A yak off the beaten track

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - MARY- ANNE MACDON­ALD

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.

Some op­por­tu­ni­ties just don’t come around twice. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@ theaus­tralian.com.au. Colum­nists re­ceive an OSABrands Uni­ver­sal Travel Adap­tor kit (to­tal value $107.85) with two USB ports ($44.95), OSABrands Dig­i­tal Lug­gage Scales ($32.95) and Ta­tonka RFID Pro­tected Pass­port Pouch ($29.95). More: osabrands.com.

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