Wednesday, July 17, 2013

BCF Summer Retreat and Tharpa Ling

At the very start of our summer holidays, Bhutan Canada Foundation hosted a three day retreat for all of us teachers at the River Lodge in Chamkar, just 40 minutes up the road for us. For some of the others this was at least one days travel, if not more, and many of the teachers we hadn’t seen since early February when we all went our separate ways.

To say I was excited to see them all is an understatement! And Remy had been saying for two weeks ‘I can’t wait any wonger!’. The first evening of our get together was a big party, catered beautifully by the River Lodge girls (on another post I will show you how to make ‘puta’ buckwheat noodles that Yeshi taught me before everyone arrived). But the host with the most was Mark, a friend who has lived on and off in Bhutan for 20 something years since his days as a volunteer teacher in the far east. He arrived with Nancy, the BCF director with a fridge full of imported wine and spirits, cheese and salami and crackers, coffee and bagels – you can’t imagine!

The first of us to arrive - the Chisholms and Colin and Lee with his puppy Chiang-Lu.


We danced and enjoyed ourselves til late, but were up early and in my case a bit worse for wear for the trip to Tang Valley. We have done this trip a couple of times already but as it is some of the most beautiful scenery in Bhutan we happily went again, first stopping at Membartsho and then continuing on up the valley to Ugyen Choling Palace.

Senge meditating at Membartsho.

Some of us walked part of the way to Ugyen Choling and Sarah had a go at helping a family with their threshing!

Ashi Kunzang Choden, who grew up in this former palace spoke to us of the history of the place and afterwards hosted an amazing buffet lunch of Bhutanese favourite dishes. It was so satisfying to sit on the rustic fence with our far-flung friends enjoying such a delicious feast and awesome view. Thank you BCF for arranging to bring us all together and giving us the opportunity to have such a lovely day!


Our retreat was over in a flash and we were all in a flurry to head in different directions across the country. Those who live west travelled east, those who live east travelled west as we did. But before leaving we enjoyed a couple of days locally to show our friends the beauty of Bumthang.

Our first adventure was to Tharpa Ling Monastery, about 40 mins from Chumey, high on a mountainside. We hadn’t been there before and had been waiting for an opportunity like this to go with a group of friends. Our friend Senge-la – a British BCF teacher and ordained Buddhist monk planned to go there to stay for a few days of his holiday so it was nice to accompany him and wish him well.

Bob, Senge, Sarah, Matt and Lucy approached Tharpa Ling from the Chamkar side and trekked up the hill, while Heather, her husband Rob who was visiting from Canada, Xavier, Remy and I took a taxi from Chumey. Bob was crazy enough to carry his bike up the mountain with help from Matt as he was looking forward to the 14km downhill ride on the other side. I know for sure that Sarah thought he was absolutely crazy to attempt it, and even Bob had moments of wondering what he’d got himself into.

The roof of Tharpa Ling as we climbed higher on the hill.

Heather and the boys walking.

Wild Asters growing by the path.

Rob very kindly carried Remy most of the way.


As they ascended one side of the mountain, we were also climbing the 30 minutes or so above Tharpa Ling to the crest of the mountain, Remy riding on Rob’s shoulders, and can you believe that at the very moment we peered over the peak, there was Bob, Senge, Matt, Lucy and Sarah arriving at the same time! So perfect! Bob was exhilarated after the climb with his bike, and we were both keen to see the view down the other side of the mountain – we could see all the way down to Chamkar and they were looking down on the monastery.

He felt pretty good to have made it to the top!

Senge played around offering Bob a prayer flag like a sacred white scarf.

Matt built up a sweat helping carry Bob's bike to the top!

Sarah, Matt and Remy at the top.

This walk was good training for Xavier for climbing Taktsang the following week.

View from the top down to Chamkar.


We had a picnic under the prayer flags at the top of the mountain below a shrine and then continued down to look at the monastery and leave Senge at his new home for the start of his holiday.

Xavier walking back with Lucy.



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