ECHOES FROM THE PAST

An anthology of past happenings and remarkable people
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BENEATH AN AFRICAN SKY

MEMORIES OF A FAMILY
IN BRITISH COLONIAL KENYA
When Catherine Keese first set out to write this book, she was full of trepidation. “How,” she asked, “would I ever be able to remember all the happenings of our lives back then, and more importantly the nuance of it all? Could I accurately portray the magnificent, equatorial landscape we called home, or the vastness of the African sky? Could I relate what life was like under the forbearance of Africa’s natural order where man, beast, and the elements lent constant danger and exhilaration to every hour of every day? Would I be able to adequately explain the fragility of our political posture and prospects? And could I do justice to the colorful characters who shared with us the anxieties and rewards of life in a British colony?  I think I was horrified that I might end up with a book that defined mundaneness—like Lionel Hardcastle’s proverbial My Life in Kenya in the TV series ‘As Time Goes By’.”
In this beautifully presented, full-color memoir, told with great candor and humor, she adds:  “. . . for better or worse, I offer the story of our family in Kenya, and the fascinating, pivotal times in which we lived. While told from my personal perspective, it is the record of a Scottish family’s evolution from its working-class roots in Glasgow, through emigration, war, jubilation, illness, defiance, loss, and redemption. It is also the tale of life on a Kenya farm with all its trials and tribulations. Yet what remains for me is a picture of sun-drenched exuberance under that vast African sky—a Van Gogh painting whose bold, profuse brushstrokes and vibrant colors are the distillation of times gone by and all that happened to us. It’s a happy canvas that I gaze at a lot.”
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TO MUSTANG AND
DINNER WITH THE KING

AN UNFORGETTABLE YET GRUELING
JOURNEY TO WITNESS AN ANCIENT
CULTURE THAT, SADLY, IS DYING.
Mustang was once an independent kingdom, closely tied by language and culture to Tibet. From the 15th century to the 17th century, its strategic location granted Mustang control over the trade between the Himalayas and India. At the end of the 18th century, the kingdom was annexed by Nepal and became a dependency of the Kingdom of Nepal from 1795.
Though still recognized by many Mustang residents, the monarchy ceased to exist on October 7, 2008, by order of the Government of Nepal. The last official and later unofficial king (raja or gyelpo) was Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista (1930–2016), who traced his lineage directly back to Ame Pal, the warrior who founded this Buddhist kingdom in 1380. Ame Pal oversaw the founding and building of much of the Lo and Mustang capital of Lo Manthang, a walled city that has changed little in appearance since that time period.
In 1999, I was able to obtain a special permit to enter the restricted Kingdom of Mustang. My good friend and geographical photographer, Vassi Koutsaftis, and I, together with a small group of Sherpas and a rather tepid Liaison Officer from the Nepalese Government, set off on one of the most grueling treks we had ever undertaken. Vassi had previously met the King and his son when they had visited California, and so we were honored to receive an invitation to dinner with the last of Mustang’s kings.
Our progress through Mustang towards the historic capital of Lo Mantang was slow-going due to my having contracted severe bronchitis, which was not helped by the extreme temperatures between daytime and nighttime, the high winds and dust, and an average elevation of 14,000 feet. And our return ten days later was again constrained when Vassi contracted serious heat exhaustion.
Nevertheless, it was an extraordinary, unforgettable journey that provided a glimpse into an ancient and vibrant culture that, sadly, is slowly dying.
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COMING SOON

SOME TALK OF TILMAN:
CHARLES HOUSTON, MD

AN INTERVIEW WITH THE
INIMITABLE CHARLES HOUSTON, MD.
One of the most enriching friendships I ever developed was with Charles Houston, whom his friends affectionately just called “Charlie”. I had heard much of this extraordinary mountaineer and doctor, and of his renowned contributions to the the understanding of how high altitude affects the human metabolism.
I then had the good fortune to spend three exhilarating days with Charlie at his home, in Burlington, Vermont, chatting about his life in general, and specifically about his two expeditions with Bill Tilman, one to Nanda Devi in 1936, and one to Everest in 1950.  And I came away with four hours of precious video from those conversations, with an occasional guest appearance by Charlie’s young, excitable red setter, Pooh Bear.
Those videos and their transcripts are published here on Creative Storytellers, and clearly demonstrate the forthrightness and good humor for which Charlie will always be fondly remembered.
Some years later, Charlie stayed with us at our home in Laguna, to attend a function we put on in memory of Bill Tilman, Also staying with us, and our guest of honor at the function, was Pam Davis, Tilman’s niece and heir (then in her 80s), and Roger Robinson and Bob Comlay, both of whom had sailed with Tilman to extreme latitudes. Also present was the celebrated climber Tom Hornbein with his wife, Kathryn. Tom, also a close friend of Charlie Houston, was, with Willy Unsoeld, the first to make a complete transverse of Mt. Everest, in 1963.
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COMING SOON

A JOURNEY TO THE SACRED
MOUNTAIN, KHAWA KARPO

AND THE THREE GREAT RIVERS OF ASIA
Khawa Karpo, in China’s Yunnan region, is one of the most sacred mountains for Tibetan Buddhism and the spiritual home of a warrior god of the same name. It is visited by 20,000 pilgrims each year from throughout the Tibetan world. Many pilgrims circumambulate the peak, an arduous 240 km (150 mi) trek as part of their religious  tradition.  Although it is important throughout Tibetan Buddhism, it is the local Tibetans that are the day-to-day guardians and stewards of Khawa Karpo, of both its deity and the mountain itself.
The ancestral religion of the Khawa Karpo area, as in much of Tibet, was Bon, a shamanistic tradition based on the concept of a world pervaded by good and evil spirits. Bon encompassed numerous deities and spirits which are still recognized today, and are often connected with specific geographical localities and natural features. The major mountain peaks in this Hengduan range  are thus all identified with specific deities. Khawa Karpo is one of these. Since its introduction, Tibetan Buddhism has been the dominant religion of the Khawa Karpo area, with followers of the Gelugpa doctrine being the most common. Tibetans believe the warrior god will leave them if humans set foot on the peak of Khawa Karpo, making the ground unholy, and that disasters would follow as they lose the God’s protection.
Our expedition to Khawa Karpo was a rigorous one, and we were among the few Westerners to have visited the region since the botanist, Joseph Rock, first arrived in 1922. The Yunnan region is one of the world’s most biodiverse areas, and is where the three great rivers of Asia, the Mekong, Yangtze, and Salween, flow roughly in parallel for 300 km before branching off to their respective deltas south of Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam, Shanghai in China, and Moulmien, in Burma.
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COMING SOON