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Pole to Pole

Day 21: Ivalo to Rovaniemi

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleI wasn't the only one at breakfast to have noticed that, apart from plaintive violins, our hotel in Ivalo also sported a full-blooded disco which set to work around midnight and was conveniently located beneath the bedrooms. At 7.30 we're on the way south again. A white reindeer crosses the road. These are rare, and hopefully as propitious as a black cat.

Troels left us at the border and we are now in the hands of Kari Vaatovaara, a young man from Helsinki, who, among other things, plays the lute. I ask him about reports I've read of the effects of nuclear fall-out from Chernobyl in this part of the world. His reaction is swift and dismissive:

'Everything was tested!'

The need for such tests must have been especially urgent here as the area was directly beneath the crescent cloud of contamination during a period of heavy rain. The staple grazing food of the reindeer is a rootless lichen which absorbs all its moisture from the atmosphere. Most of the forest foods - berries, fungi and the like - also absorb atmospheric pollution, and those who live off them and the reindeer that eat them must be at greater than average risk. So goes the theory (expanded on in the excellent Rough Guide to Scandinavia), but Kari would have none of it. Everything in Sameland is fine.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 21
  • Country/sea: Finland
  • Place: Ivalo
  • Book page no: 41

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