Thursday, December 23, 2010

Travel TidBits: Mist over the Mountains of Bhutan

Beyond the grey, there are mountains, the high mountains of the Himalayas. On a clear day, mount Jomolhari with its massive 24,000 feet peaks and the remote Lingshi Dzong would be spotted. But today, dripping in the mist, all sounds are muffled, only the windshield wipers swoosh is ever present. The thick mist hangs in the valleys, filling all space.

The world in the rain is quiet, and my thoughts meander to the sights that I have seen so far and to the unknown places ahead. Bhutan has welcomed me and even on a grey day, it’s magic pulls me in.

The road chiseled into the mountain side is a one lane road and Pemba, my driver, maneuvers the curves with ease. Looking out of the window, the mountainside drops off steep into the valley invisible in the mist. I am thankful for those stretches with guard rails – without it one misstep could be disastrous. Traffic is minimal but the huge trucks coming up from India bringing goods to the villages fill the road and it seems like a delicate dance getting by. I send prayers into the mist for safe passage for all of us.
Then out of the mist we see the rhododendrons blooming on the slope above. I had read about them – so unexpected in these mountains at an altitude of more than 10,000 ft. But they strive in misty climates and bloom in red, white and a soft pink. What a pleasure to spot them on this misty and rainy day.

The mist seems to lift at times and in those moments, I can see the road that is now on the steep mountain side, the next village far below.

As we descend yet again into the valley where the villages hug the banks of the streams and rivers, we are greeted by another chorten, the ubiquitous stone monuments that are places of worship. Many are adorned with prayer wheels and prayer flags.

It’s a wonderful custom to greet the traveler with a steaming cup of tea warming up the body and soul. It’s offered on arrival. How refreshing it must have been in past decades for those travelers who came on foot with their pack animals, enduring the roughness of the mountains and unpredictability of the weather.

I am thankful for easier travel today but still relish in the warmth not only of the offered tea but the warm welcome that I experienced all through Bhutan.

If my travel TidBits sound intriguing to you,