A roaring river, a clay path, a broken bridge and a place to get to. The river is a typical Bhutanese river, full with the snow melt from higher up the Himalayas. The water is rushing over rocks and stones in the river bed, pouring down the mountain slopes to join the big rivers of India. A clear turquoise in one section, and in another a dark green. The Bhutanese call their rivers male and female, the strong turbulent water is the male and it makes for exciting white-water rafting.
The clay path is like so many in this small kingdom, packed down with the passage of many feet. Its level and dry in the Spring and Autumn. Its quite comfortable to walk along, sometimes flanked by flat fields and at other times rising up the slopes to temples and houses.
The broken bridge was really a bridge that needed some attention, some planks were missing and some cracked. It just so happened that to continue on our walk we needed to cross the river by the bridge. Now I’m one for a bit of adventure laced with some caution. So I sent the guide across the bridge to test its worthiness and then convinced the group to make a human chain so the more senior folk could have a helping hand across. I think the seniors were more willing to give it a go, than the younger more timid group members. To get those last few across I reminded them lunch was at the end of the walk and that was over the bridge. It wasn’t quite carrots before a mule, more like hot chilli sauce on rice before a reluctant tourist.
Once across the river it was an easy stroll through the pastures and along the river bank to our destination. One marvellous thing about Bhutan is its fresh air. You can get the hint of smoke from the houses dotted about but mostly it is that crisp clean air you find in the mountains. Usually on such a stroll we will encounter locals going about their business. At first they look like moving hay stacks. The ladies have strapped to their backs these huge bundles which eclipse their heads and spread wide across their bodies. I have never tried to lift one but I imagine that they are a lot heavier than they look. The Bhutanese are a hardy people and trot along the paths as if they are practicing for a 10km run.
We also come across house construction and find ladies walking up narrow planks with loads of mud which they trample into place, creating the walls of the buildings. These walls are later painted white and decorated with huge images. The windows and roof are wooden and quite solid.
Inside, the rooms are large and community living is encouraged. The most decorated room is the holy room and I’ve seen these covered in coloured silk swathes and hangings. Inside the light is not very strong and the smoke from the fire stains the walls.
Passing these houses and people we reach our picnic spot. The driver and his assistant have already warmed the food and made the tea. So its time to spread out in the sun and enjoy the warmth of Bhutanese hospitality.
Mandy has been a tour leader with Tours Direct for over 15 years. She has a wealth of experience and never gets tired of travelling to old and new destinations.