Himalayas panorama bus stop
Sutra of the Pearl cover
Sutra of the Pearl’s updated cover! Book 2 in the Paths Unknown series is now on sale. Towers of the Hungry Ghosts.




A fellow writer with a novel also set in Ladakh, India as is my Sutra of the Pearl, recently asked me to give her some photos and info of my time in Tibet in the 80s. It occurred to me I should do the same for my own blog even though everything here can be found on my website. When I took these photos of Tibet decades ago, I was travelling the globe on a shoestring. Little did I know they would one day inspire my first novel called Sutra of the Pearl and feature on my author website. Not only was I not a writer yet, but the internet hadn’t been invented!

Photo of Monk meditating outside Ganden monastery outside
Ganden Monastery destroyed by the Chinese during Cultural Revolution


Those were the days when you could get by on practically nothing if you were willing to put up with questionable public toilets and inevitable delays and detours. My bed for the night was sometimes the back of a truck going over a mountain pass, or a beach, or an overgrown median along a freeway. It was safer back then for lone female travellers. 

It took me almost a week to reach Tibet via China buses and trains. Bussing out via Nepal was no picnic either due to hiking around washouts.

photo landslide on road to nepal
The road from Tibet to Nepal is toast for now.
tibet photo gallery shot of road to Nepal
Heading to the border with Nepal below on the road from Lhasa after a landslide blocks the bus. Not for the unfit.



photo porters carry truck cargo on their backs after a landslide stops traffic
Porters replace transport trucks during landslide.typical unpaved tibet street with horse and women in traditional dress

Tibet was still quite backward and untouristed.


Photo: author stands before altar and sutra manuscripts inside Potala Palace
What is interesting here in an altar room of the Potala Palace is not my tie-dyed skirt and hippie glasses but the sutra manuscripts along the wall…bound between wooden covers and wrapped in silk.
Tea Room. Just the basics yak butter tea … no caramel latte.

No coffee-houses, just rough restaurants and Tibetan teahouses serving one thing: Yak butter tea.


There were no paved roads and no hotels, only rough guesthouses for hippy travellers like myself. Many decades

after my shoestring travels, I spent a winter in India working with a veterinary nurse caring for the street dogs.

I came back to Canada and started to write as therapy to clear the severe trauma of that experience. At the same time, I was reading about a real-life 19th century Russian explorer who had discovered a scroll in Tibet that placed Jesus in India during his childhood. Those two experiences morphed into my novel about a travel writer in India on a search for a lost Biblical scroll at a Himalayan monastery. My fascination with Tibet and its deeply spiritual Buddhist population had never left me. Pilgrims will walk days to visit the Potala Palace and pay homage to the Sutras stored there. 

There are thousands of sutras stored at the Potala Palace. Pilgrims walk under the stored sutra manuscrips to show respect. Each one has its own cubby. The illustrates well the scene in my novel set at a monastery where I describe the monk searching the ceiling to floor archives.

In fact, I myself had become a practicing Buddhist by the time I started to write. With my newfound knowledge, my old photos now held a special place in my heart. This, coupled with having been to Tibetan monasteries helped me to write my scenes. 

Tibetan monks debating sutras
Debating the sutras with hand clapping for emphasis is part of the training for new recruits.
Ganden Buddhist artwork destroyed by Chinese cultural revolution
A wall painting at Ganden Monastery riddled with bullets from the destruction of Buddhism by the Chinese during their Cultural Revolution in the sixties.

The signs of China’s attacks on Tibetan monasteries and its monks during the cultural revolution were still visible in the eighties. China’s attempts to suppress Tibet’s religion were still ongoing at the time I was there. I missed one such violent protest by only days.

news clipping of rioting monks of Tibetonks
This is a newspaper I bought in Kathmandu, a week after I left Lhasa in June, 1987. Typo no month on the date but the violence was mid June. Travel inside Tibet is only through guided tours since a repeat of these uprisings in 2008.The 1987 riots by monks against Chinese rule marked the end of independent travel and the only way now is with overpriced Chinese tours. Talking to any Tibetans is strictly prohibited and clearly stated in the tourist info. 

Since then I’ve turned down an opportunity to return to a children’s orphanage in Lhasa run by Canadians but I choose to keep my memories of Tibet untouched by the Chinese occupation.

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