High in the Himalayas
Senior Staff Photographer Dom Furore takes you behind the scenes on his stunning journey to the Himalayas.
Released on 3/7/2010
[Narrator] My friends always ask me
if I have any cool trips coming up.
I've got to admit it was a lot of fun
telling them I was going to Kathmandu.
I was actually going to the Himalayas
to do some black and white photographs
of golf courses in the mountains.
In doing my research, I couldn't find any good photographs
of courses in Nepal.
But the golf course architect, Ron Fream,
had told me there were a couple
of really interesting ones up near Pokhara
and that there were also a couple courses near Kathmandu
that were worth taking a look at.
When I finished in Nepal, I planned to head down
to the foothills of the Himalayas in Lijiang, China
where I knew there was a beautiful course.
Unfortunately, when I got to Kathmandu,
it was really cloudy out.
The Kathmandu Airport is the main hub in Nepal.
It was a fairly modern-looking airport
with a great newsstand and a barista
that could really crank out the lattes.
I checked out the courses there,
and while they had some interesting features,
they were a little bit too far away from the mountains.
So it was off to Pokhara.
Unfortunately the weather in Pokhara
was just like it had been in Kathmandu.
My bodyguard and guide on this trip
was an old college friend, Pat Lim.
He's lived in China for the past few years
and that would come in really handy later in the trip.
Our first stop was the Yeti's Golf Club
at the Fulbari Resort.
The golf course maintenance is a little different
from what we're used to in the States.
It's very labor intensive,
and the hazards can be a little extreme.
After a few days of heavy haze,
we were finally able to see the mountains
and I got the photographs that I needed.
And then it was on to the second course.
Unlike the Yeti's, the Himalayan Golf Course
sits down in the canyon instead of up on top of it.
It's a long hike down
and a real workout climbing back up again.
Since it has a bridge across the river,
a lot of the local villagers
use it as a shortcut across the canyon.
Every morning our limo would pick us up
and our driver would take us to the course before dawn.
We'd hike out to our spot, set up,
and wait for the sun to come up.
And then we'd hope that the mountains would show
and, day-after-day-after-day, they didn't.
We'd hike back up,
right about the time the caddies were coming to work,
and then we'd hop in the car and head to town.
Driving is pretty slow-going in that area.
There are a lot of obstacles
and the road are in pretty tough shape.
Pokhara sits right on the edge of Phewa Lake
and it's a very tourist-friendly town.
The best advice I had the entire trip came from Ron Fream,
who told me to make sure that I ate at Mike's.
It was a diner that was started by a guy from Minnesota.
Every morning we'd have breakfast there,
and we'd watch the villagers come across the lake
in their boats bringing their kids to school.
I never quite figured out how the whole boat deal worked.
They seemed to be community-owned
and people would just come up and grab one and go.
Everyone seemed to be interested
in getting their kids a good education.
Everyday the kids would be sitting out in front of the shops
doing their homework, and quite a few people told me
they spent a large part of their income on tuition
so that their kids could go to a good private school.
Along with the boats,
there were some other interesting forms of transportation.
And some of it was very efficient.
The people were very friendly,
and some of them were downright charming.
And we had a lot of fun just walking up and down the street
meeting all the shopkeepers.
Everyone seemed to be very entrepreneurial
and it seemed that everybody either owned a shop
or dreamed of owning a shop.
There were people everywhere doing embroidery,
and it was amazing what they could do with a sewing machine.
Even the people that didn't have shops, had shops.
This guy went from village to village
sharpening scissors and knives.
Power outages weren't a problem for him.
While we were there, there was a lot of turmoil in Tibet
and there was also a lot of turmoil down around the border
which was keeping fuel from getting across.
We had power blackouts every day
and because of the fuel shortages,
nobody could use their generators.
So it made it really tough to call home,
or to use the Internet.
And I knew I'd been there too long
when it was time to get a haircut.
After a while we got used to the local food,
and the yak cheese was actually pretty good.
The familiar Western snacks sometimes weren't that familiar
when you opened them up.
The fast food wasn't bad.
And the Nepali people really had a great sense of humor.
Everything seemed to revolve around water,
and people were doing laundry everywhere you looked.
Because cows are sacred in the Hindu religion,
they're free to roam wherever they want.
It's just the craziest thing to see.
These cows would walk the same route,
at the same time, every single day.
You could set your watch by it.
They didn't bother anybody
and they ate a lot of the garbage,
and nobody really seemed to pay attention to them.
The amazing thing is, you never saw any of this.
I suspect that's why the gardens looked so good.
In the afternoon, we'd wander back to Mike's
and take their advice about dessert.
They had great apple pie
and we knew that if it'd have been a busy day,
they would have hidden two pieces in the back for us.
We'd sit by the lake and watch the boats start to come back
to pick up the kids to take them home.
And then we'd head back to the hotel, go to bed,
get up in the morning, and do it all over again.
I really felt like I was living in the movie,
Ground Hog Day.
Finally, after about 20 days, the sun came up,
we could see the mountains and we got the shots we needed.
I was so happy to finally see the mountains
and know that I was gonna get out of there.
I got the shot I wanted,
and then it quickly started to haze up again.
So I went down to the other end of the canyon
and did a couple more shots.
And then something unusual happened.
A couple of golfers actually showed up.
And they had the same problem with the cows
that the people in town had.
Our work in Nepal was done
and it was time to move on to China.
We got up in the air and it was absolutely spectacular.
We went to the city of Lijiang
which is actually a very modern city,
with an ancient city right in the center of it.
It's a very tourist-friendly town and I got the impression
that a lot of wealthy Chinese people vacation there.
Everywhere you looked, it was the old against the new.
There were restaurants everywhere.
The food was good,
but sometimes I wasn't quite sure what we were eating.
I let the driver take us to his favorite restaurant one day.
He told us the food was really fresh.
So it was a little fresher than what I'd like.
He also told me the garnishes were safe to eat.
It was a good idea to look very closely
at what was on your plate.
I decided the deep-fried grasshoppers
were a little to far to go for the sake of a good story.
I eventually found a restaurant
that had exactly what I was looking for.
The next morning, we got up and headed to the golf course,
and it was just a beautiful morning
with spectacular clouds everywhere you looked.
I had a day and a half of perfect weather
and after a month on the road,
I knew I was finally gonna get my favorite stamp
in my passport.
It had been a great adventure,
but it was nice to finally be headed back home.