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Pole to Pole

Day 36: Kiev to Cerkassy

Cerkassy, USSR 
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The mighty Dnieper: foolhardly bathers and 'Brezhnev's Mother'.
Michael Palin - Pole to PoleHe's a slim, weatherbeaten, good-looking man who roundly refuses to be interviewed. 'I'm not an actor,' he says. Even filming on the bridge causes some consternation. There is a flurry of activity as the first mate hides something the captain doesn't want us to see. It turns out to be his brown jacket which he says is 'very old'. Later I notice that they only have one pair of sunglasses between them.

The Dnieper has been dammed at a place called Kanev where a lake two miles wide is squeezed into one lock, with a fourteen-metre drop. The smell inside the dank and slimy walls of the lock is appalling, and as it takes a good fifteen minutes to fill up, there's very little escape from the odour of decay and dead fish.

All this is made up for by a Sunday lunch of stew and mashed potato, a lazy afternoon reading and a drop of Scotch as we sit on the top of the hold taking in a glorious sunset that dazzles and fades over a landscape of low, wooded sandbanks. I realize that what I missed in the Arctic was not so much darkness as the sunrises and sunsets that go with it.

At eleven at night we reach Cerkassy, threading our way towards a container-stacked dockside with the help of a sharp, stabbing searchlight.

Our drivers have followed us down from Novgorod, and the ill-luck which has already put one of them in hospital has persisted. One of the vehicles, a Volga limo, has been written off in an accident, and the other, the 'Latvia' minibus, has survived two blow-outs, one at full speed.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 36
  • Country/sea: USSR
  • Place: Cerkassy
  • Book page no: 82

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