Last night Geoff received two phone calls but missed them both. On checking the phone numbers one was from the "pravadneek" (the train steward) on the Moscow to Severobaikalsk train bringing our new shock absorber, and the other was from the woman "Svetlana" who had been asked to carry our parcel from Moscow for us.
We decided to call back Svetlana and not the "pravadneek".
Geoff spoke to her and through her broken English she managed to convey to him that she was very very concerned about having taken a parcel onto the train from a stranger. She insisted that Geoff not tell anyone about the transaction, and came straight to carriage No. 8 on the train, take the parcel and go. Svetlana sounded to be about 30 years old, extremely good looking and to be wearing a sexy short skirt from an air hostesses outfit. It's amazing what inferences you can pick up just from a sixty second phone call.
So it seemed we may have a potential problem when the train eventually pulls into the station today.
The arrival time for the train was 13:21 and as we crept towards the rendezvous time the atmosphere in the camp got progressively more nervous about what might transpire.
Geoff had mixed emotions about meeting an obviously beautiful fashion model and being locked up for aiding and abetting a potential terrorist action of sending clandestine and illegal packages across the Russian train network.
Frank gave Geoff a packet of cigarettes and a Sekonda watch to choose what bribe may be appropriate to give the "pravadneek" if this should become necessary.
We all set off for the station to arrive 40 mins before the train was due. Our thinking here was that a train scheduled to take 90 hours from Moscow may in fact arrive earlier than scheduled and having waited four days we didn't want to miss the exchange through not being there to meet it.
We arrived at the station to find a train with our number (92) sat at the main platform. Our hearts sank as we thought it had arrived very early and Svetlana and/or the "pravadneek" had come and gone without leaving the package for us. Geoff went into the arrivals/departure hall and through asking guards who don't speak English established that the train on the platform was the Severobaikalsk to Moscow train number (91) due to depart at 13:31, and the Moscow to Severobaikalsk train number (92) had not in fact yet arrived. Somewhat relieved we went back outside and positioned ourselves on the overhead bridge where we could keep a lookout for whether a train would arrive at a different platform.
Throughout all this time at the railway station we kept an eagle eye out for KGB people in long coats and wearing trilby hats who were casually buying newspapers trying to blend into the background.
Gradually more and more people started to arrive on the footbridge, making their way towards another platform.
At exactly 13:21 the Moscow to Severobaikalsk train eased itself along platform three. Geoff checked the carriage numbers as the train passed by and then positioned himself exactly opposite the door to carriage eight. Paul as back-up number one hung back further along the platform. As the train stopped the "pravadneek's" on each carriage opened he doors and wiped down the support handles that passengers would have to use to disembark the carriages. The "pravadneek" for carriage eight gave Geoff a cursory glance but then continued with her duties.
The third person off the carriage was a middle aged solidly built man carrying a shock absorber sized package. He came straight over to Geoff and said "Dgeoff". Geoff smiled shook his hand and said "spaceeba bolshoi" "thank you very much"as he handed over the parcel.
Geoff then walked away trying as best he could to conceal the heavy 60cm x 15cm x 10cm parcel from the prying eyes of any "pravadneek" or KGB officers.
Half way back along the platform going towards the steps and freedom Geoff's mobile phone starts to ring. A quick glance at the number confirmed it to be the "pravadneek". Geoff decides to not answer the phone and wished oh so much that he had put his phone on silent!!
Back up the steps silently rendezvousing with the other two Rooski Riders on the bridge and closely followed by Paul and then left to our hostel and away from the station carefully checking that we were not being followed.
Back at camp we opened the package hoping desperately that it wasn't a set of hair curlers from another passenger looking for a recipient called "Dgeoff".
Then miracle upon miracle out of the parcel came a beautiful red coloured shock absorber. Dave and Frank quickly dismantled the repaired shock absorber off Dave's bike and confirmed that the new shock absorber (from a Honda XR400) does in fact fit and will do the job needed.
Dave wanted to leave the new shock absorber on his bike, but was outvoted by 3:1 and has been left with his russian repaired shock absorber.
So "alls well that ends well".
Edward seems to have made the decision to ride with us along the next section of the BAM road. We think this is a sensible option for him as solo riding along the BAM seems to us to be almost inviting trouble.
Also the odds of being eaten by a bear have now reduced from 4:1 to 5:1!
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