In search of the Yeti: British adventurer Alastair Humphreys on his expedition to the wilds of Bhutan to find the mythical beast
Ask Alastair Humphreys what he’s doing at the weekend and you’re unlikely to get a normal answer – the man has spent four years cycling around the world, he’s rowed across the Atlantic and he’s walked across the Empty Quarter desert.
And his latest expedition is similarly epic – he is leading a team of people in search of the Yeti in Bhutan.
The Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, has been part of Bhutanese folklore since the late 1700s, with a number of highprofile sightings that remain unexplained to this day.
Under the direction of Humphreys and funded by the car company Skoda, a team of explorers will start in Samdrup Jonkhar in the south east of Bhutan before travelling north to an altitude of 3,530 metres (11,581 feet) to the 162,000 acre Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary where the half-man, half-animal is thought to reside.
It should be noted at this point that Humphreys is not a fantasist – he does not believe in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus or the Easter bunny, but he does however think there is the vaguest of chances that yeti once roamed the mountains of the mysterious country.
In fact, locals firmly believe in the Yeti’s existence, although experts have suggested in recent years that the creature could be a present day specimen of the giant ape ‘Gigantopithecus’, which is thought to be extinct.
Humphreys’ opinions on the subject lean to the sceptical, but he certainly possesses more than a glimmer of hope that this expedition might finally be the one to gather real evidence of the mythical beast.
He told MailOnline Travel: ‘I think it really depends on what you think of as the Yeti.
‘I just read the explorer Reinhold Messner’s book and he got ridiculed for years by his mission to find the Yeti, but he tried to explain it as there being two things it could be – one is a Loch Ness monster fantasy and the other is genuine rare animal that is hard to spot.
‘I like the idea of the legend as it gives the local area colour and identity, but I also like the idea that there might be rare animals living in parts of the world that haven’t been destroyed.’
While he is keeping his fingers crossed for a Yeti sighting, Humphreys is mainly excited about the reason to have another adventure – especially in somewhere as unknown as Bhutan.
He said: ‘Bhutan is a country which sounds ridiculously remote and exotic and it’s a hard place to get to as an independent traveller – that’s its main appeal.
‘I’ve been getting various injections and driving permits in preparation and no one seems to know anything about it, in fact, a few people I’d spoken to had never even heard of it.
‘A friend of mine who occasionally does aid work there tells me the beer is very good though - apparently there is a craft brewery.
‘Their food is also quite interesting - it’s a mixture of Indian, Chinese and Tibetan influences.
‘They have a dish called Ema Dats, which is chillies cooked in cheese and I’m imagining that will be pretty nice.’
Humphreys has two ways of preparing for travel – one is to find out everything he knows about the country and the other is to turn up with no knowledge and let the experience just wash over you.
With Bhutan, he’s choosing the latter, although to be honest, that’s not hard.
He said: ‘They’ve made a pretty good job of keeping tourists out, by making them pay huge amounts to go there.
‘They’ve been willfully self-contained, I mean, they only got television 17 years ago.
‘But one of the few things I do know about Bhutan is that they measure gross domestic happiness over gross domestic product.
‘Perhaps that isn’t so foolish given the state of the world.
‘I might not know much about it, but I suspect that any country that has big mountains, a dish made of chilies and cheese, no reality television and that treasures happiness is going to be good.’