The school year gets off to a slow start here in Bhutan. The set date in the calendar is Feb 10 for teachers to report to school, however that is a Sunday so it would shift to Feb 11. But the Bhutanese new years celebration, Lo Sar, is Feb 11-12, so we report to school on Feb 13. Hence the trip to Phobjikha to see the black necked cranes.
The bus loads up, full, full and leaves at 2:30. I am happy to have purchased tickets in the morning and we do have seats but they are near the back of the bus. The distance can be covered in a car, as I now know, in a bit more than 2 hrs. Four and a half grueling hours later, lots of road construction, many stops, music blaring from speakers right over head with an occasional full song and lots of 3 second snippets, we pull into Phobjikha. It is dark, everyone on the bus is going home for the holiday, we are trying to find our lodging. After several attempts to ask and the aid of the helpful son of the inn keeper who calls to us and shows us the way we find ourselves in very comfortable inn where 2 others of our BCF group are waiting to join us for dinner. They give us good info about walking the area and we head to bed.
The valley is quite large with a very flat bottom, not at all similar to the ravine like gorges we have crossed previously. The valley sits at about 10,000’ and is only a few miles long before it disappears into one of the aforementioned gorges. There are several hundred of the regal, highly endangered, black necked cranes in the area. During a morning walk we see perhaps half that number. This is a wintering ground for this flock and all the cranes summer in Tibet. They fly over the Himalaya to get there. Quite a habitat these creatures have. We head back to Yueli Kiis, the hotel, and have a bit of impromptu lunch outside in the sun enjoying the view. Again the helpful son is assisting us with arranging a ride back to Punakha. The prices are much higher than anticipated and the options limited. Suddenly he has a brilliant idea, he calls a cousin of his with a car who is a tourist guide and arranges a ride for a more acceptable price and he gets to go to Punakha as part of the deal. Very shrewd is this 16 year old. The guys are good company on the way down, they share a lot of interesting information and quiz us a bit about the west.
As we were waiting for our ride we watched as a woman, with several assistants rotating in to help, was setting up to weave a piece of fabric. Her work stretched the full length of the bit of sidewalk in front of the main store. Big rocks held it taught and she was tying multicolored threads to matching threads, her assistant walking back and forth with a spool and another stick so that she could stretch 3 threads at a time. The sun was warm and it was a beautiful day. I could not understand the answers I got about the time it would take to finish the project. It looked like months to me but who knows?
We met up with our two comrades at Punaka Dzong, they had hiked a good bit of the way and then caught a ride. The Dzongs are combination historical fort, Buddhist temple, and seat of current government. This one is quite large and is the winter home of the monk body of Bhutan. We walked across the longest extension bridge in Bhutan and up to another BCF teachers house to spend the night.
By Monday afternoon I should be back in Gaselo with a day to get myself ready, whatever that might entail. I think laundry by hand, out back under the spigot, is part of the plan.