Penny is once again adventuring through the mountains of Bhutan.
We left our beautiful mountain retreat and passed through farmland of terraced fields growing rice; turnips; potatoes; radishes; beets; and of course chillies!!!… which fire through what seems EVERY meal including breakfast. I’m not too sure I’m a fan of such burning heat in my mouth quite so early in the morning though..so boiled eggs and rice has become my staple breakfast.
Small red carpets of chillies dried on the metal corrugated roofs that were secured not by screws but large rocks. Fields were dotted with mountainous piles of rice stalks, which were covered by a cloth to prevent any moisture entering the store of food for the animals for winter. Pine needles were being collected in woven baskets and lumbered on the backs of people who leaned forward as a counterbalance. These pine-needles are used as bedding in the stables and help mop up and hold together the manure which is then spread in neat piles on the bare golden fields of rice stubble.
I saw more closely the structure of the traditional timber homes; where the crops were dried in an open area above the bedrooms that was above the living quarters for the animals. We were privileged to stay as guests in a traditional farmhouse with our beautiful hosts two nights ago… more on that shortly.
Our journey took us to 3988mts through a pass that was absolutely amazing. Hundreds of tall prayer flags were poked into the top of the pass and strings of coloured prayer flags were like necklaces between them all. Cars stopped to purchase fruit and mementos from the back of cars and small stalls at the top of the mountain. I found in the altitude I became quite puffed walking up the hill a bit to see more closely the prayer flags; but fortunately I didn’t have a headache from the altitude.
I had a try of a national game of darts – I wasn’t very good. It was like ‘field darts’… and I needed a lot more ‘umph’ to get the dart far enough. We all scattered on hand woven rugs in a small festival ground nurtured by the surrounding mountains. It was calm… sunny and felt such a beautiful place to lie on the earth and feel the land of Bhutan.
The drive down through the Haa valley was really pretty and the landscape became more moist and huge pine-like trees lined the winding road. We traversed the mountain and right on cue were a small herd of Yaks…. strong beasts with shiny black fur and huge horns. They seemed indifferent to the vintage cars… unlike the locals who greeted us with curiosity and with excitement as they waved their hands with smiles. The yaks just stood and looked at us. Their day continued as usual.
Out stay in the Haa valley was absolutely wonderful. We were guests at a small farmhouse where the farmers continued their day milking the cows; feeding their animals and harvesting their crops in preparation for the approaching winter. We removed our shoes and climbed a ladder – not with rungs…but rather a HUGE slab of timber with 6” steps cut into it. The hand-rail was a smooth branch about 4 inches above the side of the steps. The timber was soft and polished and I could feel under my thin socks where the timber had worn over the decades of climbing into their home.
Our conversations were translated by their son and niece. We together had much laughter and because we are also farmers, there was much in common. We all experienced such friendship.
During the cool evening we had a bonfire and danced for hours. I copied the steps from the local girls and it felt like I had known the steps lifetimes before. It was so much fun. One of the local ladies..a senior woman of the community came up to me and gestured with a thumbs ups that my dancing was ok.. and a man came over and translated her words and told me my dancing was wonderful. She held my hands ..and in mine I could feel the roughness of her life of working in the fields.
The morning was exquisite. The roosters crowed as the white frost hung on to every surface.. and the sky was so blue with the air fresh and clean. That changed quickly as we descended toward Thimpu through some very pretty towns and wonderful landscape; but it became hazy with the increase in small fires, manufacturing and pollution from the higher populated areas. It became much drier and the rocks more exposed as we came closer to Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan.
The mountain water was so clear… and a shade of aqua.. and the last of the monsoon raced through the rivers – already being filtered by the mountains so it was absolutely pristine….and cold!
Here in Thimpu it is time to look around… and I purchased a beautiful piece of fabric to wear as a full Kira with some Bhutanesse bling …which was lovely to wear last night at dinner here at the Tag in Thimpu. Later today we are driving to another valley…. sorry can’t recall just now.. so stay tuned.