Penetrating the great, unnavigable Himalayan river system by hovercraft is just the sort of brash idea that would appeal to Michel Peissel, who, in an age of academic anthropologists and astronauts, 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--time spent 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. But Peissel and his companion, author Michel Alexander, do meet up with some of the ethnically diverse tribes of the region--often because a loin-clothed villager is called upon to rescue our intrepid explorers and their crafts. And 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. Finally the dream comes true. . . in the last days before the monsoons 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. With his distracting burden of heavy, unpredictable equipment Peissel is more the hyperactive European than ever (a breed whose influence he otherwise despises) so this journey lacks the human contacts, archeological interest and pure escapist appeal of his visits to The Lost World of Quintana Roo and Mustang, The Forbidden Kingdom. But even among those who can't see the point of those solitary ocean crossings and physical endurance tests, there are still plenty of people who would give their right arm for an adventure like this. Peissel knows the territory, and best of all, he makes you feel that you too could live this way, if only you were daft enough.