Mark Cocker

Where time stands still: a Himalayan pilgrimage

Paolo Cognetti travels to Nepal in the steps of Peter Matthiessen to find the last place on Earth to have remained unchanged

The bharal, or Himalayan blue sheep, the focus of Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard. Credit: Alamy

The region of Dolpo in Nepal forms part of a border zone between that country and China in the central Himalayas. It is essentially a high-altitude desert encircled by towering snow-capped peaks and has long been celebrated in the West as a real-life version of Shangri-La.

Part of the image flows from the restricted access permitted to outsiders, and also from the lives of its inhabitants, who might belong politically to Nepal but culturally show allegiance to the former theocracy presided over by the Dalai Lama.

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