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Full Circle

Day 13: Kodiak Island to Petropavlovsk

Michael Palin - Full CircleWe swing wide over Avacha Bay, protected by high cliffs and massive crow-black headlands, and make a final approach over a delta carpeted in many shades of green. Now I can see the outskirts of Petropavlovsk below me. We have passed into a different day and a different world. This is not the world of highways and shopping malls, but of drooping power lines, sparsely-filled two-lane black-tops, and shabby, broken buildings. Where steel can rust it's rusting and where paint can peel it's peeling. The aircraft that line the rutted rim of the tarmac are of strange and unfamiliar design. Most of them are mothballed, their engines hooded and in some cases removed. Ground transport consists of two chunky military vehicles which trundle out to the plane bringing with them the portly, faintly theatrical figure of our Russian host and minder, Igor Nosov.

I have been warned about Igor's extrovert technique, so I am not entirely surprised when, from the front of the aircraft, rings out a command guaranteed to endear us to all our fellow passengers: 'Please! BBC to leave plane first!' Nor am I entirely surprised to find Igor hustling me towards a reception committee. This consists of a man with a video camera, a half-dozen bored-looking women in national dress, one of whom is carrying a cake and another a big bouquet of flowers. Like a general escorting the Queen, Igor directs me along a line of broad-shouldered, slightly bewildered dignitaries. We shake hands and exchange mutually incomprehensible pleasantries. I am about to move onto the cake when Igor steers me firmly away towards our waiting vehicle.

'Wasn't that a bit rude?' I ask him. Igor shakes his head firmly. The welcoming committee wasn't for me anyway. They were waiting for a trade delegation from Alaska.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 13
  • Country/sea: Eastern Russia
  • Place: Petropavlovsk
  • Book page no: 30

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