Michael Palin begins a 2000-mile journey across a region of might, majesty and mystery, encountering new extremes of wealth and poverty, intense heat and freezing cold. And once again, the former Pythonian brings his unique brand of wit and wisdom with him. Whilst on his travels, he passes through Afghanistan, across India to the feared Death Zone near the base of Mount Everest and then on to the Bhutanese capital before arriving in the Bay of Bengal. Highlights include: a morning with a street dentist in Peshwar; a visit to Dharmsala for an audience with his Holiness, the Dalai Lama; a 10-day trek to the base camp of Annapurna; the peculiarities of tribal life on the Tibetan plateau on the easternmost edge of the Himalaya; being entertained by members of the royal family in Bhutan; moving through the habitat of the red pandas; and arriving in Bangladesh, where the great rivers of the Himalaya disgorge into the Bay of Bengal, just in time for the monsoon.
Episode One: North by Northwest
Beginning at the Khyber Pass, Michael Palin takes the Khyber steam railway through the North-West Frontier Province, home of the Pathan people, a fierce race who live by the philosophy of hospitality and revenge. At nearby Darra, they make enough guns to settle every blood feud on the North-West Frontier and Michael goes window shopping for a home-made Kalashnikov, settling instead for a James Bond pen-pistol. In Peshawar, Palin sees a street dentist (where fillings cost 50p) and visits Prince Malik Atar at his stately home.The Prince introduces him to a novel and dangerous sport – bull-racing – where Palin nearly meets an untimely end, when an out-of-control bull charges towards his tented pavilion. After this near miss, Palin moves north over the Lowari pass (which is closed for half of the year), through the valleys of the Kalash people, a tiny island of unbelievers in the great sea of Islam, and into Chitral, the Pakistani buffer-state lying alongside Afghanistan. Here, he learns that Chitral is the birthplace of free-style polo and that the annual fixture against arch-rival Gilgit is only days away. The game takes place on the highest polo field on earth – the Shandur Pass. But who will win? A town of 10,000 turns out to watch – among them, Palin.
Producer/Director John Paul Davidson; Series Producer/Director Roger Mills; Executive Producer Anne James
Watch Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 10pm.