Full Circle by Micheal Palin

Not many people have the opportunity to travel the world, going to places normally hidden from tourists, and being able to say, “We are from the BBC”. In his latest adventure Michael Palin, travels across land and sea hoping to complete the circle around the Pacific Ocean. This is not the first time Michael Palin is adventuring out into the world. In 1989, he set off from London in his expedition entitled,”Around the World in 80 Days”. The idea behind this adventure was to follow the footsteps of Phileas Fogg as he navigated his way around the world. Every step of the way was compared to Phileas Fogg, as Michael Palin had to follow the exact steps and complete the trip within the same time period. After the success in”Around the World in 80 days”, Palin once again set off on his travels across the world. This time around, in “Pole to Pole” he was traveling from the North Pole down through 17 countries towards the South Pole. Traveling across land and sea via all modes of transportation, including a hot air balloon across the plains of Africa, and then finally across to the South Pole.

Those with any British connections should recognize the name Michael Palin. Palin is most often known for “Monty Pythons Flying Circus”, a British comedy in which he stared in and co-wrote with comedian, Terry Jones. Monty Python, both the series and feature movies, were a huge hits during the 1970’s and can still be seen today on Public Broadcasting stations (PBS). Palin has been in other movies, including “A Fish called Wanda”, where he won an award for his performance.

Palin has been writing ever since he graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Modern History. During the 1970’s with Monty Python he wrote comedy, but in the years after, between the traveling, Palin has written; children’s books, travel guides, a stage play- “The weekend” which was opened in March of 1994, and has published his first novel, “Hemingway’s Chair” in 1995.

Full Circle is Palin’s adventure from the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia, down the Asian coast through; Russia,
Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, then across the ocean to South America. The traveling continues up through the America’s via; Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, America, through Canada
to the Alaska to complete the full circle of over 50,000 miles. The trip which happens to cover more mileage than “Around the world in 80 days” and “Pole to Pole” together, takes about nine months to complete.

Palin travels lightly, well as lightly as he can. A total of 48 pieces of luggage is moved around the 50,000 miles of the trip. Palin doesn’t travel alone. He has the entire film crew with him, a total of seven people including himself. The entire trip is to be documented and turned into a 10 episode documentary, completely paid for by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation – England’s leading television company).

With Palin’s excellent skills in writing novels and comedy, Full Circle is a truly witty memoir of his trip. As Palin travels, he describes all the scenes, whether triumphant or disastrous. He adds humor to the trip which will surely have you giggling from your seat. The book is filled with breathtaking pictures taken by his photographer Basil. With the two in hand, the pictures and descriptions, you will feel as if you are traveling with Michael and his crew across the 50,000 mile Pacific rim.

On his trip through Russia, Palin tries desperately to find a bath plug. He searches store by store, trying to translate bath plug with hand movements. After days of searching, he is unsuccessful and leaves Russia on his way to Japan.

Throughout the trip, Palin travels to see the beautiful scenes in the world. While he is in the Philippines, he is told about the 8th wonder of the world. Palin goes out to see the 2000 year Banaue rice terraces. However, after the long haul up the mountainside, many times facing death as the driver races crazily up the hill, thick fog blocks the view. He describes the local people who, “clearly think we’re mad to be up here on a day like this” (133). Yet, the locals continue the tourist routine.

The trip isn’t completely fortunate. Midway through the journey, Palin and a member of his crew return to England for several days. During the stay in Malaysia that Michael Palin finds out his wife needs to have a life threatening operation. He later leaves to be with his wife. Steve, one of the crew, also leaves to England to see his wife and new baby daughter.

The trip continues a few days later as if nothing had happened. They continue through Australia where Palin becomes a father to a crocodile (he helps the crocodile through the egg). During a trip through the out back, Palin loses control of his mouth and shouts obscene words to the driver of the pickup that he is hanging from!

Traveling across South America, Palin finds many things amusing and dangerous. In Chile, Palin comes across a street named after a naval hero, Arturo Prat, and has his picture taken by the sign. (As seen to the left) On their way out of Chile to Bolivia, they encounter danger as the train he is traveling on is derailed and the driver and the locals use rocks and stones to help put the train back on its tracks.

Palin continues his journey through South America, up through America, and into Canada. Just before entering Canada, Palin is asked if he would like to fly a 737 and jumps at the chance to do so. However, his film crew become ghostly white, as they watch him steer the plane down to Seattle airport. Palin “follows instructions, holds course, and with eyes glued to the instrumental panel”, tries to bring the plane down. Unfortunately Palin misses the runway, clips the control tower with a wing, and then lands the 737 in a crowed car park. (236) This, thank goodness, is only a flight simulation at the Boeing aircraft factory in Seattle.

With the 737 as one of the adventures for the day, Michael Palin’s “Full Circle” is certainly a great read. You can travel the Pacific rim, a full 50,000 miles without even getting up from your chair. Palin makes the trip humorous, as well as serious with the misadventure through the jungles and the Amazon. So much detail is given within the book; whether they are descriptions of the places they visited, historical information given on each and every town and country visited, or simply the magnificent pictures throughout. Full Circle is an excellent book for anyone to read, and is highly recommended.

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