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Full Circle

Day 121: Surabaya

Michael Palin - Full CircleIn the oldest part of the harbour in Surabaya the pinisi boats are moored. The pinisi are the old, tall-masted, high-prowed sailing boats that carry most of the goods between the islands of the Indonesian archipelago. Made out of wood, they are constructed entirely without plans or written designs. In this they resemble the state of our journey at the moment.

We had hoped to find a route across the Timor Sea through the islands to Australia, now only 1100 miles away. Normally this would have been well within the range of the pinisi but it is late January and the winds and currents are all in the wrong direction. This is doubly frustrating as I rather like what I see of these traditional trading ships. They remind me very much of the dhows of the Persian Gulf and the people who sail them. There is the same sense of local, native skills, operating outside the international mercantile system, the same feeling of family and friends doing business in the same way they have for centuries. It's not a world which welcomes outsiders.

We may have reached an impasse, but it could not have come at a better time. I rang the hospital. Helen has made such good progress that she has been cleared to go home. Thanks to the vagaries of the Timor Sea, I am going home as well.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 121
  • Country/sea: Indonesia
  • Place: Surabaya
  • Book page no: 177

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