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Day 104: Gantey

Michael Palin - HimalayaBenji takes me up a lane past timbered houses, fenced green paddocks and piles of fresh-cut wood, which looks like Switzerland in old photographs. He points out darting finches and snow pigeons with fawn backs and black and white tails, which, he says, are usually to be found much higher up.

At the end of the lane, beside a tumbling stream, is a modern, well-equipped, decagonal building, which houses the Black-Necked Crane Information Centre. Here I learn a little more about these celebrated creatures. Like the shelducks of the Brahmaputra, they mate for life (which adds to religious status, I'm told). They can live for 30 or 40 years.

Two or three mounted telescopes are trained on the swampy valley floor below us. A river dawdles through it, full of brown trout that are never fished, it being against the Buddhist religion to take life. A number of black-necked cranes are already gathered, and more fly in, until there must be 150 birds down there. J-P and Nigel become very excited and discreetly move the camera into a closer position. It's very hard to catch the birds in flight and it's not until Peter walks right round the far side of them (ruining a pair of trousers in the process) that they take, languidly, elegantly and prematurely, to the air.

'I didn't see you do that' says Benji in his capacity as founder of the Black-Necked Crane Preservation Programme.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 104: Gantey
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Gantey
  • Book page no: 242

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