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Himalaya

Day 18: The Shandur Pass

The Shandur Pass, Pakistan 
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The hills are alive. Pitch invasion after Gilgitís victory. The red roof of the permanent stand is in the far distance.
Michael Palin - Himalaya After a long interval display of ceremonial dancing, all hands and arms turning and twisting gracefully, the players are back on the pitch and a repeat of the first half is played out in the first few minutes. A Gilgit goal, then a Chitral equalizer. As a well-informed spectator next to me says it's now all about the stamina of the horses.

Gilgit's powerful ponies begin to outrun Chitral, racing after the long ball with breathtaking speed. Two more Gilgit goals, then Bulbul Jan and the ageing Truc first set up a superb through pass for the fifth goal before running in the next one themselves. 6-2.

The Chitral supporters simply disappear at this point, streaming off the mounds and emptying the stands. Their departing cars send up columns of dust that blow over the ground as if bringing down a final curtain over their team's efforts.

The departure of these fair-weather supporters seems, perversely, to spur on the Chitral team and they pull back two goals in an unexpectedly nail-biting finish.

Gilgit have made it a hat trick of wins and won best player award. For Chitral there is the consolation of Best Horse, won by a tireless grey called Computer, and not much else but a night-time skulk back down the mountain.

I'm sure someone somewhere will claim it's been a victory for black magic.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 18: The Shandur Pass
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: The Shandur Pass
  • Book page no: 41

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