Today we stayed in the Haa valley to do some hiking and visit some very special temples.
We started our day with a great breakfast, and continued our conversation with two young women from the US who working / studying here through a university abroad program focused on environmental studies out of the US. Who would believe we would end up exchanging recipes of all things! Thank goodness for airdrop as we could share electronically without wifi!
After breakfast, Dan and I along with Penjor, and Kencho went off to our first excursion. We had been led to believe that our day would be spent hiking the bottom of the Haa valley, but alas, our trainers had other ideas!
Our first hike was to a small and charming chapel (Lhakhang), which is a temple dedicated to female tantric practioner, Michigan Labdrom who came to this area and is said to have spent a long time meditating here. They call this temple “Baby Tiger’s Nest”. I wasn’t mentally prepared for a climb today, and our hike up took a very narrow path precariously close to the edge of the drop. Up, up, up we went again, and finally reached the temple area. When we went through the gate way filled with small prayer wheels I took one look at the final steps ascending to the temple and said, “no Thank You!”. Dan however decided to take the challenge, so Kenchu and Dan did the final hike and visit to the temple while Penjor and I stayed behind, spinning prayer wheels for them!
When they returned, Dan was most impressed with what he saw. They even had to pass through a stone archway that is said to have been created by Bhudda, and because of the tight squeeze, every time you pass through it is said that you are cleansed, and those who are large in statue can only fit through if they are pure of heart!! When they were at the temple, there is only one caretaker there. Dan said he looked very much as you would expect; old, wisened beard and kind hearted. He told them that only 20 people per year end up visiting this temple! I think they made his day!
We took a different path to the bottom of the hill and it was far more pleasant. A lovely walk through pine forests, then across a picturesque little covered bridge and then on through farms until we got to our vehicle.
Kenchu gave us the offer of another hike, and we foolishly took him up on it. This time it was another climb to the top of a hillside that had a temple and monastery dedicated to the local villagers and farmers surrounding it. The view once again were spectacular as we went up, up, up!
When we reached the top, we saw that the villagers were volunteering their labour to build a new residence for the monks. The work they were doing was very typical of this area, and of Bhutan and was quite something to watch!
This time, Penjor had taken the car up to meet us, so we had the luxury of a ride back down the hillside after enjoying the views of the entire valley. At this point we are within about 8 km of the Chinese (Tibet) border. It is for this reason that both the Indian and Bhutanese armies have bases here. They patrol the border jointly. Also because of this, it has only been since 2002 that they let tourists into this valley!
When we got back into town, Kenchu had chosen a wonderful restaurant for us to have lunch. A veritable feast! Rice ( always), mixed vegetables, a marinated chicken dish, deep fried zucchini and potatoes, chillies and radish and a wonderful lentil soup for starters. Dessert is a rarity in Bhutan, but today they served a delicious and simple dish of bananas simmered in mango purée!
Being well fed, we left the restaurant and headed towards our homestay, but first a visit to the valley monastic centre and temple. We decided to let Penjor take the car back to homestay because after the visit, with such a large meals preceding it, we needed the walk!
We understand that another 8 guests plus guides and drivers will be joining us this evening in the home stay. It will make for a lively and crowded dining experience. All I know is that we should get there early to get a floor cushion with a back to it!
PS, we headed into the dining room with our tea around 6, and discovered another room (unheated) just off to the side of the kitchen dining room. This room had full chairs, and also we found Annika and Alaina sitting there enjoying their tea. It was lovely to reconnect with these town charming young women after our day of hiking! We talked on and on about their experiences here, and what they are seeing in terms of the Bhutanese life, culture and politics.
We soon went in to dinner. As it turned out the other party had decided to eat later at 9 pm, so I we had the dining area to ourselves, and yes, I got my cushioned back! Dinner was lovely followed by more conversation and it was soon time to hit the sack! Tomorrow back to Paro through the Chelela pass, the highest motorway pass in Bhutan! Until tomorrow!