Answering the big question…Was it worth it???

December1

Our stay in China has come to an end after 5 months. It has been an interesting and valuable experience. Medically speaking, I feel that the treatments have had some benefits. I did not get the miracle cure that I once may have hoped for, but I found other things. I found out how to better manage my condition; what makes it better and what makes it worse. I found out that I get results when I stick to my regular strengthening exercises, and that when I slack off it shows. I have learned that daily meditation is my greatest ally and that my brain needs to be ‘turned off’ for a while every day. Most importantly, though, is something that I already knew was confirmed; a positive mindset goes a long way to healing and feeling better. When doubt or anger or impatience clouded my mind, I did not show any progressive results. When my thoughts were positive I did. So I am happy to be at more or less a similar state as I was 5 months ago, which in my opinion is a positive when all I have been promised in the West is a steady decline of health. I am continuing my daily herbal tea (or capsules) and hope to continue on this path of positive progression.
Also, it is always worth it. The things that my family and I have experienced, seen, tasted, touched and lived were like no other in our lives. As always, life is an adventure…!
There is beauty in life

Farewell to China

November30

Some of the final images of our lives in China before we set upon our next set of adventures.
Tai chi in the main entrance of the hospital
Tai chi
Our girls love a party!
Party girls
Such great artists!
Artists
Emily and Madeline having their daily ‘tea party’ with Lutz and Martina from Berlin. We look forward to visiting them in January.
Tea party
Simon watched interestedly as this person’s house got closer and closer to being buried by roadside construction…was it saved or not? We may never know.
Encroachment
A garden at a lovely dim sum restaurant in Guangzhou, our last stop in China.
Dim sum
Guangzhou night scenes:
Tree lanterns
Guangzhou night
Good bye China from the Guangzhou airport with the mascots of the Asian games 2010 which were happening while we were there.
Airport goodbye
Next stop, tropical paradise…?
Island paradise

The Great Wall

November20

After leaving Nepal, we flew up to Beijing. We were pretty tired from all of the month’s previous sightseeing, so we only had two things on our itinerary; climb the Great Wall and sample some Peking duck. I found us a fabulous suite in a downtown hotel (Expedia rocks!) for $1000 less than the rack rate, so we had ample room to chill out.
Heading up
The first day we went to one of the sections of the Great Wall, Juyongguan Pass, an important military stronghold. It is a steep climb up but Emily and Maddie BOTH made it all the way, unassisted.
Great climbers
All it took was one oreo at each guard’s tower! They are super climber/hikers, we are so proud of our mountain girls!!
Oreos!
On top
We put Madeline in the backpack carrier for the way down, not because she was tired, it was too steep.
Heading down
We went down a different section than we came up and it just got steeper….
Steep
and steeper…
Steeper
And really, really steep…
Steepest
Simon’s dad bought the girls medals at the bottom, commemorating their achievement. They were very excited about this and have since showed them to all people that may be nearby.
The next day we went to a restaurant in the Hyatt Grand Hotel named ‘Made in China’. It was recommended that they may have the BEST Peking duck in all of Beijing. We tried it out, the skin, dipped in sugar, literally melted in our mouths. The meat was tender and juicy, you wrap it in a pancake of sorts, with sauce and a few accompanying condiments; fabulous! This restaurant definitely gets our vote! Although we didn’t sit in the ‘wine room’, these pic’s are for you, Cam!
wine table
wine racks

Crazy Kathmandu

November15

Kathmandu is a feast for the senses. We stayed in the typical backpacker area called Thamel. It is full of places ready to part you and your money. T-shirts, knock-off versions of expensive outerwear, trekking tours, books, teas & spices, incense; whatever you are looking for, it is here.
thamel signs
Thamel at night:
thamel street
What a crazy place:
thamel
There are many, many restaurants to choose from in Kathmandu. We had delicious Thai, Italian, Nepalese, Indian and Mexican food. The desserts weren’t half bad either…
baked alaska
We went to see Nepal’s largest Buddhist Stupa, Boudhanath. A stupa is a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics, typically the remains of a Buddha or saint. Who is entombed underneath this one has been historically a topic of much debate. It is one of the most holy sites for Buddhists nonetheless. It is surrounded by over 1000 prayer wheels that religious devotees circumnavigate in a clockwise direction rotating each one.
stupa view
A close-up of the ‘wise eyes’, as Emily calls them (from the book, Ping):
stupa
After that we went to a Hindu holy site, Pashupatinath Temple. It is the one of the largest Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world located on the banks of the Bagmati River. This river is considered very holy since it flows into the Ganges in India. There is a cremation site on the banks of the river and the deceased are floated down to the awaiting fires on their final journey.
Hindu ceremony
Hindu holy men, or Sadhu:
2 holy men
This one was very flexible:
holy yoga man
Hindu widows that did not have children in their marriage end up as Holy ladies:
holy ladies
The next day we visited the ancient city of Bodhnaranth. This was a stop on the old spice and tea trading route between Tibet and India. There is a palace built by King Jitamitra Malla, and various Temples. This king was very vain and jealous. The following beautiful stone carving was so beautiful that the king ordered the artisan’s hands cut off so that he could not create another masterpiece for anyone else. Talk about ingratitude!
stone carving
The cobras surrounding the king’s outdoor bathing pool, to protect him from evil spirits:
cobra
Here are a few of the beautiful buildings:
temple
old city

Nepal driving

November11

After we walked across the bridge into Nepal we were greeted by a new guide and driver to take us to Kathmandu. It is only a 150 km drive but it takes 3-4 hours due to the road condition (or lack thereof!). Here is a piece of the ‘better’ looking part of the road, although a waterfall is cascading across it and there is 5 inches of water, it is, at least concrete.
highway
Amazingly, this is the MAIN artery for shipping back and forth from Tibet to Nepal. Apparently there are 3000 of these trucks going back and forth. The road deteriorates to one lane of slimy mud where the mountainside has washed out in many places. Here are some of the trucks waiting to be loaded up or unloaded.
trucks
Cars are definitely a luxury item, costing the equivalent of $30,000 for a micro-sized car. So this is how most families travel:
family mobile
After the long drive, we made it to Kathmandu!
kathmandu

Catching up

November10

We’ve been back in Zhongfang for about a month and I’ve still not finished posting our holiday photos. With over 3800 pictures taken between myself, Simon, and his dad; it took a while to sort through them all! Here’s a few more good ones.
You have to watch out in Tibet, you never know who or what may have wandered onto the road:
goat crossing
We found snow on one of the high mountain passes:
high pass
A typical rural Tibetan house. Note the dried yak dung around the top as decoration? storage?
tibetan house
As we ventured farther and farther into rural Tibet, our accommodations got a little more rustic. This was our smallest room, with no heat, so we bought some candles to warm up the 8’x8′ room.
small room
The restaurants were more basic, but always colourful:
tibetan restaurant
Also, the farther away from Lhasa we got, the more all-purpose the shops seemed to be:
tibetan store
On one of the high passes, the one where we first saw the Himalayas in the distance, we put up some prayer flags:
prayer flags
Once we crossed over the Himalayas, the climate changed dramatically. This is the lush and green descent to the next town.
winding road
crazy road
A roadside stop:
our gang
Our last stop in Tibet, was a town called Zhangmu. It was a crazy place, like most border towns. Perched on a mountainside, it makes Nelson, BC look like the flatlands. The entire town is on one long long switchbacking road. I don’t know how the large trucks make it up the road, the drivers are masters at passing with merely an inch to spare on each side.
Zhangmu
And finally, the bridge to cross into Nepal, on the right, lay before us:
border

Faces of Tibet

November4

The Tibetan people are very beautiful, both inside and out. I found them to be very kind, quick to laugh, and gentle. They seemed to be very contented and peaceful people. Here are a few of the faces and wonderful clothing we spotted. Many of these people have come on a pilgrimage to these temples that we are visiting from remote parts of Tibet, wearing their native dress.

Very, very long braids, all fastened together at bottom:

A high mountain shepherd:

This monk took many photos of the girls:

A blind musician:

Some of the braids have intricate cloth and metalwork attached:

At a mountain pass at 4700m (15,000 ft.), many women wear a mask to protect their cheeks and mouth from the cold, dry air.

A truly beautiful smile:

Some women braid coloured thread into their hair and fold it over their head like this:

The servers at the Snowland Restaurant in Lhasa:

Our guide, Pema, wearing a traditional Eastern Tibetan hat:

Our driver, Lobsang, with his infectious grin:

A gruelling climb…

November2

As some of you may know, I am an avid participant in the Revelstoke Pedal and Pint crew. We go on a long mountain bike ride once weekly, sometimes up to 30 kms on trails, then glide into the Regent Pub for some hard-earned beer, nachos and dinner. We consider ouselves a fairly mellow bunch but we like to ride ALL the local trails; ups, downs, hike-a-bikes, cruisers, gnarly stuff, whatever; bring it on! I was thinking of my crew as we luxuriously rode in a van to the top of a mountain pass in Tibet, on the road to Mt. Everest. Approaching the rarefied air of the 5120 metre high (17,000 ft.) Pang-La pass, we came up on two bike riders. Now this road is 102 kms long with this huge pass in the middle, dropping down to valley bottom and another climb back up to 5200 metres at the end. Talk about endurance!
Heading up to Pang-La pass
If you didn’t see them in the previous photo, here they are:
Gruelling biking
So, pedal and pinters, this pic is for you! As you slog up the rain-soaked trail in search of heavenly singletrack, think of these two poor souls!
RIDE ON!

Everest!!!

October31

We were absolutely blessed by good weather on our trip. The few days at Everest were no exception. As we neared, the clouds kept clearing and by the time we arrived they had mostly vanished. We took the mini-bus up the 8km road up the moraine to the base camp proper. From a small hill we had commanding views of Everest and the surrounding area. The air was quite thin at 5150m and even the hill made us somewhat breathless. Apparently it doesn’t slow you down if you’re 3 or 5, they were running around as usual.
Girls at Everest
Girls at Everest
Emily, Maddie and their Pops
Girls and Pops
Girls and Simon
Happy family
After our time at the base camp, we made it back to our accomodation, among the nomadic yak tents. Heated by a yak dung stove it was quite cozy. And no, there is no smell associated with the stove inside, it has been ‘aged and dried’ for at least a year so is just organic matter. We had a delicious meal prepared by the hut owner accompanied by our first taste of Tibetan butter tea. This is a tea made of yak butter which is quite salty. I did not care much for it but Simon and David were big fans.
Yak tent
I snuck out of the wamth of the tent before bed and took one more photo on the moonlit night.
Everest at night
Snuggled in our beds, warm even when it went down to -15 that night.
Cozy beds
We awoke to a crystal clear morning, and unfortunately myself to nausea and a blinding headache. We packed up to leave on schedule and before I got any worse. It was an awesome trip to the roof of the world.
Clear morning

A photo is worth a thousand words…

October19

No time for stories, here’s a few pics…
Drepung Monastery, Lhasa
Drepung monastery
Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace
Dalai Lama's Summer Palace
Debating monks
Debating monks
Yak ride
Yak ride
Beautiful ladies living at 4700 metres
Beautiful ladies living at 4700 metres
Monastery in Gyantse
Monastery in Gyantse

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