The Great Escape

dreaming of a simple life in Palawan

Photos from the Shoebox: Overland From Kathmandu to Lhasa 1990

If you had a 35mm camera you probably have a shoebox full of pictures that you never got around to sorting and putting in an album. In this series “Photos from the Shoebox” I take them out of the closest and shine light on them once more.

Often the journey is as interesting as the destination. My best friend and I had been in Nepal for almost two months. We had done the obligatory mountain treks and explored the city and its surroundings to its extent. We started to get that feeling. You’ve probably felt it too, the feeling of itchy feet, the need to move. It was November in Kathmandu and winter would soon arrive.


The Friendship Highway

“Why not journey into Tibet?,” we mused. We found a tour operator who had one last overland trip to Lhasa before snow made the highway impassable. Back then in the 1990’s you had to join an approved tour. There was no opportunity for lone, off the beaten path type of travel.


Life along the highway

We spent days in line-ups getting our visas and cashing in some traveller’s cheques to join an eclectic group of geriatric Americans, mid-aged Brits, a pair of young Swedish female backpackers and a couple of mysterious lone travellers.


The pass

The best place to sit in a bus? Front seats. From this point of vantage the windshield becomes your big screen TV. On one leg of the journey we drove for about seven hours over stark scenery that was beautifully barren and monochromatic.


Curious nomad

What started out as a black dot on the horizon soon materialized into flesh and blood. A curious nomad left his herd to come and check us out. It was not often they came across foreigners.


The arid land looked like a moonscape

As hours and kilometres ticked by we had the luxury of immersing ourselves in personal reflection. It was the perfect condition for an introvert like myself.


On the road again

Every Tibetan we came across greeted us with an excited exuberance, always laughing and asking for the same thing. They all wanted a picture of the Dalai Lama, forbidden by the Chinese.

Tibet children

Curious Tibetan children

The locals were peculiarly the same colour as the landscape – mottled shades of brown, blue and grey and often covered with dirt.

On the raod again

Life passes by

I can’t imagine living in this environment. It may be a simple life but it’s a harsh existence.


Our bus took a beating

Our bus took a beating breaking two springs and putting up with a bunch of progressively cranky travellers confined inside its metal box.

Beautiful Yamdrok Lake

Beautiful Yamdrok Lake

On the fourth day the browns and greys gave way to a beautiful turquoise. We’ve made it to sacred Yamdrok Lake, one of Tibet’s three holy lakes.


One last stop before Lhasa. Boiled eggs for lunch again.

Time always seems to pass slower as you get closer to your final destination. Patience is in short supply. Anxiousness takes its place. Finally, we reached Lhasa where a nice Holiday Inn greeted us with a hot shower, comfortable bed and decent food. After a long, tiring journey who doesn’t like a little pampering?

WPC: Angular


There’s a bitter, cold wind blowing in Toronto. Thankfully the sun is out to temper the chill and uplift our mood if only slightly. We’re in my old stomping grounds not far from where I went to art school ages ago. We duck down a side street away from the buzz of trendy Queen Street West and enter ‘Graffiti Alley’ infamous for its expansive display of street art. It’s become a local tourist attraction and my friend and I have come to  check out the latest pieces.

There’s a riot of colour and contrasting styles but I’m not here just to view. In my own way, I add my tag, a sticker with a set of five ‘borrowed’ positive rules for life. All along the alley I place my stickers in obscure places between pieces from notable Toronto graffiti artists. I still have a little bit of ‘rebel’ in me.

Graffiti may be polarizing as an art form and not everyone’s taste but I can appreciate the energetic, angular style of this often maligned street art.

To see how others interpret the word ‘angular’ visit the Weekly Photo Challenge.

The Land Where I Was Born 016

Random photos and thoughts about the Philippines

Our environment, our experiences, and the people we choose to surround us shapes us into who we are. In this series I search the web for thought-provoking images about the Philippines, the country I was born in and which I am now rediscovering.

Typhoon Saola floods Manila.

Why cry when you can laugh

8. You find ways to smile no matter what tragedy hits you…..You may have gone through typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and even the dire consequences of flawed political decisions. However badly this affects you, you still find plenty of reasons to smile. For one thing, you’re still alive. And for Filipinos, that is what matters most. ~ 8 signs you were born and raised in the Philippines, Matador Network

Philippines Rice

Rice eaters

It’s official. Half-cup rice serving must also be available in restaurants…..A measure requiring restaurants and eateries in Quezon City to include a half order of rice with exactly half the price of a full serving on their menu has been signed into law recently….A copy of the “Half-Cup Rice Ordinance,” signed by Mayor Herbert Bautista on July 9 and released last week, is to be posted in food establishments together with the message “Eat your rice right and save lives.”…..Councillor Allan Butch Francisco introduced the measure to support the campaign of the International Rice Research Institute to reduce rice wastage at the consumer level….The ordinance cited data from the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute that each Filipino wastes an average of three tablespoons of rice daily or 3.3 kilos per year…..The International Rice Research Institute said the losses translate to P8 billion a year, enough to feed 4.3 million people. ~ Philippine Daily Inquirer, August 6, 2014

The Ugly Side of Coron

The ugly side of paradise

Every ocean now bears witness to our waste. In a report, published in the academic journal PLOS ONE, scientists conclude for the first time that we have left our mark everywhere. “Litter is present in all marine habitats,” the study concludes. “From beaches to the most remote points in the oceans.” ~ Huffington Post, July 10, 2014


WPC: Achievement

On top of 'The Rock'

From the top of the second-highest mountain in Newfoundland, Canada is a sweeping view of Ten Mile Pond. “The Chef” and I are were in Newfoundland exploring Gros Morne National Park. It’s an immense park covering an area of 1,805 square kilometres of coastal lowlands and ancient mountain range. It wasn’t part of our plan but as we passed Gros Mountain on our daily excursions its silent dare to climb it was too enticing to ignore. Sixteen kilometres and eight hours later I limped back to camp sweaty but happy. It was a great personal achievement.

This is where we started.

To see how others interpret the word ‘achievement’ visit the Weekly Photo Challenge.

I’m Canadian, Eh? 016

Random photos and thoughts about Canada.

Our environment, our experiences, and the people we choose to surround us shapes us into who we are. In this series I search the web for thought-provoking images about Canada, the country I grew up in.

Stephanie S. brought back maple cookies from Canada!

The iconic maple creme cookies

Add maple leaves to your list of Canadian foods to eat before you die. That’s right — maple leaves. Picked while green. Pickled and deep-fried. Presented with artisan beets and puffed amaranth bathed in mulled wine vinaigrette. No, this is not a food joke or a headline-grabbing gimmick. It’s quietly happening at Canoe, the much lauded, Canadian-inspired restaurant atop the TD Bank Tower, as part of its Taste Canada series of menus. ~ Toronto Star, October 22, 2014

No Flyers Please ?

“Their excuse is everybody does stuff on the Internet”

Thousands of Canadians will have to walk a little further to get their mail starting Monday as Canada Post begins phasing out door-to-door delivery in some communities. Earlier this year, Canada Post sparked a national outcry when it announced that community mailboxes will replace door-to-door service in 11 communities starting this fall. It marks the first phase of a five-year program that will ultimately affect about 5 million addresses. ~ Canada Post cuts door-to-door delivery in Calgary, Ottawa, Winnipeg, CTV News, October 20, 2014

Algonquin Canoe Trip

Clean get-away?

It’s been said of Canadians that they know how to make love in a canoe without tipping it. If a crime story out of Nova Scotia is any indication, we know how to escape in them, too. A 20-year-old break-and-enter suspect was arrested Wednesday after he took off in a red canoe on the Northwest Arm, according to a Halifax Regional Police news release. ~ Halifax Canoe Escape Still Gets Break-And-Enter Suspect Arrested, Huffington Post Canada, October 29, 2014


WPC: Minimalist


The sky is vast, ever changing and alive. It’s a perfect medium for reflection. How many of us have cast our eyes to the sky and wondered? At times with confusion, sometimes in fear, but mostly in happiness, I have contemplated life many times and found the answer almost always lies inside.

To see how others interpret the word ‘minimalist’ visit the Weekly Photo Challenge.

Photos from the Shoebox: Rafting on the Trisuli River, Nepal 1990

If you had a 35mm camera you probably have a shoebox full of pictures that you never got around to sorting and putting in an album. In this series “Photos from the Shoebox” I take them out of the closest and shine light on them once more.

My months long trip to Asia began with the desire to seek adventure. Back in the 90’s, without the influence of the internet, the world was still a huge mysterious place. The pages of the National Geographic, with its colourful, glossy photos sparked the imaginations of those seeking the exotic. And so, with my like-minded best friend, I left Canada to explore the far side of the world.


A broken axle gave us the opportunity to hike ahead

One of those exotic places was Nepal. We thought a nice and easy introduction would be to take a white water rafting trip down the Trisuli River. We would plunge into the unknown with the help of a guide and fellow travellers. Getting out of Kathmandu was easy. Traversing the chewed up, pot-holed dirt road was another thing.


Hazy start to our first day

We were a crazy bunch. Six Australians and four Canadians. Nine girls and one poor guy, Marcus, listening to us chatter about ‘girl’ things like how everyone’s periods were synching.


The sun finally come out

The first day started out early. By 6am we had breakfast and hoped the low-lying clouds would lift. We prayed to the river gods and they answered. The sky opened up, the sun appeared and as if on cue rafts started to float by.


Time to get on the river

We split into two groups, went through two small rapids and mostly floated down river. The relative calmness of the day gave us the opportunity to absorb our surroundings. It also inspired someone to start a singing contest. I would have never guessed I would be floating down a river in Nepal singing my heart out.


Brewing up Raxi

It wasn’t all about rafting. As we cruised down river we spotted large pots sitting over fire. Sensing our obvious curiosity, Yumbi our leader, guided the rafts to the riverbank.


River kids

But before we could get out of the rafts we were swarmed by dozens of Nepalese kids who were even more curious and excited than us.


Curiosity on both sides

It was the middle of Tihar, a Hindu festival. In a couple of days the Nepalese would be celebrating the relationship between brother and sister so they brewed up Raxi (rice wine) in pots for the festivities. It was their version of moonshine and they proudly let us have a taste. Why does moonshine always taste like rubbing alcohol?


The finale, the ‘Swimming Rapid’

Rocky II, Monsoon and Crazy Tiger. These were some of the exciting rapids we paddled through. In contrast, our time on the Trisuli ended with a gentle float down the river. My friend and I made the seven hour long, ass busting journey back to Kathmandu while the rest of the group went on to do an elephant safari at Chitwan National Park.

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