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Himalaya

Day 1: Up the Khyber

Michael Palin - HimalayaBack aboard the train, we pull out of Landi Khotal as the track cuts through successive outcrops of bare rock, amplifying the shriek of the bogies into ear-splitting howls. Then the walls of a longer gorge begin to close in, and the heat of the day and the stench of the furnace become almost unbearable.

We grind to a halt in one of the tunnels, trapped like bread in a toaster, and are only saved from suffocation at the very last minute, when the cow that was blocking the tunnel is persuaded to move.

The last miles of the journey are less fraught, a slow glide into the wide Vale of Peshawar, with time to indulge the voyeuristic pleasures of railway travel: surreptitious views over high walls into courtyards and back gardens, glimpses of life backstage, where mothers and wives prepare food and hang out the washing, and children carry bundles of wood and bring the cows and goats home. As the train passes it gives a look-at-me whistle. The animals run away from it, the children run towards it, and the women stare with a frank curiosity they'd never allow themselves if their men folk were about.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 1: Up the Khyber
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Peshawar
  • Book page no: 13

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