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Himalaya

Day 21: Skardu to Concordia

Michael Palin - HimalayaThere's a crashed DC-3 just outside my room. Apparently, it came down after take-off at Skardu 49 years ago and, spotting an opportunity, the owner of the Shangri La Resort bought it, rolled it into the gardens, took off the wings, fitted some tables and turned it into a café.

Contradictions are apparent again this morning. The gardens are tended with obsessive efficiency, each blade of grass individually manicured by a dedicated, well-equipped team, yet the breakfast is a very sad affair, with toast so pale and limp that we re-christen the wicker container it comes in the laundry basket.

Such trivial preoccupations are soon behind us as we assemble at the air base for a briefing on today's flight up into the high mountains. The message here is macho, and our two pilots are from a team called 'The Fearless Five, M-17 pilots'.

I should imagine fearlessness is an asset if you have to fly M-17s. They're heavy-duty Russian supply helicopters, the very embodiment of brawn before beauty. We fan out along bench seats running around the side of the cabin. It's unpressurized and, as we're going up beyond 15,000 feet (4570 m), we've been warned that for the first time since we've been in Pakistan we may get really cold.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 21: Skardu to Concordia
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Skardu
  • Book page no: 45

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