Across Continents

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Other side of the tracks

Gleaming carriages, soft blue livery. Hostesses in pristine uniforms standing smartly at ease. But my supposed rail car looked like a restaurant, and an expensive one at that. “No” explained one of the attendants, examining my ticket, “This is the Express to Astana, your train is on the next platform” she said, pointing to the footbridge. I must have looked disappointed. She gave a faint smile. Apologetic.

Steps were out of the question. Instead, a brisk walk to the far end of the platform. Across the tracks, gingerly picking a path amongst numerous shards of glass, mostly concealed amongst the sprawling vegetation. Small thorns ensnaring themselves in my socks, scratching against my ankles.

Another four berth cabin, a young woman called Naday. Four hours to Sayozek, arriving just after midnight, with little prospect of sleep before then. A few children rushing about, shouting excitedly, their parents too weary in the heat and humidity to intervene. Others lay about limply, the occasional futile effort at fanning themselves with whatever lay to hand.

After a while the guard appeared, insistent that all the windows be closed so the air conditioning might work. Chances seemed slim, judging by the state of the rolling stock and the grumblings from the other passengers. Conditions soon became oppressive, the guard by now flaked out on his own bunk, the windows were quickly re-opened. I’d be gone in a few hours.

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