Time at 9500 Feet…no wifi!

(Finally on Weebly, also it is here.)

With a fire built in my bedroom stove, 2 hot water bottles in my bed sheets, and heavy bed blankets, I was toasty the entire night. I did put wood in the stove before I went to sleep and had a good night’s sleep. It was cool upon waking this morning, but very manageable with an additional long-sleeved shirt. Where we ate breakfast, heat is from a center stove.After breakfast we walked to a local farmhouse. We are at 9500 feet so a good chance to do some acclimatization. The woman, Dema, is widowed and has a 15 year old boy in the hospital the past 6 months and a 26 year old daughter who does the shopping for her. Dema’s house seemed quite spacious and although she thought it dirty, we did not agree. She plants potatoes, and when not that she plants turnips, radish, cabbage and mustard. The house is 26 years old, with thick walls, and thick cypress wood flooring. Two years after it was built electricity was installed. The biggest room in her home is for the large number of people who come to her house for the Annual Ritual Festival. One room in her home has a good-sized alter, compared to others I have seen, plus she has a couple of drums. When asked about America, she had heard about it but that’s it.

We stopped at a monastery that follows Guru Rinpoche, as opposed to the other branch, Long Bearded Man…do not have his official name. The young monks who talked with our group seemed to be wise beyond their years. When asked why become a monk, one answer was if he went to school then there would possibly not be a job, but here he is educated and will be a monk. The other monk was afraid of going to hell and he wanted to help all human beings. The monks are at level 1 and it will take about 9 years to get to level 2. I think another 3 years to level 3, more to level 4, 5 and at level 6 or 7 they can do a 3 year meditation. When a monk reaches level 5, they learn how to construct a house and paint. The reason for this is if a monk decides to leave the monastery they will have skills to bring with them in their new direction. When our monks were asked what message do they want to share with us it was 1. Be vegetarian, 2. Do not lie, 3. Do not steal. We went into the temple which was very cold and damp. No electricity so we had to watch where we were putting our feet (shoes off, no hats, no photography) The Buddha statues were each in a different mudra and the bowls of water were displayed in front…4 lined up on the left, then a candle, and 3 bowls on the right. Water is available to all, rich or poor, so that is why water is always in the bowls. There must have been hundreds of smaller statues of Guru Rinpoche in the temple. The master of this monastery oversees a few other monasteries in Bhutan, so he travels outside of Bhutan to speak and make money so his monks can receive an education and study.

Next we visited the Black-Necked Crane Center. When the black necked cranes visit/migrate to this valley, no planting is done. Electrical wires for this village are underground so the birds can safely fly in and out. Marshland is here for the birds to land and have it part of their migratory pathway with Tibet, China. The final annual count for this valley of cranes by February 3, 2017 was 555 birds, 52 juveniles. As long as the birds continue to breed when in China, the population will continue to grow. Since 1987 the local wetlands have been protected, but there seems to be some local controversy where some wish for paved roads while others see it is disruptive to the bird not recognizing its usual seasonal place to rest. Anyway, November 11 is the festival to highlight the importance of the cranes. I can imagine photographers flock here too to capture sight and a photo. 
We saw one disabled crane, Karma, at the center. With donations, they are hoping to create a nicer pen for her. They think a feral dog attacked and broke one wing. Not able now to fly, it stays at the center. They are tall, good looking birds!

I keep reminding myself that Bhutan is a young democratic society with many things to figure out.what I was surprised about was our hotel owner, at this location, actually lives in Thimphu. He seems to have brought workers from the city to here because he feels the local people cannot do the work. Now whether he actually considered training them, I suspect not since if I recall our guide’s information, 25,000 people live here, 60% nomads. But the other thing I found interesting is as this man takes his profits to Thimphu and the government, he pays no local tax. So no money stays in the village to upgrade what they want, instead they are dependent on the government to do and pay for the work the government sees fit. I think this lends itself to the controversy over paved or not paved road within black-necked crane area. Tourists come for that observation, stay in hotels which the government wants a paved road to the hotel, and yet that is disruptive to the bird’s navigation in wanting to return to the same place each year. Hopefully some educating will provide the best direction for all to be content, along with the birds.

At the start of lunch we had a demonstration on how to cook edamatshi, the very hot chile, onion, tomato, cheese combination…known dish in Bhutan. This was my second tasting of it and it was not quite as hot as the first try. We then had lunch of rice, vegetables, the pork was very fatty, chicken, oranges and jasmine tea.

Back at the hotel we had about 45 minutes to relax. With no Internet I decided to write my daily notes and hope I can copy and paste it all into my blog. Time will tell.

We then left for a 2.5 mile nature trail hike with a climb of at least a couple thousand feel elevation. Good warm-up at 9,000 feet as we continue to prepare our body and mind for our Tiger’s Nest Climb in a few days. We are anxious about that hike since we end up at 10,000 feet; however, we have all day to climb the 3,000 feet up and hopefully enjoy a good view along our way. Weather has been perfect everyday on this trip. Sure some days were very hot in the big Indian cities, and also cool/cold in the mountains, but no rain during the daytime! 

I am going to leave my writing now. My power pack is charging this IPad and later my phone since I am not counting on the electricity here. Now time to enjoy a solar-powered hot water shower, dinner, a good sleep!

Tomorrow we leave early for another very long drive.


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