Monday, April 15, 2013

'Dreamy'

Last Sunday morning I woke from a dream where I found myself suddenly home in Australia. I started crying as I wasn’t ready to have left Bhutan. It was interesting to wake up from that dream and realise that while at times we daydream about our Gold Coast life, we are committed to being here for the duration of the year – to experience to the full our opportunity in Bhutan.

And by coincidence, the FMS photo-a-day prompt for Sunday was ‘Dreamy’. I contemplated what type of photo I might be able to take to capture the idea of ‘Dreamy’ and decided any photo I could take of a Bhutanese landscape would fit the bill, particularly when you consider that we spent all of last year at home dreaming of Bhutan and find ourselves here living the dream now. I still have those pinch-myself moments when I think – am I really here?
This image is the 'Bhutan of my dreams'.
 

We had arranged with Mr Tandin, an English teacher at school to go for a day trip to Ura Valley. Bumthang, the region where we live has four valleys – Chumey Valley, Tang Valley, Choekor Valley and Ura Valley. In the short time we’ve been here we have explored the first three so Ura was top on our list for a weekend day trip. A couple of weeks ago we saw an interesting travel show on BBS (Bhutan Broadcasting Service) in English and the host travelled to Ura so we saw for ourselves how beautiful it was: green and alive – it  must have been filmed in summer.

A couple of kilometres down the road towards Chamkar there is a turn off to a new road to Ura, a short cut, so from studying google maps it  looked to be a pleasant 40km drive. It turns out that road is not completed yet, and so when Mr Tandin offered to take us he knew he was in for the drive the long way around – 150kms return – and this is not highway driving but winding round the mountains driving, although the road was all paved.
Just a few kms down the road, this village is lower than Chumey and is brilliantly green.
 

We set off at 10am and did the trip to Chamkar (also known as Jakar) which is becoming very familiar and seems to be faster every time we go. From there we headed in the direction of Tang, but where the Tang road veers off on its rocky dusty unpaved way, we continued on. The scenery was beautiful as we climbed higher on the road, passing the occasional small village which Mr Tandin was able to name and describe for us, but mostly we saw glimpses of snowy mountains in the distance and trees such as pine, spruce, poplar, willow, walnut, fir and the famous rhododendron with gorgeous red flowers.
Family photo enroute to Ura. Remy didn't let go of his 3D glasses all day!
 
Fragrant bush that was growing all along the roadside with pretty yellow flowers.

Potato field with little hut: at night farmers sleep in the huts to keep wild animals away from their crops.

We stopped frequently for photo opportunities and to have a breath of fresh air and stretch our legs. About half way we produced our picnic supplies – tea and the muesli bars I made – and sat by the road with a lovely vantage of the Himalayas touching the clouds.
 
Roadside picnic #1

Roadside picnic #2 'Look at those Himalayas!'
Roadside picnic #3 :Tea and muesli bars.
 

The boys grew restless for the last leg to Ura, so it was a relief to arrive and get out at a little restaurant for lunch. They provided a wonderful spread of fresh food made from local ingredients – homemade wheat noodles (chewy like udon), matsutake mushrooms with chilli and cheese (shamu datsi), dal, rice and crunchy baked potatoes. It was as good as any meal we’ve had in Bhutan – and if it wasn’t so far away I’d want to go back there regularly!



A cosy place for lunch.

Remy was happy to have this little guy sit next to him during lunch.

 Cute artwork above the restaurant door - a 3D woodcut.

View down to Ura from restaurant window.

Typical Bhutanese house next to the restaurant.


We drove a little further down to Ura village and then walked up through the village to the Lhakang (temple). We commented on how lovely it was that Ura’s houses were all clustered together joined by dirt paths and roads, far off the main road, unlike Chumey which is built along the main road and doesn’t have the same atmosphere. We saw a couple of blossom trees in pink splendour, but mostly the warmth of spring is yet to bring Ura into full bloom. Even the willow trees that are quite lush with foliage now in Chumey were only sprouting the first green buds, so it goes to show that Ura is considerably colder than where we are (which is saying something as we feel Chumey is colder than most places we know of in Bhutan!).
 
We saw some impressive scarecrows during the day dressed up in ghos.

 
The impressive blue feather on a bird we see often here (can't remember name right now??).

Walking through Ura.

Large farmhouse in Ura.

Firewood was stacked so neatly outside houses to create a high fence.
 
 

The Lhakang was impressively large at the top of the village, and built around the 1800s. Mr Tandin said there were some beautiful statues inside, so he sent a child to find the key. After waiting a while in the late afternoon chill and still no key had arrived we decided to move on. Hopefully once the connection road is completed we will be able to come back to Ura again, maybe for their Tsechu (festival), or in summer to see the verdant fields.
 
Approaching Ura Lhakang.

An impressive sight - Ura Lhakang.

View of Ura from the Lhakang. Top points if you can work out what is hanging from the eaves.

 
 

The boys and I felt sleepy in the back seat for the return drive, but the interesting conversation continued. We stopped in Chamkar and took the second opportunity in two days to stock up on fruit and vegetables (we never know when we might get back, and the bananas were so good the day before that we ate the whole bunch!). We even bought a bunch of plump asparagus which is in season right now and a pomegranate, a treat we all enjoy.

Mr Tandin generously took us to the fancy bakery for a snack to keep us going for the last leg. The selection of cakes is impressive and they tasted as good as they looked. Xavier and Bob chose a chocolate ‘swiss roll’ type cake and I went for the same, but made with buckwheat flour. Both were delicious. Mmmm, look forward to return there soon!
 
These cakes tasted as good as they looked!

This one's for Nana - he still loves a special treat!
 
Jakar Dzong overlooks the town of Chamkar.
 

When we arrived home it was nearly dark, 6.30pm. Soon we received a call from Karma, our contact at BCF in Thimphu who helps us out in a variety of ways. We had heard he would be coming through Chumey with a tour group so had asked him to do some shopping for us in one of the modern supermarkets in Thimphu: 3 kg of sultanas, three packets of cocoa (now I have worked out I can make chocolate brownies in our oven I don’t want to run out of the essential ingredient!) and dried apricots. Ok, not essentials, but things that add a bit of flavour to our life. Thanks Karma!!!

We were all worn out, but full of happy memories of our trip to Ura.

A postscript – it has taken a week to post this blog as we had used up our internet quota for the month (could be my fault!) and the only way to recharge is to go to Chamkar in person to pay the bill. For us that means hiring a taxi for the return trip (approx  1000nu) while the bill itself is only 400nu. In the end Bob found someone who could pay the bill in person for us.
PPS - It turned out it was not only that we hadn't paid our bill but that somehow our password had been changed and that's why it didn't work. Even since the problem has been fixed I have also been trying for hours to work on this blog and upload it but the internet has been going sooooo sloooowwwww - just so you know!
 

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