Monday, 1 July 2013

Monday 1 July 2013

Happy Canada Day! Roast a hot dog for us.

This morning we returned on an overnight flight from Kathmandu, Nepal to Guangzhou, China, our home away from home.
Last week we took part in the ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP.

Don has wanted to show me Mount Everest ever since he made the trek to Everest Base Camp two years ago.
So, he worked with a Kathmandu company, Ace the Himalaya, to put a tour together. Eight other BYU China teachers joined us
in a wonderful adventure. It was a lot of work for Don since there are many visa requirements and uncertainties in going to
Tibet which is a SAR or Special Administrative Region of China. Tom Cutting, a BYU teacher stationed in Beijing, helped
with the northern group and provided encouragement, since there was push back from the usual tour company
that the BYU teachers usually use. (Many are not satisfied with this company's service and a little competition is needed.)

Our group met in Lhasa City and spent a week together on the road in a small bus. The road trip exceeded everyone's
expectations and I can hardly express the thrill of it all.

Of course there was a rocky start. The first day and night was difficult with the adjustment to the high altitude. Since we were
coming from sea level, our Guangzhou group had bad headaches and one friend even fainted out cold. High altitude acclimatization
is interesting and we all suffered from shortness of breath until we started descending after the highlight of Everest Base Camp from
the Tibet side of the mountain. It is interesting to realize you are not thinking clearly or moving with secure balance.

There are too many incidents to relate, but just believe me when I say that Tibet is one of a kind, with a unique traditional culture
and some of the most diverse and majestic scenery in the world. We were all in awe of the raw beauty of the place, plus, the
funny little inconveniences made us realize that this is a remote and tough country.

Our hotel window in Lhasa City looked out on the Potala Palace and that was just one of the spectacular views.
After many security passport checks and a bumpy washboard road that took six hours of travelling, we saw Mount Everest.
It was a perfect, clear day and we were so happy, since it is the wet season and many tourists get only a glimpse or none
at all, after the bone jarring journey to drive to base camp. Don's assessment was that the Nepal trek to Base Camp
is more satisfying since you are doing the work, but on the Tibet side of the mountain you see the tallest mountain in the world
in all its glory, front and centre, positioned in perfect symmetry among the surrounding hills. He was as thrilled as the rest of us.

We left the barren, windswept high hills and continued on the Friendship Highway (a highway that links Shanghai and Kathmandu) and continued to the border crossing with Nepal. The scenery changed to lush, sub-tropical, huge Himalayan hills and we followed the
most spectacular river through a narrow gorge for most of the day. Tibet is truly a land of rock and water. The border crossing was
about the worst experience of my life, with hundreds of Indians tourists on a nearby pilgrimage and others from China and everywhere else pushing to get into the building. Don literally rescued me when the Chinese border police closed the door on me as I was
being pushed from behind. It was terrifying since people were angry with each other.

Just believe me when I say that we saw incomparable natural beauty alongside some of the most impoverished living
conditions imaginable.

Kathmandu was a fun place to visit. We saw the usual cultural sites and shopped until we had made good friends with the Indian
couple who owned a jewellery story across from our hotel in the Thamel area. Don made sure I saw the things that some of
the family saw when they were in Kathmandu with him.

How lucky we were to have this memorable week together with our new friends.
And, how lucky to have survived the bad roads and close calls.

Here are a few photos and may need more that one posting:
- the view from our hotel in Lhasa City
- Tom and Don bought hats, since almost all the men their age wore felt hats (also Kayleen Seiver from Detroit)
- Terry Ryan with a Tibetan woman (by the way, her mother is a Beazer)
- a stalled and submerged vehicle that got caught in a landslide that delayed us about 2 hours
- Mount Everest
- a typical scene near Nepal
- Don and I on the road to Nepal
- sacred cows in Kathmandu near the Hindu cremation temple
- Brad Hertz challenging some local boys to a table tennis match in Kathmandu

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