Finding Nemo

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Taiga Train

I'd been on the train for over 48 hours. And at some point, I'm not quite sure when, I stopped looking out the window. Because the view never, ever changed. Trees, trees, and more trees. We traveled through a tunnel of wood.

Sure America has a bit of taiga, but as they say in Russia: it is puny capitalist taiga.
Taiga: from sea to frozen sea

This, then, was the endless Siberian taiga. It stretches from the Bering Sea all the way across Asia and into Eastern Europe: twice the size of the Amazon. The trees can be so thick that is difficult to even walk through, full of mud-pits, ticks, brown bears, wolves, and the unfortunate descendants of the White Russians. But perhaps it is most famous because Bear Grylls went there and, well, just watch the video...

"An eruption of cold fluid, gristle, blood..."

Although Russia is the biggest country on earth, its population and growth (and power) is kept in check by the simple fact that most of the country is uninhabitable by normal humans. Temperatures in Siberia range from -80 to 104 deg F. Yes, that is not a typo. The only people who live here are the nomadic reindeer people, a few indigenous tribes, and backpackers who have gone a little nuts.

Watching it all go by out the train window is mesmerizing and somewhat claustrophobic. You can't really see the landscape, you are in a Taiga Tunnel that never ends. I can see why Paul Theroux in the Great Railway Bazaar finally lost his marbles here, lonely, tired of traveling, and, well, he was horny.

Over the tracks and through the woods, to Lenin's House we go...
I had to admit, I was starting to get lonely on this train. Where were the crazy Russians offering me all the vodka I could drink? Where were the hot but rude train stewardesses? Where were the adventurous backpackers? Theroux's journey in the 70's was turning out to be nothing like mine.

Across from me sat a mother napping with her young kids. She spoke no English, and I was having trouble suggesting that we should both get naked and streak the train.

With no other options, I turned my gaze back to the window and watched the never-ending taiga tunnel roll by, like an old cartoon where the scenery is on repeat.

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