In search of the Yeti: Bri­tish ad­ven­turer Alas­tair Humphreys on his ex­pe­di­tion to the wilds of Bhutan to find the myth­i­cal beast

Bhutan Times - - Editorial - By CARO­LINE MCGUIRE FOR MAILONLINE (Cour­tesy: Mail on­line)

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.’

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