National Geographic : 1960 Mar
Belly Deep in Snow, Struggling Yaks Carry Precious Salt Through Ninyal Pass "Holy ones, in Nepal the ground is nothing but rocks, and it is as humpy as the back of a camel." Thus, according to tradition, did Gautama Buddha characterize the land of his birth 25 centuries ago. "Surely," he said to his followers, who were going to Nepal as monks, "you are not going to enjoy your journey." Now, as in the Buddha's time, few Nepalese travel for pleasure; yet a quarter of the popula tion spends one or two months a year on the trail. Man's need for salt provides the goad. Nepal must import its salt from India or Tibet, and most families have the responsibility of obtaining their own supply. Tibetan salt depots up the gorges of the Himalayas draw a steady stream of Nepalese, who arrive with rice, wheat, and vegetable oil for barter. Trade has decreased because of the recent Tibetan troubles. Salt-carrying yak trains thread high passes, cross vast glaciers, and cling to cliffside trails. This Nepalese outfit coming out of Tibet crawls beneath jagged peaks in the Zaskar Range, which dips into northwestern Nepal. Never mapped or named, its crests soar 19,000 to 25,000 feet. Primarily a beast of burden in high altitudes, the yak yields hair for clothing and blankets, milk for butter and cheese, and meat. After it dies, its tail serves as a fly whisk. Inflated buffalo skins serve as boats on the streams of western Nepal. These river men 376 steer their rafts with paddles.