Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I suppose because of the weather, Bhutan’s school holidays run the opposite from us in Canada.  Their big break is in the winter, when tends to be sunny and dry.  Summer holidays coincide with the monsoon, when mud prevails on the roads, landslides are common, and you never know when the sky might open up to a torrential downpour.

Iman (Minnesota) , Dave (Bristol), Ashley in front (St. Louis),
and Martha from Québec squeezed in between Tara and me
So during our 2 week Summer break, BCF arranged for all the teachers to congregate in Bumthang at the River Lodge Hotel for 3 days of activities, wonderful food, and sharing of experiences from our first Term.  It took some several days for some to arrive because of landslides blocking the roads.  And before and since the retreat, we’ve been hosting many of the teachers at our house.

This week six of us took off to do the Bumthang Cultural trek, a 3-day hike to the next valley.  The weather was perfect, our guide Tshering knew the trail well, and we were all taken away by the natural beauty of this area. 

trekking north up Chokkhor Valley, past Kurje Lhakhang,
site of Guru Rimpoche's taming of the demons in 8th century 

Ashley with our guide, Tshering

there's no doubt about it, we are up in the clouds

kms from anywhere, it seems, yet there'll
 be business people on their way to work

First night was at Gnang Lhakhang, a 15th century temple and adjoining farmhouse. thick stone walls pt together with mud and massive pine framing.  Dark inside, the pine floors are made from 50cm wide boards.  Instead of windows, they traditionally have sliding wooden panels, retrofitted with glass windows. People usually live on the second storey, accessed up a ladder.  The first floor was for storing farm equipment and food, though the younger generation of the family sleeps there now.  The attic is open air, used to dry grain and supplies.

Ngang Lhakang temple on the right, our farmhouse on the left...
and in perpective with their incredible surrroundings

My favourite pic: farmhouse grandmother removing stones from the rice for dinner, with spuds in one basket,
chilies in the other and butter churner on left. But this isn't a museum, it's how they cook!
buckwheat noodles, straight from their field!

to eat we sit together on mats around the bukhari 

We started our second day climbing up a hill to a 16th century Dzong (=fortress) that had been destroyed in an explosion.  The Desi (=feudal ruler) who built it was pretty mean to his peasants, demanding too many tax crops to be given to him, and charging too much for people to pass through the valley.  So people complained, and a Tibetan king sent an army to attack.  The Desi ran down to the foundations of the dzong, planted gunpowder with incense, and ran away to the next valley.  When the army entered to search for him, the incense burned down and ignited the gunpowder, killing the Tibetan army in the explosion.  

Last year the Prime Minister, who has a house nearby, organized an archeology team to start rebuilding the Dzong.  We wandered around the ruins for an hour, wondering if we would see artifacts and weaponry.  But it was so overgrown, we focussed instead on the amazing views of the valleys and clouds below us.
about 5 km into the forest we are met by two mushroom pickers

giant rhododendron babies

himalayan black bear scat in a hemlock root hollow

a mountain vole, we think...

ahh, 3600m!

wheat chaff being walked up to the
cattle and yaks in the fields

we found these moths on the walls, about 8cm wide/long

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