Lost in the land of tranquility-II

by Syeda Nazneen Jahan

Continued from last issue Days three & four

006With our guide Tshering and porter Gasazi, we began our trek from Punakha the next morning around 9:00am. As we walked up the steep mountain trail, we passed small villages, paddy fields, oak and pine forests and flowering Rhododendrons. We realised after a few hours that we had lost our way, but Tshering and Gasazi reassured us that we would be safe.
When we reached Tapshilla Mountain, it started raining heavily. The rain and the mud made our trek uphill very slippery and difficult. This also caused leeches to appear which made things even worse. However, the foliage appeared even more lush and green after the rain.
Around 4:30pm, our guide informed us that we had reached peak of the mountain, which was about 10,000 feet high from the mainland. I found it hard to believe that even after I had broken my legs twice, and six months after my lung operation, I had made it to the peak!
We started downhill to leave the forest before nightfall. Tshering was very tense, as even the birds were not chirping in the dark forest. After an hour and a half, we finally reached another jungle which we were told we have to cross.
We were going to be staying overnight at a red house we could see in the distance which Tshering estimated would take an hour to reach. We walked in pitch darkness, in the mud, alert for sounds of wild boars with only torches in our hands. As we crossed a water channel Tshering and Gasazi made loud noises with their mouths to keep the wild animals at bay. It seemed as though we were on a never ending trail but we persevered past our pain and fatigue. After four hours of walking when we arrived at Mr. Khandu Yanga’s place for the night at 10:00pm, we all were terribly exhausted.
007We freshened up and ate dinner – reddish rice, smashed egg (dim vorta) and Ema Datshi, the national food of Bhutan, prepared with Chili (Ema) and local goat cheese (Datshi). Afterwards, we talked of the day’s adventures late into the night.
Tigers were known to lurk in the jungles that we trekked through that day. My companions and I had thought at different points that maybe we had spotted the tigers but did not want to panic the others, and played their role in protecting the group. Our brave guide and porter guarded us with two huge knives from the front and the back.
At the very beginning of our trek we crossed a prayer wheel, which we turned thrice for luck and to seek protection for our journey.
We slept in late on the fourth day and started out for Samtengang at 11:00am. It was a perfect day for a trek and by 3:00pm we arrived at the quiet amazing Samtengang Lake.
Samtengang is a small town of Wangdue Phodrang district. We walked all through the village surrounded by deep, calm pine forests. Our guide took us to Sergei’s place to stay overnight. The Sergei family happily welcomed us.
On the morning of the fifth day after breakfast, we had a long final stretch downhill towards Chuzom (a small town of Wangdue). We were supposed to reach our destination in half an hour but we got lost after 20 minutes. Trekking through pine forests, shrubs and small jungles we ended up walking and reached the bank of Dang chu River after two and a half hours.
008That was our last trekking point. Till then we had walked nearly 80 kilometres and climbed an altitude of 17,000 feet from the mainland. We bade goodbye to Tshering and Gasazi. Before dusk, we reached Paro by taxi where we checked in by the Paro River.
On our last day at Bhutan, we were too tired to walk. Even though we did not want to miss the renowned Tigers nest (Taktsang monastery). Legend has it that, Guru Rinpoche flew to this site on a tigress’ back to subdue a local demon. Thereafter he meditated here for three months.
The monastery that is located 10 kilometres to the north of Paro and hangs on a precipitous cliff at 10,240 feet, about 3,000 feet above the Paro valley, on the right side of the Paro Chu is one of the most holy places to the people of Bhutan.
All the buildings are interconnected through steps and stairways made in rocks. There are a few rickety wooden bridges along the paths and stairways also to cross over. The temple at the highest level has a frieze of Buddha.
Each building has a balcony, which provides lovely views of the scenic Paro valley down below. On the way to the tiger’s nest there’s also saw a small Lion’s cave in the mountain cliff, which was not as well-known.
After returning home, I longed for the natural scenic beauty I had just left behind – the green forests, the tranquil and clean mountain air with cool flowing streams.

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