Penetrating the great, unnavigable Himalayan river system by hovercraft is just the sort of brash idea that would appeal to Michel Peissel, who keeps alive the tradition of the 19th century amateur explorer. Fortunately Peissel knows he's an anachronism and his sense of the ridiculous sees us through a slow start--times pent rounding up companions, funds and travel permits and testing the hovercraft which seem incapable of crossing a swimming pool, let alone the Himalayas. Once in Nepal, there are near-fatal encounters with the rapids, mechanical breakdowns and political setbacks. Though he makes few pretensions to scholarship (he does speak Nepalese and Tibetan), ten years in the area have made Peissel a savvy guide to the ethnology, politics, flora and fauna of the region. And finally the dream comes true. . . Peissel navigates the Kali Gandaki where it cuts its spectacular gorge through the Himalayan highlands, a 15,000 foot high, three mile long ""grand canyon"" that dwarfs our own. Peissel knows the territory, and best of all, he makes you feel that you too could live this way, if only you were crazy enough.