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Himalaya

Day 109: Jangothang to Takengthanka

Jangothang, Bhutan 
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Doje and I visit Choni Dorje, poet and yak farmer, who has lived up here for 82 years. He sings me his ode to the yak which made him a national celebrity. His granddaughter is in the doorway.
Michael Palin - HimalayaOne by one we stumble out onto the frosty grass after a bitterley cold night. The tents are comfortable enough when you're inside, but squeezing through that tight-zippered door is like coming out of the womb. Doje tells me that Jangothang means 'land of ruins' and looking at the state of us, it seems appropriate. I think we've been in the mountains too long. Last night was a sharp reminder of the high-altitude conditions that we thought we'd left behind.

Of course, the payback for the pain is tremendous scenery, unpolluted air, brilliant light and utter silence. And once I'm up and dressed and have splashed some water on my face, I know I shall miss all these things. By tonight the majestic peaks of the Himalaya will be behind us for the last time, so, while the tents are being struck and our ponies loaded up for the journey, I pick my way up past the monolithic boulders rolled down by the glaciers and through the birch scrub and the tough little juniper trees towards Jomolhari. It's a final act of homage to the high mountains and, as Jomolhari fills the sky, I feel a bit like one of the characters in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when the spaceship has landed.

The Himalayan peaks are seen by the people who live among them as awful places, abodes of jealous gods and places where the dead are gathered, and I have the feeling they've got it right. What do we know, we who romanticize them? We who fly in and use them to prove something to ourselves, to plant our flags, talk of 'conquest' and then go home. I can almost feel the shoulders of Jomolhari heaving with laughter.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 109: Jangothang to Takengthanka
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Jangothang
  • Book page no: 252

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