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Himalaya

Day 42: Ladakh

Michael Palin - HimalayaThere is evidence that their independence is being compromised by various life-improvement campaigns, from tidiness to road safety. At a busy road junction a prominent and colourful display board advises the locals to 'Learn and Repeat, Signs and Traffic Signals'.

As I'm reading it a black cow, followed by her calf, emerges from behind the board and, without signals of any kind, saunters off into the rush-hour traffic.

I think we should use cows for traffic calming at home. They're much more effective than sleeping policemen. And they give milk.

The road safety campaign extends beyond Leh. As we drive across the desert, following the slim green band of cultivation along the River Indus, we're treated to an assortment of useful warnings: 'Peep Peep, Don't Sleep', 'Drive Like Hell You'll Be There' and 'Be Mr Late Rather Than the Late Mr', which is marginally our favourite. The road surface is good, better than you'd expect in such a remote place. The reason, of course, is that the highway is built and maintained by the army, or 'The Mountain Tamers', as they like to call themselves.

It's not road safety they're worried about up here, it's invasion.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 42: Ladakh
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Leh
  • Book page no: 94

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