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central america: cuba
bruno morandi / getty images
All aboard! (Clockwise)
The Trans-Siberian train
in station; carriage with a
view; old railroad bridge
at the Circum-Baikal Road,
the historical part of the
railway, near Lake Baikal;
the welcome in Beijing.
walter b mackenzie / getty images
to the bathroom sink). It’s so much better It’s just east of where the Trans-
book it! RUSSiA?
to allow for at least a few stops. Siberian forks; many travellers go south
About 25 hours east of Moscow, to Mongolia and finish in Beijing, China
Want to take the leap and enjoy one of the
just past the rail-side marker of the – others stick with Russia, pressing on
world’s most fascinating journeys? Looking
Asia/Europe border, is booming another 75 hours or so to the end of the
to find Russia’s gooey heart? book one of
Yekaterinburg. The city’s link to the past line in Vladivostok. It’s a shame to skip
kumuka’s trans-Siberian Railway adventures.
is infamous, and bloody: the last Czar Khabarovsk, set on the Amur River after
Nicolas II and his family were executed Siberia turns into the Russian Far East
here 90 years ago on a site now marked (a more remote, and even colder, region tRAnS MAnchURiAn cLASSic

by a cross and church. northeast of China and Korea). After days MoScoW – beijing 10 dAyS
Another day east, Siberia begins, near of non-stop forest out the window, it’s a £649, €975, AU$1850, nZ$1950,
its biggest city Novosibirsk, a Soviet stunner to the senses. Czar-era buildings US$1365, cA$1495, ZAR11,035
creation with an ‘Academy City’ nearby. and Lenin statues (and sushi bars) run RUSSiA, chinA
Most skip it, but I stopped because I had along bustling boulevards that lead to the
done a report on Soviet life here in junior city’s favourite area, newly re-developed thRee cApitALS
high school; a chance meeting with two riverbank parks, where you can hop on a MoScoW – beijing 12 dAyS
outgoing, mulletted brothers led to a half- 90-minute river ‘party cruise’ or sit with £999, €1500, AU$2850, nZ$3000,
day guided tour around the centre. We ice cream in the tree-lined walkways. US$2100, cA$2300, ZAR16,985
hopped atop a WWII tank near an eternal A last overnighter gets you to RUSSiA, MongoLiA, chinA
flame, then stopped to watch Russian Vladivostok, another stunning setting just
folk musicians singing on a sidewalk, 100 miles from North Korea. Here, pointed SnoW tRAin
with an unchanged Soviet mural nearby peaks and offshore bays look something MoScoW – beijing 14 dAyS
reading ‘Long Live the Workers.’ like a Russian San Francisco. A psychologist £1100, €1595, AU$2805, nZ$2970, US$2310, cA$2530, ZAR18,700
About 33 hours of Siberia’s endless I met on the way here (“I work with deviant RUSSiA, chinA
taiga forest east, about 45 miles northeast behaviour,” she deadpanned) accompanied
of Irkutsk, lies Siberia’s greatest natural me recently to nearby Russky Island, where oRiginAL tRAnS-SibeRiAn
attraction, Lake Baikal, clean enough to we met a family of retired doctors living MoScoW – VLAdiVoStok 14 dAyS
drink and home to a fifth of the world’s in a century-old ammunitions bunker £999, €1500, AU$2850, nZ$3000, US$2100, cA$2300, ZAR16,985
fresh water. The village of Lisvyanka is in the mostly undeveloped island. They RUSSiA
the nearest shore from Irkutsk, and a fine invited us in for tea and cake, and pointed
place for a view and some smoked olmul us, past an abandoned officer’s building, to big tRAnS-Sib
(a tasty Baikal fish), but it’s worth pressing an empty pebble beach. Back in town, and MoScoW – beijing 16 dAyS
on to Olkhon Island, a key hub for the confused about how to find a funicular ride £1300, €1885, AU$3520, nZ$3705, US$2730, cA$2990, ZAR22,100
area’s Buryat shaman with cliff hikes and up one mountaintop, a middle-aged local RUSSiA, MongoLiA, chinA
homestays. I couldn’t make it there my with a giant moustache and bigger mobile
last visit – early June still has cracking phone helped me find it, then gave me his SUpeR tRAnS-Sib
ice covering the surface – but a part-time number. A few days later, I heard my name MoScoW – beijing 19 dAyS
fireman volunteered to assist my kayak being called – there he was again, leaning £1650, €2475, AU$4705, nZ$4950, US$3465, cA$3795, ZAR28,050
debut in a pocket of the lake without ice; out of a passing bus, pointing to his phone, RUSSiA, chinA
he kindly didn’t show his regret when “call me if you need help!”
each of my rookie paddle swipes brought I always do need a little. Good thing I
lap-soaking doses of icy water on him. know where to go for it. n
cALL US todAy! Uk 0800 092 9595 iRe 1800 946 843 USA/cAn 1800 517 0867 SoUth AFRicA 011 881 5765 onLine WWW.kUMUkA.coM
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