The Road to Phobjikha
Yesterday, we drove 7+ hours, over a 10000 foot pass then down to a valley at 4000 feet, then back up over another 11,000 foot pass to the Phobjikha valley at 9700 feet.
Along the way, we stopped and went into a little settlement of shanties where road workers live. Tenzin chatted with an old woman in her tiny living room. Her walls were papered with newspaper to keep the wind out. It was extremely primitive, makeshift housing while the men were out building the road.
A couple of hours later, we stopped at a little town and went shopping for vegetables in a roadside market with vendors in little shacks beside the road.
Then, a little farther on, we visited a little village of old houses. This was very picturesque. We went into the house of the headman and talked to his wife, who was preparing fiddlehead ferns, which are currently in season. She gave us some homemade rice wine, which was not too powerful. The village is built into a hillside, so the pathways were steep, with steps in places. The setting is beautiful, with terraced rice paddies leading down to a bend in the river. Across the river, high on a hill is a monastery.
Then we drove and drove up into the mountains, the road winding along valleys and over passes. One valley was covered in pine trees, then the next would be broadleaf trees, then rhodedendrons as we got higher. The road was built only about ten years ago, and is currently being paved. We were warned that it would be a rough dirt track, but they are making good progress. It was almost all new asphalt. Tenzin had been through here three weeks ago and he said it was greatly improved in that short time.
Finally, up and over the last pass and down into the Phobjikha Valley, a high altitude wetland where black necked cranes spend the winters. About 5000 farmers live here growing potatoes and raising a few cattle and yaks. We are staying in a tented camp because of the shortage of hotel rooms. Our tent is comfortable and heated. It gets down into the 30s at night. The folks who run this place are extremely attentive. They put hot water bottles in our bed at night.