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Himalaya

Day 106: Thimpu to Takstang

Michael Palin - HimalayaOf their prize discovery they are as bashful and cautious as you would expect government scientists to be. They admit that they are working hard to produce products that will have a commercial application, as it brings in the money to keep the Institute going, and that they have recently concocted a mix of five herbs that 'could possess spermogenetic powers'.

'Increase virility,' adds one of the Dorjes, helpfully.

Their mixture is currently on a two-year test, after which conclusions will be examined. When I enquire about its constituents, glances are exchanged and there are mutterings about bio-piracy and international property rights, but it seems the key ingredient is none other than our old friend cordycep sinensis, or caterpillar fungus, five pieces of which I bought off the street in Yushu for £4, and which are currently stuck in dust and fluff at the bottom of my bag. They confirm that the tiny little shoots are very difficult to find and though it grows up in the Bhutanese mountains, there is often a fight with Tibetans from across the border to get to it first.

Our hosts line up to bid us goodbye. The idea that these grave and courteous men in matching khos might be onto a world-beating sex aid seems as unlikely as it would be desirable.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 106: Thimpu to Takstang
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Thimpu
  • Book page no: 248

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