Nepali Times
American by birth, Sherpani at heart

More than 20 years ago at Bhote Odar, Caryl Sherpa feels she suddenly found the clarity she was searching for in her life when she met her guide, Nima. And two days into her trek of the Annapurna circuit she promises herself: "I will marry Nima Gyalgen Sherpa."

Caryl's book, I taste fire, earth, rain: elements of a life with a Sherpa traces Caryl and Nima Sherpa's journey as they crisscross the Annapurna, Los Angeles, Michigan and Solukhumbu and learn to reconcile their two worlds.

The memoir picks up in the spring of 1991, when 39 year-old Caryl leaves behind her posh home, difficult job as the manager of an interior architecture project and a messy breakup in Los Angeles and arrives in Kathmandu searching for a sense of purpose and in desperate need of change. Once on the trail, she quickly befriends one of her guides, Nima. While Nima is calm, assured and has strong faith, Caryl is restless, full of doubts and skeptical. Despite the language barrier and cultural divide, the two are instantly attracted to each other and risk a relationship.

While a large part of the book is devoted to stories about their love and marriage, Caryl also delves into the more serious issues of cross-cultural unions and the frustrations they experienced while adjusting to a world that did not fully accept Nima nor understood her feelings.

"Nima is wise, has been through some tough experiences and like other Sherpas was very adaptable. But it was still a very alienating environment for him and the way he dressed, or spoke, his lack of formal education, his rough edges made him an outsider. Sometimes people who want to emigrate to the US only see the money and opportunities, and fail to realise that it can be very difficult," Caryl explained.

For readers who are unfamiliar with Nepal's topography, Caryl describes the Brahmin, Gurung and Tibetan villages that she passes through on her way to Thorung-La and Kala Pattar in meticulous detail. Her understanding of Sherpa culture and explanations of their customs and rituals will also fascinate and educate even Sherpas.

I taste fire, earth, rain:
Elements of a life with a Sherpa
Studio Press, USA 2011
ISBN : 9780983609421 346pages
When asked about her first impressions of Nepal, Caryl told us in Kathmandu last week, she was amazed how despite the poverty, the Nepalis she met found joy in simple pleasures and their deep commitment towards their faith.

Two decades later, she finds the country is almost unrecognisable: "When I came here in 1991, there were very few tourists and we used to camp out on the river banks. Today there are big, fancy lodges even in the Khumbu, and there is a road around the Annapurna circuit."

After almost 20 years in the US, the Sherpas are now back in Kathmandu and preparing to settle permanently in Nima's hometown in Solukhumbu. Caryl who took 15 years to complete her first book while working full-time, wants to dedicate more of her time to writing. She told the Nepali Times, "I have plenty of free time now and living in the foothills of Himalayas will definitely boost my creativity." The couple is currently busy traveling back and forth from Kathmandu to Solukhumbu, making arrangements for their new home and planning to open a retreat for artists and writers near Namche Bazar.

Although Caryl says she misses her family in the US and might struggle to get through Nepali winters in cement houses with no central heating, she feels at home and is ready to start her life as a Sherpani.

1. Dorji Tsering Sherpa
The book "I taste fire, earth, rain: element of a life with a Sherpa" which I received from the author Caryl Sherpa herself, was one of the best read after a long time. The story of her life flows so smoothly touching some very unusual senses of gratitude and appreciation to such a lady whose pure love of Nepal and Nepali is just amazing; Awaiting for the next one. Thank you. Dorji Tsering Sherpa

2. Dawa Tshering Sherpa
I highly recommend this to all young Sherpas who have grown up in Kathmandu and attended school, rather than in the Solukhumbu. I learned so much about the Sherpa culture and appreciated the information. It was a fast, easy read. You can order the book online as an ebook. Check it out!  Dawa

3. Debbi Brown
Caryl and Nima, We miss you and hope someday to travel to your new home.  Best of luck and much success in your new home. love Debbi and Steve Brown

4. Pat
This is a great read for many reasons. For those of us who are planning a trip to Nepal it's a great way to have a window into Sherpa life that may not be visible on a short trip. Many of us travel to ask questions of ourselves in a new and different environment. Caryl's honest internal dialogue is laid bare and may be a touchstone. Her reporting of trekking itself has moments of startling presence and clarity.

5. Jangbu Sherpa
Our yearly Losar party is over here in Seattle Saturday. We missed Ngima and Caryl in that party this year. Best of luck for your new project in Chhermathingma. We will see you guys in Kathmandu next year Losar. Ang Jangbu & Ang Tashi Sherpa/Seattle

6. Cara Cashman
What a great article about a incredible book, and two amazing people! 

7. Debbi Anderson-Frey
(Hi Cara!) Hi Caryl and Nima! I met you at the reading at Cloud Mountain Farm and loved the book.  Will be taking it to my book club meeting tonight while I dream and scheme about a trek someday to the Himalayas.  Much inspired by your story and your journey - so appreciated the honesty and the magic that you captured in the landscape and the people. Am working now on a new mosaic for my front entry - Kirtimukha!

8. Pooja Regmi


Dad forwarded this article to me.  I have such fond memories growing up and seeing you and Nima in Ann Arbor, MI.  Roshani was in Namche Bazar and maybe, someday, I can bring my husband, Ashok and daughter to visit you both :)  Wishing you the very, very best and can't wait to read your book.



(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)