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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 20: 14 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysWeather conditions improve during the day and sea-sickness is avoided. The captain informs us that we have just left the Gulf of Oman and are now in what he calls the 'Big Sea', the Arabian Sea. There is no land south of us now until Antarctica. Only ocean, through which we are making our way, at 8 knots an hour, a pace at which many marathon runners could overtake us. The natural world assumes a much greater significance out here. The sky and the sea is watched anxiously. Apart from the fish alarms, the sight of a school of porpoises loping by or flying fish skimming across our bows can be the highlight of a morning, and now, at five o'clock, I find myself waiting impatiently for the next entertainment - the sunset. It's quite a short show, only about half an hour, but on a clear day like today, the view is immaculate and of course quite unobstructed. I watch every detail down to the five-minute climax when the golden ball comes to rest magnificently on the horizon before being squashed, squeezed and distorted out of sight, returning for a final brief manifestation as a shimmering disc on the surface of the sea, signalling that it's time for the infidels to get amongst the gin and Glenmorangie.

There's no lights out, because the lights never go on. So we're in bed by 7.30, looking up at the stars. Ron tunes in to BBC World Service for the eight o'clock news from London. Gorbachev's proposed reform of Soviet agricultural policy seems wonderfully irrelevant.

I drift off to yet more sleep with a last lingering image of Nigel's head, with a miner's lamp-style torch strapped around it, protruding from his sleeping bag reading about another dhow trip in Gavin Young's Slow Boats to China.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 20
  • Date: 14 October
  • Country/sea: Indian Ocean
  • Place: Arabian Sea
  • Book page no: 77

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