Hellride on the Transsiberian Railway
If ever the two travellers had in mind, that all the strain of bad roads and rough weather would be over now by boarding the Transsiberian Railroad, they were on the wrong trip.
From Chita to Chabarovsk in the eastern part of Russia, Manni and "Matterhorn" experience a hellride.
At the station of Chita, the car is being strapped on an open platform. In the meantime the two adventurers have six hours time to handle all the formalities. The fire department shows up to pump the gasoline out of "Difty"´s fuel tank. Their vacuum jug is converted into a fire-extinguisher, and the two men have to travel inside the car inbetween 60 or 70 waggons, and they can´t even see the locomotive. Four days and three nights they pass through 1000 kilometers by exerting all their energies.
There are no sanitary facilities on board the train, no chance to wash or shave and no toilet.
"Nobody would recognize us now the way we look, not even our wives", "Matterhorn" faxes to the "Around The World" office in Bremerhaven, " our clothes are full of oil, soot, dirt and they are wet and cold, and nowhere a chance to get something to eat. One day the sun is burning with 35° Celsius and the next day we are going through storms and ice and snow. Three days we have been living on four cans of sardines and one can of bread. But the Russian people are always there and offer them hot water for a cup of tea, and we are grateful for their help."
On each station the train is being arranged newly. This means long hours of shunting. "One time it lasted 16 hours", says co-pilot "Matterhorn", " we only get to sleep for an hour or two. Then the ride goes on through swamps, over mountains and through valleys, and we have to have a tight grip on something if we don´t want to fall of the waggon. I have never been so frightened in all my life. Manni and I are encouraging each other, hoping this hellride will soon be over."
After four days and three nights they have reached their destination and get off the train. Happy to have left that shaky ground, feeling "Difty" under their feet again, they go through a 15 hour rumble-ride and land in a small town named Obluschye, close to the border of the Mandschurei in the Amur province between Blagowjeschtschensk and Chabarovsk. "Difty" is running like a sewing-machine thanks to Heiko Seifert, an amateur car restorer from Bremerhaven, a close friend of the two travellers.
They stop in front of a lodging which actually looks more like a flophouse. A few native Russians are partying down after a hard working-day in front of the door. "Matterhorn" goes inside and tries to deal with the female manager, who looks as if she has also had a hard day behind her.
But she won´t go down on the price. Manni comes in to help with the translation, leaving "Difty" to herself. No changes are made, they can´t stay.
Back outside, Manni recognizes he had locked the front but not the rear doors of the car. He is shocked, his red jacket is gone and with the jacket his passport and all the car registration papers, driver´s license, car atlas and the German-Russian dictionary. But even worse, the "scrapbook" with important documents, newspaper stories and pictures of his first trip around the world are gone. A loss of high value to him, and he knows, whoever took it cannot use or read it, there is absolutely no value to the thief. So the office in Bremerhaven gets in contact with only English publishing newspaper of the region, the "Vladivostok News", and ask them for help. A $300 reward for the person who returns the "scrapbook".
In the meantime Manni and his co-pilot will have to get in touch with the Japanese Embassy. The office in Bremerhaven is sending copies of all important papers to them. The next step will be to get in contact with the German Embassy in Tokyo. After all, Japan is right in front of the door.
Manni and "Matterhorn" wish to make absolutely clear that they do not want to make a big thing out of the loss of all the documents as they have always been treated very friendly and hospitable wherever they stopped in Russia.
At this moment they are staying in an apartment that has been offered to them by a Canadian-Russian company without any cost.
Still, it is weekend and they are going nowhere without their registration papers and passport.
gbm..July 3rd, 99