Want a long trek in the Himalayas? Curl up with a great read.

January 27, 2010

Garry Weare

I’ve just finished a wonderful book about the Himalayas. Snow leopard country. It’s called “A long walk in the Himalayas – a trek from the Ganges to Kashmir” by Garry Weare.

Weare’s story of his five-month trek from the sacred source of the Ganges through the Kullu Valley, remote mountains of Zanskar and Ladakh (known as Little Tibet) to his beloved houseboat on a lake in Kashmir is an entertaining read. Throughout many years of travel in the Himalayas he has come to know the region, its peoples and cultures well and he writes about them with compassion, empathy and understanding.

"A long walk in the Himalayas"

Weare has serious Himalaya credentials. He’s a life member of the Himalayan Club, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a noted mountain photographer and a founding director of the Australian Himalayan Foundation.

The book is a travel log, a meditation on walking, a memoir of places visted and loved and a tale of adventure. His journey, which is taken with a secret stash of rum and whisky, involved walking 2500 kilometres, most of it above 5000 metres and crossing at least 20 passes, a tough experience and he lost over 15 kilos.

During a trek in September 1995 Garry was lucky to actually see a snow leopard. “I had left camp early to cross the Konze La, a pass in western Ladakh. There had been an unseasonable snowfall and ….I stopped to watch a herd of yaks. At that point I sensed I was not the only one watching the yaks. Glancing around I caught a glimpse of a large cat. I had seen enough snow leopards in zoo enclosures to know what I was looking at. I just had a glimpse and no more but it was sufficient and for a while I did not move, hoping against hope that the elusive cat would reappear. It was not to be.”

Garry recently tod me, “The cat sighting was after a particular early but heavy snowfall in September. However as you appreciate the best opportunity to get a cat sighting is during the winter soon after the first winter snowfall when the bharal (Himalayan blue sheep, a favourite snow leopard prey) head to the valleys and the cats follow.” Lucky him!! Is all I can say.

Currently Garry is working on a Primary Health Care project in Zanskar and Ladakh, Northern India supported by the Australian Himalayan Foundation. The project trains the local Amchis, traditional faith healers in basic western medical advice.  Often these Amchi are the only medical help available to villagers in remote parts of the mountains. Last year the ABC’s ‘Foreign Correspondent’ did a segment on this project (see it here.) Absolutely fascinating.

You can support this and other Australian Himalayan Foundation projects here.


“My grandmother says”….a story of snow leopards

January 13, 2010

"My grandma says" childrens book about snow leopards.A few years ago after I returned from a trek in the Mustang region of western Nepal with a wonderful guide, Binod Rana, he introduced me to his brother, Dipak. Dipak was doing community work and fundraising for a school in a village in the Langtang region and I wondered what I could do to help. One afternoon I went to that fabulous Kathmandu institution, Pilgrim’s Bookstore in Thamel…boy can I spend time and money there!

Anyway I found a beautiful book called “My grandmother says” about a young girl looking after wild snow leopards and helping to educate her friends about snow leopards in Nepal. This lovely little book was produced with the help of the Snow Leopard Conservancy and published in English and Nepali. I had a great idea. I bought a hundred copies and gave them to the village school. Dipak told me the kids loved them.

It turns out the Snow Leopard Conservancy has now produced another edition in English, Chinese and Tibetan. It would make a beautiful gift for any young child. The drawings are lovely and the story an inspiring one about young people and caring for their environment. If you have some young children in your life or are a teacher they would be an enjoyable read and a learninge experience. You can purchase the book from the Conservancy here.

“Saving the Ghost of the mountain” – book by Sy Montgomery

September 23, 2009
Saving the ghost of the mountain by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop

"Saving the ghost of the mountain" by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop

I have to share with you  my latest find – this gorgeous book by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop – “Saving the Ghost of the Mountain – an expedition among snow leopards in Mongolia” -just published. It’s aimed at young readers but an absolute must read for adults interested in this rare cat too.

Sy and Nic spent time in Mongolia with Tom McCarthy, Conservation Director of the Snow Leopard Trust and his local team who are working on a ten year study of the cat in this region.

Sy scrambling through extreme terrain in Mongolia. Photo Nic Bishop.

Sy scrambling through extreme terrain in Mongolia. Photo Nic Bishop.

As well as the story of this snow leopard conservation project, the book covers the history of the region with stories about Genghis Khan who ruled here hundreds of years ago. We learn about local customs of the nomadic herders, other local wildlife like the desert hedgehog and the story of dinosaur finds in the Gobi desert made by adventurers in the 1920’s and 1930’s. There are stunning photographs by Nic throughout.

Like my own snow leopard conservation journey in northern India (Ladakh) ten years ago, Sy and Nic didn’t see any of the rare and illusive cats. Along with Tom (who Sy calls the Professor of Poop), they do however find lots of scat (also known as snow leopard poop). For me those many years ago finding poop was so exciting, at least we knew the cats were there even if we didn’t see them!

I’ve been in email contact with Sy and she’s shared her thrilling account of the Mongolia trip searching for snow leopards for the book here.

Get this book  from Amazon here.

Stories of shape shifting snow leopards

July 23, 2009
Jackie Morris 'The Snow Leopard' book cover.

Jackie Morris 'The Snow Leopard' book cover.

Children’s author/illustrator Jackie Morris has written and illustrated a beautiful book, The Snow Leopard about the Wakhi people in Afghanistan. Talk about being seduced by a book’s cover – the illustrations are beautiful.

The story, based on ancient village tales, concerns a shape-shifting guardian (the locals call them mergichans) in the body of the wide-eyed snow leopard. As a protector she guards an infinity of mountain realms and the people in them but it is time to find some-one to take her place. In this tale the snow leopard protector seeks out a young girl to train in the wisdom of guradianship. Not only is the story intriguing for kids (our friend’s young girl sat with the book for hours) but it also has a lovely (but subtle) environmental message about the future of mountains.

This book is a beautiful way to introduce young children to snow leopards. I was going to give the book as a present, but I can’t part with it, so will just have to buy another 🙂

More about the Wakhi people and their supernatural snow leopard guardians on the Myths page of the Snow Leopard Conservancy’s website here.