But there has been a lot of hype about this modernisation of the mountains. The danger that traditions and social structures will be lost is real. The book attempts to visually document at least some of the traditions.
One fact, however, has left me with mixed feelings: it’s China’s massive influence in the region. People are drawing hope from possible Chinese aid, which Nepal’s government has denied for decades. But only short-term help is received, nobody wants to know anything about possible dependencies in the future, nobody wants to talk about it. But that dependency will come.
The book seems to mix your role as a journalist with that of a trail-running adventurer. How did you combine those two roles?
As a journalist, I encounter people and situations. I’m a guest for a short time. I meet people, some of whom haven’t seen a stranger for years. So I have to adapt to this situation. I’m not allowed to disturb, but I still want to learn something about the people, about their lives and their problems. What could be more useful for a reporter than people opening up to them. I had the help of two Sherpa friends but for them too we were in a different place. For many people in the Himalaya, the unfamiliar begins in the next valley. “Here is my home, here is my family and my country. Why should I go to the next valley or even further?” This I’ve often heard this as an astonished question. In the west, the term ‘homeland’ has acquired a somewhat questionable (because it is too traditional) connotation. In the Himalaya, home is still an affair of the heart, even for young people.
Read also: The women left behind, Sonia Awale