A yak off the beaten track
MT PLEASANT, WA I WAS on a mission to find a wild yak. My visit to Nepal could not be complete without seeing one. But trekking through the foothills under Annapurna’s south face, I felt cruelly disappointed when mycompanion, Hari, told me we wouldn’t reach the altitude at which yaks live.
The most elevated point on our walk would be Poon Hill, at 3200m, which would serve to provide exquisite views of such giants as Dhaulagiri and Machhapuchhre, looming kilometres higher than our viewing point.
The mountain vistas were extraordinary, yet I could not have been more elated when, three days into the trek, Hari spotted our shaggy prey up on the hillside above our path.
We immediately began clambering through the scrub, and I was thrilled to come across a mother and her young in the forest.
I sneaked some photos, filled with visions of myself as a great explorer of uncharted territory, but my fantasy crumbled when we made it out of the trees and found that our ‘‘wild’’ yak family were actually escapees from a yak farm. Of course, with my bright clothes and backpack I stood out like the proverbial sore thumb, and in no time at all a young Nepalese farmer in wellingtons and muddy clothes was upon us, eager to try out his English and show off his animals.
No opportunities were missed on either side. I grilled him about the Himalayan yak herder’s life and, ever the teacher, congratulated him on his English language achievements. When I thought our limits of mutual understanding were exhausted, he raised his trouser cuff to reveal a two-day-old infected cut on his leg.
It appeared the three-hour return trip to the nearest clinic hadn’t seemed worthwhile at the time of injury, but the mud and manure of the yak farm wasn’t proving a very sterile environment.
Relishing the dream of being a grand explorer once again, I produced my first-aid kit and helped out my new friend with a sterile bandage.
I don’t know who was more chuffed with the outcome of our impromptu meeting, but I’m so glad I chased that baby yak up the hill.
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