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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 18: 12 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysOne of the quartermasters, Dahwood Adam, sets up two fishing lines trailing back on either side of the stern, making use of a hook, a length of nylon and a glittering piece of wrapping paper from a pack of biscuits. A huge container ship passes us. The bulky, top-heavy outlines of the stacked containers are so much uglier than the simple lines of the dhow. As she passes I notice her name - Orient Express - and feel perhaps there is a guiding and co-ordinating hand behind this crazy journey after all.

First lunch on the dhow: thick, juicy rice with lentils and curried vegetables; pears, grapes and apples (sliced) for us. The food is prepared in a galley the size of a large dog kennel by Ali Mamoun, whose hat says 'Buick'. We eat in a patch of shade provided by canvas sheeting slung across the boom and made fast to the temporary scaffolding rail which girdles the ship and is the only barrier between the date-sacks and the deep blue sea. Beneath the tarpaulin it's 98 degrees. Eating a curry in such conditions is like taking a hot water bottle into a sauna.

Gingerly try out the lavatories which consist of two wooden barrels, open to the elements and suspended over the ocean on either side of the stern. The base of the barrel has two wooden footrests on either side of a T-shaped aperture. Both these appendages have been painted a tasteful pale blue. I clamber in and settle down, feeling slightly ridiculous, like a character in an Edward Lear drawing. Later I realise I was facing the wrong way. I should have been looking out to sea.

Talking later to Passepartout it transpires that what we all fear, even more than sharks, pirates or a resumption of the Gulf War, is to miss our footing whilst clambering onto the loo in the middle of the night. What a way to go.

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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 18
  • Date: 12 October
  • Country/sea: Persian Gulf
  • Place: Persian Gulf
  • Book page no: 68

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