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Day 105: Gantey to Thimpu

Michael Palin - HimalayaWe head back towards Thimpu, but conditions on the road are much worse than when we came in. Stopping to take a shot of a herd of yaks against the snow, we find ourselves victims of an admirable piece of retail opportunism. A small, doughty lady races out of her tent and sprints a couple of hundred yards through the deep snow up towards us. For a moment, we imagine she's come to shoo us away, or demand a BBC contract, but nothing of the kind. Scrambling up onto the road, she produces a range of yak-hair tote bags and sells all three of them more or less instantly.

Once over the 11,000-foot (3350 m) pass out of the valley, we expect things to get better. Quite the opposite. The snow is deeper and the road icier and much more treacherous. Lichen-clad conifers plunge steeply down on one side of us, disappearing into a cold shroud of mist, so it's hard to tell just how far we might fall if, as seems all too likely, the minibus slides off the road. From marvelling at the delicate beauty of the snowbound forest, thoughts turn swiftly to problems of survival. The normally nerveless Nigel, who, not long ago, was in a serious accident on the ice in Alaska, has the window open on the other side of the bus, ready for a quick exit. We negotiate a score of steep hairpin bends at a snail's pace. The snow is falling more thickly now, and every now and then the wheels slide and we prepare for the worst. After almost an hour of hearts in mouths the snow turns to sleet and the conifers turn to rhododendrons and the dirt track to paved road and we can at last breathe normally again.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 105: Gantey to Thimpu
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Thimpu
  • Book page no: 246

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