"One step at a time is good walking." - Chinese proverb
16.10.2016 - 16.10.2016 20 °C
The weather gods were kind to us again today. Started off a little cool in the morning but the sun was shining and we could not ask for a better day to hike from the floor of the Phobjikha Valley to the Gangtey Goemba (monastery) at the top of the mountain. As luck would have it, Gangtey is also celebrating a Tshechu festival during our stay.
Setting off from our hotel after breakfast, we walked through the charming village and out towards the meadow where the trail started. We passed by some small farms where potatoes grew and cattle roamed at will. It wasn't long before we reached the edge of the forest, following a well worn trail past fluttering prayer flags and a solitary chorten sitting like a sentinel on the path. The views from this point were magnificent as we gazed out at the vast expanse of the Phobjikha Valley.
Climbing further up the hill, we entered a blue fir forest where we traipsed along muddy trails, crossed over streams and had brief glimpses of the stunning valley scenery. Emerging from the forest into another pocket of farmland, we came upon a large white-washed stupa in the middle of the trail. We continued up one last steep incline to finally arrive at the Gangtey Goemba Buddhist Monastery where the Tshechu was in full swing.
We squeezed into the courtyard where the performances were taking place. John climbed a ladder to get a better view for his photography and I managed to find a place to sit on the ground with the locals. They were so welcoming, making space for me on their soft mat as well as offering to share their food with me. I was overwhelmed by their friendliness and hospitality. All around me people were enjoying the Tshechu and the children were delightful, smiling and often waving a greeting to me, and best of all they were willing to let me photograph them. I felt the Gangtey Tshechu was a more pleasant experience compared to the one we had attended at Thimphu. We were much closer to the performers and the local people were mostly farmers from the surrounding countryside who were making the most of the opportunity to catch up with their family and friends.
After an hour or so, we returned back to our hotel for lunch and a short rest. We had walked about 8kms this morning and we thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of our hike, but our bodies were a little weary for the experience. Rallying a short while later, we set off on a drive taking us further into the valley. The drive was very relaxing with a few stops to view a newly completed monastery nearby some tall prayer flags, cattle grazing and a beautiful stream running past potato and turnip farms. Everything looked so lush and green. We dropped in on a group of locals who were playing a game with slingshots and arrows. They were having a riot of a time and there was some wagering on the outcome. I made friends with a sweet little girl who came out to wave so enthusiastically to us and I was lucky enough to get a photo with her.
John and I decided to get dropped off at the village on our way back so that we could walk around for a while on our own. It was fairly quiet today as most people were still at the Tshechu but we loved the cottages with their flowering pot plants in their courtyards and lining window ledges, small vegetable gardens and rustic charm. We did not walk for long as we started to feel weary after our earlier hike and returned to the hotel to put our feet up for a while before dinner. And guess what??? .....it was a buffet dinner again tonight!
Turned in for an early night as we plan to hit the "highway to hell" early in the hope of avoiding delays at some of the roadworks on the road back to Punakha.