Saturday, November 02, 2013

Lunana or Bust

Greetings All,
The following morning the yaks had still not shown up.  Where on earth were they?  We decided to press on to the next village of Woche hoping they would catch up to us by the time we arrived.  As we were leaving camp, a flock of Blood Pheasants were feeding in the forest just beyond.  Marc was able to get a decent photo.

Male Blood Pheasant
We hiked along the valley past numerous rock slides and waterfalls cascading from the cliffs above, then climbed steeply to the tiny village of Woche.  The local kids came to check us out, their shyness outweighing their curiosity.

Kids in Woche

We had lunch in Woche and waited around for the yaks to show up.  They didn't.  We didn't have a choice, we had to camp in Woche tonight and hope that the yaks would finally arrive.  We were having afternoon tea in the mess tent when our assistant guide Ngawang bursts in announcing that the yaks had arrived.  Hooray, it was on to Lunana at last!!

AWOL Yaks turn up in Woche

Namgay told us that the yaks had left the high camp two nights before and had gone all the way back to our lunch spot after we had left Laya!  The yak men had finally caught up to them and drove them back to high camp arriving well after dark.  They spent a very cold night at 16,000 feet without many supplies.  They left early the next morning and finally caught up to us at Woche.

Two days and one pass later we finally entered the Lunana Valley.  Namgay chose to camp at the village of Chozo instead of Thanza to give us more options.  "Options, what options, why do we need options?", I enquired.  Namgay explained that there was still a lot of snow on the high passes and that no trek group or locals for that matter had gone over the Jaze La since the cyclone hit.  We may be forced to use an alternate, slightly shorter route.  I was disappointed but understood his reasoning.

We set out to visit the Dzong in Chozo, the only one in Lunana.

Chozo Dzong

The Dzong was deserted and most of the rooms vacant.  We climbed steep stairs to the second floor where there was a locked door.  "What's inside?', I wondered.  There was a tiny window and I stuck my camera through and took a photo.  The flash revealed the secrets inside.

Altar inside Chozo Dzong

Later Namgay told us a malevolent female deity lives in the Dzong.  I hope I didn't offend her by taking a photo.  Curious locals stopped by camp to check us out.  Not many outsiders make in to their remote valley home.  One man led his young daughter by the hand to visit the Chilips, as foreigners are called in Bhutan.  I got a kick out of her sweatshirt.

Angry Birds in Lunana!

We had a rest day in Chozo so decided to climb the ridge above camp.  From the top there were spectacular views of Table Mountain and of the mountains to the East including Gangkar Punsum, the highest unclimbed peak in the World.

Gangkar Punsum is the pointy peak on the far right

Our dinners were served each evening around 6:30 in the mess tent.  The meal was preceded by a hot cup of soup served by our camp staff.

Ngawang serving Soup

Following soup a hearty meal of meat, rice and vegetables was served by our ever so helpful guide Namgay. 

Namgay serving Dinner

Meat was either beef, chicken, mutton or pork.  Vegetables consisted of green beans, carrots, cabbage, turnips, or pumpkin served in a chili cheese sauce.  The Bhutanese love their chilies, the hotter the better.  Early in the trek fresh fruit was served for desert.  Later our deserts were Indian Gulab jamun or sweet balls sort of like Dunkin Donut munchkins.  We came to refer to them as yak balls.  That night we went to bed not knowing if we could complete the Snowman Trek as planned or if we would be forced to take the alternate route.

We hope all is well back home.
Peggy and Marc

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