Kapoors Year 8: Scotland/India/Bhutan travel blog

As We Climbed Out Of The Bumthang Valley The Clouds Disappeared And...

Four Hours Later We Were High In The Mountains Again, And The...

We Stopped To View A Roadside Shrine, I Was Surprised To See...

There Were Several Paintings Of The Buddha And Some Mythical Animals

However, It Was The Demon Face That Lingered In My Mind As...

Yet Again, The Vegetation Changed, It Looks Like There Was Some Reforestation...

We Stopped For A Meal And A Bio Break, Afterwards I Noticed...

A Closer Look Uncovered Three Men Carrying Very Large Loads Of Straw

There Were Yaks Scattered All Over The Hillsides, This Mother And Her...

We Turned Off The Main West To East Highway, And After Crossing...

This Structure Reminded Me Of A Stupa, But Was Made With Strings...

As Noted In My Previous Entry, We Crossed A High Pass And...

This Stupa-Like Structure Near The Summit Was Constructed Using Strings Of Prayer...

Nearby Was This More Typical Solid Chorten, Both Places To Send Prayers...

Our Driver Dropped Us Off Near A Clearing At The Top Of...

Minutes Later We Came Upon A Group Of Students On A Mission...

After Passing Through Some Natural Forests We Began To Come Across Small...

At The Edge Of One Village We Saw Some People Building A...

Wooden Doors And Window Frames Are Added, And Later An Exterior Finish,...

We Continued Through The Forests, Following The Convenient Signposts Along The Way

Walking Was Easy As There Was Little Undergrowth, But The Moss On...

After An Hour Of Hiking, We Came To A Viewpoint, We Could...

And Down In The Valley Floor, Groups Of The Migratory Black-Necked Cranes

It Was Great To Get Out And Stretch Our Legs After So...

The Scenery Was Lovely, The Breezes Light, And The Sun Warm On...

Looking Ahead, We Could See A Small Monastery In The Distance, Just...

The Valley Floor Was Soggy, We Appreciated The Wooden Boards Laid Down...

I Asked Anil To Turn For A Photo, We Were Both So...

Oops! The Wooden Path Was Still Under Construction And Now We Had...

I Loved The Colours And Varieties Of Materials Used To Construct This...

Our Driver Picked Us Up One We Were On Solid Ground Again...

It Was Perched High On The Opposite Side Of The Valley, A...

The Next Morning, We Stopped At The Visitor Centre To Get More...

We Were Able To View The Cranes Through Telescopes Set Up For...


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BACKGROUND

Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet website has to say about Gangtey and the Phobjikha Valley:

The Phobjikha Valley, a designated conservation area, borders Black Mountain National Park. This is one of the most isolated gompas in Bhutan; there's no telephone and no electricity (to protect wildlife). This beautiful valley is home to the rare Black-Necked Cranes, which migrate from the Tibetan plateau to escape the harsh winter.

About 200 to 300 cranes live in this valley and the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) is taking every measure to ensure their protection. During the four to five months that the cranes are in residence over winter, the villagers are not allowed to make loud noises or fish in the river that runs into the valley.

There are two rivers that flow through this valley; it is said that the rivers represent a serpent and a boar. According to legend, there was a race between the two to determine whether people can grow rice in the valley or not. If the serpent won then the people could grow rice, but if the boar won, then rice could never be cultivated. Eventually the serpent lost and till now, rice is not grown in the Phobjikha Valley.

The road to Phobjikha diverges from the main road and then it’s a 1.5km drive through forests to the Lowa La Pass (3,360m). After the pass, the trees disappear and the scenery switches dramatically to low-lying dwarf bamboo as the road descends to the Gangtey village. The road switches back and forth, down past extensive russet-coloured fields of potatoes. Gangte potatoes are the region's primary cash crop and one of Bhutan's important exports to India.

The valley is snowbound during the height of winter and many of the valley's 4,700 residents, including the monks, shift to winter residences in Wangdue Phodrang during December and January, just as the cranes move in to take their place.

Black-Necked Crane Information Centre

Visitors should stop at the Royal Society for Protection of Nature’s (RSPN) Black-Necked Crane Information Centre , which has informative displays about the cranes and the valley environment. There are powerful spotting scopes and pamphlets titled ‘Field Guide to Crane Behaviour’, that help to identify the birds.

This is also the centre of the valley’s fledgling ecotourism initiative, and staff can arrange mountain-bike hires, local guides, an overnight stay in a farmhouse or lectures on the valley ecosystem. If the weather’s iffy, there’s a library and handicraft shop, and/or videos to watch.

KAPOORS ON THE ROAD

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