A Travellerspoint blog

The Hitchikers Guide to the Trans Siberian Part 2

The Lord of the Ring on the Dark Side of the Moon

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Khabarovsk Train Station and Airport

Everything you are about to read, really happened.

I can't remember too much about my train journey to be honest, except for a few highlights. I do remember that I was befriended by one of the guards who brought me food and drink while I was on it. Between that and picking up a few snacks at some of the stations we stopped at, I was able to have enough to eat for the full six days. One thing I do remember, was that the music that was piped over the train speakers was the whole album of “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd. It was kind of surreal listening to it while we sped through Russia, over the Urals and into Siberia, but it was also comforting at the same time, as it reminded me of home. I don't have a lot of recollection of any of the people I met, besides the guard, as I was careful not to strike up any conversations unless they found out I wasn't Russian.

The other, most vivid memory, was of when I reached my destination at Khabarovsk. I'd felt somewhat secure for the last six days because I knew I wasn't going anywhere for that time and so I could relax; but as the train pulled into the station, a feeling of fear and panic gripped me. “What am I going to do now?” I thought. “I have no money and I still have another couple of thousand miles to go in order to get to Magadan where I'm meeting the team.” I began to try and calm myself down by telling myself, “It's no use worrying, that's just going to make things worse.” I also remembered something that I'd heard Paul McCartney say once about when The Beatles were touring in their early years. There were times when they were lost or their had van broken down or something and they usually comforted themselves by saying, “Well something will happen”. It's funny what goes through your mind at times like that. This, combined with a lot of prayer got me through the panic stage and by the time I got off the train I was quite relaxed.

By this time I was “In the spirit” and so just started walking around the car park outside waiting to see what The Lord did. I got speaking to a Russian guy who spoke English and asked him where the airport was. My plan was to fly to Magadan and although I didn't have any money, I knew God would make a way. He helped me get to the airport and may have even paid my fare, I can't remember and then once I was there, he helped me find out how when the next plane was and how much a flight cost.

It didn't leave until the next morning and so I had to sleep in the airport overnight. This gave me time to pray a bit more about how to raise the $150 or whatever it was to pay for it. Next morning, around 5am, a flight came in for a refuel, en route to one of the oil fields and some people New Zealand who were on it came in for a break. “This has to be a good chance” I thought and so I got talking to them. Explaining my situation, I offered them a gold ring that I had on, asking them if they wanted to buy it to pay for my ticket. After a brief consultation with his colleagues, the leader, who was quite a burly guy with a moustache said, “We've had a discussion and decided to have a whip round to pay for your ticket.” What a gift, what an answer to prayer, what a flipping relief!” I still think back with fond memories of my time alone on the train and how God sent a group of people from New Zealand to answer my prayers. Well, they may have been coming anyway, but God knew eh?

Later that day I boarded the flight from Khabarovsk to Magadan, still only half awake from the lack of sleep I had, but grateful that God had been faithful yet again.

The team was there to meet me at the airport in Magadan and informed me they'd been praying for me. I think they may have gone to the airport a few times that week to check the arrivals and fortunately, this time I made it. For the next three weeks, we would visit reindeer herders in Kamchatka, turn up in small towns around Magadan in Siberia and show the Jesus film. Much more to write about but I'll save that for next time as I'm going to bed. Spokoyna Noiche! (Goodnight).

Some of my Fine Art Photography and products can be found here
http://geoffsadlerdesigns.artistwebsites.com/

My book "The Amazing Grace Tour" can be found here
http://www.amazon.com/Amazing-Grace-Tour-Journey-Reconciliation/dp/1514677814/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1439574259&sr=8-1&keywords=the+amazing+grace+tour

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Posted by Globesmacked 13:53 Archived in Russia Tagged train russia faith trans siberia siberian Comments (0)

The Hitchhikers Guide To The Trans Siberian: Part 1

With God all things are possible

Trans-Sib-moscow-yaroslavsk

Trans-Sib-moscow-yaroslavsk


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trans_siberian_railway_route

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Actually, I don't remember it being particularly either good or bad at the time for me personally, but if you lived in Russia, it was probably a mixture of both. Communism had pretty much fallen, but there was still a lot of uncertainty as to what lay ahead. Gorbachev had helped transition the country out of communism, but the reforms weren't fast enough for most people. Boris Yeltsin had been elected President, but between his economic "shock therapy" and corrupt oligarchs taking control of the countries industries and resources, there was just as much economic chaos as there had been under communism, if not more.

It had been three years since my first Trans Siberian adventure, although I had been to Leningrad (St Petersburg) and the other side of Siberia in the meantime. I was back in England but the need for travel and adventure hadn't left me, especially the desire to go back to Siberia. Actually it had become more of a calling by now I like to think, or at least a “purpose driven wanderlust” of sorts. My mission this time, and I already had accepted it, was to meet up with a team in Magadan, Siberia, spend a week there and then go on to Kamchatka to stay with some Koryak Reindeer herders who lived on the tundra. The question was, how was I going to get there? I had no money and I needed at least $2000 in order for it to happen.

But “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” and money wasn't the real issue in my mind. The question was whether I had enough faith and was I willing to step out on it. I'd already experienced God's provision on previous trips in that way, so I knew that it worked; it's just that it didn't seem to get any easier any time I did it.

I'd already booked a flight from London to Moscow through a Christian travel agent, and amazingly, they'd let me do it without paying, although I knew I'd have to eventually before I got on the plane. The day before my flight was supposed to leave I still didn't even have a way to get from Liverpool to London, or the $1500 I needed to pay for the ground fees when I met up with the team in Siberia. I began to think what I could do as an act of faith and thought, if I really was going to go, I'd be packing my suitcase now and if nothing else, I would have to start hitchhiking down to London that night. So I went upstairs to pack. As I was in the middle of packing I received a phone call from one of the team in America, telling me that someone had just given $1500, to pay for my ground fees when I got there. Would that have happened if I hadn't started packing? I can't answer that, but because of it, I also got the coach fare to London and 15 pound from "me mum" to take with me. It was to prove to be a vital sacrifice on her part and a very specific one as it turned out.

I arrived at the airport the next day, still not having paid for my flight, and it wasn't too much of a surprise when I heared my name over the tannoy, being asked to go to the ticketing office. I wondered if I was going to be arrested at that point, but it turned out not quite that bad. I was asked to call the travel agent and after explaining my situation, I was given half an hour to come up with the money. I'd already prayed enough at that point on the coach down there, so I decided something more practical was needed; begging! I forgot to mention to you that at times when you don't have enough faith, begging becomes biblical. I mean, the man at the temple gate would never have gotten healed, if he hadn't been begging in the first place now, would he? Just kidding, but I couldn't turn back now and I had to do something. So I called my sister Carol and asked her if she could lend me the 250 pound or whatever it was, to pay for the ticket. To cut a long story short, she did, the ticket got paid for and off I flew to Amsterdam to catch a connecting flight to Moscow the next day.

I left Amsterdam the next morning and was pleasantly surprised to find that I'd been bumped up to first class for the Moscow flight and landed there a few hours later. It was always a little nerve racking going through immigration in Russia in those days. I always wondered whether I was going to get searched, maybe arrested, maybe shot. But nothing like that happened on this occasion and I was able to meet my contact in the arrivals hall, before the hoards of Russian taxi drivers were able to get to me.

My contacts were a married couple; he was American and his wife was Russian. After explaining my financial situation to them (of only having 15 pounds in my pocket) we came up with a plan and made our way to Yaroslavsk Station where the Trans Siberian railway departed from. Because his wife was Russian, she was able to buy me a ticket, travelling in the non Western section of the train. Don't ask me how she explained who it was for and I can't remember if you even had to show I.D at that time, but the price of the ticket came to about, you guessed it....... 150 Rouble's or round about, which came to roughly the same amount as the 15 pounds that I had, because of the poor exchange rate and the falling Rouble.

There's no way I would have been able to do this myself. For one thing, as a Westerner, I wouldn't have been able to travel in the non Western section of the train; and for another, I would have been charged full price for it if I did, which was more than I would have been able to afford at the time. But Russians are very resourceful people and are able to do things like this without a problem, as well as get me on the train without being stopped.

The train didn't leave until later that night and so we went back to their apartment for dinner and returned to the station later in time for me to board. I can't remember too much about what happened getting through the ticket barrier and onto the train. I was pretty used to nerve racking situations at this point, and I think it was a combination of having a little help from my friends, and by me keeping my mouth shut. They may have even accompanied me to the carriage, I think that's probably what happened. Either that, or they drugged me and smuggled me on. Kind of a "Weekend at Bernie's" type of thing. Maybe that's why I can't remember too much about it. Whatever happened, I eventually settled in for the six day journey ahead.

At that time, the Trans Siberian only went as far as Khabarovsk for Westerners, not Vladivostok as it does now; because Vladivostok was a sensitive seaport where the Russian navy was stationed. My plan was to go to Khabarovsk anyway, so that I could catch a flight the further 1500 kilometres to Magadan. Presumably for free, because I had no money to pay for it at this point. How was God going to provide for that I wondered. Well I'd come this far so something had to happen.

Would I be able to keep my mouth shut for six days, or risk getting caught and thrown off the train was the question? How would I eat if I did? Would I have anything to eat anyway? The adventure was about to begin. It already had.

Geoff.

Some of my Fine Art Photography and products can be found here
http://geoffsadlerdesigns.artistwebsites.com/

My book "The Amazing Grace Tour" can be found here
http://www.amazon.com/Amazing-Grace-Tour-Journey-Reconciliation/dp/1514677814/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1439574259&sr=8-1&keywords=the+amazing+grace+tour

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Posted by Globesmacked 13:14 Tagged moscow hiking travel adventure russia liverpool siberia hitch Comments (0)

Fish, Spies, and Videotape

The spy who hooked me

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What would you think, if you were traveling on the Trans Siberian Railway, and the steward, who also happened to be the man who made chai tea for you, handed you a card with the words 'solar, titanium, atomic chip' written on it? This wasn't actually what was written on it, but it was something devious and mysterious sounding like that. I was somewhere between Irkutsk and Vladivostok, and the six day train journey, as well as our time travelling to Moscow via Vienna, had already had enough excitement up until that point. Was this a trick to see if I actually had one so that he could report me to the authorities I thought, or was it a genuine attempt to acquire such a thing, so that he could sell it to the mafia or some other evil organization like Spectre (that is a real organization isn't it?) to help them take over the world? It got my imagination going anyway.
I wondered if this was something that happened regularly on the train. When you think about it, traveling as a tourist was probably a popular way of smuggling, or carrying out espionage in those days.

It was the time of Gorbachev, Thatcher, and Reagan, near the end of the cold war, and before Al Gore invented the internet. Spies had to be spies back then, there was none of this drone, laptop, computer hacking, surveillance rubbish, that goes on these days.

I pretended that I didn't know what he was talking about, just smiled, and said "ya nya ponimayoo" (I don't understand )because basically, I didn't know what he was talking about anyway. I got my chai and walked curiously back to my compartment, thinking that anyone on the train could be a spy at that point.

I was traveling with two Swiss girls and the three of us shared a compartment for four, which meant that we usually had one non westerner with us. This was part of the plan, as our mission was to share our faith with whoever we could, in an atheist nation that had been closed off to the west for 70 years.

It was a dream come true for me, (not traveling with two Swiss girls, but finally getting to Russia) as I'd wanted to go to Siberia for a number of years, and this was the first time it had all come together. The trip and scenery was incredible and almost romantic some nights, sharing a cup of chai over candlelight, while watching the lights of the houses in the small towns that we passed in the frozen Siberian landscape outside.

I got back to the compartment with my chai and it wasn't back long before a tall Asian looking man, with a thick mustache came into the compartment and plopped a three foot dead fish on the table. I've heard of fish and chips, but this was ridiculous (get it?). What's going on here, I wondered. Maybe there's a tape recorder, or a hidden camera hidden inside of it. What if it it was poisoned?

He proceeded to carve up the fish and offered pieces of it to us. I'd never eaten raw fish before and the thought of it turned my stomach, but I didn't want to hurt his feelings so I took some.... suspiciously. “Aaah korosho, spasibo” (ah good, thank you) we all said.

At that time I didn't care if I was poisoned anyway. I was in it for the adventure as much as anything and being bumped off by a Russian spy, while on a missions trip for Christ would have been a good way to go. Martyr and national hero all wrapped up in one. It was an exciting time to be alive though. I was dividing my time between working in a carpet shop in Birkenhead and living in London while traveling the world, doing mission trips in far away places. Alas, most of my photographs from those days are (hopefully still) locked away in a suitcase somewhere in Westchester, just outside New York; as I'd left it there with a friend, who then moved back to Australia, and I've never had a chance to go get it since.

We survived the fish supper and later that day, one of the Swiss girls and I ventured back into the non western part of the train. I can't remember how we got in there, as it was off limits to westerners, but we were (or she was) invited by some young Russian guys for drinks and to listen to pop music. When we were there, the vodka came out. “Drink, drink” they said and proceeded to try to force shots of vodka down us, or her more than me. I think we did actually drink one to be polite (well you have to don't you), but at that point my inner James Bond came out and I felt compelled to protect the poor innocent Swiss girl I was with. No one got shot that night, and we did get to share the gospel with them before leaving graciously with our missionary reputations as intact. They were very friendly guys actually and all things considered, they appreciated what we were trying to do.

I never did get to see 'the spy with the fish' again. By the time we got back to the compartment he had disappeared. Maybe he'd escaped, or been thrown out of the window by the other Swiss girl (she was a bit tough, and I always suspected there was more to her). Or maybe the guard shot him for failing his poisoned fish mission. Most probably though, he'd just gotten off at one of the regular stops, and disappeared into the Siberian winter on his way home to his family. I don't think he was a spy after all, just a very nice Asian Russian, man. The chai maker on the other hand, definitely had something going on.

Russians are such nice people and I was coming to realize and all of the propaganda that we hear'd in the west couldn't have been further than the truth. It was just their political system that was wrong. But now there was fresh hope. The country was opening up again and after a long, frozen, 70 year winter of communism, the Iron Curtain was about to come down. It was an exciting time to be alive and this was just one of many adventures that I and others would be a part of in the coming years. In my next blog I'll write about the second Trans Siberian missionary journey I took. That one was even more exciting.

Geoff

Some of my Fine Art Photography and products can be found here
http://geoffsadlerdesigns.artistwebsites.com/

My book "The Amazing Grace Tour" can be found here

http://www.amazon.com/Amazing-Grace-Tour-Journey-Reconciliation/dp/1514677814/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1439574259&sr=8-1&keywords=the+amazing+grace+tour

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Posted by Globesmacked 12:18 Comments (0)

In the beginning.

From Sandbrook to Siberia

snow -20 °C

I was sitting in a tent on the Siberian tundra one day, as you do; with a bunch of Koryak reindeer herders and we were introducing ourselves to each other. “Hi, my name’s Geoff Sadler and I’m from Liverpool, England” I said. “Oh, do you know Paul McCartney?” one of them said to me. I thought to myself, how the heck has he ever heard of Paul McCartney, when all he does is herd reindeer from one part of Siberia to another? The answer of course, was that he always carried a radio with him, and no doubt had picked up a few Beatles tunes on it over the years. It made me feel at home though.

I went on to sleep in a tent that night, under various animal skins, as well as every item of clothing that I had with me, in order to keep out the biting cold that went straight to my bones, but it wasn’t quite as cold as the last time I’d slept on the tundra. A year earlier I'd been to a different area and we didn’t even have a tent. I'd given my sleeping bag to a 65 year old man who was with us, and who I thought would probably die without it. Somehow, the one that he had, didn’t seem like it would be enough to see him through the night.

I was with a group of missionaries and we were sleeping in Bear Valley, near the small town of Uelen, near Mys Dezhneva, opposite Alaska. It was a freezing cold September morning when I awoke, and having only had about 2 hours sleep that night, I remember feeling the roughest and coldest I’d ever been in my life. I thought to myself, in the words of the old Talking Heads song, “How did I get here?" I must be out of my flippin mind to do this. Why didn’t I just stay at home and live a regular life?"

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Things did look a little rosier after I woke up a bit, but right then it was probably the first time I’d ever seriously thought about settling down and living a normal life.

The desire to see the world and live an abnormal life, all started for me as a 16 year old. I remember in English class in school, we used to read a book called, “The Long Walk”, about a man who had escaped from a Siberian prison and walked with a bunch of others, to freedom through the Gobi Desert. We used to talk about it in the courtyard at break and I often thought about how cool it would be to be in Siberia, in the middle of nowhere, trying to find my way back to civilization. Meeting random people and getting involved in adventures that would eventually result in me discovering the meaning of life.

I used to lie awake at night in our little house on the Sandbrook Estate in Moreton, listening to the sound of cars on the M53 motorway and thinking, “It could all begin from there. All I have to do is start hitchhiking from the end of the motorway and I could literally end up anywhere in the world.”

My first real taste of adventure, began when I went to London to watch Liverpool play Brugge, in the European Cup Final at Wembley in 1978. I’d never travelled any great distance without a parent before that, and even though I was with my older sister, it still felt like my first real taste of independence. I remember driving into London on the coach, with the sound of Gerry Rafferty singing Baker Street on the radio, feeling a new rush of excitement which I'd never felt before and finally seeing for myself, that there is a whole other world out there.

Liverpool went on to win the European Cup that night at Wembley by the way, courtesy of a Kenny Dalglish goal, that he deftly chipped over the goalkeeper. But more importantly, my confidence to explore and seek out new horizons would eventually increase. This was just the beginning.

Until next time, here’s Gerry Rafferty with Baker Street.

Geoff.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zu2pUr8JRVg

Some of my Fine Art Photography and products can be found here
http://geoffsadlerdesigns.artistwebsites.com/

My book "The Amazing Grace Tour" can be found here

http://www.amazon.com/Amazing-Grace-Tour-Journey-Reconciliation/dp/1514677814/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1439574259&sr=8-1&keywords=the+amazing+grace+tour

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Posted by Globesmacked 15:05 Tagged snow russia bear liverpool cold siberia Comments (0)

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