So we board our final train for this trip. It’s an overnight sleeper, taking just over eight hours to transport us from Goulburn in New South Wales to Melbourne in Victoria. It’s a fitting way to end what we started, which was largely a rail journey half way around the world. Whereas before this trip I was a relative novice, now I’m a seasoned traveller aboard long-distance, sleeper trains, and so I’m looking forward to see how the Aussies do it. The train arrives, about five minutes late, and we find our car and cabin. Our Aussie provotnik is a chirpy chap with none of the surly-yet-efficient feel of his Russian counterparts. He barely checks our ticket (I guess if a person can be bothered to hang around in mid-Winter in Goulburn to board a train at 23.15, then they’ve probably bought a ticket) and then opens up our cabin for us. It’s clean inside, pretty plush, our beds are already made up, and we have free care packs (one with basic toiletries, including earplugs and a collapsible cup; the other has some popcorn, a cup of spring water, two crackers, two biscuits, and, oddly, a small punnet of burger relish).
At just 450km south of the Arctic Circle, Yakutsk (Яакутск - Дьокуускай in Yakut) is pretty far north, it’s buildings are on stilts to keep them out of the permafrost, and it’s the coldest, most populated city in the World. It’s also where lots of relatively fresh remains of mammoths and other large mammals have been found over the years; some part of them, a tusk perhaps, poking up out of the snow. We decided to go there and, in quite a minor degree, follow in the footsteps of the Mammoth Hunters.