Caviar for Breakfast – Luxury in Third Class


I looked at Elena and she looked at me. There was a kind of ‘ok, this will work’ moment between us.

Within an hour, my new train buddy (a student on a five day trip back to Uni) was loading slices of grainy dark bread with bright red caviar and cheese and pushing them on me. “More, have more!”

The fat bubbles popped and flooded salty fishiness across my mouth and I sat back and thought, “Yup, life is good!”

Sometimes you just find yourself in moments of complete happiness. You may have no idea where you are going, but you know for sure that you are exactly where you should be. Today was one of those days.

It had not dawned on me that one of the longest train journeys on the planet might also be one of the most picturesque. The Ulan Ude – Irkutsk line hugs the bottom of Lake Baikal as if holding it in like a belt.

The deepest lake in the world, more like an ocean, used to have trains and passengers ferried across it on ice breakers until this newer stretch of line joined the country-wide lengths of iron horse tracks together. Far off snow capped mountains and beachside wooden summer getaways completed a stunning picture.

Elena loaded the table between us with chocolates, breads, cakes, cheeses, tea and later, when some local ladies boarded the train selling hot or cold ‘omul’ fish from the lake, fresh cool fish.

Russian hospitality is nothing short of humbling.

Somehow NZ history was explored in mime and Russian, an Uzbeki chef gave me his phone number in case I visited there, Elena showed me photos on her laptop of towns I should or shouldn’t go to and we were all full, tired and happy as I bid farewell – I a small part of their long journey and them a heavenly part of mine.


Someone proudly produced a Kiwi apple!


First glimpses of the Lake


Sleepy lakeside summer cottages


A random house


More getaways


Hugging the bottom of the lake


Loading coal for heat and hot water


A samovar - life giving hot water!


Arriving in Irkutsk

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