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Published: February 14th 2016
After a day resting I was feeling a bit better so agreed to carry on as planned.
There is only one East/West road and Dendup had been mentioning that this was in the process of being widened so wasn't in great condition in parts - we hadn't realised quite how bad this meant it was but we were soon to find out and realise that we were very lucky being on our own in a Land Cruiser rather than in a bigger group in a bus! The original road, built in the 1960s, is only single track winding around the edge of mountains so there is a government programme to widen it but it's a huge project involving cutting further into the mountainside. Much of the work appears to be done by Indian labourers though there are also Bhutanese and the conditions are pretty grim. They are now required to do most of the work at night because there were so many complaints about them closing the road during the day for hours at a time.
This was our first really long day driving but was much improved for me as I got the front seat! The mountain and
valley views were spectacular, the only problem with the front seat being that you watch the road ahead far more carefully and see every bump, drop and approaching vehicle ranging from tiny cars (how do they survive those roads?) to huge trucks. The road we took had to go over Pelela pass at around 3,400m and then we turned off to go to the Pobjika valley. This is a much wider than others we had been in and very beautiful. As we drove through the valley we spotted a few black-necked cranes and managed to get some pictures. These are visitors to the valley during the winter and, as with all other species, are protected. Because of the cranes, all electricity wires have been put underground in this valley. While the numbers were not quite those of the demoiselle cranes in Kichan they were still wonderful to watch.
We had lunch in a lovely hotel with more great views across the valley. It was a holiday in Bhutan for the Lunar New Year and it is traditional for them to play games of archery or darts....but not as you know it. Some of the staff in the hotel had
started a darts game on the grass outside the restaurant and Aita, our driver, had gone out to join in. Dendup followed him down and after lunch we went to watch. The darts are about 25cm long with large flights and weights and the small target is a painted stone on th ground about 30m away. H had a go and only managed to get it about 2/3 of the way there but they were getting remarkably close and Aita got 2 hits. Dendup was trying to persuade us that he was a really good darts player and would have done much better if he'd had his own darts!
We climbed back out of this valley up to a monastery and where we had a quick walk and then back into the car for the drive to Trongsa in Central Bhutan. The hotel we were staying in was built up the cliff and we had a fantastic view of Trongsa Dzong built on the opposite cliff. It had been a long drive to get there but the views and comfy room made up for it and after my first proper food for a couple of days we went back
to the Scrabble tournament! The first explosion detonated by the road workers that evening really shook me as for a moment as I had no idea what it was - earthquake/plane crash?? But as they continued we got quite used to it.
Sadly we only had one night there and in the morning packed up again. First we visited the dzong which has commanding views across the very narrow valley including a group of 'mountain cows' who appeared to have clambered down an almost vertical face. The New year holiday was continuing and a formal game of darts was going on just above the dzong with all in formal dress. Each time they hit the target they sang a song and did a little dance which from a distance sounded a little like a football chant.
And then we climbed out of the valley and back onto the winding narrow muddy, rocky road to the east.
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