The West

Palin on the road again
Palin on the road again

Michael Palin does not think that most of the people who watch his many travel shows actually enjoy travelling.

In Australia to launch his newest series, Brazil, he said they were really watching to see him suffer.

"They say 'Oh, that's why we shouldn't have gone on that holiday'," he said, with his trademark dry humour.

"'Look at him, he can't eat any more, he's collapsing and falling out of his boat'."

Palin had made travel series exploring all the seven continents before he called it quits about five years ago and turned his attention to writing a novel, The Truth, which was published this year. But he was drawn to pack his suitcase again by the lure of Brazil.

"The team that I like travelling with, we were all getting a bit older and I wasn't sure that anyone would want to do any more journeys," the 69-year-old said.

"But everyone was talking about Brazil and the fact that the World Cup is to be held there in 2014 and then the next Olympics and I thought, I know nothing about this country. So I got together with the guys and said 'Anyone want to come to Brazil'?

"One or two did and despite our great age we set off.

"In a sense I was quite surprised, I thought I had got over that stage in my life but now I don't think I ever will, because travelling is an addiction."

Less than a decade ago, Brazil was suffering 2000 per cent inflation and the country was on its knees. Now it is one of the world's financial powerhouses, with abundant natural resources and a stable government.

In his series, Palin looks at the impact this success has had on the country and its people, as well as seeking out its natural splendours, its oddities and characters. The four-part series begins in the north-east of Brazil at Sao Luis. The colonisation of the native Indian tribes by the Portuguese in the 16th century and the growth of sugar cane plantations led to the importation of African slaves in numbers that far outstripped those in North America.

It has led to a culturally diverse population with many amazing customs and festivals, which Palin explores. Episodes to follow are on the Amazon, Olympic city Rio de Janeiro and the south of the country. Palin made a 10-day exploratory trip to Brazil before filming started to familiarise himself with what it was like to be in Brazil and what the language sounded like. Though most of the research is done by the film team, Palin, with one of the Alwych All Weather notebooks that he loves to have in hand, also roamed the streets, picking up stories.

"I saw this wonderful place called the Windsor Love Hotel and the guy I was with said 'Oh, those love hotels are all over Brazil. People go there and have a quiet time in private'.

"I mentioned it to the director, who then looked out to see if there were any in Rio and of course there were. That is kind of the way stories can come out.

"Or we look for oddities, like the farmer with the five-legged cow that I do in one episode."

Palin, who has a love of trains, says that one thing he did miss in Brazil was the joy of travelling.

"Basically you fly everywhere and flying is not good for filming because you have to put the camera away and you are all strapped in," he said.

"We only did one railway journey, which is a fantastic way of meeting people. They did build an extensive rail network but no longer use it."

The question that begs to be asked of this man who loves travelling is where does he go when he holidays with his wife Helen?

"Well, it varies," he said. "If we are going with our two grandsons and their parents then for the last three years we have been to a villa at Majorca, which has a staff, someone who cooks and someone who looks after the kids in the morning, so everyone gets a holiday. Otherwise, we go to a very simple farmhouse in France that Helen's sister and her husband have owned for 30 to 40 years.

"My wife doesn't like being away from home for too long, unlike me."

The West Australian

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