Title: Yak Butter Blues
Author: Brandon Wilson:
The following review was contributed by:
NORM GOLDMAN: Editor of Bookpleasures &CLICK TO VIEW Norm Goldman's Reviews
After reading author Brandon Wilson’s email requesting a review of his book Yak Butter Blues, wherein he recounts how he and his wife, Cheryl, travelled 40 days from early October to the end of November in 1992 over 1000 kilometers travelling along the ancient pilgrimage route across Tibet, my first reaction was- they must have been either fearless or harebrained!
Colorfully detailing their gruelling venture, Wilson recounts how they set out from one of the highest cities in the world, Lhasa across the inhospitable terrain of Tibet and finally ending up in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Evidently, they were one of the first Western couples to trek this ancient route alongside, by the way, a horse they named Sadhu. They were, as Wilson states, “ a trio of mad marathoners.” The author also informs us that he lost thirty- five pounds or one fifth of his weight, and added to the weight loss was his and his wife’s bout with diarrhoea and bronchitis.
A fair portion of the book is devoted to the daily nerve-racking routine of finding shelter and food, not only for themselves but also for Sadhu. You can well imagine the challenges they had to endure, particularly that their knowledge of the Tibetan language was extremely limited, and for the most part they had to rely on hand and facial gestures or as they termed it “feeble minded sign language” to be understood.
The hospitality displayed by most Tibetans was incredible, as for example, the time when a family of nine gave up their tiny bedroom to the Wilsons, and were forced to sleep in a dingy stall. There seemed to always be some kind of mysterious force that watched over the couple making sure that there would forever be someone reaching out to them with shelter and food. It was these gentle souls, who encouraged their dreams, and who passed onto them a force that never abandoned them in some of their most dispiriting moments.
Intertwined in the reportage is a first hand glimpse of the injustice and continuing deplorable occupation and intense cultural genocide of the Tibetans by the Chinese who savagely overran the country in 1950.
Ultimately, however, what left me with a lasting impression was the author’s summary description of their adventure when he affirms: “the ultimate beauty of walking, of traveling deliberately, one foot in front of the other, was the opportunity to observe and wallow in the minute details of everyday life surrounding them.”
Their lives were reduced to raw essentials- vulnerable and exposed, opening up their eyes as to how half of the world lives and survives.