Whitlocks Round the World - Latest News

Click here to read the latest newsThe diary of our trip round the world. You can view other diary entries by clicking the highlighted months at the bottom of the page or by clicking on one of the countries visited so far. Click our logo (on the left) to see the most recent news entries. We are adding new entries from Internet Cafés as we travel, so updates may be irregular. Please check back often to see how we are getting along.

Countries visited so far: UK Latvia Lithuania Poland Slovak Republic Hungary Romania Bulgaria Greece Egypt Tanzania Malawi Mozambique South Africa Swaziland South Africa (again) Argentina Bolivia Peru Ecuador Vietnam China Mongolia Russia England

24th-27th July Russia
Trans-Siberia to Moscow
Keeping busy on the journey - Click to enlargeOur final train, Irkutsk to Moscow, left at 4.20pm on Saturday 24th July, and took three days to convey us the 5185km that was to be our longest overland trek.

We spent the morning preparing for the journey. Nick and I went into town on the bus, leaving Esther and Tom with Sonya. We bought a variety of entertainments for the children, anticipating that they would be bored during the journey, and went to the supermarket to stock up on noodles, snacks, fruit and sweets. Back at the flat we cooked and ate a decent meal and packed a last few things into our rucksacks before waving goodbye to Sonia and Rick as we left, by taxi, for the station.

The train journey itself was actually relatively uneventful, all three days of it. We put our watches back an hour each morning, and another hour on arrival in Moscow. Illustrating just how enormous Russia is, we passed through five time zones while we were on that train.

In the event, no-one got particularly bored, although the children didn’t meet such suitable playmates this time, and our carriage was full of Russians rather than tourists like ourselves. We rationed the little presents we had bought for them so that, even on day three, we still had something new to offer.

We ate in the restaurant car once. The meal was nice and it was great to sit at a table eating a “proper” meal while the Siberian forest slipped by the window, but mostly we ate in our compartment, supplementing our snacks with food bought from babushkas on the platform when we stopped.

Getting off the train to buy provisions always felt very daring! Our provodnitsa (carriage attendant) would tell us how many minutes there were until the train would move off again, but we were never quite sure how she knew! Still, none of us ever managed to get left behind, although Tom panicked terribly whenever I got off the train on my own.

The children played, we read or played cards, we ate snacks, we made up a Trans-Siberian song to the tune of ‘Yellow Submarine’, and we kept track of our progress in the Lonely Planet book (which was pretty accurate this time, with regard to the journey and route). Then, at about 4.30pm local time on the 27th, we pulled heavily into Moscow railway station, and set off to find somewhere to stay, for the last time!

27th-30th July Russia
St Basil's Cathedral through the Resurrection Arch - Click to enlargeIt felt a bit strange, as we walked along the platform with our rucksacks on, to realise that we had finally arrived at our end point. I can’t say that we really felt elated or excited to be there. It was just hot, and we were (paradoxically, as on-train life had been so lazy) tired from the journey. And, too, we felt as daunted as ever by the prospect of trekking around a big, busy city, trying to find somewhere affordable to stay. It was quite a trek, too. We used the metro, walked quite a way, Esther fell over and hurt her knee, and then we found that the place we were looking for no longer existed. Then we walked a bit more, and then took a taxi to the Traveller’s Guest House, where we stayed. We could not believe the prices. For really basic accommodation in three beds in a dorm, with a shared toilet and bathroom, we paid 42 pounds per night!! That’s a whole day’s budget! It was not even particularly nice, or friendly either. The other travellers there were nice though, and we enjoyed meeting and chatting with them throughout our two-night stay there. And it was a nice change to sleep in beds that were not swaying from side to side!

We had two full days to spend in Moscow before flying to France. We made a few decisions fairly quickly: 1) We decided to avoid paying for accommodation on our third night by going to the airport early and sleeping there for the night leading up to our flight, and 2) We decided not to visit the Kremlin. Although this would be a ‘must-do’ on the lists of many visitors to Moscow, we decided that we could manage without that particular guided tour, interesting as it may have been. However, when we went to Red Square on the 28th we saw the buildings of the Kremlin and their compound from the outside.

We did visit St Basil’s Cathedral, the building most often seen as a symbol of the city, and of Russian architecture. It was a mildly emotional moment when we first glimpsed the cathedral, with its profusion of colourful cupolas, framed by Red Square’s Resurrection Gate. Standing in front of that building in Red Square was the symbolic moment we had all been waiting for: our official Journey’s End! However, it was strangely peaceful in the busy square. We took some photos and went to see the cathedral from the inside. It was an interesting building with many winding passages, vaulted ceilings and interesting artwork.

The 29th of July was our last day. We spent it visiting Gorky Park. This park is like a fairgound mixed in with an ornamental garden. There were also many exotic animals there, like lions, monkeys, bears and a huge boa constrictor. People paid to have their photograph taken with these creatures. They all looked well cared for, but it was a bit bizarre!

Fittingly, we had our final minor crisis during that day, too. I suddenly realised, having checked out of the hostel several hours before, that I had left my money belt under my pillow. Terrible thoughts flashed through my head. Here we are, having made it all the way round the world and, without any money, we might not even be able to fly (departure tax and all considered), and we could be stuck in expensive Moscow until the dreaded HSBC could be persuaded to come to our aid. Aaargh!! We hurried back to the hostel at breakneck speed, just as, almost poetically, the clear blue sky became a thunderstorm above our heads! Luckily most of the rain fell while we were on the metro. We hurried through the puddles, anxiously snapping at each other as we went. The missing article was easy to locate, being, as it was, still under the pillow of what had been my bed. They had already re-let the bed, though. It just goes to show the standard of hygiene you get in Moscow for £42 per night. They could not possibly have changed the sheets without finding it!

We took the metro, and then a stuffy local bus, to the airport, and arrived at about 11pm, for an 8.35am flight. The night was OK. The children, accustomed as they now are to travel, got a fair amount of sleep, lying on seats in the check-in area, and Nick and I got some rest too. At 6.30 we checked in our bags and headed for the appropriate gate.

As our Aeroflot plane left the ground, headed for Prague, where we would change to Air France for Charles de Gaulle, our journey of a lifetime was all over, and our re-adjustment back to ‘real life’ about to begin.

24th Septmber England
Keeping in touch!
Hello all! Since arriving home in England we have been living near Bristol, in the South-West of the country. Settling back into normal life has not been too hard, although, after about six weeks, we have not yet managed to find jobs. The children are settling well into school, and do not seem to have fallen much behind the other kids. In fact, Tom has already been able to use his experiences on the trip directly to contribute to his school work in Geography, Art, History and Spanish.

We are really hoping to keep in touch with all the wonderful friends we made along the way. Some have emailed or even phoned since we got back, and it feels great to be keeping our experiences alive through our contact with you. However, we are having trouble contacting some friends, as the email we send keeps being returned. If Bill and Sarah in Texas are reading this message, please contact us again. We have tried to email, but cannot get through.

July 03August 03September 03October 03November 03
December 03January 04February 04March 04April 04
May 04June 04July 04August 04September 04

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