Michael Palin: Travels of a Lifetime

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Travel Documentary hosted by Michael Palin, published by BBC in 2020 - English narration

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Image: Travels-of-a-Lifetime-Cover.jpg

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Michael revisits his TV travels and fans reflect on his achievement.

[edit] Around the World in 80 Days

How ex-Monty Python comic Michael Palin became an accidental traveller when he accepted an offer to go around the world in 80 days, following the route of Phileas Fogg in the classic Jules Verne story. He looks back on the programmes and his diaries to reveal how the series was made and the impact it had. And fans and friends including Sir David Attenborough, Joanna Lumley and Simon Reeve reflect on his achievements. Little did he know the resulting series would become a huge hit, changing the face of TV travel programmes. Journeying from London to Venice, Michael first encounters the grubby side of that famous city as he does a shift with its refuse collectors. Then it is on to Egypt, where he is thrown into the maelstrom of Cairo life and starts to get a taste for the unexpected. Gradually, Michael, who began the series nervous about the scale of this undertaking, sheds his inhibitions and embrace the joy of travelling. After a detour overland across Saudi Arabia, Michael experiences a magical voyage on an open-topped boat called a dhow across the Arabian Sea to India. On board, he discovers a natural talent for engaging with people from completely different backgrounds – a style of presenting that became his signature. India presents huge challenges, but a train journey from Bombay to Madras also offers a chance to meet more local people and capture the character of this huge country. From here, it is on to Hong Kong and into Communist China, which, at the time, was a closed and mysterious land to most Westerners. Michael's journey through China reveals a country and a people most of his viewers had never seen in this way. Finally, after crossing the Pacific, the USA and the Atlantic, Michael arrives home to find England greyer - and less friendly - than he would have hoped. But he has completed the challenge in 80 days, and with it, he has discovered his passion for travel.

[edit] Pole to Pole

This episode explores how the success of Around the World in 80 Days opened the door for Michael Palin to tackle an even more ambitious journey for his next series. In Pole to Pole, Michael followed the line of 30-degree-east longitude from North Pole to South, an incredibly challenging route across the USSR, Africa and finally Antarctica. In the Arctic, Michael meets a solitary trapper who hunts for survival. Then, entering the USSR for the first time, Michael encounters the reality of life and bureaucracy under communism as he visits markets and tries to get a token to allow him to buy vodka. A detour to Chernobyl gives him a sobering insight into that disaster and its effects, but overall it is the warmth of the Russian and Ukrainian people that is the dominant memory he takes away. Two days after he leaves, there is a coup against Gorbachev, and the Soviet system starts to unravel - a truly historical moment. In Turkey, Michael relaxes with a bath and massage that turns out to be more vigorous than he had bargained for. Then he tackles the biggest challenge of all – Africa. From Egypt, where he spends time with some tourists from his own hometown of Sheffield, Michael travels south through Sudan, where few tourists ever venture. Travelling by train across the desert to Khartoum, he has a magical experience riding on the roof and meeting the passengers who travel up there for free. But then the reality of war-torn Africa hits home as he is prevented from travelling south along the route he had chosen. A trip across Sudan by jeep sees Michael almost get stuck in a volatile recent war zone, but he presses on through the heart of the continent to South Africa, to meet a ship that will take him to the Antarctic. But Michael faces one final obstacle. Having failed to secure passage, he is forced to fly to Chile to make a new connection and complete his epic journey to the South Pole.

[edit] Full Circle

In his third series, Michael Palin took on his most ambitious journey yet – a 50,000-mile route around the Pacific Rim, taking in Russia, China, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand and North and South America. This huge undertaking stretches him and the crew to their limits, and it sees Michael adopt a more investigative role as he seeks to get under the skin of the places he visits – from a booming South Korea to Colombia with its drug wars and poverty. The journey starts in Alaska, then takes Michael to far eastern Russia, an area that has only recently become accessible in post-Soviet times. He visits the site of a gulag with a survivor of the camps and reflects on the evils of the system that devised such a place. Keen to see how Asia is booming, he moves on to China and is struck by the huge changes going on – buildings going up everywhere and the economy starting to boom in ways that seem to echo the Industrial Revolution in Britain. In South Korea, he sees more economic progress and finds out how the country has developed away from the oppressive influence of Japan. He then enters North Korea – but only for a moment. In Vietnam, Michael encounters more rapid social and economic development and also considers the legacy of the Vietnam War as he visits a relic of the conflict. After his journey is delayed by his need to fly home to see his wife, who has become ill, there are doubts about whether Michael will continue. But he does, taking on South America and experiencing a magical trip through the Pongo de Mainique gorge in Peru – one of his favourites of all his destinations. In Bogota, Michael is faced with a bleaker side of the continent, seeing the effects of drugs, poverty and crime in the company of a British journalist. And he sees more desperation at the Mexican-American border, before returning to Alaska, where he only just fails to complete the circle due to bad weather.

[edit] Sahara

Michael revisits his fourth - and in some ways, most personal - travel series. Inspired by the apparent emptiness of the Sahara Desert as seen from a flight and by boyhood dreams of exploration, Michael sets off to find out what this ‘blank space' contains. He is delighted and inspired by the societies he encounters there – nomads, refugees, artists. He also confronts some harsh realities – the effects of war, the migrant crisis and the rise of militant Islam. From Gibraltar, Michael looks across the Mediterranean to what is for him a mysterious land – North Africa. Arriving in Fez, Morocco, Michael finds himself immersed in an ancient city that seems to hark back to biblical times. Then, it is across the Atlas Mountains to confront the great desert itself. Here, Michael encounters the more modern reality of this land in the Smara refugee camp, home to displaced people from western Sahara. Then he sets his sights on one of the most alluring destinations of all - Timbuktu, the city that has fascinated so many travellers down the centuries. It is a challenging trip, but Michael makes it, and while the reality of the place doesn't quite match his image, he learns about its extraordinary history and culture. Further on, an encounter with a tribe nearly ends in disaster when a gun goes off in Michael's face. But another tribe, the Wodaabe, prove fascinating and friendly as Michael sees the men perform an extraordinary dance to attract a bride. And with the Touareg nomads, Michael experiences a magical trek into deep desert as part of a camel train – a journey that allows him to make friends with his guides despite the fact that they don't speak each other's language. Finally, Michael reflects on how his life and career have changed since then, thanks to travel.

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: x265 CABAC Main@L4
  • Video Bitrate: CRF 21 (~2648Kbps)
  • Video Resolution: 1920x1080
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Frame Rate: 25 FPS
  • Audio Codec: AAC-LC
  • Audio Bitrate: q100 VBR 48KHz (~128Kbps)
  • Audio Channels: 2
  • Run-Time: 59 mins
  • Number Of Parts: 4
  • Part Size: 1.15 GB (average)
  • Source: HDTV
  • Encoded by: JungleBoy

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