Author of Madam, Have You Ever Really Been Happy? An Intimate Journey through Africa and Asia


Many of you, like me, read in the Travel Section of the NYTimes this week that they’re building a road into the beautiful Annapurna Circuit, which I traversed in 1999.  Here is the link if you wish to read it. The lead photo is exactly like one I took on Poon Hill facing the  magnificent 26,795 ft. Dhaulagiri peak.

I must say, at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, that I’m glad I laid eyes on Nepal and on Kathmandu, and trekked into Annapurna, Kangchenjunga, and Everest Base Camp before it turned into an out-of-control haven for tourists. Those were the days when you went there to be IN the mountains, not just to look at them from a jeep. There were the broken-down buses with their hangers-on that labored over treacherous mountain passes to get you to a trailhead, and there were well-worn trails to get you into the wilderness. You struggled, you huffed and puffed, and you grooved on the excitement of a possible snowstorm as you climbed up the Thorong La (17,500 ft) at 3 AM and ran down the other side like a mountain goat, so relieved to have made in over the top and survived.

M.P. on top of Thorang La

The only way you got to Muktinah, the Kandiki Valley, Manang, Chame, or Tatopani was on foot, just as the Nepalis did. This was even more so on the difficult 30-day Kangchenjunga trek where you could look down on the Jannu Glacier from Kampachen and risk a “yak attack” from thundering mountain herds at sunset. Sometimes our small group walked on paths the width of a single foot, tamped into the side of mountains, right after the original trail had been washed out by an avalanche of falling rocks. We walked through isolated villages and used the footpaths of the locals. We slept in our own tents, since there were no public teahouses at that time (1996). We made friends with local policemen and children and grandmothers. It was joyous! We felt part of Nepal, not an isolated group of tourists.

As Ethan Todras-Whitehill, the author of the disturbing  Times article put it: Trekkers want places where only their own feet can take them.

Here, just for old times sake, are some of my happy memories of Annapurna and the pristine Himalayas in days of yore.

Typical bus heading for the mountains

The Annapurna range lies ahead

One of many footbridges over the Kali Gandaki River

The gate through which we leave Chame

Trails leading to the pass

Here's what happens when there is no bridge. Let me tell's cold!

Yours truly outside of Pisang, before the pass

One of many stone stupas. Stones are intricately fitted together without cement

A typical trail near the Kali Gandaki River

The wilderness outside Hongde

Morning friends. Herds of goats and sheep blocked the trail

Children greeting us along the way. Nameste!

Children greeted me with Namaste and took me to their home

Tibetan mother and child in the valley refugee village

Tibetan woman with her child, living in the valley. This was her first photo, she told me.

Kalu, our wonderful guide

Mani stones under the prayer wheels

M.P., Kalu, and Denise kicking up our heels on Poon Hill

M/P., Kalu, and Denise kicking up our heels on top of Poon Hill

Dhaulagiri from Poon Hill

Sacred Jwala Mai Temple in Muktinah

The leader of the pack. Move over!

This delightful schoolboy walked several miles with me to his school, practicing his English

We arrived at the school

Terraced farms

Leaving Manang

Leaving Manang and heading for Thorong La (the pass)

Typical landscape as we descended

Typical scenery as we descended
Neat farms and villages spread out below us

Young women working in the field

After the "Gurung Staircase" we reach our final camp, Birethanti, where the porters are playing a heated card game

A morning and evening shot of the magnificent fish-tail peak of Machhapuchhare

Morning and evening shots of the magnificent fish-tail peak of Machhapuchhare






  1. Jon Pollack

    They truly are beautiful pictures. Its hard to believe that we actually were there!

  2. Hannah

    I adore your photographs!

  3. amazing pilgrimage thank you for sharing

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