Yak on Track is both the story of one woman's adventurous spirit and determination, and an insight into one of the world's hottest travel destinations – a country where Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product, and a magical landscape that has captured the world's imagination.
It seemed like a good idea to Heather at the time: organise a challenging trek to raise funds for the education of young girls in Bhutan. Heather had walked through the Himalayas before, so how hard could it be on the trail to Lunana, Bhutan's most remote and inhospitable plateau? On the 240-kilometre trek across the roof of the world, she discovers that 'hard' doesn't even come close.
Along with her friend Krista, likeminded lover of mountains and margaritas, Heather sets off into a landscape of savage, untamed beauty with a team of eccentric guides, an opportunistic dog and far too many horses. As they move deeper into these sacred mountains – where yetis are feared and only yaks feel truly at ease – they face blizzards, dodge avalanches and see their crew struck down by altitude sickness and snow blindness: trials and tribulations that could stop even the most experienced adventurer in their tracks. Their reward is a rare glimpse of life in the last Shangri-La.
At its heart, this book is a love song to Bhutan and its people, an intimate portrait of the only remaining Buddhist kingdom of the Himalayas. Yak on Track is a delightful story about losing yourself but not losing your way.
Heather McNeice was born in Northern Ireland. She studied law at Trinity Hall, Cambridge University and the College of Law, Guildford. She moved to Noosa, QLD in 2006 and has been working remotely for eleven years as a legal consultant to a number of UK law firms. She has been a volunteer for the Australian Himalayan Foundation and organising trekking trips to Bhutan annually since 2011.
Yak on Track
Author: Heather McNeice
Question: How would you describe Yak on Track?
Heather McNeice: Yak on Track is a travel memoir about a 240 km high-altitude trek through an isolated plateau in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. It describes the unexpected challenges I faced on the journey with my friend Krista, guide Norbu, a Bhutanese support crew, 23 horses and a stray dog. I also explain the underlying purpose of the trek, which was to raise funds for an education program in Bhutan.
Question: What inspired you to write your travel memoir?
Heather McNeice: The trek was quite an adventure and I hope makes for an interesting read. I also wanted to raise awareness of an education program in Bhutan I have been supporting since 2011. Funded by the Australian Himalayan Foundation and run by an NGO in Bhutan called RENEW (which stands for Respect Educate Future and Empower Women), this program supports some of Bhutan's most disadvantaged children to go to school. Many of these children are victims of domestic violence or live in extreme poverty.
Question: What originally made you want to visit Bhutan?
Heather McNeice: I have always enjoyed travelling off the beaten track. For many years, I was intrigued by Bhutan, which was closed to outside visitors until 1974 and has only recently embraced the modern world. On my first visit in 2010, with my eleven year old daughter, I fell in love with the stunning natural beauty of the country and its gentle people and have returned every year since then.
Question: How do you hope to inspire other women with Yak on Track?
Heather McNeice: The two threads underlying Yak on Track are fitness and fundraising: two things that, before I went to Bhutan, had never really been part of my life. I am a working mum, with three children and not a lot of free time but, once I had committed to trek through Lunana, described by the leading trekking guide to Bhutan as "the toughest trek in the world" I made time to train. Staying fit is now just part of my daily routine. And from never having raised a cent for charity, I have mustered a small group of friends and together we have raised over $230,000 for the education program in Bhutan. If I can do it, anyone can do it!
Question: What do you hope readers take from Yak on Track?
Heather McNeice: Embrace something new. Take on a challenge. Push yourself outside your comfort zone. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy it! And maybe one day, visit Bhutan.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Yak on Track
Author: Heather McNeice