The female river Mo Chhu; supposedly the more calm; serene; placid….before the confluence – joining with the male Pho Chhu… was where we went white water rafting today. There were only a few sections of actual white water, because the monsoons have long gone and the glacial melt had finished; but none-the-less it was fabulous.
“All forward”…was our command to paddle and off we went. “Hold on”… and my arm lay over my paddle and my hand gripped the rope on the side of the bright blue inflatable raft and whoosh went the water soaking my running leggings and bare feet. Ohhhhhh….. that water was COLD….. but was so much fun. Of course we splashed each other with our paddles! A water activity wouldn’t be complete without a complete drenching !
We were told that in the monsoon the river is raging and the rapids are incredible and sometimes one has to lean back to clear going under the bridges which on our paddle were probably 20 feet above us. Today was a calm paddle with just a few rapids of exhilaration… and just before landing on a sandy beach we nearly navigated cleanly between 2 very large boulders. I have my suspicions the captain of our boat may have purposely impaled us on one of the boulders for a bit of an adventure – which he succeeded in creating.
We visited the sublime Punakha Dzong which was incredible. It was the administrative centre for hundreds of years until 1955 when the capital of Bhutan was moved to Thimpu. Our guide explained so much about the specific form of Buddhism which is practiced here in Bhutan; too much to write about here… but really fascinating. On the wall was a frescoe which outlined the life of Buddah… an extraordinary story of how one man’s life has evolved into a way of living for so many millions of people.
I with three others were very fortunate enough to visit the Chimni Lakhang Monastery built by the “Divine Mandman” when the monks were practicing their evening prayer and rituals. To be witness to this practice was not only a privilege but really interesting. Our guide explained the history of how this monastery evolved; where a rather unconventional saint who was obsessed with sex and his phallus, subdued the demon at Dochu with his penis; and this has now become entrenched in the philosophy of many Bhutanese especially in this region.
This monastery is where people who have trouble conceiving come to receive a blessing after they have made an offering. We were shown an album of photographs and letters of appreciation from couples who now have children after receiving their blessing. Children wear penis phallic amulets to ward off evil demonic spirits; and phalluses are painted on buildings and hang around buildings for protection. Tourists are offered the same protection with the opportunity to purchase phallus key-rings and paperweights.
Bhutan has many surprises… and I’m sure there are many to come. Our next route is to have our group split in half and descend to the lower farming plains.