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Himalaya

Day 15: From Mastuj Fort to the Shandur Pass

Michael Palin - HimalayaA yak has just been slaughtered at an improvised butcher's shop, its throat cut with a foot-long curved knife. The severed head lies in a nearby stream, creamy-white innards spread out on a boulder. Customers are already queuing up to buy the cuts of meat, hanging from a horizontal wooden pole, a washing-line of flesh.

Our accommodation is in a small encampment conveniently close to the polo ground and next door to the Chitral team quarters, where I meet up again with Sikander Ul-Mulk.

The word is not good. One of the best horses they have has been hurt in training and another is lame after being hit by a ball in a practice game. News from the Gilgit team is of ominous confidence.

It might be something to do with altitude but by ten o'clock I'm blissfully tired and ready for bed. No sooner have I wriggled into the foetal warmth of my sleeping bag than the whole site explodes with noise. A thumping of drums, a squeaking of pipes, clapping, cheering and general encouragement fills the night air. When the party ends I'm aware of how bitterly cold it is. As the night goes on my tent seems to attract an icy chill and I have a short but powerful nightmare based on the scene in The Long Good Friday where recalcitrant gang members are strung from hooks in a cold store.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 15: From Mastuj Fort to the Shandur Pass
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: The Shandur Pass
  • Book page no: 36

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