The Lights

In Matt's Musings
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And just like that it is over, we are heading into Moscow on the final stage of the trans Siberian. For 4 years it has featured in conversation: “When we are on the trans Siberian……..”
Now it is past tense, it is done.
“When we were on the trans Siberian……”

Its funny what you do when you get on the train before a long stage, you have big plans. I set out with grand intentions. First I will read,then I will write, then I will play with my daughters and together we will watch the Siberian landscape flow past our window in silent contemplation together. I will create a magical travel moment, maybe then have a cup of tea then some more writing. Then I might finish that book before a dinner huddled around the train table as the moon sets across a Siberian snow scape.

What happens is a little different.

We get in, drop shoes and clothes everywhere, claim beds, start eating, pull out iPads, listen to music then start thinking about who will eat what for dinner. Two hours later we have dinner, then it’s time for bed. I read for 20 minutes then an altercation needs adjudicating before I get to some music. Two songs later someone needs to eat again……
Then suddenly we are madly scrambling to get all our gear together to get off the train.
I step off the train and I wonder what happened to the 52 hours I thought I would have of sweet contemplative life.
I m sure there is an analogy for something in there…..but I just can’t put my finger on it.

But then amidst this reality hustle something magic happens.

The other night we had all gone to bed. There are four beds to a berth so I am next door with Boris. Luckily there are only two of us so I am not crammed in with three other sweaty men. I was lying there listening to a cover of “Wild is the Wind”  by Cat power. Dreamy low down piano notes filled my ears as dark pine trees and snow drifted past in the night. The  music, the rocking, the click clack, the motion…..and then it appeared.

I thought it was a trick of the light and clouds but then it started to move, shimmer, expand and contract and streak like pillars of light from horizons to overhead.
The northern lights, the bloody northern lights. My whole life I have wanted to see them properly. I saw them once from a plane but it was nothing compared to this, being on land, on the trans Siberian watching the northern lights. There were pillars of green, some waves and shimmers that faded and ebbed, then one brief patch of red,
I hurried next door to Mel and we sat there like little kids, oohing and aahhing and saying “wow!” over and over again,
I shook the kids but they didn’t budge, so we just sat there with our faces pressed to the glass. Pure travelling magic.
You don’t see this in Altona North and you don’t feel this……


  1. Matt, your beautiful descriptions of adventures we only dream about are incredible. What a truly beautiful incidental moment and way of seeing the Northern Lights. I do hope you write a book…..

  2. What a magical moment. We saw the Southern Lights here in Melbourne three nights ago. So by now you are in Moscow. Keep travelling safely. Love you all.

  3. I wondered whether Boris shared the excited enthusiasm of you and Mel. I am so grateful that you share your journey so I can enjoy vicariously.

  4. Wow, what a way to see the Northern Lights, a surreal experience. Enjoy Moscow, we have been knee deep in snow there and also experienced summertime, amazing city, make sure to visit the underground rail for the murals. Loving your writings, there must be a book there somewhere. Live Bev & Rob

  5. Incredible Matt and Mel. What extraordinary gift you are giving the kids. Mel the music was a master stroke. CAn’t read your posts without it now!

  6. Can only imagine how that must have looked guys, wow.
    The boys and I decided to look up some images and try to understand how the Auroras are formed, and then our tiny minds were blown..
    Happy trails
    ;o) Fozz

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