in hand, I find myself on Platform 8 of Estacíon Retiro one Friday evening, waiting to board the 20:38 departure of train 269, Buenos Aires to Córdoba.
It’s only been a couple of hours since online check-in opened. Unhurriedly, I glance at the seating chart and there’s plenty of space available in the center section, but not a single window seat for the taking. Amateur hour strikes again!
Three hours into our flight, as final cabin checks are underway, I begin to get a little restless. The gent to my right, hogging that precious window seat, is still asleep, with the blind down. I tap him gently, podes abrir la ventana por favor? The good señor obliges, and I stretch my arm across him rather obnoxiously, eventually planting my phone against his window. The approach to Ushuaia is pretty spectacular, and if you’re smart, you’re going to secure that window seat as soon as you can…
The drive from the airport to the city center isn’t terribly long, but Eduardo insists on engaging me in conversation. Never mind the fact that his English is almost as lousy as my Spanish! I’ve learned by now how to say one billion in Español and when I reveal to him India’s population statistic, he can’t stop shaking his head in disbelief. Mucha gente, he says from under his breadth. The rest of his questions about my homeland run the gamut. Do people eat meat? Do they drink alcohol? And most importantly, how are the chicas? Muy lindo, I assure him!
Having sufficiently beefed up his knowledge about India, he sets me down at No.770, General Güemes, my address in Salta for the long weekend. Conveniently located, Espacio Mundano is a quaint little bed and breakfast, kitted out in traditional Salteña aesthetic; plenty of potted plants, heirloom furniture, and the all-essential patio.