Yak Butter and Black Tea: A Journey into Forbidden China
Morgan B. Adair
Algonquin Books (Chapel Hill), 1997. Trade paperback:
Wade Brackenbury went to southern China to climb mountains and get a taste of a strange culture. He wanted a little adventure before going back to school and settling down. In a restaurant, Wade met a charismatic French photographer named Pascal who was looking for a skilled climber to guide him to the Drung Valley. The Drung people were a dwindling ethnic minority who were said to live in an obscure valley on the border of Tibet and Burma. The area was closed to foreigners and surrounded by 20,000-foot mountain passes.
Brackenbury's adventures include riding in a bus that is hit by a landslide, numerous arrests, food poisoning, hunger, grueling treks, cold, attack by packs of dogs, and Pascal's self-doubts. Brackenbury's story tells of three different treks over a period of 3 years.
The book compares favorably with Heinrich Harrer's Seven Years in Tibet. Both books describe the customs and culture of that part of the world, and the rigors of travel and life there. Harrer's descriptions are very detached. Brackenbury tells more of his own emotional response to his experiences. There is also a subplot that plays out in Brackenbury's dreams. During his treks, Brackenbury has recurring dreams about an elk and a large black bird. The trek and Wade's dreams come together at the end of the story in a revelation regarding Wade's relationship with hisfather.
Brackenbury mentions that he is LDS, but this only figures into the story when he tells how he managed to avoid drinking alcohol without offending any of his hosts.
© 1997 Morgan B. Adair < MADAIR@novell.com >