Cashmere Shawls and Himalayan Goats
I still have the cashmere shawl I bought on my first visit to Kathmandu in 1980 - it's still going strong! For the last 20 years I've spent a month most summers trekking in the Himalaya mountains of north India, Nepal and Tibet.
Among the mountain passes, steep hillsides and icy streams you see very few other people, maybe the occasional trekker or a couple of monks crossing from one valley to another.
Scattered in the upland valleys you come across summer pastures and rough stone shelters used by shepherds who'll gather their sheep and goats for the night in the safety of the stone enclosures.
In the late afternoon the shepherd boys and women use their slingshots to gather the flocks and drive them down to the enclosures where they're packed in tight for the night. There are foxes, wolves and the occasional snow leopard in these mountains and once, in Kinnaur, we heard a commotion near our tents but couldn't see more than 10 metres in the cloud that came down at night - but awoke to find that a bear had killed three sheep only 100 metres away.
Foxes still try and get in and you sometimes hear the camp dogs barking for hours at a fox or wolf that won't go away. Where there are snow leopards the guard dogs wear jagged metal collars to protect their necks from the leopards' jaws.
It always stops you in your tracks to see a flock of maybe hundreds moving like dark liquid across a distant hillside or pouring down a steep slope to drink at a mountain stream. Maybe you don't see them but you hear a distant call of a shepherd and scan the mountains until they appear - and then you wonder how you hadn't noticed them. In fact they're hard to see, the variation in their colours from pale grey to black and brown being a perfect match for the stony hillside.
The goat's soft underbelly wool provides the fine cashmere used for shawls and scarves - the smaller goats in the photos are pashminas whose wool is even finer. The soft wool is gathered into different natural colours and woven into Cashmere Shawls, the ones we sell are made around Kathmandu and we bought a new supply when we went back to Nepal last autumn to see our friends after the earthquake. They make wonderful warm wraps, lightweight and very soft next to the skin.