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Pole to Pole

Day 89: Shaba to Nairobi

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleA secretary bird, quills bristling, struts self-importantly through a fresh-cut cornfield, an augur buzzard beadily scans the terrain from the top of a telegraph pole. Higher up, fat fluffy flocks of sheep graze in the shadow of the mountain.

'Great sweater country,' says Wendy. We grab a shot of the summit with seconds to spare, and the road coasts downhill to the town of Nanyuki, passing signs for 'Jack Wright Ltd Family Butcher', 'Modern Sanitary Stores', 'Kenya Insurance', 'Marshall's Peugeot' and finally, 'The Equator'.

Clem and Angela have driven out from Nairobi to surprise us - and a lot of onlooking souvenir salesmen - with a bottle or two of champagne. This reunion of the entire crew not only celebrates a certain achievement, it also averts potential anti-climax, for the Equator line, marked as it is by power cables, a main road and an electricity substation, could just as well be in Croydon as Kenya.

In the ruins of what was once the Silverbeck Hotel, which straddled the Equator and offered punters the prospect of buying a beer in the Northern Hemisphere and drinking it in the Southern, a young African called Peter demonstrates the Coriolis effect by which energy in the Northern Hemisphere appears to be directed to the right, and in the Southern to the left. Peter drains a bowl of water in the North, and, by means of a floating stick, we observe that the water drains away in a clockwise direction. Then we (myself and a group of American tourists) wander with Peter, his stick and his plastic bucket into the Southern Hemisphere, where we observe that in exactly the same operation the stick turns anti-clockwise. On the Equator line itself, the stick doesn't turn at all.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 89
  • Country/sea: Kenya
  • Place: Shaba
  • Book page no: 201

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