Kathmandu, Nepal expedition Oct.16, 2000 Dana and Rand Jack

October 16, 2000

Dear Family and Friends,

We arrived a bit bleary eyed in Kathmandu on September 18 and set out four days later for a 150-mile walk up and down around the Annapurna Himal. Kathmandu is a bubbling cauldron of sights to see, but they will wait until we are more bound to the city by Dana's work. The drive to the beginning of the trek was uneventful except for one landslide, a mongoose crossing the road (causing the driver to stop the car, turn off the motor and wait a few minutes because a mongoose crossing the road is a bad sign and so we had to in effect terminate one journey and start another), and a thousand gaudy trucks from India that each had to be passed on a zero visibility curve.

We were accompanied on the trek by Pasang Tamang, who carried most of our gear, winced every time one of us stumbled and nearly fell off a 1000 foot precipice, told us to go slowly when we could barely move, sang to us on the trail, prescribed garlic soup for high altitudes, taught Dana some Napali, and generally took care of us. Starting point was the village of Besisahar at 2690 hot, lush, and tropical feet. Over the next 11 days we climbed out of the lowland jungle into the desert rain shadow of the Tibetan Plateau. Each foot in elevation had to be gained a dozen times with the ups and downs of the trail.

The trek was a fascinating blend of incredible scenery and enthralling culture. You could have randomly pointed the camera every five minutes and nearly always have captured an image to contemplate. Nearly every day we saw massive mountains with legendary names - Manaslu, Annapurna I, II, III, and IV, Gangapurna, Tilicho Peak, Khatung Kang, Niligiri, Dhaulagiri, Machhapuchare. Mountains the size of Rainier don't even get names; in fact, they are thought of as hills. The villages change as the geography, flora, and ethnicity change. Everything happens outdoors - harvesting, processing, eating, washing, playing, weaving, woodworking, worshipping, socializing, with no thought to exclude the passerby.

The trail is a pedestrian thoroughfare with every imaginable thing being carried by man and beast. I asked a resting porter if I could try to lift the load of 8 foot wooden beams he was carrying for five days up to the village of Manang, at 11,600 feet. The load weighed over 100 pounds; the porter wore only flip-flops on his feet. In a hour we would meet dozens of such porters carrying bushels of apples, stacks of corrugated metal roofing, fodder for water buffalo, baskets of potatoes, crates of glass, stones for house construction, cages of chickens, harvest from the fields. Some did not even wear flip-flops. The path was shared with donkey trains headed for Jomson or Manang, Hindu pilgrims bound for Muktinath, and goats coming down from high pasture. Each donkey wears bells to warn of its approach, and the lead donkeys often bore pom poms on their heads to denote their distinguished position. The bells of an approaching donkey train create a mobile mountain symphony.

The trail is like a living ribbon binding together a bewildering array of lives and cultures. I keep wanting to write in lists because that is the way experience presented itself as we walked that narrow ribbon for 22 days passing each in turn medieval stone villages, mountain horses with wooden saddles and Tibetan blankets, Mani walls of carved prayer stones, suspension bridges across the Kali Gandaki, corn drying on flat roofs, marble steps leading up the mountainside, a water driven prayer wheel. The trail mediates experience, giving you one exquisite moment after another, a perpetual list of exquisite delicacies.

1. Lead donkey
2. Dana spinning prayer wheels to send out prayers for humankind
3. Village on Tibetan Plateau
4. Woman making Tibetan tea (Yak butter, salt and tea) in an ancient Tibetan churn where we stayed in the village of Ghyaru
5. Annapurna II
6. Typical high plateau village
7. A snack with Pasang at Gunsang (12,795 feet) with Gangapurna and Annnapurna III behind
8. Prayer flags and us with Pasang at Thorung La (17,760 feet), the high point of the trip. We worked our way to this height with caution and avoided any serious high altitude sickness problems. This is one of the highest trekking passes in the world
9. Inside a Buddhist ghompa above a small mountain village
10. Woman weaving beside the trail
11. Gurung woman winding thread at the tea house where we stayed in Tikhedunga
12. Traditional Hindu family band celebrating festival Dashein. We spared you pictures of us dancing to the band with other celebrants We miss all of you and hope your computer can download the pictures. Please let us know if you have problems with the pictures - we hope we are not sending too many at a time.

Dana and Rand

(E-Mail: We would love to hear from you at the e-mail address in our original letter to you, but please don't return the long letter and attachments with your message. Thanks. D&R)