Michael Palin’s Himalaya: Journey of a Lifetime
BY AISHA FAROOQ
Photo courtesy of WILD FRONTIERS
Nearly two decades ago, travel presenter Michael Palin decided to fulfil his childhood dream and embark on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the “roof of the world”—the Himalayas.
This magnificent mountain range with snow-capped peaks, spreading across the likes of Bhutan, China, India and Pakistan, would test the very limits of Palin’s physical and mental endurance. Shot over 6 months, the 3,000-mile trek brought out the adventurer in all of us as the 60-year-old, braving high altitude and tough terrain, invited us on this incredible mountain-scape journey with him.
Fans of the documentary will remember that the expedition saw Palin visit the rugged chaos of Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which in the west has held a notorious reputation for many years—though, those living in the city might question why. He would start his journey from the Khyber Pass before venturing into India and beyond. However, that wasn’t always the plan. Jonny Bealby, author and founder of award-winning tour operator Wild Frontiers, tells us how the televised expedition was initially conceived:
“Michael’s producer came to me and said, ‘Look, this is what we want to do: we’re going to start it in Lahore, we’re going to go across to Amritsar, then we’re going to head up to Ladakh.’ And I said, ‘No, you don’t want to do that! If you’re talking about the greater Himalaya, that starts with the Hindu Kush. You’ve got to start at the Khyber Pass, go up through Chitral, come around through Gilgit, Kashmir, Ladakh, and then finish over on the western side of India.’
“And Michael loved this idea, and the old steam train was still running in those days, up to the Khyber Pass [and then] up to Michini Post. So we managed to get the steam running. We got Michael up there. He started the whole show from the Khyber Pass, and it was a fantastic series and a great success.”
Indeed, for most of us sitting in front of our TV sets in the comfort of our homes, Himalaya was the kind of adventure we instinctively knew we would never get to experience close-up, except perhaps through the camera lens of a braver soul. But when the series aired a year later, Jonny was already knee-deep in a northern adventure of his own. In fact, prior to Palin’s popular docuseries, Jonny had already been successfully journeying through that part of the world for a number of years, with his adventure tours taking foreign clients to the majestic vistas of the Hunza Valley. Sharing his incredible journey with us, he reveals why he is so passionate about Pakistan....
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