Day 341 - Robin Hoods

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June 8th 2007
Published: August 10th 2007
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After a mostly inedible rural breakfast we visited another dzong - we’re basically up for anything when it comes to trying the native food of places we visit, but lately it has been defeating us. This dzong was similar to the others we’d already seen and we were kind of losing our interest in their uniqueness compared to buildings in other countries. The reason we came to look around this particular one was that the person who built it observed 4 ravens flying in 4 different directions, and this clearly auspicious moment was taken to be a good omen for building a dzong on the same site.

After this we drove back to Thimpu for one of the main events of our trip to Bhutan. Archery is Bhutan’s national sport but they have never won an Olympic medal. We speculated on reasons for this and the main two are that it’s only a tiny country and that in Bhutan competitions are over 150m rather than the international standard of 70m. However we suspect that the very nice and very un-macho character of the Bhutanese means they lack the competitive spirit needed to win gold; sticking to the 150m competitions could generously be viewed as sticking to traditions, or cynically viewed as retaining an excuse for not doing very well on the world stage in their national sport. Anyway we headed off to an ‘archery pitch’, decided the full 150m might be a bit beyond us and so placed the ridiculously small targets about 80m apart. These targets are about a foot in diameter and we were using bamboo and string bows, so we weren’t holding out much hope of hitting them. It was excellent fun until our fingers felt like they were going to fall off, and it was a pretty similar experience to playing golf - as soon as you think you’re mastering it with some good shots you suddenly go back to being rubbish. Gemma shot straight but tended to fall short, Ed shot the distance but accuracy was all over the place (including one lost arrow - again just like golf). If only we could combine our talents. Sonam our guide was obviously much better than us and it was very impressive when he actually hit the target, albeit just the once.

Once we’d seen for ourselves how difficult it is, we went to the city’s main archery field where the government workers, who don’t work as hard as the country folk, while away their afternoons in competitions. They had thoroughly modern and expensive looking composite bows, and it was quite some sight seeing how fast and straight their arrows flew. But even they hardly ever hit the targets. We were quite pleased about this last fact though because when they hit the target that’s the cue for a rather camp and lamely done team dance and sing-a-long.

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