Nature “The Himalayas”

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The Himalayas are defined by superlatives.   They defy both description and comprehension while at the same time teaching us about the awesome power and grandeur of nature.   Born during the ice ages, they form the highest mountain range in the world, and reach across Asia for two thousand miles.   The mountains themselves are considered sacred, and the rivers that spring from them are worshipped as holy.   Their great beauty may appear cold and forbidding, but the Himalayas are actually rich with a surprising array of plants and animals.   Snow leopards, red pandas, Asiatic black bears, musk deer, snub-nosed monkeys, Tibetan foxes and high-flying birds live here, as well as enormous goat-like creatures that may have been the source of the original Golden Fleece for which Jason and the Argonauts searched.   These majestic mountains are where the Earth meets the sky.   Nature 's The Himalayas premieres on Sunday, Feb. 13, at 8 p.m. on Eight, Arizona PBS.

The film travels the entire mountain range from west to east, though the seasons, exploring the variety of ways life manages to thrive in the extreme habitats the mountains offer.   Eagles and wolves rely on teamwork, as many of the predators here do.   Honey bees build their hives on rock faces of hundred-foot cliffs.   Bar-headed geese have developed blood with special hemoglobin to allow them to fly above the Himalayas, where the air becomes dangerously thin.   High-altitude spiders add jumping and mountaineering skills to their repertoire to help them catch their dinner.   And snakes survive the arctic conditions by making their home in hot springs.

The great valleys in the mountains draw warm wet air in from the tropics, creating rainforests at eight thousand feet, each one a tropical paradise like the mythical Shangri-La.   Here one can find tropical birds and monkeys, elephants, and fragrant flowers that we have come to associate with western gardens, though they originated here, in the Himalayas.

In many cultures, the mountains and the rivers that flow from them and through them are sacred.   Three of Asia's greatest rivers, the Indus, the Ganges, and the Yarlung, can trace their source to Mount Kailash, which is considered a holy peak.   Priests, monks, and all manner of holy men make pilgrimages to the mountain, where prayers poles and paper prayers called “wind horses” reach toward the mountain peaks and the gods believed to reside there.   Another kind of pilgrim also seeks bliss in the mountains.   Climbers from around the world risk all to achieve the summit of Everest, pushing themselves to reach physical and spiritual heights only a few of the luckiest and most motivated will ever know.

The Himalayas are a source of faith, of inspiration and of life to those who live in their shadow, feel their power, and receive their bounty.   The cultures that understand the mountains say they teach them that all life is connected.   It is an ancient lesson of interdependence, the enduring forces of nature, and the fragility of each life.

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