This fall, I had the pleasure of leading one of our most popular trips – Mountains, Monkeys & Books – to have our travelers see what READ does in Nepal.For me, perhaps the highlight of the trip was when Tim, looking for all the world like Crocodile Dundee, walked into the bar at Gaida Wildlife Resort with a snake coiled around his arm and the head between his fingers while the snake’s tongue and teeth were frantically trying to find something to bite. The bartender headed for the door, and Ram and Dukhi Ram stared for a minute at both Tim and the snake, and then made clear that it was a very poisonous “Khorat”! Tim explained that it had slithered around his bathroom, headed for the bedroom under Kimberly’s suitcase, forcing him to pull it out by the tail towards that bathroom again, where he chased and caught it. When he went outside to show one of the staff at Gaida, the guy took off running down the path as fast as he could.

Ram and Dukhi Ram (two of the naturalists) were stunned, commenting that they knew that there were khorats in the area, but in the 20+ years they had been at Gaida, they had never had a poisonous snake on the property. Tim coolly and calmly took the snake outside and heaved it, with the accuracy of Bret Favre, towards the river away from the resort. That little exploit will live in the annals of Gaida for a long time!

Actually, everyone in the group was terrific. Nicholas, the 3-year-old was a total delight, making friends with everyone along the way. Since he was brought up on a ranch, he rode the horse like a true rodeo rider, brandishing the tiny khukari that his mother had bought at everyone. He adored playing with all the toys in the library, tried to get the names of all the little girls along the way, and kept everyone laughing.

Tim and Kim wine tasted all through Mustang, Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Chitwan, and I must admit, wine in Nepal is not bad and not overly expensive -a big surprise to me. As you can imagine, evenings were quite merry, between Tim, Kim, Rick and Valerie! In Jomsom, Karl and Utpal joined us, adding lots of stories and merriment. Utpal finally understood what READ really does and was quite amazed and all of the accomplishments. Everyone had the option to meet people from all walks of life, dine on everything from Tharu snails to Thakali “oowha” – a fascinating brew that all of a sudden hits you like a brick, to very refined cafe liegeois at the French restaurant. We sat in the assembly with the committee people from Tukche dining on quite a feast, were fed by the mother’s group in Puthang, saw the inauguration of the young women’s Tharu dancing group, and really had a heart to heart with the local people in Chhetrapur. Then the group was feted on the last night by board member Shanti Basnet. Rick, Valerie and I had an extra day together, and went to the Sherpa/Rai home of Devi Rai, the wife of my old friend Dawa, who had died. There they could sip Tumba – the east Nepal brew made of fermented barley!

All planes flew very much on time, meetings went off as scheduled and the weather was perfect. Nepal’s economy got a major shopping transfusion – major! Kim and Tim have probably sent all the children of the pashmina shawl and jewelry people to college in America several times over. Valerie made a dent also, and sort of corrupted me!

Basically, it has been a wonderful time – when work and pleasure really do meet.