Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

Francie’s last set of photos

Francie just got her last set of photos developed and I think they are really fantastic (but maybe I am biased).  It includes pictures from Tibet, Bangkok, Indonesia, and New Zealand.  Below is a subset of the pictures or click here to see all of them. 

Boy in Tibet. He brought the horses on Francie’s horse trek.
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I like to call this one ‘Baby with tin can’. Tibet
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This woman was trying out the binoculars. Unfortunately, we think she was trying to focus on the rock a few feet away from her (at the right of the pic).
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Man prostrating himself in the Barkhor in Tibet.
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Kids taking care of business in Lhasa.
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We think this munchkin was in Bangkok. Francie loves the dogs and they love her.
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Three year old elephant in Ayutthaya, Thailand. While you may not love the fact that he is being taught tricks, keep in mind that his previous job was/would have been in the lumber industry (Thailand ‘freed’ all the elephants from doing manual labor). Regardless, it is a pretty damn cute picture.
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Gili Islands (Lombok), Indonesia
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This is definitely the best picture we have of Rinjani. We are standing on the volcano’s outer cone looking down on the inner volcanic cone.
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Francie and I at the Rinjani Volcano.
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These two pictures are of the large Dusky Dolphin pod (at least 200 dolphins) that showed up when we were whale watching.
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We still have a few Burma and China videos to post.  Does anyone know some good software that rotates MOV videos (I was holding the camera sideways).

November 4, 2007 Posted by | Bangkok, Beach, China, Indonesia, Nature, New Zealand, Photography, Rural, Thailand, Tibet, Travel, Wildlife | 4 Comments

Sheepshearing Show (say that 10 times fast)

Francie and I went to a sheapshearing show in Kaikoura before we left.  Not only did they shear their sheep but they also shared their sheep for the benefit of our education and enjoyment. 

We learned many facts that I will call out along the way.

Of course, Francie was thrilled by Act 1.  Feeding a little lamb.  This was not a ‘white as snow’ lamb but a rare black lamb (1.5 months old).  Fact 1: Black sheep are very rare.  One in a thousand–they just appear automagically from somewhere way up the gene ancestory.  Very interesting.

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Fact 2: While this little lamb probably won’t be sent to its death any time soon–90% of all lambs in New Zealand are slaughtered for food (this number has gone up as the price of wool has gone down). Very old sheep are turned into mutton.

Act 2: Ram-Man 

Peter, the sheep shearing guy, brought out the older Ram-man. This beautiful ram was incredibly calm and fun to interact with–he let us hand feed him. Actually, he refused to eat from some people and Peter said–‘he just doesn’t like some people’. Here is Ramman.

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Of course he liked Francie.

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Act 3: Sheep Shearing Show

Then we got to the actual sheep shearing part of the show. Peter’s family has sold most of their land because the price of wool has dropped so much (due to synthetic fabrics) and he just keeps enough sheep to do two sheep shearing shows a day. These sheep regrow their coat in six months (Fact 3). Fact 4: Most of their wool is worth 3 NZ dollars per Kilo. Some other types of sheep have wool worth 10 NZ dollars per kilo. Fact 5: sheep are kept indoors at night so they don’t get too cold.

I know this may look painful but, strangely enough, the sheep didnt seem to mind too much.

The Gotcha shot
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The shearing shot.
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Fact 6: Professional sheep shearers can do a sheep in 33 seconds.

“Can I go now?”
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Fact 7: Lanolin oil is pressed from the wool to make various products.

There were more facts but I think that is all your mind can handle right now.

Go back to work.

October 17, 2007 Posted by | New Zealand, Rural, Travel, Wildlife | 4 Comments

More animal dreams!!!

This afternoon, as Greg & I were about to leave Marahau after our day of sea kayaking, we ran into a local who was taking his 2 Clydesdales for a stroll.  I stopped to admire the beautiful animals and he said, hey, hop on, I’ll take your picture!  And guess what happened next?  OMG, I rode a Clydesdale horse!!!  That’s another childhood dream I can check off the list… 🙂

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Riding Clydesdale = maniacal happiness, according to this photo.

The horseman didn’t want Greg to feel left out, so while I trotted along, Greg rode in the carriage:

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A totally awesome day!!!

October 17, 2007 Posted by | New Zealand, Pets, Photography, Rural, Travel | 1 Comment

Climbing Gunung Rinjani

September 30th – October 2nd 2007, Greg, Randall, and I climbed up the Rim, down the crater, then up the opposite Rim of the active volcano Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia. The last eruption was 2004!

Practical info: We arranged the trek through Lightning Fast internet cafe on Gili Trawangan in Lombok. We paid 725,000 Rs a piece and this included transport to and from Rinjani, all meals and equipment (except clothing), and porter and guide for 3 days and two nights. From talking to some other travellers on the trail, this appears to be a really good price.

Day 1: We started the trek in the town of Sembalun, which is actually the opposite of most treks – usually you start in Senaru. We did it backwards so that we could arrive in Senaru early enough on the 3rd day to get back to Gili Trawangan that evening. It took us about 5.5 brutal hours of steep climbing to get to the first camp, just below the crater rim. A couple hours in we passed some other hikers who told us how tired they were and informed us that we still had “a REALLY LONG way to go”. Thanks! I really wish they hadn’t said that.

We have a long ways to go:
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Day 2: We could have woken up at 3am the next morning and climbed in the dark to the summit (the highest point on the crater rim) to watch the sun rise. That didn’t happen… instead Randall and I were woken up by our guides at 6am and we stumbled out of the tent and proceeded to hike for 1 hour on a very steep gravel trail in a delirious state to get to the crater rim. Greg stayed behind in the sleeping bag; what a smart man.

We were greeted by this troublemaker when we returned to camp. He stole part of my breakfast and a container of margarine! Just look at the evil gleam in his eyes:
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This is a view of the crater, the lake, and the smaller cone on the morning of day 2:
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You can see from this photo how steep the rim walls are. That is why my legs were severely sore (mostly from the downhill) for 3 full days after we finished the hike.

After eating breakfast under duress (i.e. threat of monkey invasion), we hiked down the crater to the lake and the nearby hot springs. We spent about 3 hours there hanging out. The hot springs were excellent and felt great. The only disappointing thing about the otherwise idyllic spot was the profusion of garbage all over the area, some of which appears to have been deposited there by travelers, not Indonesians. I think it’s really sad that people who should know better and who have every advantage of a thorough environmental education would choose to litter in a National park. Shame on you.

Here is the lakeside view, with Greg the explorer:
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A shot of the hotsprings, from above:
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Our lunch break was long enough for some of us to take naps:
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Following our leisurely break was a brutal 3+ hour scaling of the opposite crater rim and then a 45 minute steep decent to get to camp.

Day 3: The hike from the second rim down to the town of Senaru (our endpoint), was through some totally different scenery and foliage than the way up, which was mostly grasslands. It was jungly, more lush and green, and more humid:
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We saw some more Macaques (the trouble maker monkeys) and also a few of the rare Silvered Leaf monkeys (which are actually black) from a distance. The trail wasn’t quite as steep as the one on the opposite side. My legs were already so sore that I resorted to taking a Vicodin about halfway down. It served the double purpose of both taking away the pain and making me feel like a sparkling individual!

We arrived back in Senaru around 12:30 or so and were back on the beach at Gili Trawangan by 4pm.

The trek was amazing and beautiful, but the feature of it that stands out most in my mind at the moment (probably because today is the first day I haven’t been in pain) is what a physical beatdown it was. The trail was either very steep uphill or very steep downhill without much in between. It makes it all the more impressive that the guides and porters do this hike carrying about 60 pounds each, packed into baskets hung onto the ends of a larger bamboo stick, which they balance on their shoulder. Wow.

Another awesome hiking adventure. Hopefully we’ll have some more during our 10 days in New Zealand, starting Oct. 9th. 🙂

October 6, 2007 Posted by | Indonesia, Photography, Rural, SE Asia, Travel, Wildlife | 3 Comments

Avalanche in Tibet

We have a little time here in Bangkok to try and upload some of our videos so we can post them.

This is our Avalanche in Tibet video.  But first, here is a group photo from our trekker friends.  Thank you Ester for the photo and video.  See their web site link on our blogroll.

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Click here for Avalanche video

 Or not.

September 16, 2007 Posted by | China, Rural, Tibet, Travel | Leave a comment

A Nomad Stole My Watch

Right before we left on the trip our good friend Ed Kranick gave us Swiss Army watches as going away presents. This was a great gift because I didn’t have a watch and these are turned out to be excellent travel watches.

Well, the nomads on our last trek were awfully helpful. Apparently a little too helpful. Besides standing around observing everything they (ok, one of them) had rather light fingers. Every time we tore down camp they would want to help–especially with the tents (I guess because the tents are of a very different design than nomad tents). Well, when we were packing up camp on the last day I was in the latrine and several nomads helped Francie a little TOO much–if you know what I mean.

When I told Michiel this the other day (one of the other hikers) he covered his ears and said he didnt want to hear it because everyone liked the nice nomads. But one other thing was missing when we packed up camp on the last day–the shovel that we used to dig the latrine. Soooo, somebody out there was ‘collecting’ useful items!

Francie and I have been very, very lucky on this trip (so far!) not to be robbed, mugged, etc. so this really isn’t a big deal other than the watch being a gift from Ed.

Once, a long time ago my mother and I had our house robbed and she said “well, I hope they needed it more than we did”. Well, I hope the shovel and watch are very useful to their new owner(s).

September 9, 2007 Posted by | China, Rural, Tibet, Travel | Leave a comment

Namtso Nunnery

During one of the days we were on the trek we went to Namtso lake.

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One side of the lake has two huge hills that provide two different koras (pilgrimage trails). We did the smaller kora because it was raining and there happened to be a very basic nunnery along the path. We were allowed to explore the nunnery but couldnt find out much other information.

Check out how basic this place is–

Here is the entrance
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Here is their make-shift prayer wheel which is made out of fabric and no wood.
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Here are two pictures of the alter room.
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There was one other room which was a sleeping chamber that also had a small alter. I was pretty amazed at how basic it all was.

September 6, 2007 Posted by | China, Rural, Tibet, Travel | 2 Comments

More Trek info

For the curious, here is some more detailed info on the 5-day trek that Greg and I did here in Tibet.

We booked the trek with Windhorse Adventure which I highly recommend. Our group consisted of 5 travelers, 2 guides (1 Canadian & 1 Tibetan), and a driver.

The first night we camped in a lovely spot near the shore of Nam-tso lake (elevation 4718m, 15,730ft), about a 4 hour drive from Lhasa. There were some Tibetan nomad tents nearby, which resulted in lots of children wanting to play, and a horse ride for me. 🙂

Here is a photo of the area near the lake where we camped:
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The next morning (2nd day) we walked the Nam-tso lake Kora, which took about 2 hours, and then drove about 5 hours to get to our next camp destination.

A scene from the Kora:
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2nd, 3rd, and 4th nights we camped in the same spot in a huge valley at the foot of the range of peaks near Nam-tso. Elevation of the camp was 4800m, 16,000ft. The tallest mountain in the range is Mt. Chomokanga, at 7200m, 24,000ft. There was a small Tibetan village nearby and lots of herders, so we had curious visitors stopping by now and then.

View from our Camp:
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3rd day we hiked up a valley to a lake at the foot of Mount Chomokanga. Some very entertaining tibetans came along and helped carry our packs. They ran up the trail with our packs on while singing and smoking, while I was huffing and puffing my way along. The highest point on this hike was 5200m, 17,300ft. Total hiking time was around 6 hours.

The scenery was very dramatic:
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4th day we hiked up a different valley to another beautiful lake at the foot of the mountain next to Chomokanga (which i forgot the name of), although we had great views of both peaks. The return hike went along a ridge and through an old, abandoned village, which was pretty cool. The high point of the day was 5300m, 17,700ft. Along the hike we experienced sun, rain, hail, AND snow, hehe. I was really freaking beat by the time we got back to camp. Total hiking time was 6-7 hours.

Some photographs from day 4:
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5th day we drove back to Lhasa with a stop at a hotsprings about half-way. There were other short hikes we could have done in the morning but I think all of us but our guide and super in shape group member Dave were totally beat from the previous 2 days.

That’s it! It was a wonderful adventure and I’m so glad Greg and I did it. I highly recommend going trekking if you visit Tibet, and definitely check out the trips offered by Windhorse.

September 6, 2007 Posted by | China, Photography, Rural, Tibet, Travel | 1 Comment

The Anthropologists

On this recent trekking adventure a number of Tibetians would follow us around while we were hiking or ‘stop by’ our camp to check things out.

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These guys were the final crew who came to hang out and joke around and watch us climb up some pretty steep mountains. They found it incredibly amusing that we were having a hard time catching our breath. At first I thought they wanted something but then I realized that we were quite the sight for people who rarely see something new.

The people who really surprised me, and who I finally began calling The Anthropologists, were the nomads who showed up to just watch us in the morning or evening. We couldn’t really talk to them but they would check out what we were eating and doing. They would also look closely at the tents because their construction was obviously quite fascinating.

I felt like they were the village’s anthropologists who liked to come and examine the way other people live. For some reason it all reminded me of that Far Side Cartoon by Gary Larson. In the cartoon a bunch of cannibals are running away from the village while carrying TVs and toasters yelling “The Anthropologists are coming! The Anthropologists are coming!”. They want the anthropologists to think they are less technically advanced.

They found our stuff interesting–we found their stuff interesting. Ever want to know what the inside of a nomad’s tent looks like?

Outside (yes, that is a small solar panel outside the tent)
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Inside
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September 6, 2007 Posted by | China, Rural, Tibet, Travel | 1 Comment

Trekking Photos

Greg & I just got back from our 5-day trek, and it was spectacular. Here are a few photos from Greg’s digicam…

We hiked up this valley in the background:
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Me, Dave, & guide Angela hiking towards the mountains:
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This is an interesting kind of moss that grows over the rocks. Hmm, I think I was kind of cold when Greg took this photo…
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The peak on the right is Mt. Chamokanga (7200m, 24,000 ft):
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The lakes in Tibet are an amazing color:
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This is a photo of our camp getting attacked by a herd of goats:
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Greg & I, lakeside:
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A couple Tibetans who came along on one of our hikes:
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The scenery at our campsite:
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Tibetan kids at Nam-tso lake (where we camped our first night):
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Dave, me, Angela, and Michel on the shore of Nam-tso:
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A typical tibetan nomad tent (made of woven Yak hair):
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A foal following it’s mother (whom I am riding):
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And finally, a Tibet trek wouldn’t be complete without a photo of a cute Yak wearing earrings:
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September 4, 2007 Posted by | China, Pets, Photography, Rural, Tibet, Travel | 2 Comments