Tuesday, April 1, 2008
You might think that Michael Palin has visited pretty much every nook and cranny of the globe by now, but not so: he's managed to find a few previously unexplored hectares in Himalaya, his latest jaunt for the BBC. Here the format, established originally in his Phileas Fogg-inspired Around the World in 80 Days, remains unchanged: always affable, seemingly unflappable, Palin journeys through the various countries along the world's greatest mountain range, getting friendly with everyone he meets and offering gently witty, gently affectionate observations on the customs and cultures he encounters. From the Khyber Pass through dangerous territory along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, via Nepal then up into Tibet to Everest and down into China, and finally to Bangladesh, Palin is, as ever, unfazed by whatever the world has to throw at him, be it chaotic bull-racing in Peshawar, the threat of kidnap by Maoist rebels in Nepal, Tibetan Yak herding, or rafting down the Yangtze. Even if both the once indefatigable traveller and the programme format itself seem a little tired at times (in Palin's case probably a side-effect of the high altitudes), the trek still provides manna from heaven for armchair travellers.