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Day 51: Dovan to Derali

Michael Palin - HimalayaAs the conditions become increasingly cold and inhospitable, the only members of our expedition who look at all cheerful are the porters. Released from their loads half a day early, they spend the afternoon noisily gambling away their take-home pay. A coin is thrown on the ground and where it lands it's replaced with a stone. Players then have to hit the stone with their coins. If you hit the stone, you pocket all the coins that have missed. It's a game that has apparently come down from Mongolia and is played throughout the Himalaya.

It's very much a participation game and the porters come alive, greeting every move with raucous shouts, jeers, groans and laughter. I've rarely seen so many people having such a good time for so long. It's quite depressing really, and brings on a prolonged bout of coughing.

We eat early, sitting on wool-covered benches round a rectangular table that is usually heated from beneath by a kerosene stove, but it isn't working tonight. Freshly made Gurung bread, thick, yet light and filling, then anodyne vegetable noodle soup and fried rice. The staple diet of the mountains is dal baht, lentils and rice, but our cooks seem unwilling to offer us this and instead try manfully to provide us with what they think Westerners want.

The night is cold. I take Nurofen and hope that it will help me sleep. It knocks me out for two-hour periods, tames the coughing but provides little relief from an increasingly angry, sore throat. One word repeats itself in my disordered dreams. Descend! Descend! Descend!
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 51: Dovan to Derali
  • Country/sea: Nepal
  • Place: Derali
  • Book page no: 116

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  • Eating
  • Day 5 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 3 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 6 
  • Pole to Pole