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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 22: 16 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysMidday: 92F under the awning. We're due south of Karachi. Looking at my map I observe that it has taken us a day to travel between the 'A' and the 'R' of 'Arabian Sea'.

Sunday afternoon on the Al Shama. The crew sit round watching us read or sleep or listen to our headsets. They're curious but never intrusive. My fat Spanish novel intrigues them. How could anyone hold a book of such size, let alone write it, and why does it make Mi-kel's eyes close so frequently?

Suddenly there is some sea-borne entertainment. Dahwood, at the wheel, has spotted dolphins approaching the boat. They gather ahead of us, lazily and luxuriously rolling around in the bow wave, weaving in and out, diving, backtracking, returning and always keeping just ahead of the boat. The crew encourage them with drumbeats and whistles. As soon as they know there's an audience the dolphins show off shamelessly. For a magical few minutes they stay and play. The sea is so blue and clear it is one of the most remarkable and beautiful sights of the journey so far, rivalled a little later by the raising of the huge sail.

All hands are needed for this task, for there are no mechanical pulleys, no cables or electric winches. It's all done by human effort. Rather as they encouraged the dolphins they now encourage each other, chanting and singing as they pull on the rope. Once it's up, Kishoor and Haroun shin deftly up to the top of the 20-foot mast and release the cords that bind the sail, which billows down, revealing a much patched and stained canvas. But against the sky at night with a big moon shining it looks impressive and very beautiful. Indeed this is the most pleasing evening so far. Lying in bed beneath the boom with the sail spread out above and beyond it the clearest of night skies is almost perfectly peaceful. There is a request from Nigel to make it totally peaceful by turning off the engine. This produces a sharp cry of horror from Ron's bed! But engine or no engine it is the sort of moment when you would be quite happy for time to freeze.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 22
  • Date: 16 October
  • Country/sea: Indian Ocean
  • Place: Arabian Sea
  • Book page no: 81

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