A few years ago, Jack and I backpacked Nepal for a month. We flew over Everest, that beautiful lady of a mountain, in a small plane. But mostly we hung out in Kathmandu, and Chitwan, and Lumpini, and tried to get rid of the guide who’d attached himself to us our first day in country. We fired him five times. He always found us.
Pokhara was our last stop. We had finally escaped the guide and we were tired of travel with nothing but one change of clothes. Besides, from our room at The Stupa, we had a brilliant view of the holy Fishtail Mountain. We kicked back and relaxed for a week. Climbed a small mountain. Ate breakfast each morning beside the lake and watched little children row themselves across the calm waters in their school uniforms. Strolled dirt streets with water buffalo. Talked to the Tibetan women from the nearby refugee villages.
From the Tibetans we bought yak wool sweaters. The women braided my hair like theirs with brightly colored lengths of red yarn and tied the ends off with silver. I still see the gold light of late afternoon in that thin air, feel the warmth in the pit of my stomach as these woman giggled and played beauty parlor while I sat on a three legged stool in the dirt street, their fingers in my hair, the smell the yak wool tickling my nose.
That night, as Jack and I strolled the narrow streets in our new sweaters and my newly coiffed hair, the Nepalese smiled at us, told us we wore our ‘party clothes’ when there was no festival. Very politely, they explained that the designs on our Tibetan sweaters were for a special Yeti festival held each year, high in the mountains behind Pokhara. Our hotel manager asked if we knew of the sacred Yeti.
We call him Bigfoot and his hair is darker where I come from.
That was years ago. We gave away the sweaters when we moved to the tropics, but the heavy, mountain-cold scent of yak still permeates my leather backpack, makes me think of festivals and the creatures that prowl our wild places.