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Day 62: Rongbuk to Everest Base Camp

Michael Palin - HimalayaThis morning means having fun with foreigners, and being paid for it. First of all, it's tea, invigoratingly salty, with a knob of yak butter thrown in, then it's time to get out the chang, a fermented barley beer, for me to try. It's poured out of a stained, dusty container, the sort of thing you might find at the back of the shed ten years after you put it there. Before drinking, Migmar shows me the important procedure of giving thanks. I must dip my third finger into the brew, and, flicking it each time, give thanks first to the mountain, second to the Buddha and third to the assembled company. It's a pleasing taste, chang, like chilled ginger beer, with a hint of apples.

This is the start of one of those magical meals that may not win any gastronomic medals but are unique and unforgettable a Sunday lunch 16,900 feet (5150 m) up in the heart of the Himalaya. The ingredients include perfect weather, cloudless blue sky, light breeze, generous sunshine, the comforting presence of the yaks and the cheeriness of their owners, the reassuring company of big black crows, and the presence, at our backs, of the highest mountain in the world.

The conquest of Everest in 1953 was one of the milestones of my childhood. I was ten at the time and, like every other Briton, bursting with national pride (we somehow dealt with fact that Everest had been conquered by a Tibetan and a New Zealander). What happened on the mountain behind me 50 years ago defined the heroic, and led to a fascination with exploration that I suppose has brought me here today, completing the circle.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 62: Rongbuk to Everest Base Camp
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Everest Base Camp
  • Book page no: 149

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  • Booze
  • Day 1 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 5 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 2 
  • Pole to Pole