Day 18: Horseback riding in the Tang Valley


We had a leisurely wake up and breakfast this morning, as we would be spending tonight here as well. Our day had little planned other than horseback riding and a visit to a local museum. We ate a hearty breakfast (even though the horses would be doing most of the work today!) and then got into the car to head to the horse farm. Our guiding company, Windhorse is currently owns the only horse farm and riding stables in the country. Although it’s open for anyone to ride, the word needs to get out!

Horses in the paddock
Pema leads our saddled horses to us

We met Pema once again. He was our second support person during our hike yesterday and actually works for Windhorse as their stable manager.

Our morning of riding lessons consisted of “pull on the right rein to turn right, and the left rein to turn left,, and both reins it you want to stop”! Feeling duely trained we saddled up and were off!

Our driver, Penjor with Dan and I as Pema is about to mount his horse. Kencho decided to walk the trails!

Our horses were very docile and we all had a glorious time riding in the high pastures and enjoying the view! No matter where you turned, it took your breath away! ( and no, it wasn’t just the altitude speaking!).

We’re off to explore the high fields and farmlands of this valley
Passing by a local farm
Spectacular vistas!
Having fun with selfies as Kencho closes the gate behind us
The beauty never stops!

When we made it back to the farm after 2 hours or so, our driver Penjor dismounted as he had to take the car to our next stop. Kenchu had been walking, and joined Penjor in the car while we headed off for our lunch spot by the river on horse.

Pema, Dan and I continue down to the valley floor

We continued down to the valley floor and soon came to a suspension bridge crossing the river. Pema dismounted as his horse was a little sceptical of the crossing, but as he led his horse across the other 2 followed beautifully.

Pema leads his horse across, and the others follow!
One of my more challenging shots taken on a swinging suspension bridge looking backwards while riding a horse!

Just on the other side of the river Kenchu and Penjor had set up a lovely lunch spot in the shadow of a Chorten and some very weathered prayer flags. There was a farmers field with cattle grazing, so Pema took the bits out of the horses mouths and let them graze while we had lunch.

Prayer flags waiving in the wind
Horses grazing along with some cattle. The backstop at the end of the field is an archery target!

It’s hard to believe that this pasture is also use as an archery field (national sport of Bhutan) but we could see the target backstops at both ends of the field.

I can see a painting coming!

We would often see local people walking by, and they were so friendly and welcoming! This young lady was taking special grass to her cattle and stopped by long enough for me to get a picture!

A charming woman loaded down with fresh cut grass. Look at the sickle in her hand!

Once lunch was done we saddled up and headed across the field on our journey to the Museum. Our way was rather level at first, but then the tough climb to the top began. My heart went out to these poor horses as they made their way up the steep hill. We often stopped for breaks to let them catch their breath. Dear Dan became very bonded with his horse as he talked him through the struggle that he himself had had the day before. After about 45 minutes we reached the summit. While we were offered the chance to ride the horse back down the hill, we both felt they had work hard enough for us today! They serviced us well, and it was time to send them home in peace.

This museum Ogyen Chholing, once a royal palace commanding all of Bumthang is still owned by the 20th generation of the original family. Originally built in the 14th century it has been restored after an earthquake in the late 1800’s and is currently run by a foundation.

The collections here were amazing, from the centuries old Gho’s (formal costume of males) to the masks used at the local Tsechu’s and festivals top the armament demonstrating the tools used by the Bhutanese to fend off the British in the 1800’s. Quite a history of farming, dying, weaving and distilling as well! All in all a fascinating visit, including the ladder type stairs one had to use to get from one floor to the next!

The museum is located high up on the hill in the background.

With the museum visit done, it was time to head back to the farmhouse. We were early for our next activity, so we decided to take a short walk along the river. I especially wanted to show you the road surfaces that we have been driving on. It certainly explains why is takes 2 hours to go 10 km!!!

Tonight, we are treating ourselves to a hot stone bath which is a specialty of Bhutan. We were contemplating this last night, when a British couple came by and told us to do it! They had had one earlier in the week, and had booked another one for today as well! Apparently, they heat stones for 4 – 5 hours over a fire and then drop them into a wooden tub of cold water. The stones crack and release minerals that promote health properties!

When we entered the “bath” room there were two long wooden tubs, steaming with the warmed water. The tubs actually protruded through a wooden wall, but wooden slats at the wall added a sort of baffle to our tubs. This way, our host could add additional hot stones as the water cooled off, and not interrupt our privacy. A great system, and I’m discovering that the Bhutanese like their baths like they like their chillis – HOT! Dan and i cooked for about an hour and a quarter, intermittently getting out when we got way too hot. We even had the stamina to have them add an extra stone each near the end.

His and hers baths. The tub extended beyond the wall so they could add hot stones while maintaining privacy for the bathers
Dan and I before we got completely cooked!

After our bath, we came back and showered feeling totally relaxed. We then headed in for supper – this is our Slava Dinner so family and friends far and wide, know that we are thinking of you all and toasting you this night!

Sretna Slava Everyone. This is a first for us as this Slava meal was completely vegetarian!!

Categories: Himalayas: India, Nepal and Bhutan 2019

4 comments

  1. There’s no end to your outdoor skills is there! Canoeing hiking and now riding. It all sounds like my kind of adventure too. Stay safe! 🧸🐻❤️

    Like

  2. Sorry we are missing this trip as it sounds wonderful; would have been nice to ride again as I have not been on a horse in more than 35 years.

    Like

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