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Day 110: Takengthanka to Sharma Zampa

Michael Palin - HimalayaThe business of reducing our travelling village to whatever fits on a horse's back is elaborate and time-consuming. Homes are demolished, restaurants closed and packed into boxes, kitchens disappear into bamboo baskets. This morning the horses haul their loads up and over a series of switchbacks, some steep and slippery, before the path begins to flatten out. Very occasionally, we meet people coming the other way. Locals carrying supplies up to the nomads in the higher valleys and, at one point, out of the woods ahead, a party of immaculately dressed Japanese. We descend from the conifer forests and into richer temperate woodlands with flowering laurel and luxuriant rhododendron swelling on either side, and strips of meadow thick with edelweiss and gentian.

But it is a long way and by the time we reach the patch of grassy riverbank near the bridge of Sharma Zampa we've covered another 12 miles (19 km). Nigel is limping from a blistered toe and Basil is appalled at what he's just done.

'No Pao has ever walked as far as this.' He shakes his head in disbelief. 'Never in the entire history of Paos has anyone walked 23 miles!'

And there's more to go.

But we're down below 10,000 feet (3050 m). The valley is wider and more inviting, the river has broadened to 100 yards wide, and there are some substantial farmhouses on the far bank, where the forest has been cleared and the land terraced for cultivation. Though there is a bridge a mile upstream, most of the traffic from the other bank comes through the river. We watch a packhorse, fully loaded, followed by two women and half a dozen children, pick its way through the shallow but fast-flowing waters, and later two cows and a calf, almost submerged as it struggles desperately to get a grip on the wet rocks, make their way across.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 110: Takengthanka to Sharma Zampa
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Sharma Zampa
  • Book page no: 253

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