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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 22: 16 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysThe boat really comes to life at first light which, as we are moving east and have not yet adjusted our watches, comes a little earlier each day. I'm awake today at 5. The wind has dropped and the sea is flat and calm. Over the reassuring rumble of the engine I can hear the soft sound of singing. Pull myself up on an elbow and look towards the bows. There is Kasim, standing motionless and in perfect silhouette, looking out to sea and chanting. Beside him two or three others are gathering in the small foresail.

''ello Mi-kel!'

'Mi-kel, Mi-kel Jack-son!'

As soon as they see we're awake someone is taken off foresail lashing and sent to arrange some tea for us. One of the things this traveller has learnt is that those who have least are prepared to give most. This crew has given up a lot for us - sleeping space, living space and precious fresh water - without ever making us feel obligated or tolerated. Their life is communal, they depend on each other rather than machines, and maybe because of this their attitude to us materially overstocked and somewhat stand-offish Westerners has been unfailingly generous and helpful.

The captain takes a look at the sea and removes his cap, scratches his head and shakes it respectfully. 'We are lucky men,' he says. He's rarely seen it quite as calm, and he knows the power of the sea, for in a storm last year, his brother's ship was sunk and eighteen drowned.
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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: 80

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