So far we’ve been witness to several “cultural” events. We stopped at an archery tournament, visited a dzong and witnessed a once a year dance to cleanse out evil spirits, attended a yearly festival in Wangdu and happened on a dart match as we passed through a village.
Unlike other countries where such things take place in a controlled environment for tourists, these events were not staged, but were being played out as art of the cultural fabric of the land. It was as interesting to watch the local spectators as it was to watch the participants. Especially at the Wangdu festival, the attendees were in a festive mood and thoroughly enjoying their break from the work a day world.
Last night we stayed in the Phobjikha Valley. An idyllic setting with an abundance of agriculture and the winter home of Black Necked Cranes. We had been warned that the Hotel Gakiling was a little on the “rustic” side. It had the atmosphere of a Canadian hostel; basic accommodation with a central dining/meeting hall where the guests met and exchanged travel stories. Debbie’s and my room was in the main lodge and although basic was large enough to move in. Our travel mates, L&R, had a room about 3m x 4m with a semi outdoor washroom. Ouch. The heat in all the rooms was provided by small wood burning stoves that needed to be stoked all through the night. The owners are busy building a new hotel at the back of the property which should make for a much better experience. On the bright side, the food has started to look up. The dinner served was the best meal we have had so far in Bhutan.
We started out this morning with a 2 ½ hour walk through the Phobjikha Valley ending at the Gangtey Dzong. There was a “prayer” session in progress and we were going to view the proceedings. Of particular interest would be the playing of all the instruments, the drums, horns, cymbals and the gong. Unfortunately, it was coffee time at the dzong and we had to be on our way.
The clouds here are nothing short of dramatic. A few days ago Debbie pointed out how huge the clouds were and how tall they build to. We’re fairly sure they are caused by the severe terrain of the area. Every evening as the sun disappears from the direct line of sight, it continues to glare on the clouds and make for a most interesting back drop for the surrounding scenery. I’ve tried to capture the drama with my camera but nothing matches being here and watching it all unfold.
After seven hours on the road, with a 45 minute lunch stop, a couple of pee breaks and a flat tire, we arrive at Jakar and the Mountain Lodge. Our home for the next while. The place is upper end, close to heaven, again. Rooms are great, with one oddity – they are heated by a small wood stove, but hey, it’s warm! If supper, our first meal here, is any indication, we’re going to have a wonderful three days.
Although the people here are aware of the tourists and seem to go out of their way to be accommodating, I don’t feel or believe that any of it is a put on. The effort put forth is from an honest want to help out and is extremely welcomed from this tourist.