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Himalaya

Day 60: Tingri to Rongbuk

Michael Palin - HimalayaInstead of continuing along the Friendship Highway to Lhasa, we turn south on a dirt road, towards the heart of the Himalaya. Apart from the occasional four-wheel drives like our own, traffic consists of horses and carts trotting between isolated settlements, usually of low, whitewashed houses with prayer flags fluttering from poles at each corner of the roof. The harshness of life up here in this dry and windy rain shadow of the Himalaya is etched on the faces of the farmers and their families. Skin is weathered and faces prematurely aged. The children, noses running and cheeks red and rough from the sun, cluster round as soon as we stop, asking us to give them something.

At one stop the villagers are celebrating with music and dancing. Music seems to lighten the load, and getting out the three-string guitars is a popular move. Soon a circle is formed and the dancers are moving slowly round with a step that doesn't seem to vary, though judging by reactions, the words they sing have been brought up to date. The women wear big, coral earrings, flower pattern shirts and the traditional Tibetan chuba, a long, sleeveless dress tied with a sash at the waist. Some of the men wear their version of the chuba, big, wide-sleeved coats, and one or two are in sheepskin jackets, leggings and heavy boots of the kind I haven't really seen since the pop festivals of the late sixties.

Migmar says that at times like New Year dances like this can be spun out for several days.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 60: Tingri to Rongbuk
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Tingri
  • Book page no: 142

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