During this period we experienced really one of the highlights of the trip. We visited the village of Ugyen Choling. This village just received electricity in the past year, and is not presently reachable by car or bus. The main attraction is the 16th century palace of a former governor, which the descendants have turned into a museum and formed a foundation to maintain it as a cultural asset.
After a morning visit to the Jakar Dzong and the winter palace of the second king of Bhutan, we are on the road. Fifteen minutes after leaving Jakar, we turn off the paved road to a hard-packed but unpaved road. We will drive this road for about a half-hour to a nunnery which we will visit. While we are there, James will have his head shaved by one of the nuns. At the end of our visit it is noon and we have our lunch on some tables adjacent to the nunnery.
|The Bridge at the end of the road and the start of our hike|
We started up the trail under cloudy skies and all brought ponchos or other rain gear. We had a one hour uphill walk ahead of us. The trail is hard packed dirt about as wide as a single lane road. It rises in slopes about 50 yards long with a landing at the end before the nest slope in the opposite direction, like a set of ramps in a building. As we went on, it started to drizzle, and then rain, and then rain harder, and then rain was mixed with sleet. We are at 8,000 feet climbing upwards with a camera or two on our persons, and I was making it to the next ramp, so that I could catch my breath for a minute or two. When the sleet started, I forgot about catching my breath, and just wanted to get to the end of the journey and under shelter as quickly as possible. Finally, we reached the village, and then the guest house, and up the stairs into the great room, where a bucari was warming the room. The hike up the hill had taken an hour and four minutes, at least thirty of those minutes in pouring rain and sleet. Our luggage had already arrived and I went to my room and took off my soaked jeans and put on my sweat pants/pajamas for the trip. We had tea and our evening meal. I then retired to my room with its own lit bucari, arranged my jeans near the bucari to dry.
|Raising Prayer Flags|
Afterwards in the morning, there was an archery match between our guides and drivers and the men of the village. I watched for awhile and then toured the museum which has artifacts from the original owners of the property. Afterwards, Robin invited me to tour a local farm house with him. It was well constructed and in the traditional style. There was an extended family of grandmother, the farmer, his wife, and their grown children. The grandmother is 83 years old and has lived in the house all her life. It has a wood stove in the kitchen, a treadle-powered sewing machine, and everyone sleeps on quilts on the floor. However, electricity reached Uygen Choling last year and there is a flat screen TV with cable input. It is interesting to see the shift to modernity play out in Bhutan.
|The Peanut Gallery|
After lunch, there was a lawn darts match between our guides and drivers and the local men. This was a holiday for the village, and the whole village turned out to watch. Lawn darts is somewhat like archery on a shorter field. There is a target at either end of the field and the players alternate throwing at the two targets to compensate for wind effects. Interest is added to the game when one of the spectators (tourists) sponsors a target. The sponsor places a bill either dollars or ngultrum (Nu) on one target or the other, and the first player to hit that target wins the money. Nu is the Bhutanese currency, which is pegged to the Indian rupee, and both currencies are accepted equally in Bhutan.
The lawn dart game continued all afternoon with women and children from the village watching and cheering the players on.
|Dancer in Costume|
|Awards Ceremony and Dance|
|Guesthouse where we stayed|
|The Way Down|