Saturday morning we loaded up into Dordgie’s van and embarked on a three hour drive, north to Punakha. We climbed up into the mountains, gliding over the smooth, paved switchbacks that quickly became rough as our elevation increased, passing cows even still, pushing up into the clouds and reaching the pass. The roads had cats’ eyes. We got out to look at the place where 180 stuppas are, commissioned by the fourth king. The clouds obscured our view of anything beyond 100 feet, and misted on us for a time.
Back down the other side of the ridge, onward we twisted.
We passed massive juniper and cypress trees, and the lower we went, the thicker the jungle became. We descended below the cloud layer, and got a bit warmer, the clouds sliding after us down the mountain like diaphanous cable cars. Moss covered the trees, the vines, everything. The stone and concrete walls became plush, fuzzy green barriers that harbored dancing streams of clean water rushing to the valleys below. Cows were here too, though festooned with leaches and fresh, bloody wounds here from. Lower still we began to see people again, an occasional roadside fruit or vegetable stand. Amazingly, we still were a couple thousand feet above the valley below, and we were given nearly 360 degree views as we wound around rocky outcrops and crept down past banana trees, vine-covered trees, and increasingly common dense grasses.
Finally near the bottom, we spotted our first destination, Chimi Lakhang Monastery in the valley. We peeled off the road and had lunch at the Chimi Lakhang Cafeteria. We passed several wall murals on the way; these are prominently displayed to ward off evil spirits, promote virility and good luck. As all places we ate, we got a buffet lunch (party of nine!), and quite enjoyed it.
After lunch we walked across the valley and up a slight rise to the Monastery, giving the children a chance to burn off extra energy and taking in the beautiful landscape.
Our drive in the afternoon took us to a hotel on the side of a mountain (since there is so little flat land in Bhutan, everything seems to be on the side of a mountain unless it’s a river…and even then…), where we settled in, played cards for a time and had dinner. A relaxing day.