Vacations with connections

While most people want their vacations to be an escape from reality, more and more people are using vacations to connect or reconnect with the parts of the nature and culture that can add real meaning and satisfaction.

The following are two short introductions to tours that will connect you with parts of the world and parts of yourself in ways that you couldn't possibly imagine.


Life Tracks to Tanzania

his adventure tour with Nanci J. Hartland and Lifetrack Adventure Safari is what she calls "a vacation with a conscience." You will visit the Pare Tribe, still living as they have for centuries in the village of Chome, high in the Pare mountains of Tanzania, East Africa. The whole village will greet you singing, drumming and dancing.

Life Tracks tour members will experience an unusually close relationship with the village. Members are invited to visit with the elders, sit in on their tribal council and share in the process of village decision making. You will visit the primary and secondary schools, and can share your skills and your heart. The children have wonderful voices and will demonstrate traditional drumming and dances. You will be able to join in on projects like repairs to the hospital, building a kiln, painting and hammering a few nails, etc. Each participant will plant a fruit tree deep in African soil, leaving a legacy behind that will feed people for generations.

Lifetracks African Safaris has a special connection to this remote and beautiful valley at the top of a mountain. You will return home tired, and yet rested and refreshed, knowing you made a difference. Even if you do not choose to safari with them, consider sponsoring a fruit tree for you or a loved one ($30).

The dates for the next adventure are July 3-24, 1998, and includes a camping photo safari to the Serengeti. For more information, please call: (800) 366-8716.


Local Sherpa leads trek

ravel with Nima Gyalgen Sherpa of Himalayan Discovery Inc. to Mt. Kailas and Lake Manasarovar, in the Ngari region of Tibet. The trek, scheduled for this August, visits what is perhaps the most inaccessible place on earth.

Mt. Kailas is the most sacred mountain in Asia and is believed to be the physical embodiment of the mythical Mount Meru, the "center of the universe." Mount Meru is often depicted as a mandala, a common image in both Buddhist and Hindu iconography. Mt. Kailas is an important pilgrimage for Hindu, Buddhists, Jains, and the Bon-Po, the ancient pre-Buddhist religion. Tibetan Buddhists believe that a single "kora," or circuit around the mountain, washes away the sins of one life, and that 108 koras secures nirvana in this life.

In May 1993, the Chinese and Nepal governments allowed the first treks across the border between these two countries. The number of trekkers given permits is limited and few Westerners have made this pilgrimage. The trek requires rigorous hiking, with the high pass crossed at over 19,000 feet. In spite of rough conditions and the unpredictable, this adventure is culturally spectacular and spiritually fulfilling.

The trip starts with a flight from Kathmandu into Simikot, where you begin with a climb up to a forested ridge, then descend a rocky trail of switchbacks past villages, orchards of apricot and walnut trees, and valleys planted with potato, mustard and buckwheat. As you continue your climb, you pass through pine forests with prayer flags at the tops of the rocky ridges. Along the river, goat herders are often part of the scenery. Although seemingly remote, you travel with traders, pilgrims and their pack animals - goats, sheep and yaks - over the Nara Lagna pass and down onto the Tibetan Plateau. Due to high winds, from here you drive to Taklakot, a melting pot of cultures: Indian tourists, Chinese and Tibetan traders and Muslim traders from Kashgar. The ethnic groups of the Humla District include the Bhotias, whose roots are in Tibet, Thakuris and Chhetris.

The lakeside of Manasarovar, a site sacred to the Hindu, is your campsite one night, where a bath it its pure frigid waters is said to cleanse one of their past transgressions. At Mt. Kailas, a sacred peak that is never climbed, you have four days to follow the path around it with the pilgrims, careful to respect the sanctity of their rituals, or to join in with them. The most pious prostrate themselves around Mt. Kailas on their hands and knees. Chortens, prayer flags and thousands of rock cairns lead you to the high pass of Dolma La (5,630m), where it is traditional to leave something from your past and take something for your future from its collection of offerings. Dolma La is the physical and spiritual high point of Mt. Kailas and your pilgrimage.

Nima Gyalgen Sherpa grew up in Nepal and has been a trekking guide for over 15 years. He has been a member of numerous climbing expeditions, including Everest, K2 and Dhaulagiri. Nima began his own company, Himalayan Discovery Inc., which specializes in treks and cultural tours that bring you closer to the culture of Nepal and Tibet. Their focus is on bringing their clients closer to the local cultures and peoples and they follow respectful environmental practices on their diverse trips. For a free brochure and information, you may contact him at: Himalayan Discovery Inc., 12291 Alta Panorama, Santa Ana, CA 92705. Phone: (714) 771-4360, fax: (714) 771-3409, email: himalayan_discoveryMClONE .com, web: