National Geographic : 1993 Dec
On Assignment Dangling from jagged cliffs with Nepalese honey hunters or climbing through torch-lit caves for birds' nests in Thailand, photographer Eric Valli, at right, and writer Diane Summers get their stories for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC in hard-to-reach places. They do it by living with the local people, often for months at a time. With their children, four-year-old Sara and two-year-old Camille, the couple traveled with villagers of Nepal's northwestern reaches to report on the salt traders of the Himalaya. Following caravans of yak or sheep, the family trekked some of the highest mountain passes in the world. Here sheepskin coats and cama raderie warm Eric and his friends before the departure of a yak car avan. Lakpa Gyalzen Sherpa, at left, served as assistant and inter preter, as he had for coverage of the honey hunters of Nepal for the November 1988 GEOGRAPHIC and a subsequent book. Doctor of tra ditional medicine and headman of the village of Saldang, Tundup, center, tutored Eric and Diane in the Tibetan way of life, which sur vives in Nepal's Dolpo region. Eric first visited Dolpo in 1981, three years before his chance en counter with Diane, an Australian lawyer on holiday, on a rickety bus in Nepal. The two determined to make a living out of their mutual love of adventure; now their young family calls Kathmandu home. Sara and Camille speak their father's French and mother's English fluent ly, "but Nepali is probably their first language," says Eric. Immersion in the culture is key to Eric and Diane's reporting; they invest years in getting to know their subjects. "We care about these people," Eric says. "Wherever we go, we try to learn the language. Diane and I read, we listen, we talk to the people, we explore, and that's how we come up with story ideas." The couple are now writing a book, their fifth, about the Himalayan caravans and also plan a film. Documenting Asia's threatened traditional cultures has become their mission. "It's our duty to record these ways of life before they disappear," says Eric. "When you go to new places, you learn that others have a com pletely different way of looking at things. The Himalaya, for exam ple-we imagined it to be this huge barrier. But the caravans prove that the mountains have always been a passageway." NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC(ISSN 0027-9358) IS PUBLISHEDMONTHLYBYTHE NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY,1145 17TH ST. N.W ., WASHINGTON,D. C. 20036. $21.00 A YEAR,$2.65 A COPY. SECOND-CLASS POSTAGEPAIDAT WASHINGTON,D. C., AND ELSEWHERE.POSTMASTER:SEND ADDRESSCHANGESTO NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC,P.O. BOX2174, WASHINGTON,D. C. 20013.
1993 Nov 30