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Himalaya

Day 5: Taxila

Taxila, Pakistan 
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Going the wrong way.
Michael Palin - HimalayaWith the racing about to begin, we ask if we can film up at the start, where a big crowd is milling around.

The Prince looks doubtful for a moment then barks an order and a man rushes over.

'He will go with you. He has a gun and speaks English.'

The bulls race in pairs, yoked together with heavy wooden frames called joots, from which the reins run back to a rider, who stands, as best he can, on a small board with a metal base, little more than a glorified tin-lid.

While dozens of people grapple to get the joot onto the two sets of shoulders, the bulls are kicking up the dust as they duck and weave and back up in a desperate attempt to avoid being involved in the racing in any way. Once harnessed, the animals are dragged unceremoniously to the starting line. Outriders heave them into position while the jockey, nervously clutching a flag on a stick, readies himself to spring onto the board the moment the bulls are released. This is where the race is won or lost. The bulls' desire to get away must be timed exactly with the attachment of the rider to his board. With luck the jockey retains his balance, and the bulls race off with the outriders running alongside to keep them in a straight line, before letting go, slapping the bulls' hides with a valedictory shout, and leaving the crouched figure to scud across the bumpy, uneven surface like a terrestrial water-skier, hanging on for dear life.

Taxila, Pakistan 
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At Prince Malik’s travelling pavilion I meet an ex-jockey, on left. The sport cost him an arm.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 5: Taxila
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Taxila
  • Book page no: 23

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