After Sahara, tired of sand grating in every bodily crevice and being subjected to beating desert heat, Michael Palin decided his next adventure should be something quite different. So he turned to Himalaya, the Abode of Snow.
What the Sahara is to desert, the Himalaya is to mountains. Both share the same contradictory attractions, appealing and appalling, tempting and terrifying in equal, and ultimately irresistible, measure.
So for those of us, like Michael Palin, who find little to amuse in beaches and cocktail umbrellas, a holiday in the Himalaya may be just the ticket.
Where is the Himalaya Region?
We've all heard of the Himalaya region, with its awe-inspiring peaks that soar above the clouds. And Mount Everest is somewhat famous. But how many of us could pinpoint it on a map? Grab your atlas. Its Western edge sits in Pakistan, while India's northern edge is its centrepiece, and the eastern arm dips through Tibet and comes to a halt in Nepal. Meanwhile, both Bangladesh and China depend upon the rivers pouring from Himalaya for their very existence. Despite the political divisions, dramatic terrain, combined with vicious weather, unifies Himalaya.
What's so special about it?
At 8848m, Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. The mountains of Himalaya scrape the sky, making trekking here more like flying than walking. Himalaya is also the definition of 'unspoilt'. Admittedly, there are hordes of tourists that struggle through the region each year. But when you summit in the Himalayas, you won't find a highway coiling its way up the other side of the mountain, with a McDonalds and 27 busloads of obese tourists. It'll just be you, the mountains and one of several gods, depending which country you happen to be in.
What would I do there?
Trekking, trekking and more trekking. With a little bit of skiing and mountain biking thrown in for speed freaks. There are also wildlife tours, safari jungle tours and tours to view regional flora. If nature's not your thing, the diverse cultures and religions in the Himalaya offer a more human focus to your holiday. You could also go combo on a Buddhist pilgrimage or cultural trek. In a nutshell, Himalaya mixes mind-boggling landscape with tremendous cultural diversity, and a little bit of political upheaval thrown in for flavour.
What's the food like?
The traditional food of the Himalaya region varies as widely as the people that inhabit the area. The region's economy relies heavily on grain, fruit and beer production. In Nepal you'll eat such dishes as dal bhat, noodles, rice, Nepali pancakes and Sherpa stew. Though if you go on a typical guided trek, you'll probably end up eating a traditional British fry-up for breakfast and bangers and mash for tea. Then again, you may struggle just to keep a cup of tea down, as common effect of high-altitude sickness is severe loss of appetite and naseau.