Our day began with the light chiming of bells followed by ceremonial oboe like instruments hailing a call to prayers in the meditation building of the hotel. Outside the building we could see a fair amount of smoke as they burned the ceremonial incense and pine boughs.
As we headed out of the Chumme Valley, we said goodbye to the and headed for the Trongsa Valley. When we got to the pass, we stopped for a look around and some pictures, and low and behold who should arrive, but one of the groups from our Tang Homestay. The bus slowed down and the guide handed Dan’s hiking poles to Kencho as they continued on their way. We believe they were heading to Punaka today and had a very long drive ahead of them! What a blessing that was!!
These mountain roads are winding and not for the faint of heart! As we crested the pass, we could begin to see the Trongsa valley out in front of us. This valley is a very deep valley and we were heading down to the Trongsa Dzong (even though it is halfway down the mountain it commands a very impressive position in the valley. This fort was once the most strategic Dzong in Bhutan. It controlled the routes between Western and Central Bhutan and therefore became very wealthy with taxes. The governor here become so powerful and unifying that he was named Bhutan’s first king. The first two kings ruled from this Dzong, and it now serves as the training ground for future kings as they must first serve 5 years as governor of this region before they can be crowned!
While in the Dzong, we visited the monks area and saw them performing a Black Hat ritual dance. Because it was in the monastic part, I couldn’t take photos. This ceremony is done before any construction is done.
As we left the Dzong, a number of administrators were having a friendly ( questionable) game of archery. These targets are minute when looking at them over a 150 meter distance. The largest circle would be about 20 cm in diameter! Lots of fun. Especially when an archer would hit the target…his team at both ends would sing a song as a bit of a hazing to the opposing side!
We tore ourselves away from the archery and were soon off to the Phobjikha Valley. On our way there we had great views of the Trongsa Dzong as well as a new hydro electric project that is going in. We were also at such an elevation as we passed the Phelela pass that we saw lots of yaks grazing!
When we arrived in the valley we went directly to the Black-Necked Crane visitors centre. These lovely birds migrate here every year from the Tibetan Himalayas, and are endangered. Here in the valley ( the highest valley in Bhutan), they enjoy a peaceful winter in a marshy grazing area. The environmental efforts have been coordinated with local farmers, and to supplant the grazing land, they have been given grants to build homestays for tourists visiting. Very successful all round!
After the visitors centre, we headed to our hotel with a view to the 40 or so Black Necked Cranes that have migrated so far this fall ( over 200 are expected).
After a lovely dinner we got ourselves settled, and headed off to an early bed. Tomorrow we are going to attend the Black Neck Crane Festival held at the Gangta Dzong. Until then!