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Himalaya

Day 61: Rongbuk

Michael Palin - HimalayaThe remainder of the guests who were here last night Spaniards, Norwegians and a group of Australians all leave today. They can't believe we're here for three nights, and whoop with joy as they're driven away.

Our cooks are making yak butter tea, which the Tibetans call Bo Cha, in the traditional, long, thin, cylindrical churn. It's a mixture of yak butter and tea leaves, with salt and milk added, and is a taste I've yet to acquire, and I'm sure I shall have plenty of opportunity to do so.

We had hoped to move up to Base Camp today, but with the wind still strengthening the decision is taken to stay down here and acclimatize. With atmospheric pressure about half that at sea level, everyone is suffering to some degree and Mr Yang, our minder, and John Pritchard, our sound recordist, are particularly uncomfortable.

Apart from the guesthouse and a new, red-brick hotel nearby, ready but tantalizingly un-opened, Rongbuk consists of a line of low cottages and the monastery, which looks old but was built less than 20 years ago to replace the one destroyed, along with thousands of others in Tibet, by fanatical Red Guards in the 1960s. Outside it stands a sizeable chorten topped with a small, black pyramid and hung with prayer flags like ribbons on a maypole. I walk into a courtyard of two-storey buildings with a painted balcony running round for access, and I follow the sound of chanting up a flight of steps on the far side of the square and into the temple. There are 30 monks and 30 nuns here at the world's highest monastery. With their shaven heads and loose robes, it's difficult to tell them apart.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 61: Rongbuk
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Rongbuk
  • Book page no: 146

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