Yak Butter & Black Tea: A Journey Into Forbidden China

Wade Brackenbury, Author Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill $19.95 (252p) ISBN 978-1-56512-148-5
Before settling down to the relatively unadventurous life of a chiropractor, 29-year-old Brackenbury wanted a last fling. During his Utah boyhood, he'd become a skilled mountain climber, so it was serendipitous when, in a cafe, he met a French photographer who was looking for a mountaineer to join his expedition to photograph the Drung people. The Drung, an ethnic Chinese minority, live in a valley accessible only over 20,000-foot-high Tibetan mountains--a territory forbidden to foreigners by the Chinese authorities. With a young Chinese-speaking Frenchwoman as their translator, the trio set out from Chengdu on the Tibetan border. For two months, they climbed into the interior, often for 15 hours a day, always fearful of being stopped by police. Brackenbury's chiropractic skills won gratitude and hospitality from ailing yak herders and villagers. In the end, only 20 miles from their destination, they were apprehended by police and forced to abort their expedition. The author's account lacks insight into the people he met, but the hardships, terrain, the surfaces of Tibetan lives and his own daring are vividly depicted. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 252 pages - 978-1-56512-201-7
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