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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 21: 15 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysFourth day on the dhow and life is increasingly resembling that of a nursing home - waking with the dawn, then visiting, first the barrel, then the bows, making sure we take a bottle of our 'Jeema' mineral water for cleaning the teeth. Like invalids, all our movements are a little unsteady, what with the roll of the boat, the unevenness of the sacks and the necessity of having to virtually climb overboard to reach the loo.

Our Gujarati nurses have meanwhile prepared us a morning cup of tea which we drink slowly, comparing our sleeping experiences. Having compared notes and confirmed to an increasingly despondent Ron that there is absolutely no chance of us being in a nice comfortable hotel for at least four days, we then tidy our beds away (to the self-contained Gujaratis, with their neat bedrolls, our elaborate deflating of Li-Los and folding of striped sheets must look ridiculous) and turn the bedroom into the day-room. Our mat is laid out and breakfast taken. The crew will let us do nothing to help with the running of the boat, further fostering the nurse-patient relationship.

It's mid-morning. A fish alarm goes unheeded by the camera team who are playing backgammon. It turns out to be a whale, about a hundred yards off the port side, spouting water every twenty seconds or so.

What have my books taught me today in my odd waking moments? That tertulias were, in nineteenth-century Spain, semi-informal meetings for conversation. We have a tertulia over lunch, the upshot of which is that it's decided we should film the sail going up this afternoon. The captain checks wind direction and speed with a quick look at the flag and seems unenthusiastic. He's clearly more comfortable with his 280 h.p. British-made Kelvin diesel engine.

Good news - we have travelled 204 miles in the last 24 hours, as opposed to 197 the day before. But there are still 720 miles between us and Bombay. Like a model patient I'm in bed and tucked up at some ludicrously early hour. The soft lapping of the waves and the steady chug of the Kelvin set a soporific mood and the last detail I remember of the world is that Sheffield United have won 2-1 at Hartlepool.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 21
  • Date: 15 October
  • Country/sea: Indian Ocean
  • Place: Arabian Sea
  • Book page no: 77

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