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Pole to Pole

Day 33: Dno to Kiev

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleSomewhere between Gomel and Cernikov our steady southward progress comes to a halt. We go to see the train 'chief'. In his cabin there are two pictures, one a scantily clad dancer with high-sided boots and tasselled nipples, the other a Madonna and Child. He says there is a broken rail ahead and we will be held up for two and a half hours.

The passengers accept this news quite philosophically and most of them leave the train, some crossing the rails to a house where ducks, goats and scrawny chickens run round a well in the garden. From this well, and for no apparent payment, the locals are drawing buckets of water to fill a collection of jugs, tins and plastic bottles produced by the passengers. Other passengers have slipped on bathing costumes and made off through the woods to a large flooded gravel pit. This turns into an impromptu holiday beach. Some men build a diving-board from tree trunks, others hoist each other onto their shoulders. There's terrific crashing and splashing and laughter. Others, less extrovert, watch from the edge of the forest, or walk through the bushes picking blueberries and redcurrants. The wind half-heartedly rustles a tall willow, but can do little more than waft around the heavy heat of the afternoon.

After a swim I return to the train, to find our coach supervisor and two colleagues tucking into a smoked fish and vegetable stew which she has cooked up on a small Primus. She smiles as I look in, and offers me some. The effects of Ranenko's vodka and crayfish orgy are still upon me and I mime a stomach ache. Much laughter.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 33
  • Country/sea: USSR
  • Place: Dnieper River
  • Book page no: 73

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