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


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

Nepal driving


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.
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.
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!

Catching up


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.
And finally, the bridge to cross into Nepal, on the right, lay before us:

Faces of Tibet


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…


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!



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…


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

Potala Palace – Jokhang Temple – Barkhor Square


Today we visited the beautiful Potala Palace, traditional winter home of the Dalai Lama.
Potala Palace
Of course he is in exile in India so the palace remains mostly empty. After a fairly strenuous climb up the Red Hill and it’s many steps, one reaches the palace proper.
Lhasa from palace
Heading down from palace
It is divided into two parts, the white palace, which is mostly comprised of the living spaces of the Dalai Lama and the other monks that once inhabited the palace. The second part is the red palace, which houses mostly religious artifacts. There are literally thousands of statues of Buddha and other deities. Some very, very small and the largest is probably about 10 metres high. Some of the more beautiful rooms house the tombs of the past Dalai Lamas, they are covered in gold and encrusted in jewels. The Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, at the time, named Zhou Enlai had his guards protect the Potala Palace during the Chinese cultural revolution so all of the beautiful artifacts were saved from destruction. Also interesting were the many, many volumes of scriptures written by the past Dalai Lamas; all housed in little niches in the walls, from floor to ceiling in the large rooms. There are many Buddhist pilgrims walking throughout the palace, leaving offerings of food or money at the various statues and adding melted butter from their thermos’ to the butter lamps. These lamps are very large clay pots, the size of a witch’s cauldron, filled with yak butter and maybe 12 or so wicks. Mixed with the incense which is lit all around, they have a peculiar but not distasteful smell.
Palace gate
Emily at Palace
Maddie at Palace
After lunch we went to the Jokhang Temple, the most sacred temple and spiritual centre of Tibet­.
Barkhor Square and Jokhang Temple
Today is a special religious day, Palden Lhamo, named after the protective deity of this temple. Needless to say it was packed. Fortunately the Buddhist pilgrims form a line on the left and the tourists may pass on the right, otherwise it would have taken hours to get through. There is a central assembly hall where the monks gather each morning and night. Surrounding this are many small ‘chapels’ or rooms that have different statues within. The special thing about this temple is that it holds the Jowo Shakyamuni Buddha statue, perhaps the single most venerated object in Tibetan Buddhism. We only got a brief glimpse of the statue because it was so busy. The rooftop of the temple afforded us great views of the Barkhor square below and the palace beyond. Emily especially loved the decorative golden parts of the roof. She commented that she wished she had lots of golden toys to play with. Wouldn’t we all?
Jokhang Temple

Arrival in Lhasa


We settled into our gorgeous hotel in Lhasa and headed out for some dinner. We went to the highly recommended Snowland Restaurant which serves up some really good Tibetan and Indian food.
Tibetan cheers
We tried yak dumplings (very yummy), lamb stew and some delicious garlic naan bread. We were early to bed to aid our acclimatization.
Strange magical place

Climbing to new heights


Our next adventure was a 46 hour train ride from Chengdu to Lhasa, Tibet. We travelled in relative comfort, in a self-contained cabin with 4 beds. They are called the ‘soft sleepers’ but soft is NOT how I would describe the beds. The train ran along the recently completed world’s highest railway line, at a cost of 4.1 billion USD. The Chinese government certainly has some cash to spend. During the last 24 hours the train elevation averaged about 3800m, topping out at 5070m. During this section the train has supplemental oxygen piped into the cars, but not enough to prevent the usual headache. There were several interesting travellers in our train car, and we spent some time chatting with them in the dining car. We were the only foreigners who had any sort of ability to speak Chinese, so we were asked to help with meal ordering by many of the others. Amazing how even a 30-50-word vocabulary can be immensely valuable.
Breakfast in the dining car
The landscape that we passed through was breathtaking. It began as desert-like peaks, similar to Kamloops, BC but larger, then we climbed up to the wide-open plateau with short grasses and turquoise lakes.
Desert mountainscape
Lake Qinghai
Climbing even higher brought us through a rugged, forbidding landscape; high winds, ever-present snow and little vegetation. Throughout the train ride were tiny settlements, where people eke out a living with their cattle, yaks and sheep.
Barren landscape
Descending down towards Lhasa we arrived back in the treeline. The settlements turned into small villages and agriculture supplemented the livestock.
Mountain village
Arriving in Lhasa, we were warmly greeted by our Tibetan guide, Pema, and our driver, Loksam and our shiny new Mercedes van. Looks like our overland tour is going to be pretty comfy!

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