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the samc trcl, refused tll try it. unfolded a gruhh~' h<lndl,crehiet'
Two days later, a freal, avalanche that revca led t.he yarsagumba.
erushed him to death. Ill' comhed his fingers throu.l\h
"Please, pJew;e," I<.rishna said, the pile. Speaking in \'epali, he
assuring me I was Iud,,' to find said you should chew the "worm
an~'one who'd sell it. ''I'll eat the hean" straight, hut you can also
other hnlf." grind it to a paste, hrew it as
[ later found out that ~'ar­ tea, ruh it on your s\dn or sprin-
sagu 111 ha-one of scvcra I na mes Ide it on food. Its value exeeeds
and spellings it goes by-forms SJ()O,OOO per kilo. But he lil,cd
when a fUll,~US aWlcl,s ghost moth me a nd would eu t a dea I.
larva. The caterpillar lllul11lllifies, I distrust hard dru,!!,s; life is ps~'­
and :l mushrool11 shoots out of its ehedelie enough without them. I
head, spreading spores that l\ill didn't imagine yarsagumha could
other eaterpillars. he a narcotic. Everyone described
We nearJ~' met the same fate. it as medieine. I ha!!..-&\Ied. hCllIght
Forty-eight hours after huying the some worms and, along \vith m~'
stuff, three of us were convuls- friends, ;tte one. It tasted like Eng-
ing. Mal'ing matters worse, it had lish Brealdast Tea ;lI1d had the
hcen e10udy for days. This me;,1nt texture of wood. I waited for the
the solar eell only had the juiee ener,gy boost to power me up the
for ;1 two-minute S( lS. 1,200-meter elimh planncd that
I phoned 111~' eousin. She never day. !\othing Iwppened.
sleeps and has a high limit on her At camp that evcning in I"lllll, a
IIlasterCard. It was J ;1.111. in Los villa,~er cxamined our worms, \\'e'u
l\ngeles when l\manua answered. been semllmed, she said, For that
"So you're in a village in the inferior stuff to worl\. \ve'd neeu to
Jlimalaya," she respollde'd, "You gorge ourselves on two dozen pieces,
just OD'ed on ~I eaterpill[lr with Playing it safe, I swalkJ\ved another.
sh rooms ,growi I\~ out its head- ~I~' friend f'as<lng Lanw took two.
and ~'Clli want an evne on n Soviet- A few hours later, m~' vision
era hclicopter'~" blurred. The ,ground morphed, \voh-
J meant to answer, hut the line blin,gand sinkin,g beneat.h m~' boors.
went dead. ]3!;lck poll'<I dots scattered across
my field of vision, winking off. on,
HUNGUNG IS A CURIOUS place.. To off. on, then darti11g awa~' in ,green

Finding Nirvana get there. I tool, a tlight to an ail'- streal,s. Sl~' jaw vibrated. E\'er~'­
strip in Turnlin,~tar, Aepal. Then I thing I touehed was velvet. Time
joined 2J others smashed into and turned frcnzied, cartoon ish. Dru,gs
It was just medicine. Right?
on top of a flatbed truck that jostled arcn't for evcry'onC', hut th<lt carcr-

f course it was a bad idea, but evcn the guide along the road ended near a pillar was working for Ille.
cliff. !\ext. we trudged five days over We erouehed inside a hut around
considered it sate. lIe hou,ght 400 rupees' worth.
switehhaeks ami passes, erossin,~ a fire, eating rice and dahl. :\ohody
So did some of my Sherpa triends. The interpret- canyons over bridges made of rusted else felt the effects of the half-plant,
er planned to give it to her parents to improve elwin linl\. The aren lacks running half-animal. Some claimed I was
digcstion, cyesight and stamina. Why not try a piece? water, eleetrieity, l11aehinery and fal,in,~ it. f'asan,gswaJlowed another.
an official spelling. Almost everv- If I felt weird, this 2::;-~'ear-old
:\obody kncll' what this thing' ens nails, rcgcneratcs the hairline' thing is made from SlOne, reeds, mountaineering prodig~' wouldn't
was, but it J<)(JJ,ed harmless. j\ It's the \\'ell-I\I1o\\'n Ilimalavan wood and dun,g mortar. Speaking in let me go it alone. Ohli\'ious, I sang
tapered e~'li}]der stretehin,~ two Viagra\ It's the world's only half- one of the Sherpa Innguages, ehil- a Sherpa tune resemhling "Tal,e Me
inches long, it had rid,~es popping plant, half-animal. One bite accel- dren in Bungung petted my skin (Jut to the Ball Game" and shoveled
aeross and a tuber sprouting out enltes thinldng, relaxes the mind and asked whv it was white. handfuls of riee into mv mouth. The
one cnd. It rescmhled ;1 shriveled ;\I1d makes the fat man slim! h;td left for IIungung to ~';lrsagumb;t made ever~,thing taste
e;lterpill;lr with a tumor ,growing i\ porter named Krishna told researeh <I hool, ;lhout K2's like truffles in ,\-1 steak sauee.
from its forehead, me ahout a depressed En,t:!ishman hcroes, sec!, peace and a\'oid frus- :\ext thing I remember, I woke
.\s we treld,ed to lIungung, ;1 who swallmved the "magic ve,~et;t­ tr;ttions at home. I met the ~'ar­ in a sweltering tent. ,\Ithollgh on
remote village in ~epal, wc hC;trd hie" ~·ctrsagul11ba. lIe immediatelv sagul11ba dealer on the \V;t~' bad\. the ,~rollnd, I groped for <J hand-
the loea Is prod;li m thc nW,l\iea I started a hotel business. made IIis gnarled arms ,lI1d dented bee hold to prevent 1ll~'seJf from f;lJl-
properties of "Y, \\V-Sheh (;OOM- millions and seduced a heauti- made me thinl, of a tree stump. ,\ ing through. The walls of the tent
hah" Lt treats sunhurn, strength- ful woman. A (3erman tourist on group huddled ;tround him. and he s"emed to be closing in on me. I


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