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Pole to Pole

Day 17: Hammerfest to Karasjok

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleOne escape from the melancholy of the long dark winter months is through alcohol, and its use and abuse has forced the authorities into Draconian measures. I learn of some of them from Troels Muller, our Norwegian fixer, as I drive my hire car south towards Lapland. In Norway police in unmarked cars can stop motorists at random and breathalyse them. If they are found to have more than 0.5 millilitres of alcohol in their blood - that is the equivalent of one light beer - they can be sentenced to three weeks in prison. There is no appeal. This has led to some unusual problems.

'People are waiting one or two years to get in prison. And then when you go off to prison you don't want your friends to know obviously, so you tell them that you're going to travel.'

Troels pauses as I pull out to avoid a couple of dejected reindeer, wandering along the side of the road with all the panache of footballers sent off in a Cup Final.

'There is a prison near Oslo they call Costa del Ilseng, because everyone . . . you know, goes to Spain . . . and, well, they're not in Spain at all . . . '

Some way further on we come to a stretch of treeless hillside from which rises a pointed tent made from tall branches covered up to three-quarters of its height with canvas and skins. It's a laavu, the traditional dwelling of the Same (pronounced Sar-mi) people who are the original inhabitants of northern Scandinavia and parts of Russia. Many of them still live by reindeer herding including the two we are going to visit, Johan Anders and his wife Anne Marie. Unfortunately their reindeer herd has disappeared.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 17
  • Country/sea: Norway
  • Place: Hammerfest
  • Book page no: 34

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