Saturday, September 14, 2013

Rantum Scoot, Nga Shey Di Jo Mi

 Fellow BCF teacher Sarah , who is an english teacher in Punakha, reads a lot, etc. picked up a term from the whaling days on Nantucket Island. The whaling community had developed its own dialect and “rantum scoot” seems to me to mean random wandering, walkabout, aimless stroll. In Bhutan recreational options are limited, very few Bhutanese have any interest in physical activity as recreation, especially walking, hiking, trekking, whatever one might name it. However, they do
have a response to the ever present question, “going where sir?” My answer is “nga shey di jo mi”, I around am going. This is a perfectly acceptable answer, everyone is satisfied and no lies have been told. Many of our short weekends involve a rantum scoot on Sunday. This past Sunday we decided to explore the valley above the old town of Punakha.

We headed up the road out of town and soon set our sights on a Lakhan which sits atop a ridge high above. All the roads in Bhutan are new and there are always “shortcuts.” Often one is asked, how did you come down, by road or shortcut? Shortcuts are walking paths that cut the switchbacks or take another route all together. As we headed up the road, keeping to the route that kept climbing toward our ridge top temple, we were able to peek into valleys unseen from below and to spot Lakhans perched on ridge tops ever higher and more distant. The ever present summer clouds were playing on the summits, everything was green and growing like crazy, a perfect summer day in the foothills of the Himalaya. After walking far enough to begin to feel it we
ran across some boys watching a few cows and climbing around in some fruit trees. A bit of a visit saw us on our way with several persimmons and small pomegranates to fuel out travels. I was traveling particularly light on this day, camera in my pocket, so the fruit was much appreciated. We continued to climb steadily the cloud line playing hide and seek with the higher ridges but blue sky and sunshine at our level.
Three and a half hours of steady walking brought us to our intended Lakhan only to find it was construction site. The Temple, Choekar Khaling, had been damaged significantly in an earthquake and was being replaced. The monk’s
quarters were newly finished and the foundation for the temple had been laid. There was a crew of about a dozen laborers working on the project. All materials that could not be obtained from the surrounding forest had to be brought up the long slippery road in a trailer behind a farm tractor. We were talking with the foreman, a monk in civies who had done many things including some work as a guide, his english was quite good and he seemed to be interested in and comfortable with speaking with chilips. He invited us to have a cup of tea, again a welcome refreshment since I was carrying nothing. He told us many little stories about his life and the temple. He also pointed out a foot path which would take us down through the forest in a much more direct route than the one we had followed on the way up.
A ways down we upon an area that had been roto-tilled by wild boar. We heard animal sounds in the not too distant brush which sounded like boar. Yep, we walked a little faster and I was happy to get onto part of the trail which was a wonderful pine needle strewn path with no sign of porcine earthmovers. As we neared the valley floor we encountered houses. Trails in Bhutan are created solely by traffic and so anytime a house is in the vicinity all paths will lead to the house, not necessarily in the direction in which you want to continue. At the first house we were greeted by an older woman who offered tea but it was getting late and we moved on. A ways below the houses the trail seemed to evaporate and we did some serious bushwhacking and paddy crossing. All part of the scoot, eventually we ended up on the road that we had travelled earlier in the day. A mile down the road we are across from the Dzong where I can put my 20nu down and get a cold, yes out of a fridge, liter bottle of water. I often feel this moment is the best 20nu ever spent in Bhutan as the
liter of cold water slakes my day long thirst and forgives me for traveling quite so light. So far this
year we have many memorable Sunday scoots. Rating them is hard as each has it’s own charm but
this one earns style points for many reasons. I am very fond circle or point to point walks. This one was a very nice circle. This one offered fruit and tea along with a near boar experience. This one covered new territory, offered new views and great views of our lovely Punakha valley. The other day I learned this derivation for the name:
Pung – heaps or mounds, could be grain,  Thang – ground or plain, field,  Kha – identifies the dialect. So,  PungThangKha – the fields where the mounds of grain are stored, in the Kha dialect, morphed into Punakha.
All in all I give this scoot a high rating and look forward to the next one on Sunday, which isn’t so random as we already have the destination picked out and plans have been made. Meanwhile, should anyone ask, nga shey di jo mi.

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