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Himalaya

Day 111: Sharma Zampa to Paro

Michael Palin - HimalayaDoje keeps well out of it. He says the ladies up here are tough and can out-wrestle any of the men.

We move on. A magnificent landscape of interlocking, conifer-clad spurs stretches way above us to a mountain with a little tongue of snow and ice still clinging to its north-facing summit. On either side of us are meadows and the widening waters of the River Paro.

Civilization is gradually stretching its fingers up the valley. We pass a large army camp, more and more farms, emerald green paddy fields, orchards ripe with plum blossom. Pigs scuttling about. After five hours of walking, we cross the river on a steel-slung suspension bridge (financed by the Swiss, I notice) and at last onto a paved road. An hour and a half later, we reach the famous Drukyel dzong. This fortress, raised around the time that England was fighting its only Civil War, commemorated one of Bhutan's rousing victories over the Tibetans. Reduced now to little more than a circular keep after a fire started by a butter-lamp in 1951, Drukyel dzong must once have seemed impregnable, standing as it does on a strategically commanding crag overlooking the valley, with Paro on one side and Jomolhari and the Tibetan border, 35 miles (56 km) away, on the other. Now it's a little forlorn.

At its foot is a small, picturesque, alpine village, with two huge cypresses looming above it. The very first house we come to has a fine selection of wall paintings, including a chubby pink penis with wings attached. But best of all, the village contains a bus that will take us the rest of the way into Paro, and the bus contains cold beers.

I pull off my boots and peel down the socks with wondrous relief. One of my toes is bloody but otherwise no ill-effects of the longest, if not quite the most arduous, of our treks so far.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 111: Sharma Zampa to Paro
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Paro
  • Book page no: 255

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