It was sad to leave Yeshi and Kham at the airport in Lijiang. We had photos with them before we said goodbye before we went through security. 


We went on Capital Airlines (my 8th airline) to Xian in the middle of China. Instead of TVs they had ipads and I got to play Angry birds for the first time ever – it was awesome.

ImageImage  Everyone on the plane was playing on the ipads in the plane except dad – he read a magazine – or looked at the pictures because he can’t read (just joking – it was in Chinese).

 In Xian we stayed at an awesome hostel called the ‘Hatang Hostel’ and it had table soccer. I called it the ‘awesome hotel’.Image

For dinner we went to the sister hotel up the road. It had pool and table tennis and a small golf putting thing. There was a turtle there and I picked it up – it folded its body inside.

We went on a tour of a Panda Rescue Centre. We saw red pandas black & white pandas brown & white pandas. 0ne jumped up & stood up she folded her head to her legs and wrapped her hands around her head she looked sad.


We went to the Terracotta warriors that were made 2000 years ago. They looked very old. It started by a farmer digging for water and he found a head. The village moved away and heaps more Terracotta warrior parts were found. He had a prize of just 10 Yuan (which is just under $2). 


I went on an overnight train to Beijing. There were cute Chinese baby twins next door to us. The Chinese can have more than one baby if its twins so I say ‘one pregnancy’. Imagine if they had triplets! There were bunk beds and TVs. In the morning at the train station we had two beggars that were begging for money and we said ‘no’ because we were tired – a bit sad.


by Kiki


Tobes at Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge

 T1.1    At the Tiger Leaping Gorge we did 3 days of 3-5 hour hikes. The first one was on a 36 C day in the afternoon up steep hills so it was very very hot. So part of the way we walked and then the little kids started getting really tired so we hired two horses for them. The views were amazing – I never knew that the Yangtze ran through the Tiger Leaping Gorge so I thought the Gorge would be cleaner than the muddy brown water of the Yangtze.  It is because it is the wet season and lots of mud flows in.  T1.2T1.4

The first place we stayed was called the Naxi Guesthouse. It was fun because there was good Chinese Food and wifi so we could play ‘Words with friends’.  There was a local kid at the guesthouse so he had lots of bikes and little cars that we loved playing on in the courtyard. The view of the mountains was great because I love looking at mountains with snow.

The second day we hiked up a lot – there were 28 bends and they were long and fun because I loved calling out to all the others and counting the bends. The walk down to the Teahorse guesthouse was long after the 28 bends. I had to wait for 10 minutes on my own waiting for the others cause I was so fast. Yeshi showed us the tiger Leaping stone – where the tiger jumped from one side to the other – that’s how the Tiger Leaping Gorge got its name.  T1.3

When we were meeting up with our driver Kham we had to walk over a landslide and the bulldozers had to stop while we walked over this big hill of messy stone. Lucky it happened at night and no one was hurt. Lucky there are no landslides at our house in Whitfield but the Tiger Leaping Gorge is much steeper.

 By Tobes


WOW! Thanks to Back Roads of China

Back Roads of China is a travel company that our friends Liss and Bergs put us onto – one of the best organised and passionate people I’ve come across. I normally avoid travel companies and prefer to do it alone though.  Since they were highly recommended and it’s a bit different traveling with kids in a new country where your language ability stops at ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, ‘twins’ and numbers, we decided to go with them and had a personalised 2 week tour prepared for us through Yunnan province. The things we did, the experiences we had and the people we got to meet – well there is no way we would have even had a snippet of that on our own. If you are ever coming to China and want to do more than just see the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors or go shopping in Hong Kong – get in contact with them and also not expensive either. They even organised all our China train tickets, flight from Lijiang – Xian tickets – everything was looked after so well.


We had a mix of beautiful guest houses, home-stays and camping. Our guides were Alex (who runs Back Roads of China with his Aussie wife Tania) in Kunming for a day (that was one of the kids’ favourite days when we went to the Stone Forest) then for the rest of the time we had Yeshi for about 2 weeks. We really bonded well with Yeshi – he was patient, adaptable as things didn’t always run to schedule with the kids eg- walking up 2300+ steps took a tad longer than the usual 2 hours, he always picked yummy food for us and was so knowledgeable. He spoke great English cause he studied in India as a young refugee before returning to China as a young adult. We really miss him.

There were so many highlights from that trip which the kids have written lots about (and there’s more to come that they’re writing) but I think most I enjoyed the homestays and the physical feats of hiking that we achieved with the kids.

The Tiger Leaping gorge was incredible – what an amazing view to be able to see 3000m difference from the Yangtze in the gorge below and the towering snow covered peaks above. Truly amazing!


Often on the walks I would hear the kids talking about all the things they were going to do when we arrive home.  The way they were going to re-arrange their rooms, build horse stables etc. and I would think, just soak this in guys.  I remembered when I was a young traveler and how I would often dream about all the things I wanted to do when I got home – some which were achieved, other dreams changed and I thought – well that is all part of travelling!  To dream of things to come while enjoying the present – it sometimes helps you to put things into context.

One thing they have been dreaming of though is my mother’s cooking!

Tania, Alex & Yeshi definitely introduced us to a China that was way beyond what we expected and that we thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you so much.


Christos on Great Wall & Beijing


Hi – we are camping on the Great Wall of China at the moment and it is startlingly crazy and awesome and unbelievable all at once. I just can’t believe they could build something like this – it’s so huge and long and absolutely the steepest path I have come across – its not like they tried to weave in and out of mountains they just went straight up and then straight down.



On some parts I was trying to use my geometrical eye to guess the gradient and there were times where it was definitely over 60 degrees and we were on all fours.

Image   We came with 5 other travelers from our hostel – from the US, Britain and French Canada – and we’re on a pretty remote part of the wall – only a few other Chinese tourists on the way. We’ve only had to walk two kms before we found a flat landing to set up our tents.

Image  There are so many well placed arched windows pointing down so the soldiers trying to keep out the Mongols could shoot through without being shot – our resident pirate – Emilio – thinks this is great and creating vivid stories in his mind.
To see the incredible sunset we decided to walk/climb up a few more posts to the top of the mountain and the sunset view was definitely worth it though I walking along thinking – ” they are just crazy – who would even think of building something like this here? Why didn’t they go around the mountain at this point?” I guess if they went around the mountain they couldn’t see the enemy coming or it would have been easier to be attacked. All very interesting and mind-blowing.

The kids thought it was amazing and I was surprised at their energy levels but they also loved having other travelers around – they just didn’t want to stop talking to them – and when they had told them our whole life story they started songs from the ‘Sound of Music’. Sandy and I thought that maybe they’re like this because they’re getting bored of us.
The other thing that’s crazy is its only 5.30am right now but it has been light since 3.30am which to me means ‘change your time zone’ but no – China is definitely a one time zone country – I guess it’s much easier to control things that way and creates less confusion.
The birds are chirping, the squirrels are busying themselves collecting Buddha knows what, and our last day in China is about to begin…….


I really like Beijing – initially we were wondering how we could try and avoid it completely cause we generally don’t love the big cities (New York City being a major exception) – but it has quite a nice feel – despite the smog!


Originally we thought maybe we could go through north eastern China into Kazakhstan though we definitely didn’t want to miss Mongolia so unless we had our own transportation & a guide who was going to deliver us to the border then Beijing it had to be. It is quite groovy, very fashion conscious and reminds me a bit of 1990s Japan. There’s definitely a feel of new found wealth and increased living standards. Also how could you miss Ikea, Zara, the Gap, the biggest Apple store (which apparently makes more money than the Manhattan shop which is open 24/7), Louis Vuitton, Chanel, every corner either having a McDonalds, KFC or Starbucks etc – all great hallmarks of a communist society on a capitalist steroid.Image
The place where our hostel is is a groovy little street with very little cars because they just can’t fit through, red lanterns hanging from the trees and of course lots of people.


There are lots of western eateries but enough great Chinese places to be able to avoid them. Yesterday though – we just couldn’t resist a nearby Thai Restaurant – I think Thai food is a lose second to Greek food in my favourite foods ladder. Speaking of food – I wonder if Mongolia will even get into my top twenty – I’m a bit worried about the food there since they are such a meat based culture – I can do ten days of dairy food as long as I don’t have to eat sheep testicle soup. I’m cringing as a I write! The kids are adamant they don’t want to eat horse meat – though are so excited that our home-stay family apparently has lots of horses.


Kalika and I had some special time together as we tried to find the office from where to pick up our Mongolia Train tickets. It was difficult to find cause I am so bad at orientating maps at the best of times but I just couldn’t find the sun through the smog to help me with which way west was. Eventually we found CITS travel and got our tickets – Kalika got showered with ‘cute’ and given pens and they asked if they could take a photo for their Facebook page – ‘what I thought Facebook was banned’, ‘Yes it is but we have special permission since we are an international travel company’ – aha – loopholes! Lucky we found an incredibly yummy cake shop on the way home.

The kids are getting a bit tired of monasteries and sacred sites etc etc though they were quite intrigued about the story of the 1989 Tianeman Square protests and why so many people died, why there are still 150 or so political prisoners in jail from that time and they would like to see that amazing picture of the lone protester who stopped the tanks. I said we would google it in Mongolia – I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t get through China’s firewall. Also, Yasi and Toby are getting used to the concept that history really depends on who’s writing and recording it – for their own purposes. It’s an interesting concept to try and impart.
Image  Anyway back to Tianeman Square (which we had to go through security to get to – even drink water from out bottles) it was eery being there cause I guess in 1998 I was a first year uni-student and it was probably the first time I took much interest in world politics so the images for me were still pretty vivid. Pretty vibrant also though – lots of families around out for a walk – lots of hawkers pretending they want to practice English (and then rip you off – we were warned of them by our hostel so I tried to respond in Greek to one guy – that quickly shut him up).
A humongous Chinese flag with the most upright and rigid army guards near it – we were trying to make up a story of what would happen if their mobile phone was vibrating in their pocket and it was their girlfriend on the phone cause they were late for dinner – interesting scenarios abounded.
And of course – how could you miss the huge picture of Chairman Mao in his heyday!


Tobes’ more … SHUHE

SHUHE (LIJIANG)   10 June 2013

We are in Shuhe (near Lijiang), China. I loved lunch on Sunday we had street food it was 6 baked potatoes on a stick, I ate 3 sticks of potatoes!!! This is a short video of me ordering.


Remember how I told you we wanted to get horses when we get back home- I want to do good natural horsemanship with our horses that we get, so me and mum are reading this book on my kindle that is called “Natural horsemanship” it is fun reading it because it tells you how to start and stop your horse with out kicking to go and pulling to stop!!! There is a way but I haven’t read it yet. We are looking in to Arab ( Arabian ) horses, we were looking at thoroughbred horses but mum said they’re often used in racing so they cost so much money. One thing natural horsemanship has taught me is not to make assumptions when riding on horse back. For example the book said ” if you did go to exercise your horse in arena when you got to the gate and got off if you do that 3 days in and row on the fourth day your horse will stop at the gate and wait for you to get off” so mum said ” when you do your daily exercise for your horse you will have to change your route daily so your horse doesn’t go faster when you turn around to go home. SO CHANGE YOUR ROUTE DAILY!!! Is the advice!

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P.S I have been looking for horses already and went on Gum tree last night and found a thoroughbred horse named Ollie he his an un-raced 2 and a half year old thoroughbred he is 15.2 hands, gentle natured and fine in a paddock with lots of hugs and hiss. He comes with a blanket, foal application, bridle and 2 halters and he is brown!!! We are very interested in him. Though he might not still be around in 2yrs time if he’s for sale now.

By Tobes


Toby on Leaving Singapore & more …


At 4:30am we were at the Singapore airport on the way to K.L. We went to the bag drop and did all that stuff, then feeling rather hungry we went to find food I had a Chocolate muffin. We got small trolleys and I had the job of wheeling Zoi on the walkerlator while we waited to get into the security area. Our plane was Malaysian Airlines and it was only one hour and it had TV-which we haven’t had on any of our flights. I watched ‘Cars’ but I didn’t get to watch much because an hour came and went. When we were at K.L airport there as good WIFI so Yasi, mum, Baba and I were on our iPods and iPhones playing ‘Words With Friends’ which is like scrabble with friends. Then it was time to get on the plane to go to Kunming and guess what? On a 4 hour flight there was NO T.V. We were very annoyed!!! Since Malaysian are a partner with QANTAS I got to the captain to sign my Frequent Flyer passport and they let me sit in the cockpit at the end – it was exciting.


FOOD IN CHINA  2 June 2013

For lunch on we had noodles, beef and potatoes a bowl of rice and chicken it was yummy, I found interesting how they made pasta by hand and it only took about 5 minutes to make a bowl of pasta.

For once it was not spicy and was the first meal I have loved in China. When we arrived a few days ago I thought I was not going to survive in China.

HORSE TREK   5 June 2013

We went on mountain horses to a village called Mapingguan. It was great fun. I loved the horses that I rode on, I also loved holding the reins it was fun because I had something to hold on to rather than a old fashion saddle that was difficult to hold for too long. I wanted to trot but the hills were way too rocky and steep to go trotting.

I woke up feeling good, and then had breakfast. We went for four days with no spices then…

Kalika, Yasi and I were into the spices, We said, “they put in too much spices in Kunming but a little bit of spices on corn and rice is just the best”.

On the way back we only has 2 horses available, we all wanted to ride the 2 horses except Emilio so what did we do? We put 2 people  on a horse.  It was so bumpy that I almost fell off the wooden saddle.




Toby from Shangri-La to Tibetan Village

13 June 2013
We did a 3.5 hour hike and I was tired in the first 50 m. We went from Shangri-La to a Tibetan village. I found it interesting to see lots of wild boar along the way. I got my record of 169 heart beats per minute. I was walking fast up a hill, at high altitude.

T4 T7
I loved the chocolate coco pops chocolates and the dark chocolate doves that we had. We had a rest near where some yaks and cows were and we had some snacks, muesli bars and two Oreo biscuits that Yeshi brought.
We were with Yeshi’ our tour guide from Back Roads of China and he let us use his walking/hiking sticks. There were some really big hills and when we were sitting down having a rest Yeshi teased us that a we had to go up another 45 degree hill, but the village we wanted was at the bottom of the hill we were on. As we were going down, Yeshi made a big scary noise and he was really close to me and I got a fright.

T6 T5

When we were walking along the valley we saw two horses and a foal, when we were getting nearer I heard gun shots and didn’t know what they were. I started to think that a war was moving into town but they were actually just shooting birds for fun.


When we were putting up our tent, about 7 children and three adults came to watch. The children were pushing each other on our tent. Shut the tent for some privacy but one old fellow opened the zip again to see what we we doing. I thought they were rather jealous and I thought they should treat things like your own- I didn’t like it. Then one dad came along and told the boys off and hit them and held up a stick to make them go away.


By the time we got to dinner I was feeling pretty sick , but it was actually just exhaustion and I had a Headache. I told dad I was feeling sick and I only had one spoonful of rice. We had dinner at a pretty poor Tibetan family’s house. The things they had were not bad – there was just not much in their rooms. By the time we got back to our tent I was feeling really sick and as soon mum swapped my bed with Emilios ( because I was feeling so sick I wanted to be next to mum in the tent) I undressed and the minute I was undressed, the minute my head hit the sleep mat I was asleep, mum gave me some homeopathic medicine and then I was asleep again.
What a day! Felt perfect in the morning.



Yasi – Walking Through China

This morning we went walking in the fields that had lots of yaks and cows.
Toby and Kalika had cow patty fight. We made a family pyramid and jumped over creeks. We walked on logs that were laying over the creeks with our tour guide for China – Yeshi.

Today we did a 4 hr walk over mountains and grasslands from Shangri-La to a Tibetan village called ‘Four Village’. The walk was long and steep at stages but not really hard. Yeshi was singing Tibetan songs on the way. We made crowns out of yellow flowers.

When we arrived at the village Zoi and Emilio were playing with some of the Tibetan kids. Mum, Zoi and Emilio drove to the village with our driver Kham because we started a bit late in the afternoon and Yeshi thought it might be a bit hard for the little ones. We set up our tents in a family’s backyard and then we had dinner with a Tibetan family in the village.

There house was really big with a room that didn’t have much in it – that’s where we ate. There was lots of ham drying hanging from the ceiling and yak cheese drying and getting smoked over the pots. We had rice, Tibetan bread and lots of veggie dishes. I didn’t really like the yak meat. It was too cold and fatty.

After dinner we went back to our tents and it was freezing at night because we were 3300m above sea level – but we jumped into our sleeping bags and were as warm as toast. In the morning we packed up and had breakfast with the same Tibetan family – Kalika, Zoi and Emilio made friends with the two little girls – for breakfast we had tea with Tibetan steamed bread, little biscuit things like pita that is fried and carrot cake. We could dip all these things in our tea. My baba loved drinking the yak butter tea but only he and Yeshi did.

We went to a national park called Pu da Cuo national park – we got to go around on buses and a boat across the lake – we could have walked the whole way but it would take too long and we would miss the Tibetan horse racing festival. The park was alright – it had lots of yaks and pine trees – but on this trip the ‘Stone forest’ National park is my favourite.

There are so many people that want to take photos of us – sometimes they don’t even ask – I often hide behind my mum and dad because I don’t like my photo being taken so much. I think they want photos because I have lighter hair and because there are 5 strange looking kids to them.

We went to the Tibetan horse racing festival – there was such a traffic jam – the racing was a fast trot (not really galloping). The jockeys leaned back a lot and pulled on the horses and they looked a bit scared like they hadn’t done it before. This festival only happens once a year when the rest of China celebrates the dragon boat festival. It was a national holiday so we to to not do any school work as well. There was lots of army around at the festival and lots of rubbish floating around everywhere.

At night we had dinner in Shangri-La at a Tibetan house – we would never had found it if we didn’t have Yeshi want there. The table was set out beautifully – the mashed potato was delicious and Toby said that it was the 2nd best mashed potato in the world after our giagia’s. It was made with yak butter. My favourite dishes were the fried meat and beans and the mashed potato. There were these vegetarian dumpling things called ‘momos’ – they were strange but yum. We had yak raisin cheese cake and fruit for dessert.

Y7.1 Y7.2

More later, Yasi.


Baba Christos’ Miliking Update


First of all – China has the best firewall on the planet – not only is Facebook banned & I can’t find any cinemas playing ‘The Great Gatsby’ (desperate to see it) but also haven’t been able to get onto WordPress, so blogs have been a bit slow – now thanks to cousin Meri she has been posting some of our blogs and photos from Australia – thanks Meri – you’re a legend!

This following blog was written almost 2 weeks ago – more recent to follow:

China has been a big culture shock – we don’t really know what we were expecting – though if I had to articulate it I would’ve thought it was less developed, more chaotic & probably lots more crowded. I mean it is crowded but no-where near as crazy as India (which both Sandy & I just love!) The infrastructure, roads and general cleanliness is quite amazing. Though then you turn a corner into a back alley which is super dirty & the toilets – well that deserves a blog entry on its own!
I never had any desire to come to China previously because of what the government has done to the Tibetan people (not to mention the Uigurs etc) though our friends Liss, Bergs, Xander & Edan have raved about it -especially their trip to Tiger leaping gorge – so they and Sandy talked me into it – and it was a logical way to get through Asia cross-continent to Europe. I’m so glad we came!

One of the biggest culture shocks for me is I’m not used to being so lost with language – previously when I’ve traveled I’ve known the language or at least spent a few months studying it but this time I was far too busy – so I am embarrassed to say how lost we all are with it – we know some numbers, hi, thank you and the words for twins but that’s it – and not many people at all speak English – and why should they – Mandarin is he most spoken language in the world!

Traveling with kids outside of their sleep times makes everything that much harder – firstly we get to our Singapore hotel at 11pm (1am body clock time), then the next day stay at Singapore zoo till 10pm ( the night show was really brilliant) and expect the kids to wake up at 4.15am to get our flight to Kunming via KL. Asking for trouble weren’t we!


Arriving in Kunming was relatively painless though then we get into some guys car ( who said he had a big car (aka 5 seater sedan) – well he seemed very nice! We managed to get all our big bags in the boot though we had to squeeze others into the car as well as all the kids and myself in the back while Sandy chatted to the guy in the front. It was a scene to remember! The 1/2 hr trip into town would’ve been pretty easy if it only took 1/2 hr though as Chinese streets don’t always have names rather are part of a group or neighbourhood – our quaint little guesthouse wasn’t easy to find – as he drove around the lake for over 5 times and making more and more frustrated calls to the guesthouse – the time in the car was about an hour, I couldn’t feel my legs from a sleeping Zoi and I was worried that we might be tainted the loudest family in the world as the kids got fidgety and started annoying each other. Eventually we found the guesthouse and really needed the quiet few days walking to the ‘Green Lake’ nearby, trying desperately to find food that wasn’t so spicy and feeling totally inadequate with the language.


On one of the days we walked to ‘Walgreens’ (yes I know the Americans think China is taking over but American companies have already taken over China!) and a great, busy and smelly market to buy some snack foods for the kids – if the kids are hungry things get harder so need to be prepared. Somewhere along the way I lost Toby’s iPod from my day-pack- not exactly sure if it fell out or someone took it but we couldn’t find it anywhere. I felt so bad – Toby and Yasi have been saving for almost 2 yrs as we said if they can save the $ themselves they can have one when they were 10 yrs old. Well initially they didn’t have enough so they shared one which I thought was going to be a disaster and the deal was if there was any arguing it came straight to Sandy or I for a whole day. Anyway – just upon leaving Australia they had enough for a second one duty free. If Toby had lost it himself then he would just have to save enough for another because I think kids need to learn these tough lessons but since I lost it I think I’ll have to replace it. Bummer!
Anyway – I thought that maybe I dropped it while at the checkout in Walgreens as that’s when my wallet fell out as I was preparing to pay- so after the kids were in bed that night Sandy stayed with them and I waltzed down to Walgreens and played a game of charades, showed them a small note that the guesthouse had written for me and hoped for the best – not to be found, though they promised to call the guesthouse if it did. On the way back I thought I would pop into the police caravan to do the same. Well that mistake cost me a couple of hours. The policeman motioned to the policewoman, who was eating her noodles, who then stood up and lead me down the road, into some really bizarre backstreets and on a maze I thought I would never be able to find my way back – and she was walking so slow – I was starting to worry about where she was leading me to. Eventually we get to a police station – where no body spoke any English – my note was passed around to 10 or so cops, they made call after call and all I wanted to do was get up and leave though I got the feeling this would be totally inappropriate and possibly dangerous so I just sat there waiting……. They found an incident form that had some English so I filled that out and thought it would be it but no – they motioned me to wait – eventually a Chinese girl and her Thai boyfriend who were staying at a hostel nearby came in and translated for me – the police had gone from premises to premises nearby looking for English speakers! I explained that I really wasn’t that worried about the iPod and I just wanted to check if it had been handed in. Well it was explained that since I came here I had to go through the correct procedures! OMG I just wanted bed! Well we (the interpreters and I) were taken by a policeman to a room upstairs through a dark corridor to make a statement – well I thought I had already done that with the form! After 5 minutes of sitting there the computer wouldn’t work so we went back down the dark stairs then outside through the back car park past some cells to another room that had computer which was working. Well eventually all the questions were answered and they knew the colour, age everything of myself and the iPod! When I was taken back to the reception area they asked how far my hotel was and after explaining I had no idea where I was really but would try and find Walgreens to retrace my steps home – I got a ride in a Chinese police car. They were pretty nice really – just following protocol!!!!!!!

On the whole I’ve been quite impressed with traffic & roads in China. On first impression there are so many 4 lane highways interconnecting the cities (& what they call villages – though are about 20 times bigger than the village where I was born in Greece). The highways are very good quality & clean & mostly lined with trees & flowers in the median strip & often the sides – especially into & out of cities – impressions are important!
However – today is what I was more expecting as we try & ascend this big mountain for Day 3 of our tour – a four hour horse trek up a mountain to a minority village called Mapingguan village – then a home-stay. I think i was expecting more of Indian-style chaos. Anyway, as we ascend by car 500m or so from Dali to Shaxi the road is very narrow & cars just pass each other at bends and all just by using their horn! It seems to work. We are so lucky that Kham – our driver – is really relaxed, very friendly & not in a hurry.

Our home-stay in Mapingguan (a Bai minority village) was quite eye-opening & amazing! First of all getting there was simply a lot of hard work – I guess the horses that carried the kids are used to the 600m in altitude ascent – but golly Sandy & I weren’t ready or it – it was definitely the steepest path I’ve ever had to hike up (though I have forgotten the physical pain initially when trekking in Ladakh but also I was 15 years younger). Anyway -the trek started off flat along the rice paddy fields then took a very steep turn & I was feeling tired but ok until one of the horse-men said `we have 15kms to go’ that was almost enough to get me too turn around – though I thought it might not be the best example for the kids who were way ahead on horses I couldn’t see them anyway. I tried to blame the altitude, I tried to blame my lingering ‘I’ve given up coffee’ headache – though really I just haven’t had enough hiking practice lately! Eventually four hours later we made it to this quaint village that you can only reach by foot or horseback. Instantly it made me feel homesick for my birth village in Greece – a collection of rustic houses all together in a small village, with the animals in stables in the yard & surrounded by fields of incredible looking vegetables & other crops. Wild bees creating honey etc – all very self sufficient! Well it would have to be when the closest shop is 4 hours by foot or horseback along a steep path (did I mention it was STEEP?)

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After the excitement of the horses, when we got there It was initially quite a culture shock for the kids & thoughts of “why are we doing this?” started seeping in – but once the tea came out (we are all getting very fond of tea) & I reminded the older kids they could get a new album for their iPod in each country we go to it all seemed ok & they started soaking in the experience – a neighbour brought their baby granddaughter to visit – which broke the ice, then Kalika & Zoi started fighting over who was using the straw broom to sweep the yard after the horses were put away.

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Mapingguan is a village of about 100 homes that has only had electricity for the last two years and has just had a mobile phone tower put in. I was walking up puffing and thinking ‘Holy strife – how did they possibly build electricity poles and infrastructure here?’ I have been amazed at what this country can achieve. It’s very different to what I had imagined. All building materials sourced in the village surrounds or hauled up the mountain by horse.


We stayed with a beautiful couple called Dun Zhe Qun (male) & Dun Yue Zhe (female) – they met by introduction at the age of 21, had 3 children (obviously before the one-child policy – though Bai minority people can have 2 children), grow most of what they eat, have built their lovely home & seem very united.

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Their children have all grown up & moved to the cities & towns nearby – 2 of them are married & the weddings were right here in the yard. They also have 2 grandchildren. Dun Zhe Qun’s face just lit up when I asked about his grand kids. He reminded me of my granddad in Greece – I was almost in tears – he and his wife were so impressive- making their own oil, honey, drying meat, collecting enough hay for their horses who live in the underground stables during the snowy winter (imagine their wonderment when they come out again in the spring), their wood pile was so neat like my grandad’s – I really thought they were awesome. We were fed such glorious food – lots of different types of veggie dishes – but one of them we couldn’t even get a translation for even through Yeshi – they were a root veggie that looked a bit like big whichetty grubs but tasted like delicious chips! Mmmmm! Yum! Please tell us if you know what they are. We asked Dun Yue Zhe to not make things too spicy but I almost fell off my stool when Tobes, Yas & Kiki added chilli to their bowl – OMG!

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The biggest culture shock though was the toilet – we had to go out the front gate, down a path littered with rubbish (obviously the local tip as well) then to a small mud building that had no running water just a shallow rectangular hole. We were a bit confused about what to do with the ‘stuff’ so asked Yeshi & after he asked Dun Zhe Qun he said ” oh no problem just leave it – they will gather later & mix with the pig manure for the garden!” The whole experience wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t have to walk though rubbish to get there. As we’ve been rating toilets – we gave this one less than 1/10.

By Baba Miliking



Ms Kalika’s (Kiki) Latest News


At the Singapore zoo we saw orangutangs – they had an open cage. Yasi nearly stepped in their poo because they could go on trees over the paths of the zoo. There was a famous orangutang who had more than 4000 people come to its funeral. We also saw a white tiger – they are very rare. When we went to an elephant show they squirted us with their trunks. At the kids area we saw an ‘Animals and friends’ show. There was a watch in the cupboard and the dog found it. We could go up and pat the dogs at the end. The dogs were given to a lost dog home to be put down because the owners thought they were ugly and un-trainable. They were actually really cute, and the zoo keepers said that with patience and love anything is possible.
We went on a night tour in a zebra train and saw lots of nocturnal animals like hyenas and owls. The person who talked on the tour asked me my favourite animal – a horse of course! It was her favourite animal too.

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We stayed at the Lost Garden Guest house in Kunming for 3 days. My first impression was so much spicy food – impossible to find non spicy food. There are lost of nice things to buy in the shops even live fish and turtles and frogs and crabs. I got some new river shoes cause I lost my sandals.

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On the fourth day Alex picked us up to take us to the stone forest. Alex was our tour guide and was very nice. Kiki11

We found lots of interesting rocks. One was like a pipe with the top chopped off. I climbed on a rock that went straight up in 3.2 seconds – Toby timed me. It was about 1 and 1/2 metres tall.

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Alex took us to a huge Restaurant for dinner. There was a big circle in the middle with ponds and bird cages and fish and birds. Two fish waved to us with their fins when we stopped there. There was so much food – some spicy some not- most of it was yummy.

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We drove to the train station and went on an overnight train to Dali. There were little rooms with beds and we couldn’t fit our luggage we had to out some on the floor and beds.
Yeshi – our guide from Back Roads of China picked us up for the start of our tour. First when we spotted him I didn’t know which one was him cause there were hundreds of people and it was 6am in the morning.


By Kiks