4/12/13

Photo Vignettes from Chitwan National Park, Nepal

A few photos from a few days in Chitwan National Park, southern Nepal. April is fire season in the Nepal Terai lowlands, so the level of blue smoky haze is high. It shows in some of these photographs. My camera was a Canon G-11.
The Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros, above, was lazily snoozing in a hyacinth covered pond, unaffected by our presence.

 A mother elephant and her offspring. The little guy was 1 month old, and a bit wobbly on his stubby legs. His twin brothers, behind him, were from an earlier breeding,

                                                                 White-breasted Kingfisher

                                                A trio of Open-Billed Storks on a river bank.

                                        A youthful Tharu fire dancer, entertaining us one evening.

 A Mugger Crocodile, waiting and watching as we float by... You don't want to disturb one of these behemoths when he's hungry or angry.

                                   The smoky sky gave this early morning sunrise special colors.

2/12/13

High in the Khumbu (Nepal) - 1966


High in the Khumbu, 1966
By Don Messerschmidt
Everyone, at some time, has a vision of a fabled valley cradled in high mountains, where the harsh realities of existence are unknown... (Desmond Doig)

The first time I saw Mount Everest close up was December 1966, when trekking in the Khumbu was still a rare adventure. (It’s still an adventure, but not as rare now as half a century ago.) My trek into the ‘fabled valley’ and mountains was all the more memorable because Sir Edmund Hillary was there with his family. Thirteen years after he topped Everest with Tenzing Sherpa, Hillary was back building school houses and other projects, and celebrating Christmas with the Sherpas.
High over Khundé
I flew from Kathmandu in a Twin Pioneer operated by Nepal’s Royal Flight and piloted by Flight Lft. Ken Hart. The Twin Pioneer was a surprisingly maneuverable STOL (short take-off and landing) aircraft. As we approached the upper Khumbu Ken briefed me over the roar of the engines.
“Below us, on the left, you’ll see Namché Bazar,” he shouted, pointing ahead into a maze of mountains and river gorges. “Then we will fly directly over Khundé and Khumjung villages. Look closely, and you’ll see Ed Hillary’s new Hospital.”
Within minutes we were over the Khundé ridge, waggling our wings at the hospital staff waving up at us. Then we flew down past Khumjung over an old monastery with its new aluminum roof (another gift from Hillary) glinting in the bright sun. We turned over the Dudh Khosi (‘Milky River’) gorge below Tengboché monastery, and after a last glance at Ama Dablam, Taboché, and Mount Everest, Ken banked the plane and we descended in a slow glide south toward the tiny airfield at Lukla...

Photos below(L) Yeti scalp and hand at Pangboche Gompa, 1966 (they were later stolen), and (R) 'Father Christmas' on a yak distributing candies at Christmas to the Sherpas attending Sir Edmund Hillary's party, at Khunde village... All part of the trek to EBC... And there's much more. 
The full story is published in ECS Nepal magazine, January 2013 issue. You can read more about this early trek to EBC (Everest Base Camp -- the old one) archived online at http://ecs.com.np/feature_detail.php?f_id=575.

11/20/12


An update on the search for ‘yarsagumba’
—the most expensive traditional medicine on the planet—  
at risk of extinction

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There are two parts to this story. The first is a short excerpt from my cover feature story on the yarsagumba 'rush' of Spring 2012, published in the September 2012 issue of ECS Nepal magazine (Kathmandu). Part 2 is a follow-up story, previously unpublished.
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Part 1
Yarsagumba: Himalayan Gold Rush

The search for 'Himalayan Gold' taxes body and soul. But if you collect enough yarsagumba, and if it's not harvested to extinction, it's a money maker!
Yarsagumba is the high altitude medicinal ‘herb’ that fetches huge prices on the Chinese traditional medicine market. Collecting it requires climbing high, very high, in the Himalayas, with enough physical exertion, adventure and clear-and-present danger to challenge even the strongest, most experienced and cautious of seekers.
In early May, shortly into the 2012 yarsagumba collecting season, a Nepali friend and I set off north of Dhaulagiri in Mustang District to observe and photograph the Himalayan Gold Rush. We wanted a story, and we got it.

Going high
On our first morning into the highlands we climbed steeply up 1750 meters (5740 feet) to the top of a ridge above the picturesque Thakali town of Marpha in the valley of the upper Kali Gandaki river. We ascended at my speed, slow and steady (thank you), although my three youthful companions, all in their 20s, could have done it in half the time. I was accompanied by Kapil Bisht (freelance writer), Feroj Lalchan (guide and yarsagumba buyer), and porter Amrit Gurung who carried our small tent, sleeping bags and several days’ food.
By late morning we reached the ridge top high up on what the locals call Batasi Danda, ‘Windy Mountain’. Our ultimate destination was Yak Kharka a pasture higher up on the ‘Dhaulagiri Trail’, part of ‘The Great Himalaya Trail’. All the way across the exposed mountainside to the pass, the view is dominated by Dhaulagiri, ‘White Peak’, the world’s 7th highest, less than 15 km. (9 miles) south. Its blocky north face is awesome. Climbers call it ‘the Pear’ for its resemblance to the fruit.

Dhaulagiri as seen fromYak Kharka 
A blustery wind greeted us on the ridge. Suspecting that it was the front end of yet another mid-day snowstorm, we rested only briefly, then pulled our woolen caps more tightly down over our ears, zipped up our windbreakers, shouldered our packs and moved on.

The lure of yarsagumba
Yarsagumba is known to science as Ophiocordyceps sinesis, or in plain English as caterpillar-fungus, part insect-part plant. It has been highly prized by herbalists since first described in a traditional Chinese medicine book over ten centuries ago. Today, it is the world’s most expensive herbal medicine. Brewed and drunk as a mild tea or powdered and added to food, this ‘medicinal mushroom’ is said to reduce fatigue, boost the immune system, cure numerous ailments, and aid sexual performance as a powerful aphrodisiac. It is also known as the ‘Himalayan Viagra’.


Yarsagumba first came to world attention when members of the Chinese national women’s track team set new world records at the Asian Games in Japan in 1994. Their coach bragged that they had taken yarsagumba before the races, drinking it down with turtle blood. It is not considered to be an illegal substance. But accounts vary about where and when the Chinese runners and their coach revealed their secret. In another version, the games were in Germany, and yet another says that it was at the games in China in 1993. They may all be right.


Since the early 2000s this valuable golden-brown fungus has been avidly collected in Nepal each spring, April to June. It is also abundant in Tibet and several other Chinese provinces, and in neighboring Bhutan and north India.

The search is on
Its name derives from yartsa-gunbu, or yarchagumba, Tibetan meaning ‘summer herb-winter worm’ for its transformation from animal to plant in summer, and back to animal in winter. In fact, it is two organisms. At base it is the larva of the Thitarodes ghost moth (Himalayan bat moth). The moth larva is invaded by a sac fungus (related to morel mushrooms and truffles, brewer’s yeast, and distantly to anti-bacterial penicillium species that grow on cheese). The fungus then kills and mummifies the insect and grows in its body. Eventually, it sends up a tiny ‘club’ or ‘head’ (a tendril) about a half inch above ground. The writer, Peter Zuckerman has described it as “a mummified caterpillar with a mushroom spore shooting from its brain.” That spore is what collectors look for.
Harvesting yarsagumba in the wild is not easy. The caterpillar-fungus only occurs above 3500 m (c.11,500 ft.), though at Yak Kharka it is more common from about 4600 m. (15,000 ft.) up. Spotting the yarsagumba tendrils amidst the grass and other plants in the high meadows requires a keen eye. Collectors typically kneel or crawl or lay prone to get close to it. Each caterpillar-fungus is dug carefully out of the soil by hand and wrapped in soft cloth so as not to crush or break the stem (which diminishes its value).
When a local thekadar (contractor, or buyer) shows up he may pay as much as 500 rupees (around $6) apiece for the unique plant-animal, depending on size and quality. With luck, skilled collectors can earn huge sums in a few weeks, up to four or five times an average worker’s annual salary.
The best quality, hence the most profitable specimens, are said to come from Dolpa District, west of Mustang. A kilogram of the highest quality may contain 1200 or more pieces and sell in Kathmandu for $8,000 or more. In Bhutan it is said to sell for as high as $20,000/kg. And in North America, at the other end of the value chain, an ‘over the counter’ price of $75,000/kg. has been reported.
During the collecting season, it is estimated that thousands of poor Nepalese villagers, mostly young men, trek up to the high pastures hoping to get rich quick. It is so popular that some communities are forced to close the local schools because so many students are off collecting.
On our morning hike up to the yarsagumba trail, on the far side of some steep cliffs, we met a gothalo with his wife and baby in a small but comfortable camp. He showed us his collection of caterpillar-fungus then joined us as we climbed higher. From there on we met other collectors crawling on the ground searching for the hard-to-see mushroom tendrils. They came from nearby Myagdi District and from as far away as Gorkha, Rolpa, Gulmi and Mugu. It was in the midst of these collectors that we got our story.
That afternoon, we left the mountain and returned to Marpha, in the valley below. A few days later we were back in Kathmandu, and that’s where second part of my story begins—

Part 2
The Value of Yarsagumba, and a Few Secrets
There’s a nondescript hotel on a back alley in old Kathmandu that harbors some secrets. For one, a lot of hard currency changes hands there once each year, in quest of the world’s most costly medicinal plant, the so-called ‘Himalayan Viagra’ (Ophiocordyceps sinesis), the caterpillar-fungus known locally as yarsagumba. For another, the yarsagumba trade affects the annual harvest, and the future of this exotic and expensive medicinal plant may be endangered.
While pondering all that on my first visit to the hotel, I was served a sumptuous meal and, it wasn’t long after that that I felt the results of yet another secret...
After returning from our high altitude expedition to document the 2012 yarsagumba harvest, we met and interviewed several experts on international trade in the exotic medicinal plant. The meeting was held in a hotel located down an obscure alley in old Kathmandu. It took me awhile to find it and when I finally did, I had to walk past a lot of building materials (bricks and sand) heaped up on both sides of the lane and an old model Toyota Land Cruiser with dated blue diplomatic license plates (indicating the Embassy of the PRC - China) on blocks near the front entrance.
Crowded street in old Kathmandu
The hotel is near Thamel, a part of Kathmandu popular with foreign travelers’ and backpackers, and crowded with budget hotels and guesthouses, restaurants and trekking outfitters, bars, bakeries and bookstores. Few visitors know, however, all else that goes on down the dark, narrow gullies. Illicit drugs and sex, of course, and the whispered harangue of street touts pushing one scam or another, including the exchange of crisp euros and dollars for rupees at good rates. And once each year there’s a flurry of fervent haggling and big money exchanging hands for the caterpillar-fungus called yarsagumba, the so-called ‘Himalayan viagra’.
At the hotel we were ushered upstairs to a private room with dirty windows and a table set for six. My friend and I were joined there by two Nepalese businessmen who spoke both Nepali and English, the Chinese hotel owner who spoke only Chinese and some Nepali, and a South Korean businesswoman fluent in Korean, English, Nepali and Chinese, who helped the hotelier with translation.
Immediately, our Chinese host snapped his fingers and ordered up a sumptuous lunch from the hotel restaurant: braised pork, mutton, chicken, vegetables and mushrooms in various sauces, with white rice and copious cups of green tea. It was superb, but we were there more for information than for sustenance, though we savored both. Over the next hour and a half we learned many intriguing facts about the Himalayan trade in yarsagumba, and about the hotel itself.
Every year in June, at the end of yarsagumba collecting season, wealthy buyers from Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and other Chinese cities fly to Kathmandu and check into this hotel. They come to buy up 90% of the year’s yarsagumba production (the remaining 10% is used in Nepal). Those well-heeled buyers hesitate to leave the hotel, however, for fear of being mugged. And no wonder, given all the high value yarsagumba that the Nepalese thekadars (contract buyers) bring here and all the hard currency the Chinese traders carry with them to buy it. Consequently, security is high, although when we were there a few weeks before the buying frenzy began, the hotel was quiet and the only security we saw was a sleepy black dog snoozing languidly in the hotel doorway.
During lunch we learned that the total yarsagumba harvest in Nepal for 2011 (the previous year) was approximately 50 quintals = 5,000 kg. = 5 tons. At a price of about NRs.600,000/kg. (it fluctuates), or $8,000 per kilogram, the total harvest that year was worth approximately three billion rupees. That’s over 40 million dollars! It’s a big business.
We have subsequently learned that the 2012 harvest was comparatively low, one of the poorest on record. We heard the collectors at Yak Kharka complain of its scarcity and other experts are now on record fearing that the caterpillar-fungus may be threatened with extinction if the pressure of harvesting all across the Himalayan highlands is not better controlled by the authorities. Meanwhile, however, many in the trade are still making their fortunes, and the buyers of its products are feeling fine in other ways.
The bare facts now raise two crucial questions. Is yarsagumba being over-harvested? And, does it face extinction? Scientists and the world press answer a qualified yes to both. For example, see ‘Extinction threat looms for yarchagumba’ from an Agence France Presse (AFP) press release in The Himalayan Times, October 6, 2012 (posted at thehimalayantimes.com) and John R. Platt’s ‘Extinction Countdown’ blog of November 6, 2012 entitled ‘Yarsagumba: Aphrodisiac fungus faces extinction in Nepal’ (at blogs.scientificamerican.com).
While we were at the hotel, others secrets were revealed, like the fact that the hotel owner employs reputedly the best Chinese chef in all of Kathmandu. He has to be first class, of course, in order to satisfy the high-rollers who check in to participate in the yarsagumba trade. I’ve eaten there twice and can vouch for the superior taste and quality. But don’t take only my word for it. The second time I was joined by a friend who claims to be a connoisseur of Chinese cuisine. After eating, he smacked his lips and declared it the best Chinese cuisine in all of Nepal! Who am I to doubt the word of an expert?
And, looking back on the mid-day repast as we discussed the yarsagumba trade, did I detect another secret? After leaving the hotel I felt invigorated? Intellectually, yes, but more to the point: I felt great physically and emotionally. Was it the food? Some herbal essence, perhaps? A little yarsagumba?
And why not? Our host certainly has access to it, lots of it, and lacing food with the precious herb in powder form is commonly done in China where it is popular as an energizing tonic, a pep-me-up that is said to cure fatigue and ulcers and other ailments, and to invigorate body and mind in other ways. For the rest of that day I felt rather refreshed! ■

Part 1 of this story was published in ECS Nepal magazine, September 2012. 
You can read it in its entirety online at ecs.com.np/feature_detail.php?f_id=560.
Part 2 is previously unpublished. You are seeing it for the first time on this blog.
All rights reserved. Copyright © by Don Messerschmidt 2012

9/24/12



Words on Walkabout, Talking to Ourselves
In the privacy of our minds, we all talk to ourselves - an inner monologue that might seem rather pointless... But the act of giving ourselves mental messages can help us learn and perform our best. -Annie Murphy Paul, ‘Talking to Yourself’
This is a column about words, though not all words are readable, printed or even printable. Some are only audible, and at times only imagined. We often talk to ourselves, seriously, for self-guidance or encouragement to get over something difficult. It helps confront the unknown or the unforeseen.
I met the unforeseen one wet and windy day while crossing the Kali Gandaki river near Kobang in Mustang District. The Kobang bridge is not your typical suspension bridge, but is an elevated track well over 500 feet long. Crossing it requires carefully negotiating narrow beams, three abreast, set side-by-side between T-shaped concrete pylons about 12 feet above the riverbed. The pylons are spaced out in approximately 24-foot sections, over two dozen of them, one after the other, east-west. Each beam is about seven or eight inches wide, squared, with each end resting unsecured on a pylon. When wet, the narrow track is slippery. As you walk some of the beams wobble. And there are no hand rails to help keep your balance.
Crossing the Kobang bridge that day was a challenge of Olympian magnitude. Bucking a gale force wind in a slashing rain, my two companions and I simply wanted to get across and off, as quickly as possible. We didn’t stop to measure anything or take photographs.
It was under these unenviable conditions that I clearly heard the voice, my voice, talking to me.
You can cross this thing, it said. Just don’t look down.
One step at a time. Careful now. Avoid that wobbly log. Keep your balance. Don’t slip.
One section done, now do the next. Slowly... Steady...
Don’t get blown off this * thing! (expletive deleted). Stay the course...
They were audible, encouraging, cautioning, complimenting words, urging me on.
Just a little more now...
Aha, finally, the end is in sight.
The unfinished bridge abruptly terminated atop a pylon far from its intended conclusion. Wet and weary, we had done it successfully and safely, but with some trepidation. It was an altogether extraordinary crossing.
We got back down to earth by a rickety wooden ladder.
v  v  v
Writers live on words, usually written down or typed. Orators and actors are good at mouthing them, and readers may say them off the page, aloud. At times we writers also talk to ourselves, to test a phrase or find the right verb or adjective, for example. We hear ourselves muttering along while muddling through a rough draft or when facing a challenging passage, be it a narrative passage on paper or a physical passage over a raging river. No matter; words help us contemplate, concentrate, balance, take the next step, reconsider, and move on. Finish one section. Confront and conquer the next.
Scientists who study this phenomenon have identified three stages in ‘talking to ourselves’, three cycles of wordiness. The first is Forethought, when we set a goal and make a plan. Then Performance, as we carry out the plan. Then Self-Reflection, when we look back to evaluate our accomplishment. In other words, as we see something difficult coming up we contemplate, confront and deal with it head on, then ponder what we’ve done, sometimes in awe. It’s the same for writing an inspired essay as it is for crossing an insecure bridge. 
v  v  v
The Kobang Bridge crosses the Kali Gandaki valley in ‘Thak Khola’, where it cuts through the Himalayas, dramatically separating two of the world’s highest peaks, Dhaulagiri and Annapurna. The scenic geography, the history and the perceived sanctity of the region have made this a popular trek destination as well as a sacred quest for Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims.
It’s an exceptional walkabout to talk and write about. 

Go to ECS Nepal magazine online at www.ecs.com.np to read more  articles and essays about Nepal and the Himalayas. This essay is from my monthly column, 'Spilled Ink', September 2012 issue. /DM

9/8/12

Bhupi Sherchan/poet_Book Review


The Life of Bhupi Sherchan
Poetry and Politics in Post-Rana Nepal
By Michael Hutt

 □ Unpublished Book Review © 2012 by Don Messerschmidt
Good poets speak of their times and to their times.
Great poets speak to all times. (Michael Hutt)
Foreigners writing biographies of Nepali luminaries is a chal­lenging endeavor. Navigating their life stories requires proficiency in language, his­tory, and social complexities. And depending on the life under the pen other subject matter such as literary art forms and politics must also be mastered.
The Life of Bhupendraman Sherchan (1935-1989) was set largely in the context of post-Rana Nepal (the 1950s to his death), incorporating a maze of political, social, artistic, and personal complexities. His bio­grapher, Michael Hutt, a Professor of Nepali and Himalayan Studies at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, has done it well.
Alhough Hutt never met his subject in person, as a literary scholar he has long admired Bhupi’s poetry and its significance to modern Nepal. At one point, Hutt characterizes his subject as “the creator of Nepali litera­ture’s most incisive poetic insights.” Bhupi’s life, says Hutt, began with great promise, but it ultimately “descended into ill health and compromised decadence.”
‘Bhupi’, as he was affectionately known, was a Thakali, a mountain ethnic group from the northern district of Mustang. According to family tradition, he was born under inauspicious stars. And although a different  astrol­oger later repudiated  that early prognosis, some dark aspects of the omens first predicted apparently lingered, at least in Bhupi’s mind. His mother died when the boy was only five years old, and Bhupi spent his life feeling somehow responsible. It was a shadow on his soul that can be read into many of his poems.
His father, Hitman Sherchan, was a highly successful businessman, so that although Bhupi as a student and young man was apparently always in want of money, he had access to plenty. This made becoming a poet relatively easy.
When Bhupi was sent to India to study in the 1940s he, like many young Nepalese of his time, came under influence of anti-Rana sentiments and for most of his life he professed allegiance to communist ideals, though he never formally joined the Nepal communist party. Later, when he achieved acclaim in Nepalese literary circles, including membership in the elite Royal Nepal Academy, he seems to have repudiated much of his communist leanings.
His friends describe Bhupi as an impulsive person who smoked heavily and had a serious alcohol problem. The drinking affected his social life and, at times, his poetic output. His early death was partly the result of drinking and lack of attention to his health and well-being.
Michael Hutt’s biography describes these and many other facets of Bhupi’s personal life, largely based on interviews with family and friends and from the few writings (by others) that reflect upon his life. 
The book has eight chapters. Chapter 1, entitled Thak Khola, the Thakalis and the Sherchans, provides a synop­sis of the poet’s cultural heritage. Chapter 2, Hitman’s Wayward Son, describes his somewhat problem­atic youth and schooling. Bhupi’s family life is then described in  detail along with his personal philosophy and political leanings in Chapter 3, ‘So Here in My Courtyard...’ (the name of a poem) and in Chapter 4, In the Shadow of Machapuchare. Beginning in Chapter 5, ‘A Blind Man on a Revolving Chair’ (another of his popular writings), Hutt analyzes the important characteristics and significance of Bhupi’s poetry. It was the poem ‘My Courtyard’ (‘Mero Chok’) that first struck the biographer with its brevity and linguistic simplicity. Hutt classi­fies it, and much of the rest of Bhupi’s work, as Critical Realism. ‘Mero Chok’ “conveyed a message,” Hutt writes, “that spoke directly, and with both irony and compassion, to contemporary social realities of Nepal.” It begins like this (Hutt’s translation):
My courtyard is on a narrow street
What do I lack? Everything’s here
Countless diseases
Unending hunger
Boundless grief
Only joy is missing
Here it is banned.
A longer poem called ‘We’ (‘Hami’) was written about the time that King Mahendra dismissed  Nepal’s first democratically elected government of B.P. Koirala (1960) and restored political power to the palace. ‘Hami’, says Hutt, is often cited as describing the national character traits and flaws “that have prevented Nepal from achieving the social and economic development that has been the declared objective of every Nepali govern­ment established since 1951” (the year the Ranas were overthrown). “The Nepali people,” he continues, “are courageous, it says, but they suffer from a crippling sense of inferiority. They seldom act unless they are commanded to do so by someone they believe to be greater than them. They are like drops of water [the poem says] which are ‘borne aloft by the sun to be clouds’ and develop an inflated sense of their superiority, but eventually fall as rain ‘into some well, pool or ditch’.”
In similar manner, Hutt points out that many of Bhupi’s admirers see in his poetry a critical judgment of the elite and the powerful. “In Bhupi’s Nepal, the elite know nothing about the lives of the poor and lower middle-classes,” Hutt writes.
In other poems, Bhupi writes passionately about his disdain for Nepalese youth going off as soldiers (lahuré) to enlist in foreign armies. At one point, he castigates them as “brave but foolish” for fighting other men’s wars. In a poem entitled ‘To the Children of Quails, Partridges and Sacrificial Buffaloes’ he puns the term “Gorkhali” (referring to Gurkha soldiers) as ‘goru khali’ meaning ‘mere oxen’, and describes the widows, orphans and bereaved parents that they leave behind. And in ‘The Month of Asar’ he paints “an evocative and romantic portrait of the month which brings the annual life-giving rains, returning to the hills of Nepal like a lahure returning home from service.”
Bhupi also writes poignantly in ‘In Memory of the Martyrs’ (shahid) who died during the anti-Rana revolu­tion of the 1940s. Other poems reflect on such subjects as women, love and sex, patriotism, life and religion, and the poet himself.
One of the most often quoted poems (particularly in the wake of the palace massacre of 2001) is entitled ‘This is a Land of hearsay and Rumour’ (‘Yo Hallai Hallako Desh Ho’), written in 1967 or 1968. The last four of its 70 lines are the most famous:
So this is a land of hearsay and rumour
A country standing on hearsay and rumour
A country that has risen up on hearsay and rumour
This is a land of hearsay and rumour”
Bhupi’s poetry, says his biographer, provides modern Nepal with cogent reflection on the past, present and future. Bhupi sought to communicate with a broad Nepalese readership, and “In this he was more successful than any other Nepali poet before him.” For Michael Hutt and others “Bhupi’s poetry lives on and even finds new resonance and meaning in the political instability and violence that has plagued Nepal since the mid-1990s.” Hutt concludes that “For as long as Nepali society remains distinctive and recognizable, with its grace and humour intact but its human potential unrealized, Bhupi Sherchan will speak both of it and to it with a potent immediacy that remains his and his alone.”
Bhupi once wrote:   
        To be a poet
Is to live a meaningless life
And be meaningful after your death.

The Life of Bhupi Sherchan is published Oxford University Press, New Delhi (2010); 201pp., 920 rupees (Nep.). Professor Hutt’s other books include Nepal in the Nineties: Versions of the Past, Visions of the Future (1994) and Modern Literary Nepal: An Introduc­tory Reader (2003), both from Oxford University Press.

8/25/12



A Walk on the 

Oregon Coast Trail

10 miles from Columbia River Jetty to Sunset Beach

Friday, August 24, 2012

My friend Joe Whittington and I walked 10 miles today along the Oregon Beach (Oregon Coast Trail), south from the Columbia River Jetty to Sunset Beach. A long, hard slog... not unlike walking on city streets. We kept to the hard packed sand near the water to avoid a slow and tiring shuffle  through  soft, deep sand higher up. Joe's goal is to walk the entire coast. He's done over half of it already... 
          Here are a few photos from the Jetty at Ft. Stevens (near Astoria, Oregon) to Sunset Beach, 10 miles south. 

Historical Note: The first work to construct a jetty at the mouth of the Columbia River began in 1885.  
Most of these photos were taken by me using a Canon G-11 Powershot camera. 
All photos on this blog are copyrighted © 2012 Don Messerschmidt.
For the best view of any photograph, double click it. 

The view south from our starting point... 10 miles to go.
Tillamok Head is in the far distance (right side).
The view north from our starting point...
Cape Disappointment on the Washington State side of the mouth of the Columbia River.
Joe with his GPS device,
checking our location and distance traveled.
Seagulls on the beach, from the Jetty.
























Children flying a kite. Because it was a Friday,
there were relatively few people on the beach.
On weekends in summer, however, it's jam packed~!



Robinson Crusoe's footprints in vibram?

The Wreck of the Peter Iredale is a popular tourist attraction, as one of the most accessible shipwrecks along the coast in what has become known as the 'Graveyard of the Pacific'.

About half way into the hike we came across the 100+ year old remains of the 'Peter Iredale'. This 4-masted steel barque ran aground on Clatsop Spit in October 1906, and has slowly been rusting away. See it now, for in a few years it'll be gone beneath the sand. 


The Peter Iredale in 1906.



The Peter Iredale today.
Rusting away...


A father and son near the wreck.
Sand castles anyone~?
Children playing beneath a vast Pacific Ocean sky.

Still life: Three logs on sand.
Remains of crab in sand.

The invasive beach grass was first introduced to the Oregon
Coast in the 1930s, to hold the sand dunes in place.
The dunes and beach sand go on and on, here looking south. 
That's the Coast Range's 'Saddle Mountain' in the background on the right.
Slog, slog. Shuffle, Shuffle. The 10 mile walk took us 4 hours.
It was a good day for a hike.
--DM--


Joe took a picture of 
this old codger 
shuffling along 
through the sand, 
looking weary!


The last three photos are by Joe Whittington.
Thanks, Joe!


                                                                      It was a long stretch of beach, on the outgoing tide.