Today we have a very light day of plans. We had a leisurely breakfast and then met out guides for a short hike ( by Bhutanese standards) at 9 am.
Our drive took us a short way up the Punakha Valley to Yambesa, where Penjor dropped us of to begin our hike. Our destination was 45 minute walk up a forested path to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten. This 30M high Chorten took 8 years to build and was completed in 1999. It is dedicated to the 5th king and serves to protect the country.
We began our hike by crossing a suspension bridge over the Mo Chhu (mother river). As we ascended we admired the views; farmers harvesting a second crop of rice from their fields; valley views framed with giant bamboo trees; 20 ft tall poinsettia bushes…it was all lovely! And the best part was that we could climb at a good pace and not be gasping for oxygen!! Dan and I secretly believe that Kenchu has been training us the last couple of weeks to do the Brumdrek trek which takes us over 15,000ft! Our reward there will be to visit the Tiger’s nest monastery on the way down! But I digress…
When we finally reached our destination, we were amazed by the beautiful grounds that have been created here. We understand that the 5th king comes here at least once per year, and hosts a luncheon for all the local farmers that share the immediate area. One time, our guide Kencho arrived with some guests and saw the king pouring tea for the local villagers!
When we entered the Chorten, the artwork, craftsmanship and frescoes were like something we had never seen! We climbed up the 4 storeys, with each floor providing more and more to feast our eyes upon. When we finally made it to the top floor, there was an ancient Bhudda that had been relocated from Trongsa as per a prophecy. As we turned from the Bhudda, we were treated to a grand view of the Punakha Valley.
Sufficiently fulfilled with the beauty of this valley, we started our descent back to the car. Back through the beautiful forests and farmlands, across the suspension bridge we went. From the car park we could see a number of rafting companies vying for clients to take a float down the river. We opted just to watch! (This was on the Mo Chhu or mother river, which still has some rapids, but is not nearly as fierce as the Pho Chhu or father river. The Punakha Dzong stands overlooking the confluence of both of these rivers).
We joined Penjo for a brief ride to a campground that we had seen on our way to our hike. Today, we were going to have a riverside lunch in the park – riverside! It was spectacular, and I must say that our luncheon atmosphere was far more authentic than our neighbours up stream!
We were well fed once again, and headed back to our hotel. There was nothing formal on the agenda and we decided to give our guide, driver and ourselves a rest afternoon after some very busy tour days.
Dan and I decided on a leisurely afternoon sitting out on our balcony reading and enjoy the vistas together with the sounds of the joyful children coming home from school. Such peace!
We enjoyed our afternoon, and headed down for a lovely supper. Back again to our room for one last night in Punakha. It all seems to be going by very fast! Tomorrow we do a hike at Dochu La Pass before heading to the Haa Valley. Until then!