Star Date:  September 2006
Tibet: Mt. Everest, Chomolangma, South to Laos


Hello Dear Family & Friends!

Too jay shay!

(Thank you - Tibetan)



"The journey of a thousand miles, must begin with a single step."

(Lao Tzu - Chinese Sage)





Chomolangma, Tibetan Goddess Mother of the Universe (8850m.  29,035 ft.) is the world's tallest peak.  The breathtaking scenery from old Tingri, past ancient villages and vibrant yellow barley crops nestled in the valleys, was a fitting buildup to the approach to Mt. Everest.   Rongphu or Rongpuk Monastery is the highest on the planet and provides a gateway to Mt. Everest. We stayed at the only guesthouse, enjoyed lively conversation in the adjoining tea house and crawled under all available covers to stay warm during the clear star filled nights.  A spectacular full moon rose during the early hours after midnight, or so I was told by Joseph.  My nose was well hidden by the warm blankets and only the glorious dawning of the sun on this grand peak brought us out of hiding.  Quickly we ran out and caught a horse and cart the 5 miles up to Everest Base Camp, preferring to walk down.  Along the way we picked up our new friend, Richard (one of the few serious travelers we have met.  Richard has been wandering the globe, living among the locals on every continent, for over 25 years). We were surprised to arrive and see the bustle of tent guesthouses and tea houses that had sprung up.  The tables were full of antiques, jewelry and even fossilized sea shells or ammonites, proving that this, the highest plateau in the world, was once at the bottom of the ocean.  Change is inevitable, on a large scale or small.  In 1999 there was absolutely nothing here at EBC, save a small locked up stone storage building and a monument commemorating those brave souls who had lost their lives on the mountain.  In all its glory, Chomolangma greeted us and we spent 6 hours up at over 18,000 ft. hiking or gazing in awe at the magnificence of the mountain. The air is very thin and at times it seems as though you are breathing through a straw.  Slowly, slowly helps avoid the dreaded altitude sickness that has claimed the lives of 2 tourists here already this season.  Previously, the government issued me a permit to ascend the peak of Everest - time limit - one day.  Seven years later we had a permit covering several weeks but it was avalanche season.  Maybe next visit we will go for the top! (Isn't rationalization great?)

"Because It Is There!" These were the famous words of mountaineer, George Mallory, when asked why he wanted to attempt to climb the world's highest mountain.  In 1913 George Mallory and Andrew Irvine (22 yrs old) were last seen going strong above 7880m., just before clouds socked in the peak.  Their bodies were discovered in 1999 by an American team and it reopened the debate of whether they had ascended the peak and died on the way down or...?? 

After many failed attempts the race was on.  There had been 13 assaults on Everest before 1953, when Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary reached the summit.  At age 19, Nepalese sherpa Tenzing Norgay, dreamed of standing on the top of the world -Chomolangma.  He and Edmund Hillary, a New Zealand beekeeper with intense determination (we visited his institute on the South Island) made a precarious platform camp at 8870m, feasted on chicken soup and dates, and set out the next morning at 6:30am, while the rest of John Hunt's British expedition waited below.  Facing several obstacles that had turned away previous climbers, including having to shimmy up an ice tube, these two new friends decided to go for it, no matter what.  At 11:30am, the 29th of May, 1953, together they stepped onto the peak and touched Heaven.  In a profession with egos higher than Everest itself, these two admirable men agreed that they had ascended the peak 'Together' rather than individually claiming the first step.  This secret will go with them to their graves.

I met Tenzing Norgay at a small gathering of less than 30 people at Northland College, in northern Wisconsin, when I was just 16 years old.  We were about to set off on a 130 mile backpacking and rock climbing expedition with Outward Bound. Talking with this humble man and seeing his 8mm film of the 360 degree view from the "Top of the World" left it's mark.  As I now stood gazing at the "Mother of the Universe", I felt the Yin/Yang, exhilaration/pain of this mountain.  Most of all we felt overshadowed and humbled by it's grandeur.

I wrote after contemplating before the mountain:

Just Being

"Dwarfed, humbled beneath this, the mightiest peak on earth.
What is man in relation to nature?
Always trying to control and conquer,
to perfect and change.
Learn from this giant.
Strength is in just being.
We would do well to take lessons from this colossus of power and strength. 
It has no need of justifying - It simply is.
A Buddhist mantra: "I am a loving mountain of Inner Peace."
May we find this inner peace and strength and let it radiate from us,
Unmoved by circumstances.
Thank you, 'too jay shay' Chomolangma, for the needed reminder."

By 2000, 900 people, ages 15 -64, reached the summit, including Mallory's grandson and the son of Tenzing Norgay.  More than 160 had died.  For a great read try Into Thin Air and when things get tough just remember Beck, a true living mountain of inner strength.

Sakya Monastery, closed to us after a 3rd attempt; we chose to visit Yunadrungling Monastery, a secluded Bon temple high on the hill just past Shigatse.  Taking a left at km marker 4821 we drove to what looked
like a suspension foot bridge.  The only problem was that there were 4 rapid filled branches of the river to cross before the bridge.  Just because we were near our return to Lhasa didn't mean that we weren't up for the challenge and in we plunged, waist deep in water, to reach our goal.  This totally secluded hill top temple was surrounded by grazing sheep and donkeys, some of which insisted on sharing our salad lunch, and courtyards of gardens with peonies, and peach or apricot trees.  Seemingly deserted, all the chapels were locked.  I'm sure the monks figured no one was crazy enough to ford the unseasonably high rivers just to visit their out of the way temple.  They were wrong.  Climbing up a ladder we ran into a young monk who gladly opened the main temple. The Bon devotees, of this ancient Tibetan animist religion, circumambulate all religious shrines counter clockwise, but otherwise their temples and symbols are similar to Buddhism (except their female swastikas or suavastikas are also whirling counterclockwise ).  Our driver, Tenzing, who normally loved a look at our photos, refused to look at those of the Bon temple.  Bad luck or some superstition.  We humans are such curious creatures!  Hope that this incredible Bon temple side trip, ending our remarkable 18 day adventure, didn't cancel the promise of Lake
Manasarovar and the freedom of sins for many lifetimes!

We arrived back in Lhasa dusty and frayed around the edges but you couldn't wipe the smile off our faces.  We luxuriated in hot showers, slept in crisp linen sheets, and were 'born again'.  We blended into the colorful tapestry of Tibetan life in Lhasa for another week before flying down to Kunming.  As we did our final 'kora' with the pilgrims through the Bakhor at sunset, we felt that we would be carrying a lifelong gift, in our hearts, from these joyful Tibetans. 

It was literally all downhill from here.  The logistics of a 7-10 day jeep, then bus trip back to Kunming didn't work out so we took one of the few plane flights of our journey.  After almost 2 months up in the serene dry altitudes of Tibet we were thrown into the hustle and bustle of humid Yunnan. We suffered a bit of culture shock but it didn't take us long to get back into the swing of China and Kunming turned out to be an interesting place to explore. Highlights were: the Bamboo temple with its hundreds of life size human statues carved centuries ago.  They were banned from public viewing when the "powers that be" discovered their faces carefully reproduced on many mischievous statues. We played hide and seek with a preoccupied nun who quickly realized the silliness of her apparent anxiety and ending up blessing and giving us sandalwood bracelets, before posing for a photo with her new friends. We basked in the quiet of the tree lined temple courtyard before heading back down into the busy city.  We discovered another peaceful haven right in the middle of the lotus or town.  Yuantong Zen Buddhist Temple is across from a large vegetarian restaurant and it's worth the walk along the canals in search of it.

Two days of buses brought us to Simao then Jinhong.  In Jinhong another exciting "coincidence" happened when we met our new friend Walter at the Mei Mei Cafe.  A young, fun guy and computer wizard extraordinaire, he and Joseph worked out a way to have Joseph's exceptional e-text library available for downloading 24 hours a day.  Joseph has always wanted to share his collection of 75,000 books and papers, 500 audio talks, over 100,000 images, and 24,000 songs of all categories (over 200GBs of information).  To download see the instructions below.   Another days travel, along with 'Blinken and Nod', two out of place old Uighurs from Kashgar, Xinjiang brought us to the border of Laos; in time for the long awaited finish of our Chinese visas.  After our extraordinary 14.5 months in China we bid a fond farewell to the sleeping dragon and the 1.6 billion smiles within it's belly.  Nihao and Xie Xie!          

And so it goes.............................................Next Gentle Laos.  Until then Keep Smiling and choose your next step carefully.  It determines the direction of the journey of the rest of your life.  Take Care and Keep in Touch.


Love, xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph


Travel notes:

$1.00US = 8 Yuan

1 meter = approx. 3.02 feet or 39.37 inches

Kunming, Yunnan:

Stay around the block from the tourist filled Camellia Hotel - Yunmei Hotel 0871-3130932

Bamboo Temple- Take a city bus then a minibus (30Y rd. trip) up to this serene mountainous temple.

Joseph recommends:  Dr Marco Tian  Shu Hui Dental Clinic  20 News Rd 
86 871 362 1562  email:


For access to Joseph's library do a search for eMule, then download the free file sharing program.  Install it and you can search for any author, subject, music, etc. in the world.  Choose from the millions of files available at any given time, for a free download! Give it a try and be prepared to expand your mind!

For interesting reading on the history of the oldest ancient symbol, the swastika, (which we see continually on every continent of our travels), download: THE SWASTIKA, THE EARLIEST KNOWN SYMBOL, Thomas Wilson 1894.
Do a search of 










Lively Tibetans singing their traditional folk songs in a
pub full of locals.

Everest Base Camp.


Friendly antique pilgrims.


The taxi has arrived!


Curious nomadic children. We gave each one a large hand full of
peanuts in the shell, which they happily devoured.


Stone cairns standing guard and honoring the beauty
of the Himalaya beyond.


A new way to wash the baby.  The harried dad in this Tibetan
vegetable shop was at wits end trying to deal with customers
and the baby.  He ingeniously plopped the baby in the washer
and all was well, that is until the spin dry cycle!


Serene Yuantong Zen Buddhist Temple, Kunming.


My incense is longer than your incense.  Interesting symbolism.


Our new friend, a Buddhist nun at the Bamboo Temple.


Fair maiden posing in a park in Kunming.


'Blinken and Nod', two out of place old Uighurs from Kashgar,
Xinjiang.  Thrilled to be traveling but not knowing a word of
English or Chinese
we helped them fill out their Laotian



What really happened
to Mona.

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