When my brother heard I was going trekking in Tibet, he made a crack about watching out for yetis. And I laughed but I wasn’t laughing so much on the third day of our Ganden to Samye trek, when I came across this:
When we came into camp the evening before, Tenchoe, the local yak herder we had hired for the trek, said he had seen a large bear near the river in the valley that we were traversing down into. But the “bear,” he said, wasn’t quite the right way to describe it and the closest way he could describe it was “yeti.” Gawd.
Fortunately whatever the heck it was supposed to be was running away from the direction we were heading to camp, and didn’t come back.
There were some funny stories that night of how yeti men will pick up human women for companions and vice versa, and jokes that my travel buddy Meg might become a yeti wife, with yeti kids and come back to San Francisco to lead Yeti Yoga.
But I wasn’t laughing so much on the short climb up to the Chitul La pass, when the beautiful, sunny morning began to feel like the valley of the dead when we came across two twisted, dessicated yak carcasses, and then another one for a sheep. I wondered if they had died from natural causes or from the yeti-bear (which I guess is a natural cause, but not a way anyone wants to go.)
Our yak man, and the two yak herders who stopped by our campsite on the long way back to Trubshi that night, were genuinely concerned about walking at night with their yaks.
None of them liked to make the long trek back from the Yamalung area back to Trubshi alone and would do all they could to get in before dark. It wasn’t so much the fear of falling off the mountain or losing their way or crossing the streams and rivers, but much more that animals would attack them. Unfortunately, the two yak men had to head back out into the frigid night after a quick dinner with us.
The next day, on the long, long descent from the Chitul La, I couldn’t help but look over my shoulder from time to time, sheepishly but more than a little nervous, when I fell behind our guide and Meg. What was that sound in the trees? Do yeti bears come down this far? What the heck did Tenchoe actually see?
This week, when I saw the news of research proving that the yeti is actually a Tibetan brown bear, it all became more clear. Our yeti was almost surely a Tibetan brown bear. But I have to say — being out there in the vast Tibetan mountains and valleys with “just” a Tibetan brown bear isn’t a whole bunch of comfort :-)
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