|Tang Valley, Bumthang|
THIRSTY BLOOD SUCKING LEACHES
I enjoyed the long drive to Trashigang feeling at one with the usual scene of never-ending, staggering 3-D mountains that were often separated by violently swift rivers cutting between the bases. Sometimes the mountains blended together and I wasn’t sure where one started or ended; I had no idea how I would be on one mountain one moment and then on another mountain the next moment.
As I traveled further up to Barsham the air became lighter as well as cooler and I felt blessed to stay the night in a gorgeous monastery. The monastery had amazing views looking down at tiny villages dressing the slopes of the mountains and my eyes seemed to stretch for miles. I could also see what looked like the wettest mountains in the world being hammered down under a rain cloud. However, I wanted more views, which caused me to wish that I could fly across the mountaintops for an aerial view of it all.
I could have easily stayed forever to gaze at the most capturing rainbows that would suddenly appear to steal the scene and make the mountains look like fuzzy backdrops. Everyone would stop in their tracks to be absorbed into the rainbows enchanting beauty. Thus, leaving Barsham was difficult because I had fallen in love with the cloudy sky that would sometimes permit the most magnificent views.
LANDSLIDES AND DEADLY ROADS
Finally, as I traveled southeast to Wamrong, the adventure really started to heighten. The unpaved roads didn’t provide the easiest travel during monsoon season. The roads were muddy and rocky screaming DANGER. At times they became extremely narrow allowing only one passing vehicle and there was messy evidence of landslides everywhere littering the weary dirt roads: fallen piles of dirt, monster roots attached to old trees snapped in half, rocks of every size imaginable, shredded shrubs, etc. The erosion brought all vehicles to hour long road blocks while Indian workers conducted back aching, grueling labor to clear the way. On the side of the road while we waited for the removal of the debris, I would gaze up at bare mountainsides realizing that they were missing half of their vegetation from the landslides. It looked like a giant had used a gigantic spoon to scoop out a side of the mountain and it reminded me that nature is stronger than man; I was aware that at any moment the continuous rain could cause more landslides to come plummeting onto the bus squishing everyone to the size of an ant.
Furthermore, the roads were engulfed in fog that gave the most eerie feeling that we were creeping through a death trap and gambling our life with every passing foot. The bus slowly lurked by boulders larger than me that had tumbled down from the top of the mountain, which my Bhutanese friends refer to as "shooting stones." Although I should have been shaking in fear, I took comfort in the smell of the fresh, upheaval dirt and stones that had been washed down the mountain being exposed to the sky for the very first time; the smell reminded me of the nutrient-rich soil my dad would buy at a hardware store for gardening. The memories of my love for gardening with my family gave me enough courage to stick my head out the window to peer down hundreds of feet of crumbling mountain, which caused me to wonder what the statistics were for buses falling off mountains in Bhutan. I hoped that the fragile dirt roads carved out of the mountainsides were strong enough to hold up the massive weight of the bus filled with people and luggage.
MY FAVORITE PART: THE MAGICAL CLOUDS
I was relieved to reach Wamrong in one piece where I nested on the very top of a mountain. The first few days it continuously rained and remained dreary with fog, yet at times it had a romantic appeal to it. However, I was worried that I wouldn’t get to see anything since the fog would only permit a few feet of visibility. I wished with every fiber of my body for the fog to go away so I could witness what I had been yearning to see ever since a tourist had peaked my interest about the enchantment of the clouds in eastern Bhutan.
So on my last day in Wamrong, I could no longer take the never-ending wet fog and rain that seemed to imprison me indoors. I was restless and bursting for something to happen. Then, as if an angel heard my relentless wishes, like magic the rain stopped and the fog vanished. Suddenly the baby blue of the sky reappeared and I rushed outside to feel the warmth of the sunrays. Finally, I could clearly gauge that I was hundreds of feet above sea level and I felt like I was on top of the world. I knew that this was the perfect place to experience what I had been dreaming about for weeks: The magic of the clouds!
For over an hour, I sat outside and silently watched the clouds perform their most sacred rituals right in front of my face. I was swept away by the movement of the clouds floating by like wispy, white cotton candy being slowly devoured. Sometimes the clouds traveled vertically up like thick smoke mysteriously rising from nowhere between the mountains and then disappearing into the heavens. At other times, they descended and slowly dissolved into the vegetation of the slopes. I loved observing the way they changed shapes within minutes and their swiftness commanded my respect. I also loved the way they showed off their enormous size by casting dark shadows across entire mountainsides.
Unfortunately, the show seemed to end when all the clouds started to merge together and out of nowhere a large gray blanket of fog rushed in joining forces with every cloud in sight. Once more the blue sky as well as the sun were hidden away and a chill pierced the air. In a blink, the gray foggy cloud covered everything including me indicating that this cloud was here to stay for a bit and it was time for more rain. So I relentlessly went back inside.
I sat on the bed in bewilderment wondering what just happened to the magical show I had been enjoying seconds before. Then I realized that it wasn’t quite over. I noticed the thick clouds slowly creeping into the open widows and stretching their foggy looking fingers across the room to penetrate the walls and dampen everything in its way. The show only ended when I shut the windows after the cloud gave me a big wet kiss on my nose and started to swallow me up.
All over the world a cloud is a cloud, but I swear the clouds of eastern Bhutan seem different: they are spellbinding and supernatural. I often hear people boast about how spectacular Bhutan’s mountains and wildlife are, but I rarely hear people vaunting about the clouds of Bhutan. I found the clouds to be just as alive as the monkeys in the trees and they were no doubt a special part of the mountain as well as the country.
After my experience observing Bhutan’s clouds, I view them as the life givers of the forest and all living organisms: they carry gallons of water to the mountaintops releasing it to be carried away to the land below turning it a variety shades of green. It’s amazing to know that all who drink its life force into their bodies experience the majestic clouds. It was a joy and a blessing to have been literally touched by the mystic clouds of eastern Bhutan and it was my favorite part of my trip.
A MANUICURED VILLAGE DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER VILLAGE
|Sherubtse College, Kanglung|
Lastly, as I headed back to central Bhutan, I made a stop by the famous Sherubtse College in Kanglung. I found Kanglung to be a neatly manicured place that gave off a different vibe than any village I have been to in Bhutan: an unexplainable energy of excitement and innovation. The college was vacant of students who left for summer break and I felt that this wouldn’t be my only visit because I definitely want to observe this place in full action. So Kanglung, I will be returning!
THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Overall, eastern Bhutan was beautiful and different from my home in Chumey, Bumthang. I like the east for many different reasons, but it felt nice to come back to my little village with familiar scenery. I came back appreciating waking up to pretty “Christmas trees,” roadsides of ferns, clear skies, cool air, flat paved roads, no insect bites and my favorite emerald river. Sometimes there is no place like home. I love You, Chumey, Bumthang!
Slideshow of Summer Break in Bhutan