Saturday, November 02, 2013

Hunkering Down in Laya

After leaving Jangothang the weather remained clear and we had spectacular mountain views from the summit of our first pass, the Nyele La at 15,900 feet.

Us on the Nyele La, our first Pass Crossing

Jitchu Drake is on the left and Tserim Gang is on the right.  As we descended from the pass we could see Lingshi Dzong perched strategically on a hill above.

Lingshi Dzong

Built in the 16th century by Zhabdrung, the lama responsible for unifying Bhutan, the Dzong is now falling to ruins after being damaged by the September 18 earthquake last year.  All monks living there had to move.

We dropped back down into rhododendron forest and camped next to the Lingshi Chu (River).  The following morning we climbed up to inspect the crumbling Lingshi Dzong then back down to the village of Lingshi.  As we approached we could see that an archery match was underway.  Men from the village of Lingshi were taking on rivals from the neighboring village of Gang Yul.  The Bhutanese take archery very seriously.  The match will go on all day with lots of singing and dancing when an archer hits the target and lots of beer drinking to improve aim.  New fangled bows from the US are now in vogue.

Archer in Lingshi
We descended to the tiny village of Gang Yul situated beneath enormous limestone cliffs and dwarfed by the massive east face of Tserium Gang.

Gang Sul at the base of Tserim Gang

The village was mostly deserted as most of the inhabitants were in Lingshi at the archery match.  A lone old woman spun her prayer wheel in quiet reflection.

Old Woman Spinning Prayer Wheel

We ended the day camping at the village of Chebisa in a yak pasture with lots of barking dogs at night.

Our Camp at Chebisa
Three more pass crossings brought us to Laya, the largest village on the trek.  As we entered the village, it started to rain.

Entering Laya

It was at this point we found out that a super cyclone from the Bay of Bengal was bearing down on India.  A massive wall of moisture was heading north into Nepal and Bhutan.  The rain continued throughout the night and through the next day.  Fortunately, the following day was a rest day and we could wait out the storm.  The rain did not stop and the next morning it had changed to snow! 

Snowy Camp at Laya

Our staff tried to cheer us up by building a beer-drinking snowman, very appropriate for the aptly named Snowman Trek.

Snowman in Laya
The decision was made to spend another day in Laya to see if the storm would abate.  At this point our trek was in serious jeopardy.  We may be forced to retreat to the road head at Gasa and miss going to Lunana all together.  My spirits sank and I prepared myself for the inevitable.  How could we proceed?  Even if the storm blew over surely it would leave lots of snow on the high passes. Could we or more importantly our pack animals make it over the snow clogged passes?  Only time would tell.

We hope all is well back home.
Peggy and Marc

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