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Michael Palin's longest journey of them all
on 30 January 2006
Michael Palin's "Full Circle" trip involved traveling all of the way around the Pacific Ocean. He (and his film crew) started at the Bering Strait in Alaska and then traveled down the Asian side of the Pacific, crossed over to Cape Horn, and traveled up through South and North America, returning to Alaska.
The trip covered 50,000 miles through 17 countries in ten months. Specifically, these countries were visited: USA (Alaska), Russia (Siberia), Japan, S. Korea (entry to N. Korea was denied), China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, USA (California and Washington), Canada (British Columbia) and back to Alaska again.
This trip, like the other ones done by Michael Palin for the BBC, was filmed for viewing as a television mini-series. (This version is available on DVD.) Afterwards, Michael Palin and Basil Pao (the stills photographer in the filming crew) created this book as an alternative record of the trip.
The book is richly illustrated with Basil Pao's beautiful photographs. Michael Palin's text is wonderful because he has a way of finding interesting places and people and of describing them with warmth and humor.
The diversity of the many countries and places is amazing. Artic wilderness, tropics, deserts, cramped cities, huge rivers, high mountains, etc., etc. There are many high points along the way, the most exciting being when Michael Palin had to lasso a camel while standing in the back of a pickup truck that was going over bumps and around bends at break-neck speed!
At the same time, Michael Palin does not shy back from visiting and describing the thought-provoking places along his journey. The Russian Gulag in Siberia, Hiroshima and the remembrance of the atomic bomb, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea and the border between Mexico and the United States are all discussed with unusual insight.
This book easily deserves five stars. Except for the audio version, that is.
The nice thing about the audio version is that Michael Palin reads the book himself, and he does a great job as a reader. But the audio version does not include Basil Pao's beautiful photographs, of course, and worst of all, it's abridged. My dislike of abridged audio books results in me giving the audio book version only three stars.