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Full Circle

Day 105: Sandakan, Sabah

Michael Palin - Full CircleMorning after the night before. The weather has spent its anger and retreated into a low, grey sulk. We are three hundred miles north of the Equator, making 10.7 knots and I am up early to catch my first glimpse of the coastline of Borneo, the third largest island in the world.

Though visibility is poor I know we are close to shore because the sea is muddy cream and its surface is littered with terrestrial debris - leaves, branches, sometimes whole tree trunks, swept down storm-swollen rivers and out into the ocean.

On the bridge a slim, young Malaysian pilot has taken the wheel. The captain, an elderly, unsmiling man, stands, stomach spilling from his vest, looking out at a rainswept island ahead like some grumpy general waiting to be dressed. On closer inspection, what he's looking at with such jaundiced eye is not an island at all but a huge, slow-moving timber barge, stacked thirty or forty feet high, being hauled across our path by two tug boats.

Then, all at once, looming tall and sheer on our starboard side, water pouring down their flanks, are the orange and violet limestone cliffs of Sabah - formerly the British Crown Colony of North Borneo, formerly the property of the British North Borneo Chartered Company, formerly the property of the people who lived there.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 105
  • Country/sea: Pacific Ocean
  • Place: Sulu Sea
  • Book page no: 148

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