Farewell Yekaterinburg

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Being tourists..

Being tourists..

It’s the end of our last night in Yekaterinburg and the whole group heads for Elven Nastya’s place. I volunteer to make a real dinner for everyone and we stop at a supermarket to acquire everything. Uralski Yulia comes to me, while I’m trying to figure out if the meat I’m looking at is beef or pork, and asks if I will cook with meat.
“Most certainly! Why? Is anyone a vegetarian?”
She smiles shyly and says,
“It’s Alexei.”
I think for a moment, then say,
“I’ll make a second sauce for him.”
With that my plans evolve and I will put into his sauce fresh tomato, onion, garlic, chilli, mushrooms, champignons and carrot. Into the bigger one, I will add bacon and some beef mince as well. I ask her to help me acquire the right meat and she translates what I need for the deli staff. With food and beer in hand, we all make for Elven Nastya’s kitchen, where she makes me demonstrate my fast slicing action on the garlic for everyone else. The challenge to make two sauces at once is one I enjoy and I temper Alexei’s again with less chilli and garlic, since he doesn’t like either too much. All of us share a final meal together and we enjoy the shared warmth that only friendship brings. I remember my tiny clip-on Koala souvenirs and give one to everyone there and make sure that Uralski Yulia has a couple of spare ones for the people who aren’t. It’s around one in the morning when Elven Nastya herds everyone out so she can sleep and have some chance of being at work in the morning.

In the Scottish Pub men's toilet... Russians are weird :)

In the Scottish Pub men's toilet... Russians are weird :)

We wake up to Elven Nastya’s Russian morning song and she’s going crazy on all of us with the water spray bottle. We’re all laughing, I’ve been telling them all week how I wake up and they love it as much as I do. We pack everything up and I leave out my presents for Nastya, a stubbie holder with a picture of Perth on it, some little Koalas and a tinned wombat. Lari quickly adds some handmade soap to the pile as her own thanks and Nastya returns so we can make our presentation properly. She is baffled by the stubbie cooler and very concerned about the tinned wombat. She holds the tin with a deep frown saying,
“Is this meat? I can’t have meat like that. And not a wombat!”
“No..no…it’s just a stuffed animal inside for a joke”, I explain, “You can open it if you’re worried.”
“It’s illegal to hunt and eat wombat in Australia, so you can’t actually put wombat meat in a tin”, Lari adds as our host starts to enjoy the idea more.
“So what does this do?”, she asks holding the stubbie cooler.
“You put a bottle or can of drink inside it”, I begin, “in summer it keeps the drink cool and in winter it keeps your hand warm.”
She tries it out with a water bottle and is amused at the idea.
“It’s very Australian”, Don adds.
“Nah Don. It’s fuckin’ unfknblvbly Oz mate”, I correct him in my best Ocker accent. Elven Nastya notices the time and dives into the bathroom to finish getting ready for work. While she’s in there I quietly place a yellow diamond sign on her window that advises there are no pubs for nine hundred kilometres. Don also slips some magnetic koalas onto her fridge and all of us write a note for her new Couchsurfing book.

We manhandle all our baggage down the stairs, then Elven Nastya disappears upstairs again for a while, asking us to wait. She reappears carrying a tiny sapling in a small pot and gives it to all of us saying we must take it and plant it back at home. Lari and I know Australian customs will never let it in the country, but Don takes charge of the plant that will accompany us for the rest of our journey across Russia. I remember she had promised me a kiss as payment for making her CS book and ask her for it. She kisses me on both cheeks and smiles impishly, I laugh as she gives Don and Lari farewell hugs and kisses too. We watch her jump onto a tram and travel away before we cross the road and hurry to the train station.

We arrive with some time to wait and realise we’re hungry, so we enter the fast service café at the front of the station. I go through first while Don and Lari seize a table, then we have a quick breakfast surrounded by our baggage. I then volunteer to head off and find some instant noodle bowls. I decide we should try everything and see what works out best. My favourite is definitely one called ‘Big Lunch’, it is a meal sized version, comes in a few flavours and was actually something I looked forward to eating on the train; especially for breakfast. I return to the café to find Lari has acquired some fruit and we’re ready to find our train.

I’m able to read from the main electronic sign at the front of the building which platform is ours and we board the train with no problems. With all the hurry and rush of the morning we’ve barely had time to realise we’re actually leaving Yekaterinburg. It seems like we’ve been there for quite a while and all of us had felt at home with all the locals. The Total Solar Eclipse is getting closer now and I feel my internal tension build as I hope the weather is good enough to see it on the day. In a week I should be staring into the Black Sun once again. However, in the present, as is the life of travellers, we have enjoyed the good and lived through the bad moments and now our journey carries us down the tracks; further across Russia and into Siberia.

I know you've been wondering...

I know you've been wondering...

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