But although my 10pm departure is still many hours away, I feel quite anxious about the impending deadline.
Eager to diffuse this, I leave the hostel two hours earlier than I have to. This is partly so that I have time to organise things at the station and partly because I have to shift my heavy gear down five flights of stairs before I’m going anywhere! Thankfully, a friendly man from South Korea appears from nowhere and kindly helps me with the unpleasant task of moving out.
But the short ride to the station is fraught with difficulty, and I spend the next hour in a frustrating battle with the roading system and the usual lack of signage. Where exactly is the station turn-off?
When I finally reach the station, the waiting room is full of people and access to the platform appears to be blocked by large metal gates. Since I don’t know which platform my train is leaving from, I head back outside and quickly break the Troll down on the steps leading up to the waiting room. This is getting easier, but in the absence of gaffer tape I have to use my tent base and various straps to package the frame, racks and wheels together.
The train arrives and I have 17 minutes until it departs. Unfortunately the platform isn’t actually accessed through the waiting room, so I have to cart over 40kg of packaged bike, tent and pannier bags a couple of hundred metres around the other side of the building to where the train is. So much for being prepared.
Luckily, as obviously often happens in Russia, another man appears from nowhere. This one is a young Russian with passable English. He carries my bags, and I carry my bike. When we get to the platform, the female train wardens take over and the man disappears again. The ladies stow my wrapped bicycle at the end of the carriage and help ferry my bags onto the train. Their help allays my stress so much more effectively than the needless bureaucracy of the ball-busting wardens in Zabaikalsk.