Short Walks in Shangri-La

Book Review: “Short Walks in Shangri-La” by Peter Francis Browne

A travelogue about Peter Francis Browne’s trekking in Nepal. Peter prepares for his trip by walking up and down the stairs of his home in Devon, Peter is 54 and worried about his knees, and vertigo and pulmonary oedemae, whatever they might be.

Short walks in Shangri-La

Short walks in Shangri-La

Peter is an entertaining travel companion as he takes us around the Himalaya foothills. He hires a porter called Iman, who quickly becomes his friend the pair bonded with more than a little of the local hooch “raksi“. The book has given me wanderlust, not that I have plans to visit Nepal (I too suffer from vertigo, and tales of the bus trip to and from Kathmandu, leave me in no doubts, I want to give Nepal a miss.) The road heading down was even more unnerving than it had been coming up, the chasms easier to see plummeting beside a track as thin as a stray hair on a green blanket.” 

Travel is about novelty, new experiences, new vistas, new insight into the world. Not all those novelties sound appealing. Kathmandu sounds awful “all around there was the sound of a dawn chorus…men hawking, spitting and snotting into hands that shook the mucus into the street with deft finger movements...” There is a marked contrast between the wealth of the trekkers and the poverty of the locals, where thousands of girls are sold by their parents to the brothels of India. The guides’ observations of different nationalities is interesting, for once Brits abroad don’t fare so badly: “The Australians and English are very good, Irish too, and Scandinavians. The Americans are sometimes difficult. They expect things to be modern like in America, but the most rude are the Germans and the Israelis. Some guides I know refuse to travel with Israelis even if it means losing money.”

At times among gap year trekkers in the hostels, Peter feels like an old Fogey, lamenting his lost youth.

There are also some moments of drama, descending to Thorung Phedi on a glacis sloping north, they found themselves on ice unbroken for hundreds of feet, a fall could have been fatal as they had no ice axes or crampons, just a bamboo stick. Peter slipped and nearly went over the edge…”all the energy drained out of me as I lay there helpless, knowing that if I went over I would have perhaps ten seconds before striking the boulders below.” He did recover slowly but he was shaken by the experience.

It is an interesting read, particularly as the writer isn’t too much older than me. I would have liked some maps and photos.

My rating 4 out of 5

Wanderlust, Itchy Feet

I have always loved travelling but in the past couple of years, I haven’t been anywhere really new.

Part of my motivation for travelling is to discover somewhere divorced from all previous experience, somewhere new. Sheer novelty.

I have visited 37 countries in my life so far. When I visited Georgia first in 2008, I was on a quest to visit all the countries of Europe by the time I was 50. This didn’t happen, instead of just ticking off Georgia and proceeding to the next country, I met Khatuna, who became my wife and I moved to Tbilisi.

wanting to visit every country of Europe

Together we have been to Turkey three times, the UK three times and France, once. We also wandered over the border into Azerbaijan, when we visited Davit Gareji, a monastery complex in the south east of Georgia. Much as I love visiting Turkey, UK and France, I want to see somewhere new.

Reading “Short Walks in Shangri-La” by Peter Francis Browne is fuelling this wanderlust.

Short walks in Shangri-La

Short walks in Shangri-La

I’m not especially interested in visiting Nepal, where the book is set, it is just the idea of visiting somewhere new, new vistas, new tastes, new sights, new sounds, new freshness. Only a few Asian countries interest me at present: Azerbaijan, Japan, Philippines, Malaysia and Iran. None of these I plan to visit in the immediate future, but maybe somewhere in Europe. Possibilities include:

  1. Armenia, it would be cheap to get to and Khato has an aunt in the capital, Yerevan. Apart from its proximity and novelty, I have no burning desire to visit the country.
  2. Italy. I have visited Sicily and Pompeii but I’d love to see the more northern cities of Venice, Florence and Rome. Khato would love to visit Italy, too.
  3. The Baltic States: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. I have been reading about the amber coast in the last novel, I read A Visible Darkness that was set in Napoleonic Prussia. Kalingrad (Königsberg) could be tricky as we’d need Russian Visas. Maka, my step daughter needs her prosthetic eye replacing, her doctor is Latvian, usually he visits Tbilisi, but we could also visit his surgery in Latvia. I have been to Lithuania previously (2003) but Latvia and Estonia would be new. It should be possible to visit all three in one trip. I’ve been taking the Lonely Planet Guide to the smallest room (makes a change from “The Top Gear Years” by Jeremy Clarkson)

Lonely Planet Guide to Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania

There is still much of Georgia to explore, the mountainous areas of Svaneti and Tusheti sound fantastic. Last Summer we just visited Qobuleti on the coast, beach holidays were never really my thing, I love swimming in the sea, but I also want to explore new places. My mind is going off on flights of fancy, I’ll be back soon.

Some Guidebooks on the shelf

Some Guidebooks on the shelf