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One of the many highlights of our California Native 14-day Tibet Everest Explorer is a visit to the North Base Camp of Mount Everest.

California Native's Lee and Ellen Klein visit the North Base Camp at Mount Everest.

California Native’s Lee and Ellen Klein visit the North Base Camp at Mount Everest.

Mount Everest, also known in Nepal as Sagarmāthā and in Tibet as Chomolungma, is Earth’s highest mountain. It is located in the Mahalangur mountain range in Nepal and Tibet. Its peak is 29,029 ft above sea level. The international border between China and Nepal runs across Everest’s precise summit point.

For many people, the main reason that they go to Tibet is to see the amazing view of Everest’s famous North Face. The view of Everest from the Tibet side gives a clear, sweeping view of the mountain. Unlike the Nepal side of Everest, no hiking is required to reach the Tibet side of Everest. You can drive all the way to Everest Base Camp. The North Base Camp is accessed by vehicle through a 100 km road branching to the South from the Friendship Highway near Shelkar.

The only way that foreigners can go to the Tibet side of Mt. Everest is by arranging an organized tour through a tour company. There are NO exceptions. Included in our 14-day Tibet Everest Explorer are the required travel permits, tour guide, private vehicle and driver. You cannot use public transportation (ie. buses) to travel to Everest.

The California Native has been leading tours to exotic destinations for more than 30 years and people are always asking what our favorites are. One of our favorite trips is this wonderful journey which begins in Beijing, China, travels through Tibet and hits its high point at Mount Everest Base Camp at the top of the world.

 

Marker located at the North Base Camp

Marker located at the North Base Camp

Amazing view of Mt Everest from the North Base Camp

Amazing view of Mt Everest from the North Base Camp

Short hike to a view point along the Friendship Highway

Short hike to a view point along the Friendship Highway

The Friendship Highway

The Friendship Highway

Prayer flags along the Friendship Highway

Prayer flags along the Friendship Highway

 

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories, comments and photos with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Jirina Welch, from San Jose, California, traveled with us on our 14-day China, Tibet, Everest Adventure and wrote us this quick letter about her trip:

Hi, Lee.
As I promised, here are my comments to our trip to China. Our trip was great, well organized. All guides were professional and knowledgeable. Hotels nice and clean, personal polite and helpful.

With best regards,
Jirina Welch
San Jose, CA

Johang Temple in Lhasa Tibet.

Johang Temple in Lhasa Tibet.

Tibetan monks

Tibetan monks

Other statues were part of the Terracotta Army including war horses and carriages.

Terracotta Warriors

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

 

California Native’s Lee & Ellen Klein in a group standing in front of the Potala Palace.

California Native’s Lee & Ellen Klein in a group standing in front of the Potala Palace.

The Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan uprising. It is now a museum and World Heritage Site. This amazing palace has the honor of being the highest ancient palace in the world, with its highest point 12,300 feet above sea level, towering 300 feet above the city of Lhasa. This 13-stories-high palace has over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and contains about 200,000 statues. The stone walls measure 10 feet thick on average.

The palace is named after Mount Potalaka. The 5th Dalai Lama started its construction in 1645 after one of his spiritual advisers, Konchog Chophel, pointed out that the site was ideal as a seat of government, situated as it is between two monasteries and the old city of Lhasa.

The Palace contains two sections, the White Palace and the Red Palace. The first White Palace was built during the lifetime of the Fifth Dalai Lama and he and his government moved into it in 1649. It was extended to its present size by the thirteenth Dalai Lama in the early 20th century. The palace contained the living quarters, offices, seminary and printing house. A central, yellow-painted courtyard known as a Deyangshar separates the living quarters from the Red Palace, which is the part of the Potala palace that is completely devoted to religious study and Buddhist prayer.

The California Native has been leading tours to exotic destinations for more than 30 years and people are always asking what our favorites are. One of our favorite trips is this wonderful journey which begins in Beijing, China, travels through Tibet and hits its high point at Mount Everest Base Camp at the top of the world. California Native’s own Lee & Ellen Klein recently revisited this adventure which visits The Potala Palace.

 

Lee Klein climbing the entrance steps to the palace.

Lee Klein climbing the entrance steps to the palace.

Yellow-painted courtyard known as a Deyangshar separates the living quarters with the Red Palace.

Yellow-painted courtyard known as a Deyangshar separates the living quarters with the Red Palace.

Ellen Klein walks among a group in the beautiful palace grounds.

Ellen Klein walks among a group in the beautiful palace grounds.

This large stone is dedicated to the Dali Lama and the palace.

This large stone is dedicated to the Dali Lama and the palace.

In Barkhor Square in the old section of Lhasa, Tibet, is the Jokhang Temple where Buddhist monks resided for almost a thousand years. For most Tibetans it is the most sacred and important temple in Tibet. The temple’s architectural style is a mixture of Indian Vihara, Chinese Tang Dynasty, and Nepalese.

First constructed by King Songtsän Gampo around the year 642, it was originally called the Rasa Tulnang Tsuklakang or The House of Mysteries, The Magical Emanation at Rasa (the early name for Lhasa). It is home to a large and very important collection of about eight hundred metal sculptures including Jowo Buddha, a statue that is said to have been blessed by the Buddha himself, as well as thousands of painted scrolls, known as thangkas.

Despite attacks in past centuries by the Mongols, and in more recent times by the radical Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, the building survived and the temple complex was expanded. It now covers an area of about 6 acres.

The California Native has been leading tours to exotic destinations for more than 30 years and people are always asking us to name some of our favorites. One of them is this wonderful journey which begins in Beijing, China, travels through Tibet and hits its high point at Mount Everest Base Camp at the top of the world. California Native’s own Lee and Ellen Klein recently revisited this adventure which now includes a visit to Lhasa and the Jokhang Temple.

Buddhist monks walk the courtyard of Jokhang Temple

Buddhist monks walking in the courtyard of Jokhang Temple

Courtyard of Jokhang Temple

Courtyard of Jokhang Temple

Tibeten singing bowls

Tibetan singing bowls

Upper section of Jokhang Temple

Upper section of Jokhang Temple

Monks of Jokhang Temple

Monks of Jokhang Temple

Upper view of the Jokhang Temple courtyard

Upper view of the Jokhang Temple courtyard

For more than a thousand years, the site known as the Three Pagodas has survived severe earthquakes, man-made and natural catastrophes. Made of brick and covered with white mud, the pagodas form a symmetric triangle. Unique among China’s ancient Buddhist architectures and a must-see for visitors to Yunnan province. The Three Pagodas are a national treasure of China.

The main pagoda, known as Qianxun Pagoda, was built during 823-840 AD by King Quan Fengyou. It stands 227 feet high and is one of the tallest pagodas in China. The other two sibling pagodas, built about one hundred years later, stand to the northwest and southwest of Qianxun Pagoda, and are 140 feet high.

According to local legends, before the humans arrived Dali was a swamp inhabited by breeding dragons who were believed to deliberately create natural disasters. The dragons revered pagodas, so the three pagodas were built to deter them.

You can visit the Three Pagodas, Dali City and other amazing sites on our 9-day Yunnan Explorer trip.

Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple

Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple

California Native's Lee & Ellen Klein standing in front of the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple

California Native’s Lee & Ellen Klein standing in front of the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple

One of the most recognizable symbols of China is the Great Wall, which actually consists of numerous walls and fortifications, many running parallel to each other. Emperor Qin Shi Huang (c. 259-210 B.C.) originally conceived the wall as a means of preventing intrusion from barbarian nomads into the Chinese Empire. The Great Wall is one of the most extensive construction projects ever completed.

The Great Wall visible today largely dates from the Ming dynasty, when much of the wall was rebuilt in stone and brick, and portions were extended through challenging terrain. Some sections still remain in relatively good condition or have been renovated, while others have been damaged or destroyed, deconstructed for their building materials, or lost due to the ravages of time. For long an object of fascination for foreigners, the wall is now a revered national symbol and a popular tourist destination.

The California Native has been leading tours to exotic destinations for more than 30 years and people are always asking what our favorites are. One of our favorite trips is this wonderful journey which begins in Beijing, China, travels through Tibet and hits its high point at Mount Everest Base Camp at the top of the world. California Native’s own Lee & Ellen Klein recently revisited this adventure which now includes a visit to the Great Wall.

Lee & Ellen Klein at the Juyong Pass of the Great Wall

Lee & Ellen Klein at the Juyong Pass of the Great Wall

Visitors at the Juyong Pass of the Great Wall

Visitors at the Great Wall

Ellen Klein at the Juyong Pass of the Great Wall

Ellen Klein at the Juyong Pass of the Great Wall

 

One of the many highlights of our California Native China, Tibet, Mount Everest Adventure is a visit to the city of Xi’an to see the world famous Terracotta Army.

The Terracotta Army is an amazing collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. The figures were buried with the emperor in 210–209 BC to protect him in his afterlife.

The figures were discovered in 1974 by local farmers in Lintong District, Xi’an, Shaanxi province, dating from approximately the late third century BC. Each figure varies in height according to their roles including warriors, chariots and horses, the tallest being the generals. Three pits have been discovered containing the Terracotta Army estimated at holding more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which remain in buried pits located by Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum. Other pits have been discovered including terracotta non-military figures–officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians.

Terracotta Warrior restored to it's original color.

Terracotta Warrior restored to it’s original color.

Other statues were part of the Terracotta Army including war horses and carriages.

Other statues were part of the Terracotta Army including war horses and carriages.

Side view of the Terracotta Army in one of the pits still being excavated.

Side view of the Terracotta Army in one of the pits still being excavated.

More than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses have been discovered.

More than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses have been discovered.

Discovered in 1974, China's Terracotta Warriors are regarded as one of the most significant archeological discoveries of the 20th century.

Discovered in 1974, China’s Terracotta Warriors are regarded as one of the most significant archeological discoveries of the 20th century.

Colors set our mood and add an important dimension to our feelings and memories of the places we visit. I thought it might be fun to group some of the photos from our library of California Native images by their predominant colors. Our first collection was based on the color yellow.

This, our second collection is based on the color blue. Blue is the color of the sky and the ocean. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, and truth.

“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true”—Lyman Frank Baum

“Mozart has the classic purity of light and the blue ocean”—Henri-Frédéric Amiel, 18th century Swiss philosopher

Beautiful, blue Agua Azul falls, located 40 miles from the Mayan ruins of Palenque, in the Mexican state of Chiapas, tumble down from the jungle in a series of cascades where they have carved out delighful limestone swimming holes.

blue-agua-azul

Photographed from an aircraft, the dark blue hues of Mount Popocatépetl, located in central Mexico, are highlighted by the blue sky just before sunset. Popocatépetl, which can be seen from Mexico City is a very active volcano, whose last eruption was just last year (May, 2013).

blue-popocatepetl

Wearing blue aprons and caps, Chinese ladies go home from work in Yunnan Province.

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Falls cascade down into the refreshing lagoon in Venezuela’s Canaima National Park.

venezuela-canaima
patagonia-glacier

The blue of this Patagonian glacier looks almost unreal as it glistens in the sunlight near the bottom of the world.

Lee at a Mayan ruin in Mexico's Yucatan.

California native founder, Lee Klein, at a Mayan ruin in Mexico's Yucatan. What a way to make a living.

This June we are celebrating our 30th Anniversary—30 years of leading fantastic trips to exotic destinations around the world.

This anniversary comes as a proud moment for our company’s founder, Lee Klein, who continues to scout new locations world-wide in search of new destinations for the active traveler. Klein, who holds an MBA in Management and a BS in International Marketing, spent more than two decades as a corporate manager and college professor until, in 1983, while climbing Ayer’s Rock in the Australian Outback, he decided to drop out of the corporate world, take off his suit and tie, and create an adventure travel company based on the lessons he taught his students on how to succeed in business: “keep the quality high, keep it affordable, and treat people the way you would like to be treated.”

Lee and Ellen on Patagonia's Perito Moreno Glacier.

Lee and Ellen Klein hiking on Patagonia's Perito Moreno Glacier.

The initial offering from The California Native was a tour billed as “The Other Los Angeles.” This day-long excursion traced the route of the San Andreas Fault from the Mojave Desert to the San Gabriel Mountains without ever leaving Los Angeles County. The tours became so popular that colleges in three California counties offered them as part of their community-education programs. From this, the company expanded its offerings to include tours to the Channel Islands, Death Valley, Yosemite, and other uniquely California destinations, as well as white-water rafting, ballooning, spelunking (caving), sailplane gliding, and other outdoor adventures. “My family has lived in Los Angeles for generations,” writes Klein in the company newsletter, “hence the name The California Native.”

California Native founder, Lee Klein, rappelling in Argentina

Lee rappelling in Argentina. Hey, this is research.

Satisfying the growing client base led to the development of The California Native’s most popular destination—Mexico’s Copper Canyon. These escorted and independent tours feature the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad (labeled as one of the most spectacular train rides in the western hemisphere) and highlight one of the most primitive indigenous cultures still subsisting in North America—the Tarahumara Indians. The California Native has become a leading source of information on this remote area and the company and it’s guides are known throughout the area for their work with the Tarahumara.

Today, The California Native offers a wide selection of tours to destinations including Costa Rica, Yucatan, Patagonia, Peru, the Galapagos, Ireland, Bhutan, Myanmar, and China, and more destinations are in the planning stages.

California Natives in Dali, China.

California Native's Lee and Ellen Klein in the ancient city of Dali in China's Yunnan Province. Dali was an important stop along the Tea Horse Road.

“My grandfather dipped his silver bracelet into the water, to make sure it was not poisoned,” related Chen Dong Mei, her eyes sparkling as she told us stories of her grandfather who drove horses along the historical Tea Horse Road. Mei was our guide in Lijiang, an ancient city in China’s western frontier province of Yunnan. It is in this area that the Tea Horse Road began, thirteen centuries ago.

Driving the horses and mules from Yunnan, China, through the high mountain passes of the centuries-old trail to Tibet was a dangerous occupation. Bandits were a constant threat and it is said that they would poison the streams where the drivers obtained water for their campsites. The silver in the bracelets, which the ethnic Naxi people still wear, would change color when exposed to the poison.

Tea was introduced into Tibet during the Tang dynasty, and a trade developed where the Chinese bartered tea for Tibetan war horses. The Chinese stopped buying horses from Tibet in 1735, but the trade in tea continued to grow.

The road starts near the tropical city of Jing Hong, where the famous Pu’er tea is grown. It then passes through Dali, Lijiang, Zhongdian (in 2001 renamed Shangri-La, in the hope that the name will attract more tourists), and onward to Lhasa in Tibet.

A second route begins in Sichuan province, the site of Yacha tea production, and leads up through some of the most treacherous passes in the world to Lhasa. From Tibet, branch trade routes led south into Myanmar (Burma), Nepal and India.

Even before the Tang dynasty, in the 7th century, the trail was a major route for migration and cultural communication, and ancient tombs along the way have been determined to be almost 5000 years old.

The Tea and Horse Road again became a critical transportation link during World War II, when Japan blocked highways from China and Burma to India. More than 25,000 horses and mules were used to haul everything from sewing machines and canned goods to whiskey and cigarettes over the ancient trails.

Today, the Tea Horse Road is a special route for many indigenous people in the region, which includes the greatest number of ethnic groups in China. Naxi, Dai, Bai, and Thai all have mountains in the region which are sacred to their various religions.

California Native’s tours of Yunan Province follow much of this ancient route.

The “Ancient Musicians” of the Naxi (pronounced “Na-shee”) Orchestra are tuning up as Xuan Ke takes his place at the podium. He is younger than many of the musicians, being only in his seventy-seventh year. The standing-room only crowd gives him a thunderous applause. He addresses them in three languages: English, Mandarin, and Naxi—the ethnic dialect of the area. He has been ill, he tells them, so tonight he will conduct only the first part of the concert, then an apprentice will take over. He introduces the musicians, describes their instruments, and acquaints the audience with the history of the ancient music. Then the concert begins.

 'Ancient Musicians' of China's Naxi Orchestra

In Lijiang, China, the “Ancient Musicians” of the Naxi Orchestra again play the traditional music, banned during the Cultural Revolution.

The concert hall is unheated and cold, but the music is warm, beautiful and haunting. We are seated in one of the front rows of the hall, a beautiful building in the old town of Lijiang, located in a picturesque valley in China’s Yunnan province. Though it is January, there are plenty of tourists, most of whom are Chinese.

The Naxi Orchestra is made up of 20-24 members, many in their 80’s and 90’s, dressed in bright traditional costumes. Tonight, because of the cold, we catch glimpses of jeans and warm Western clothing beneath their silk brocaded Chinese gowns. They are playing traditional Chinese stringed instruments like the guzheng, guqin and erhu, accompanied by the dizi—the Chinese bamboo flute. Although they play some traditional Han music (Han are China’s largest ethnic group accounting for 90% of the country’s population), they specialize in dongjing, a type of Taoist temple music that has been lost elsewhere in China. The melodies evoke waterfalls, birdsong, and other sounds from nature.

Xuan Ke, the venerable Conductor, popular in China and worldwide, has a shock of dark hair and dark skin. Born in 1930, the musicologist and former village school teacher first learned about music from American Pentecostal missionaries. At the urging of his merchant father, he studied Western music at the Kunming Academy. He became passionate about exploring the instrumental music, chants and folk songs of the remote mountain villages in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Naxi Orchestra conductor Xuan Ke addresses the audience in the city of Lijiang, China.

Naxi Orchestra conductor Xuan Ke addresses the audience in the city of Lijiang, China.

After Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s victory in 1949, Xuan Ke became a conductor in Kunming. When the Red Army entered the city, his orchestra played Schubert’s Marche Militaire. In 1958, when Mao decided that artists and intellectuals could be a threat to him, Xuan Ke, who played western music and was fluent in English, was sent for “re-education” to a forced labor camp. He spent the next twenty years working in a tin mine. There he endured constant work and was tortured. Once the guards strung him to the roof beams by his hands, his arms extended in the manner of an orchestra conductor—or the curcified Christ. He still bears the scars and disfigurement on his hands and wrists. Many of the musicians in the orchestra suffered as well, but a good number were able to save their precious antique instruments from the Red Army by embedding them in walls or burying them in the ground.

After his release, Xuan Ke taught English and at the same time put his orchestra back together. Many of his friends had died, but some remained and the orchestra today is made up of white-bearded veterans and the young apprentices to whom they are imparting their unique knowledge of the ancient music. The orchestra has performed in more than twenty countries. At home, it plays every evening and the room is always packed.

After an earthquake struck Lijiang in 1996, the old town survived almost intact but the new town suffered a large amount of damage. It was then decided that all future building should be done in the same manner as the old town. In 1997, Lijiang, the only ancient Chinese city constructed without walls, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The California Native invites you to visit this fascinating area of China and attend a performance of the Naxi Orchestra.

The Summer/Fall 2009 edition of The California Native Newsletter is now in the mail. The newsletter, published by The California Native since 1984, has more than 10,000 readers (not counting those who download from the web). If you are not already a subscriber to this free newsletter you can signup now.

This issues feature stories include:

Lee Klein prepares to fly over the Nazca Lines on The California Native Peru ToursREVISITING PERU’S NAZCA LINES

The desert markings, believed to have been made thousands of years ago, made little impression on occasional travelers who viewed them from ground level, but when they were spotted by aircraft in the 1930’s they caught the world’s attention. They have since been surveyed, mapped and studied. Only two questions remain—who made them, and why?

Rafting is one of the many options for guests on The California Native Costa Rica ToursRAPID TRANSIT: COSTA RICA STYLE

Costa Rica has long been a favorite destination for both the beginner and the experienced river runner. With ample annual rainfall, mountainous landscapes, and plenty of road-to-river access, the country prides itself on being a whitewater paradise.

GHOSTS OF THE GALAPAGOS

Packing a pearl-handled revolver, a riding crop and three lovers, the Baroness Eloisa von Wagner Bosquet disembarked on the Island of Floreana, in 1932, and declared herself “Empress of the Galapagos.”

The cathedral is a favorite hiking destination for guests on The California Native China ToursCOPPER CANYON’S LOST TREASURES

In 1880, Alexander “Boss” Shepherd, the last territorial governor of the District of Columbia, packed up his family and, in the remote village of Batopilas, at the bottom of Copper Canyon, developed one of the richest silver mining operations in the world.

THERE’S MORE TO CHINA THAN BEIJING

Naxi ladies strolling home after work can be seen on The California Native China ToursBecause the Olympics were hosted in Beijing, chances are that you learned more about China in 2008 than at any previous time. On the other end of the country, far from bustling Beijing is Yunnan Province—home to the largest variety of ethnic groups in China.

CALIFORNIA NATIVE ADVENTURES
The newsletter also includes schedules, prices and descriptions of California Native’s tours to Mexico’s Copper Canyon, Peru, the Galapagos, Patagonia, Costa Rica, Yucatan and Chiapas, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos, Bhutan, Yunnan, China, and Ireland.

Traveling around the world, an important part of the experience is tasting the local cuisine. From Mexico to China, from Hungary to Bhutan, no trip is complete without sampling the regional specialties.

But on a long trip, after days or weeks of eating the local dishes, I always develop a craving for the universal comfort food—pizza. And so, I make it a part of each of my journeys to try the local pizza, the one food, besides a ham-and-cheese sandwich, that can be found almost everywhere.

In Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma), we found excellent pizza at the Rudyard Kipling Bar & Grill. In LeJiang, Yunnan Province, China, after many days of Chinese banquets for lunch and dinner, in spite of protests by our Chinese host, we headed for the nearest pizza parlor and enjoyed our pizza and beer feast.

Traveling through Thailand, we discovered excellent pizza was at the Slow Food Italian Restaurant in Chang Mei, where the proprietor, an Italian expat in a wheelchair, greeted each guest. All of his staff were also wheelchair bound or disabled.

On a dark and stormy night, in a remote corner of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains, Doug Rhodes, the owner of the Paraiso del Oso Lodge, outside of the little village of Cerocahui, in Mexico’s Copper Canyon, proudly served us what he declared was the “best pizza in Northern Mexico.” Kerosene lanterns lighted the dining room and the pizza was covered in generous portions of olives, which my wife, Ellen, hates, and had great difficulty trying to remove in the dim light. I, however, tended to agree with Doug’s assessment.

Last year, while visiting Budapest, Hungary, we enjoyed the pizza at Al Capone’s, a chain of pizza parlors in Eastern and Western Europe, which is now owned by Australian pizza giant Domino’s Pizza.

Wherever in the world we go we are not that far from home when we can take a break from the ethnic food and enjoy a great pizza. My favorite toppings are ham, pineapple, mushrooms and olives. What are yours?

This is the second in our series of Images of the World taken over the course of the last twenty-five years since the founding of The California Native.

In Mexico’s Copper Canyon, a Tarahumara girl carries her baby sister on her back. In Mexico's Copper Canyon, a Tarahumara girl carries her baby sister on her back.
In Chilean Patagonia youngsters demonstrate traditional dances. In Chilean Patagonia youngsters demonstate traditional dances.
In a remote Laotian village, near the Mekong River, villagers wear traditonal clothing. A young student in a remote Laotian village wears traditonal clothing.
Young monks eating their once-a-day meal in a monastery in Myanmar (Burma). Young monks eating at monastery in Myanmar (Burma)
Boys from a small Laotian village have fun swimming in a tributary of the Mekong River. Boys swimming in tributary of Mekong River.
A mother selling produce in a market stall keeps her baby safe in a cardboard box, in China’s Yunan Province. Lady with baby in a cardboard box in Yunan, China.
In Laos, a boy carries his little brother while his friend balances a ball. In Laos, a boy carries his little brother while his friend balances a ball.
Three young boys, in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, pose for us on their way home from school. In Bhutan, three young boys on their way to school.

The Fall/Winter 2008 edition of The California Native newsletter is now in the mail. The newsletter, published by The California Native since 1984, has more than 10,000 readers (not counting those who download from the web). If you are not already a subscriber to this free newsletter you can signup now.

This issues feature stories include:

CALIFORNIA NATIVES FOLLOW THE TEA HORSE ROADA centuries-old monastery overlooks the town of Shangra-La, along the ancient Tea-Horse Road on The California Native China Tours
“My grandfather dipped his silver bracelet into the water, to make sure it was not poisoned,” related Chen Dong Mei, her eyes sparkling as she related stories of her grandfather who drove horses along the historical Tea Horse Road. The tea horse road, leading from Jing Hong, China, to Llhasa in Tibet, has been a major trade route for almost 5000 years.

THE BOWMEN FROM BHUTANIn Bhutan, the national sport is archery and you can visit this Himalayan Kingdom on The California Native Bhutan Tours
Dancing about and shouting sexual insults at the opposing team, Bhutanese sports fans enjoy their favorite pastime, which is, of all things, archery!

COPPER CANYON TRIPS FEATURED IN NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PUBLICATION
A new book, published by National Geographic, features The California Native’s tours through Mexico’s Copper Canyon.

THE LADY OF GUADALUPE
Throughout Mexico, in churches, roadside shrines, restaurants,  and automobile decals, the Virgin of Guadalupe is a sacred icon for both Catholic faith and nationalism.

TELL THEM TO “GO TO XIBALBA”The artifact of a Mayan diety warns us of the Mayan 'Place of Fear' on The California Native Yucatan Tours
It is the darkest place in Mayan lore, the underworld, the Place of Fear. It is ruled by the spirits of disease and death. And archaeologists believe that it actually existed in a series of underground chambers and passages.

THE MISSING SOLDIERS OF ALBERMARLE ISLAND
“The day was overpoweringly hot, and the lake looked clear and blue; I hurried down the cindery slope, and choked with dust, eagerly tasted the water—but, to my sorrow, I found it salt as brine.” So wrote Charles Darwin in The Voyage of the Beagle. Sixty-five years later, in 1904, eleven soldiers disappeared in the unforgiving landscape of Albermarle (Isabella) Island, the largest island in the Galapagos Archipelago.

CALIFORNIA NATIVE ADVENTURES
The newsletter also includes schedules, prices and descriptions of California Native’s tours to Mexico’s Copper Canyon, Peru, the Galapagos, Patagonia, Costa Rica, Yucatan and Chiapas, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos, Bhutan, Yunnan, China, and Ireland.

2008 will likely be remembered as the year that put China on the map.  Of course, China has always been a very large and extremely populated presence on any map.  However, government rule throughout the decades has kept the exotic culture of China shrouded in mystery and, in many ways, closed to the outside world.

With the close of the Olympics in the host city of Beijing, chances are that you have learned more about China in the past few months than at any time before. Beijing pulled out all the stops to show itself as a modern city. Much of the pageantry surrounding the Olympics served to highlight the new face of China. Nothing compares with the Olympics when looked at as a stage that helps bring the world together. While Beijing remains a hot spot for travel, the rest of China is as vast and diverse as the sports represented in the Olympics.Naxi Ladies Stroll Home on The California Native Yunan China Tours

On the other end of the country, far from bustling Beijing is Yunnan Province—home to the largest variety of ethnic groups in China. The California Native gives the following advice to those traveling to China:

China is a large country with a long history and diverse culture. In the last two decades, great changes and modernization have taken place there, but traditions in most areas still remain as before. It is appreciated when you respect the traditions, culture, local customs and taboos, especially if your tour involves more remote ethnic areas such as Yunnan Province and other areas inhabited by ethnic minorities.

Be friendly and sincere, polite and patient. Since China’s opening to the outside world nearly three decades ago, though they have become happier, more open-minded, and prosperous, Chinese people are inherently shy and modest. They rarely display emotion and feeling in public, and find plain speaking unnerving.

China warmly welcomes overseas visitors, and authorities are working in earnest to improve facilities and enhance the quality of service, but China is still a developing country. So, be flexible, show good will, and a readiness to understand, and enjoy your experience in this fascinating country.

English is pretty much the international language and it takes many shapes around the world. In China, it takes turns that are sometimes hard for a native English speaker to follow.

Following are photos of signs that we have taken along our California Native tours of Yunan Province in China.

Although they don’t follow our idea of English, we are sure that the persons who made the signs speak English much better than we speak Chinese.

From a hotel in Dali:
Strange English Signs along The California Native Yunan China Tours - Sign in Chinese Hotel
From a hotel in Beijing:
Strange English Signs along The California Native Yunan China Tours - Sign in Chinese Hotel in Beijing
On a street corner in Lijiang:
Strange English Signs along The California Native Yunan China Tours - Sign on Street Corner in Lijiang
Sign leading to a temple at the top of a hill in Lijiang:
Strange English Signs along The California Native Yunan China Tours - Sign at Temple
Sign at Leaping Tiger Gorge:
Strange English Signs along The California Native Yunan China Tours - Sign at Tiger Leaping Gorge
Sign at Wild Elephant Preserve in Jing Hong:
Strange English Signs along The California Native Yunan China Tours - Sign at Wild Elephant Preserve in Jing Hong
This sign was intended to warn visitors of slippery salt on the trail:
Strange English Signs along The California Native Yunan China Tours - Sign at Wild Elephant Preserve in Jing Hong Warning of Salty Trail

Traveling through China, especially in the more off the beaten path areas, is always fascinating. And rarely visited Yunan Province, spanning an area from the tropics to the Himalayan highlands, is home to more ethnic groups than any other province in China.

Launched in June 1983, our company is celebrating its 25th year leading wonderful trips to unique destinations. ThisCalifornia Native founder Lee Klein silver anniversary comes as a proud moment for our company’s founder, Lee Klein, who continues to scout new locations world-wide in search of new destinations for the active traveler. Klein, a graduate from Loyola Marymount University with a MBA in Management spent more than two decades as a corporate manager and college professor until, while climbing Ayer’s Rock in the Australian Outback, he decided to venture into the adventure travel business. As he did, he took to heart the lessons he taught his students on how to succeed in business: “keep it simple, and learn to do it right before adding new products and services.”

The initial offering from The California Native was a tour billed as “The Other Los Angeles.” This day-long excursion traced the route of the San Andreas Fault from the Mojave Desert to the San Gabriel Mountains without ever leaving Los Angeles County. The tour became so popular that colleges in three California counties offered them as part of their community-education programs. From this, the company expanded its offerings to include tours to the Channel Islands, Santa Barbara Wine Country, Death Valley, and other uniquely California destinations, as well as white-water rafting, ballooning, spelunking (caving), sailplane gliding, and other outdoor adventures. “My family has lived in Los Angeles for generations,” writes Klein in the company newsletter, “hence the name The California Native.”

Satisfying the growing client base led across the border to the development of The California Native’s most popular destination—escorted and independent tours of Mexico’s Copper Canyon. These tours feature the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad (labeled as one of the most spectacular train rides in the western hemisphere) and highlight one of the most primitive indigenous cultures still subsisting in North America—the Tarahumara Indians. The California Native has become a major source of information on this remote area of Mexico, and it’s guides are known throughout the area for their work with the Tarahumara.

Today, The California Native offers a wide selection of tours to Costa Rica, Mexico, Patagonia, Peru, the Galapagos Islands, Ireland, Bhutan, Myanmar, China, and Laos, and more destinations are in the planning stages.