How a mountain trail led me in unexpected directions
My hike along what is now known as the 'Annapurna Trail' eventually led me to the foundation of JJ Books.
Posted on: 11th December 2012
When we set out on a journey, we do not always know where we will end up.
Regular readers of this blog will know that over thirty years ago, I took part in a trek in the Himalayas. The route, which is about 300 miles long, is now very well known as the Annapurna Trail – there is a big national park there. But the year we went was the first year that the Nepalis had opened up the area to the northeast of Annapurna to foreigners, making it possible to walk all the way around.
We were some of the first ‘Western’ people to do make this trip, and that felt immensely exciting.
In total, we were under canvas for some five weeks - but the effects of the trip have had an impact on my outlook ever since. I was almost 50, and was travelling with a husband and wife. He had been in the Ghurkhas, so spoke Nepali. She had been a nurse – which was also reassuring, in case we got into trouble.
Botanical exploration and butterflies
The area had not been botanically explored before, so before I went I got in touch with some botanic gardens, who were interested to see what I found. As it happened, only one plant we encountered turned out to be new to science – but it was nonetheless fascinating to explore the nature of this part of the world, and in total I collected about 2,000 packets of seed.
Alongside plants, the only other thing I can claim to have genuine knowledge of is butterflies. On the trip I took 1450 coloured slides (of butterflies, plants, landscapes, and people) of which 900 turned out to be very good.
Books arising from the trip
On my return, I planned to make a ‘coffee table’ book called the Butterfly Walk. That has (so far!) not come about, but that is not to say that the trip to Annapurna has not had a large influence on what I have done subsequently. It was here that I first came to be interested in the area’s traditional mythology (some of which I collected in Tales for Great Grandchildren) and it was also here that I first encountered Hinduism (you will see the results of this when Brahma Dreaming is published next year).
So in one sense the trail that we walked simply took us around the Annapurna Himal, in another sense, it gave me a complete change of persepctive, and eventually led to the creation of JJ Books.
On the blog and on my new Pinterest page, I plan to share some memories, stories and images from the hike (at the top of this blog you can see one of my slides - I'll be sharing many more).
I hope these give a flavour of the trip and the effect it had on me. I hope it might inspire others to take paths into the unknown. You never know where they might lead!