Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunday Trip to Lhuentse

Saturday after school and shopping, I returned home to no water, no hydro, no internet. I wanted to go for a walk, but it was pouring with rain. I was feeling rather lonely and sorry for myself. I phoned my buddy Sonam, who came and picked me up to take me to her friend Chimi's place. Both of them are young women in their mid-twenties, but I seem to share more in common with them than any one else so far. Sonam is a reporter for BBS and Chimi is a high school teacher.

Chimi's mum, Dema, was also visiting from Bhumtang, as well as "Auntie" and her little daughter. Dema is the widow of a Rinpoche, and very religious. She wanted to make a trip to Lhuentse too see a statue of Guru Rinpoche which is being constructed. They invited me along for the trip. I was thrilled to be able to see more of the country.

I was rather nervous as we set off Sunday morning, because it had rained a lot, and the road between Mongar and Lhuentse is famous for landslides. Also, Dema and Chimi would be driving, and I had no idea about their skills. I prefer to put my life in the hands of a professional driver.

The scenery was beautiful. The road follows the Kuru Chu (river) all the way. At times we were down beside the river, while at other times we were high above the river, zigzagging along the side of the mountain. The river has some real whitewater canoeing possibilities, but there are no boats here. They also don't fish, because that do not kill animals. I think I already explained that any meat comes from India.

We drove through a couple of small villages, with a slolum course of animals to dodge: dogs (lots), cows, goats, donkeys, and chickens were hanging around in the middle of the road.

Then we encountered signs which warned us to watch for "shooting stones". Sure enough, there were quite a few boulders to dodge. The we came to this one, which was holding up traffic:

There are so many road problems in that area, they keep a bulldozer nearby. It was there within 15 minutes, and took seconds to push the boulder off the edge. Then we were on our way again. I've realized that one must always carry food, drink, toilet paper and a cellphone in case of a lengthy road blockage.

Further down the road, we stopped for a picnic. I had contributed pancakes, boiled eggs, clementines and juice. They had brought rice, cooked seaweed (gross), curried eggs and tea. I particularly appreciated the tea.

Here is Sonam, Dema, Chimi, a cute little girl whose name I don't remember, and Auntie (who looks for Mayan to me).

While we were in Lhuentse, we dropped in to visit Keira, and had tea with her. She was very happy to see us, because she had been having the same kind of sad day that I had had. Keira lives in teacher housing on the school property and shares her place with two young Bhutanese women. They are very shy, but they really look after Keira, dressing her in the morning, and cooking for her.

We drove an hour on a muddy sideroad to see the progress of the giant statue of Guru Rinpoche. There was no work going on at that time, but a man let us inside the pyramid-like base to see the model they are copying. While we were in there, all dark and spooky with no electricity, there was a huge clap of thunder which added immensely to the atmosphere.

We only almost died twice on the trip: Once when another vehicle came around a hairpin turn straight at us, and we almost went over the edge, and a second time when we skidded in the mud, and almost went careening over the edge sideways. No one else in the vehicle seemed concerned, and thought it was funny that I was scared. We did the last two hours in the dark, which was also a bit nerve-racking.

Despite that, it was a very enjoyable day. I didn't feel sad or lonely any more.

Hey, I think I've got this photo thing worked out!

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