At 1:45pm we reach the Russian border town of Naushki.
Compared to the bus crossing of the Chinese-Russian border at Manzhouli-Zabaikalsk, the rail crossing is relatively relaxing. No hauling of heavy baggage on and off of buses is required here.
The guards are serious, but polite. But they still have me worried. I’ve read horror stories of people having money or gear confiscated by corrupt officials. Keen to avoid undue attention to my expensive belongings, I haven’t declared my bike or any of my electronic gear. If anything goes wrong, I only have a day up my sleeve to sort it out.
Despite there being no issues, it still takes over an hour for the guards and the well-behaved Alsatian sniffer dog to do their job. They come through the carriages and check that everyone is who they say they are and have a quick look at where our bags are stowed.
After this we’re let out of our cage for a couple of hours. Our carriage disembarks, a motley contingent of Dutch, Swiss, American, Canadian and New Zealand tourists. We roam the small township, which isn’t anything to write home about, and try to spend our remaining Russian roubles by buying more munchies for the train.
There are tanks and soldiers at the far end of town. We stay well clear and head to a local cafe instead. The interior reminds me of a church hall, basic but functional. With 26 days of basic Russian under my belt, I manage to order four bowl of dumplings rather than just four. It’s a good way to make friends though.