Marc’s team has two games in Almaty this week – today and tomorrow – and their winter break starts this Saturday. In order to make the most of our time, we decided to fly from Almaty to Phuket, and that meant I had to come along for the road trip. We thought was going to be a bus ride to Astana and a short flight, but the team decided on a train ride instead. A very long train ride. 26 hours to be exact. When Marc first pitched the idea to me, I was not thrilled to say the least. But, my only other option was hanging out in Kokshetau for four days and taking a cab alone to Astana to fly to meet Marc. Ultimately, I decided to take the train with the team.
We started at the rink around 3:30 AM on Tuesday. After being shuttled by the team bus, we arrived at the train station painfully early – almost an hour before the train.
Once we boarded the train, we got situated in our cabin by making our beds with the provided fresh linen and the oldest pillows known to man. I gave mine up and opted for a makeshift pillow of blankets, sheets and my fluffy scarf. With our luggage stowed, we settled in for the long haul and drifted off to sleep.
I was hoping the light of day would make the train and the ride seem less ominous, but it didn’t do much. The amenities on the train were unsurprisingly lacking – a hot water tank and a food and beverage cart came through our car twice. The heat, however, was more than sufficient. So sufficient that everyone was stripped down to their bottom layers, and I traded my leggings for shorts from my vacation stash. Not that it did us much good – nothing really provided relief from the overwhelming heat and stagnant air. I dreaded each time I had to make a trip to the bathroom – a cold, grimy room with a toilet that look as if it was straight out of a prison – but at least it provided a quick break from the heat.
We spent the day playing road trip games, watching movies alone with our headphones and feasting on the goodies we had packed while we did our best to stay cool. I attempted to read a book later in day, but found myself passing out from fatigue – or maybe a lack of oxygen and heat exhaustion – before I could even finish a chapter. That fatigue was my best friend though because it allowed me to sleep through the final 5 or 6 hours. We arrived in Almaty around 7 AM on Wednesday and headed straight to the hotel to sleep the away the remainder of the morning.
Now that’s it over, I’m happy to say that I survived. I’m actually impressed that I made it through without freaking out. It wasn’t the best day(s) of my life, but it wasn’t really the worst either – even if it felt like it at times. It was quite the experience, and I would imagine that if the train had been more modern, I may have actually enjoyed the ride. I loved the amount of space we had to stretch out and relax – so much better than being squished into a tiny little airplane seat – and I loved that we were able to bring so much food along with us. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll do it again – just definitely not in Kazakhstan.
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