Today we begin our trip to Nepal and Bhutan, so I won't be posting for a few weeks. We've both had lurgies over the weekend so I'm hoping this won't be a repeat of last year's Antarctica fiasco when I spent two weeks on a boat with air conditioning you couldn't turn off and a bad bout of sinusitis. If all goes smoothly it should be a fantastic trip, including a visit to the Bumthang Valley, pictured here. Bhutan, also known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, has a fantastic textiles' history, which I hope to explore along with its landscape and its variety of Buddhism. It was closed off until the 1970s and even now manages its tourism industry very carefully. Gross National Happiness is included among its economic indicators. A benign monarchy led by the Wangchuk family has recently ceded power, voluntarily, to a form of democratic government, so it is an interesting time to visit. We also get a chance to look at Kathmandu as we fly in through there. Although by all accounts it's not what it was in the unspoiled days of the "hippy trail", I'm interested in seeing something of the Tibetan culture in exile. It would have been great to have included Tibet on the itinerary but it didn't fit this time round. I'd really like this trip to work out well as my attitude to travel has become somewhat ambivalent of late. We're bombarded with mixed messages about safety, the importance of tourism and damage to the environment. I do have concerns about the mass movements of people around the planet and some of the bad consequences of this, particularly when packaged up as a consumer "experience". On the other hand I always feel a closer connection to those places that I've visited, and, cliche or not, have had my horizons broadened.
On the knitting front, I've submitted Module One of my City and Guilds course to my tutor Loraine. Visit her website at http://www.knitdesignonline.com/ for more details about the course. So Module Two and the assessment of my work on Mod One should be waiting for me when I get home. In the meantime I've been working on a top in bamboo yarn from Rowan's last but one magazine. I felt the need of just following someone else's pattern after thinking such a lot about design lately. I've finished the sleeves but the rest will have to await my return. I love knitting in bamboo: it has a lovely feel and drape, although quite heavy to wear. I'm interested in exploring these newer yarns as lots of the wool I've got in my stash is full of dust and aggravating to my troubled sinuses. It is bliss to knit with bamboo and not get covered with dust and fibres - it feels so clean and fresh.
I'm taking socks to knit on bamboo needles as my travel project as they're so very portable and shouldn't upset any airlines. They're also the perfect no-brainer. And I should get lots of colour inspiration, the theme of Module Two, on my travels.