BBC television series Himalaya with Michael Palin was first broadcast in 2004. It records his six-month trip around the Himalaya mountain range area, which covered only 3,000 miles horizontally, but involved a lot of vertical traveling.
“Himalaya might well have been Silk Road, which was a proposal from Roger Mills, our series producer. But when I opened out the atlas, the largely desert character of much of the Silk Road made me think it might look too similar to the Sahara. Then my eye caught the word Himalaya and I was immediately excited by the prospect. I had never been to any of the area before. The character of the series would be as high and mighty as Sahara was flat and mysterious. And no-one could accuse us of 'going soft' as we got older. Himalaya means "Abode Of Snow" and I think we all underestimated the physical demands of working at altitude. We'd climbed mountains in previous series, but never spent such sustained periods at extreme height. In Tibet we spent over a month working at, or well above, over 13 000 feet. Himalaya was not just about high mountains but high anxiety as well as we visited some of the political flashpoints of southern and central Asia. The Pakistani border, the disputed region of Kashmir, Tibet and Nagaland were all tense at times, but, ironically, the nearest we came to a dangerous confrontation was in tourist-friendly Nepal, where Maoist insurgents abducted our Ghurkha officers during filming. The spectacular beauty of the highest mountain range on earth and the profusion of different religions and small tribal communities fighting for their survival amongst these mountains combined to make this one of the most physical demanding and spiritually satisfying of all the journeys. I hope that by choosing to travel the entire 2,000 mile length of the range, we showed that there is much more to these mountains than Everest and Annapurna. For the first time, the vast spread and enormous influence of the Himalaya, winding its way through six countries, has been examined as a whole. If you look at a map the Himalaya range resembles a raised eyebrow above India. I hope this adventure will have raised a few eyebrows and opened a few eyes to these epic and magnificent lands. If at times it was hell, the hell was always beautiful !”
Michael Palin, London. October 2004