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Himalaya

Day 13: Chitral to Mastuj

Michael Palin - HimalayaAs the road deteriorates the mountains grow more spectacular and quite suddenly we turn onto a flat saddle of land to be confronted by the dazzling white bulk of a massif called Buni Zum, 21,000 feet (6400 m) high, trailing glaciers and massive hanging slabs of snow. It provides a backdrop for a huge cricket match being played among the rocks, with dozens of boys fielding over a vast area.

We spend the night in the grounds of a crumbling, but still dignified fort, which commands the confluence of two rivers at the town of Mastuj. Another Ul-Mulk family house, given to them by the British in 1913 as thanks for their loyalty, it's currently run by Siraj's father Khushwaqt, a dapper, bright-eyed man who has just celebrated his 90th birthday, and who everyone knows as the Colonel. Hoping to attract tourists, they have built some handsome wood cabins around the perimeter of a luxurious greensward beside the fort, the sort of flat open ground where you can imagine tournaments taking place. Unfortunately, the builders have done a runner and all that's working are the bathroom fittings. So we sleep outside in tents and clamber into the empty buildings for a shower. Very odd.

I'm kept from deep sleep by an unlikely combination of cold wind and apricots. The window panel flaps of my tent don't zip up and the night breeze freshens to a chilly blow that provokes a gentle deluge of apricots dropping off the trees, bouncing onto the tin roofs of the unfinished chalets, rolling down the corrugated iron in interesting ways and plopping onto the roof of my tent.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 13: Chitral to Mastuj
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Mastuj
  • Book page no: 33

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