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Full Circle

Day 16: Petropavlovsk

Michael Palin - Full CircleSo inadequate are my bedclothes that I have augmented them with various items of my own and I wake dressed like an SAS paratrooper in thick socks, tracksuit bottoms, a sweatshirt and a woolly hat. Igor is shrieking at someone down the telephone and, through the thin partition wall behind my bed, I can hear a lot of giggling as the American construction engineer discusses the day ahead with his 'translator'. In the bathroom, a thin trickle of water totters out of the shower-head but dries up before it gets to me.

Outside there's water everywhere. An elderly woman with a shopping-bag picks her way along the cinder track through flooded potholes. Sergei had hoped to take us up into the mountains to try and track down the Evenks, a nomadic tribe who live almost entirely from their reindeer herds but no helicopter will go up in conditions like this.

It is a frustrating day of delay. Igor spends much of the morning teaching me a suitably sad Russian song called 'Poliushko Pole' which he says is very expressive of the Russian soul. We drive into Petropavlovsk and I walk along the shore in the dripping rain, watching freighters moving slowly across the bay. I'm not the only one looking out to sea. Behind me is a 30-foot high, 65-ton bronze statue of Lenin, clutching his cap and gazing purposefully at the Pacific, his cape billowing out behind him. It's a fine statue and I was glad to hear that, despite Perestroika, the citizens of Petropavlovsk had voted against a move to have it sent to South Korea to be melted down.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 16
  • Country/sea: Eastern Russia
  • Place: Petropavlovsk
  • Book page no: 34

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