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Full Circle

Day 17: Petropavlovsk

Michael Palin - Full CircleSergei won't give up easily and orders the helicopter to attempt one more perilous landing beside an encampment in which lives a man they call the Brigadier, in charge of a herd of a thousand animals. Around him families gather outside tents, constructed from black plastic sheets and birchwood frames. A diminutive lady, swaddled in layers of clothing, with a face more Mongol than Russian, invites me inside. There are six or seven dogs and one or two senior nomads gathered around a stove made of vehicle parts. Smoke rises from a silencer and drifts around the tent. She makes room for me on a reindeer skin and pours me tea from one of a set of little enamel mugs. It's a welcome break from the hysteria of the chase, sitting in a pool of warmth with the rain hitting the sides of the tent like a hail of arrows.

I never saw another live reindeer the whole day, but at least I can say I sat on the skin of a very recently deceased one.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 17
  • Country/sea: Eastern Russia
  • Place: Petropavlovsk
  • Book page no: 35

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