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Himalaya

Day 58: Kathmandu to the Chinese border

Nepal 
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Pool at your peril. Two very common images of the central Himalaya: rock slides and outdoor snooker tables.
Michael Palin - HimalayaAs we have all our gear to transfer, we cautiously back our vehicles into the middle of the 200-foot bridge to the exact point where Nepal ends and China begins. I don't think anyone's ever done this before, and there is much shouting from both ends. In the mayhem we say our farewells to Wongchu and Nawang and Mingmar, the trio of Sherpas who have looked after us so magnificently, while at the same time keeping an eye out for our Chinese escort.

He turns out to be a slim, young man in a sky-blue fleece, holding some papers and looking extremely anxious. So preoccupied is he with this unorthodox crossing that he doesn't introduce himself for another two hours. Only then do I learn he's a Tibetan, by the name of Migmar.

Anything in the Himalaya with the word 'friendship' attached is bound to be Chinese, and, sure enough, they built Friendship Bridge across this gorge in 1985. It's a grim and deeply confusing place to be and we are pretty soon ordered to stop filming. As Wongchu and Nawang wave one last time before disappearing into the crowd behind a 'Welcome to the Kingdom of Nepal' sign, I experience an emotion not dissimilar to that of seeing my mother wave goodbye to me on my first day at school.

We're now in the hands of unsmiling Chinese border guards in uniforms that seem to have been specifically designed to be too big. With the SARS epidemic so recently over, I first have to fill in a Quarantine Form. I then take it to a booth where a man in a white coat checks it, produces a gun, points it right between my eyes and pulls the trigger. He then peers at the gun, notes down my temperature and motions me into China.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 58: Kathmandu to the Chinese border
  • Country/sea: Nepal
  • Place: Kathmandu
  • Book page no: 136

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