Explorers Connect

Retracing the footsteps of Isabella Bird in 1889

OtherJames Hipkiss

Isabella Bird is the fourth early female explorer that I have retraced the journey of and filmed. I shall begin writing book shortly but am keen to recreate the journeys of Florence Baker in Uganda and Kate Marsden riding across Siberia as part of it.

The Isabella Bird expedition went very well and she was such a good choice her 1889 journey is documented in detail in her book and it was so interesting to follow her journey through such an unchanged landscape into Nubra. Ladakh is stunning and the mountains appear to float majestically above the valleys that I passed and as the going got tougher our lovely team that consisted of 7 ponies and a Tibetan refugee pony man, two young Nepalese cooks and a Ladakhi guide who had so much experience were there to make the going easier, (the hardest part was climbing to 5,400m up a glacier!). I was so thrilled to have found the palace in Hundar described in her book although it had sunk a floor into the ground and I have written a report about it for the Indian Archaeological Department so that it can be saved.

I met the Rev Gergan whose family once owned it but did not know where it was and it was his great, great grandfather who had escorted Isabella into the Nubra valley all those years ago and his front garden that she had pitched her enormous tent in Leh to recover from the long Yak ride back. It only left the audience with the King of Ladakh to organise, which she had done as she left....and I had my wish and got a ten minute audience with him at the Stok Palace. Our stories matched at that point, room with carpets, fresh apricots and apple juice served, the Gyalpo hardly spoke.

So I think I became Isabella Bird by the end! I shall be talking about this journey at The Galley Wine Bar at 133 Hotwells Road in Bristol at 7.30 on Friday 26th October in aid of The Stroke Association and everyone is welcome. "