Travelling to dizzy heights
21.10.2016 - 21.10.2016 17 °C
Well we have reached the last full day of our adventure and we were treated to a bit of a sleep in with a later start today. The hotel was without power when we departed due to a power failure through the night, so we were unable to enjoy our customary cuppa before departure. Attempted to get something to eat at the breakfast buffet but soggy toast and greasy eggs were far from appealing so I opted for a few pieces of banana and called it breakfast.
Set off at 9.00am to go to the Haa Valley. Made a brief stop in Paro town to pick up our picnic lunch before continuing on our way. Took the road out past the airport and started to climb up towards Chele La Pass - the highest pass in Bhutan at 3988m. Although the road is narrow and winding, it has a reasonable surface and there were only minor roadworks along the way. We loved the golden colour of the rice fields in the valley with the rice plants ready for harvest.
Getting out at Chele La, there was a crowd of travellers, all of whom had stopped to take in the views, wander around the many fluttering prayer flags or just grab a snack from the ingenious vendors who set up shop here. I loved the atmosphere as well as the views and although a little chilly, I stayed out as long as I could stand it to take it all in. The views from this height were stunning and we could see down into the Paro Valley to the airport. Although not totally clear along the Himalayan mountain tops, we were fortunate to get a glimpse of the snow clad slopes of the tallest mountain in Bhutan, Mt Jhomolari (7314m). This mountain is to Bhutan what Everest is to Nepal.
Driving over Chele La we started the steep descent into the Haa Valley. Views here were as equally stunning as down into Paro Valley and the road continued to be narrow and winding too. After three hours we finally reached the Haa Valley and stopped to visit Haa Dratshang, also known as the Lhakhang Kharpo (White Chapel) where the monks are housed. We were fortunate to hear a traditional musical prayer session being undertaken in the temple, complete with thumping drums, flutes and 2 metre long horns accompanying the rhythmic chanting of the monks. Was disappointed not to be able to photograph this but we have not been able to take photos whilst inside temples in Bhutan. Walking just a short distance behind the Dratshang we visited the small temple Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Chapel).
Wangchuk, our guide, suggested we head to the Haa Chhu (river) to find a nice spot for our picnic lunch. He was a little disappointed that the spot he chose now has a helipad in the middle of it, but we didn't care. Placing a mat on the ground, he brought out a feast of hot dishes from a purpose designed thermos and set up our meal. Although it was a little bit breezy here, it did not spoil our picnic. At the conclusion of our meal, our driver Lobzeng cleaned up the plates and leftovers and fed them to the local dogs who had been hanging around expectantly throughout our meal. These poor looking creatures polished the lot off so at least today the excess of food was not wasted.
We did a short drive through the town of Haa and then turned back to return to Paro.
Stopping again at Chele La, we purchased some prayer flags to string up on the pass. John believed they would safeguard us on our flight tomorrow when we depart Bhutan and I liked that our prayers and a little bit of us would remain flying high on a mountain in Bhutan.
Returning to Kichu Resort, we were disappointed to find the power had not returned. Made the decision to clean up and do some packing before the light in the room disappeared and we were forced to light candles. It was a little frustrating and John was at a loss without power to run the computer so he could sort out his thousands of photos. When we became stir crazy, we headed to the bar where there were more people to share our misery with. Wangchuk joined us for a drink and dinner and the crowd in the bar made for lively company. The power struggled to return to full capacity and we operated by candlelight until about 8.30pm when the service was restored completely. Funnily enough, we actually had a nice buffet meal tonight. The activities of the last few days were catching up with me and I struggled to keep my eyes open, turning in for an early night.