After completing The Snowman Trek we visited the Phobjikha Valley, home of the Black-necked Cranes. Every November cranes migrate from Tibet to spend the winter here. The last crane species to be discovered due to the remoteness of their range, Black-necked Crane numbers are declining and the species is considered to be vulnerable. We spotted 4 in the valley but they were too far away to get a good photo.
The next day we had a long drive to Paro, making a few stops along the way. The first stop was at Punakha Dzong, the most majestic structure in Bhutan. Built in the 17th century by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the Tibetan Buddhist lama responsible for unifying Bhutan, the Punakha Dzong is strategically located at the confluence of the Pho (father) Chu and Mo (mother) Chu Rivers.
It was here that Shabdrung successfully held off invaders from Tibet who sought to retrieve a sacred relic that Shabdrung had stolen from Tibet. Shabdrung had constructed two entrances to the Dzong and his army kept going around through them convincing the Tibetan army that they were out-numbered. He also threw oranges in the river which the Tibetans thought were precious relics. For these two reasons, the Tibetans retreated never to invade Bhutan again.
Our second stop was at the capital city of Thimpu. Above the city is a reserve for the Takin, Bhutan's national animal. The takin is a curious beast, a cross between a wildebeest, cow and goat. A stocky body is supported on short legs with large two-toed hooves. A large head with a distinctive long arched nose is crowned with stout horns that are ridged at the base. Some of the takin were grazing on their knees, very similar to the way warthogs feed.
The Bhutanese believe that the Takin was created by Lama Drukpa Kuenlay also known as the 'Mad Monk". One day his followers asked that he preform a miracle. Before he compiled he demanded that they bring him a whole cow and goat to eat. After devouring both leaving only the bones, he stuck the head of the goat on the bones of the cow. The "Mad Monk" uttered a command and the beast came to life and began grazing in the nearby meadow. The animal became known as the Takin and can still be seen today grazing in high mountain meadows.
The next day we left Bhutan and and as a parting gift Marc learned in the Paro Airport that the Red Sox had won the World Series!
|The Red Sox win the World Series!|
We flew along the spine of the Himalayas to Kathmandu, Nepal. Everest, the highest mountain in the world, was clearly visible with a cloud plume outside the plane window.
|Everest (back & center) from our plane window|
Aahh, to be back in Kathmandu! Somehow the chaos of the city only adds to it's unique character.
We spent 3 days here doing laundry, cleaning equipment and preparing for our next trek. We flew to Pokhara on November 3 and spent a relaxing 3 days at Tiger Mountain Lodge. We spent the mornings bird watching around the lodge. Our favorite birds were the Blue-throated Barbet and the Black-lored Tit.
We met our next trek group at the Pokhara Airport on November 7. We were another multinational group consisting of 7 men and a woman from the UK, 3 Americans (us and a man from CA), a woman from Switzerland and a man from France. The trek started with a crammed, bumpy bus ride to the village of Darbang.
We camped in the school yard where the Nepali army was training civilians riot control tactics in preparation for the upcoming national election on November 19.
|Riot Control Training outside our Tent|
The following day we would begin our second trek, a challenging 13-day circuit of Dhaulagiri, the 7th tallest mountain in the World via the French Pass and Hidden Valley. Here is a map showing our trek route.
|Trek Route in Red|
I hope the knees and bruised toes hold out!
We hope all is well back home,
Peggy and Marc