The nomads living in the high mountains of Northwest Bhutan were very fascinating and friendly. They move with the seasons tending their yak herds and making yak butter and cheese. But their way of life is threatened by a strange caterpillar. You can read the reasons why if you click the image below of a nomad in her home at over 13,000 feet in the Himalayan Mountains.
We left our lodge in the early morning fog for a leisurely few hour hike along the Phobjikha Valley to the site of the Black-necked Crane Festival. The festival is held every November 11 at the Gangte Goemba to celebrate the arrival of the black-necked cranes to the valley where they spend the winter before returning to their breeding grounds in Tibet. The goemba is a Buddhist monastery built originally in 1613. It sits overlooking this broad and beautiful valley on a forested hillside in central Bhutan.
I made the photo below four weeks ago as the sun broke through the trees.
Further along, as the trail began to merge with a dusty, bumpy road, a local vehicle rattled by carrying its passengers to the festival.
Inside the monastery where the festival was held, we joined a friendly crowd and watched performers and mask dancers in joyous celebration.
We saw the cranes, but only at a very far distance. Approaching these much-endangered birds was not permitted. The photo at the left is of a model inside the crane information center which has high-quality, powerful telescopes to observe the birds.
In the afternoon the festival turns into a giant flea-market. This provides a unique opportunity for the people in this somewhat-isolated valley to purchase goods from Timphu, India, and beyond. Less than half of them have cars.
Tired but happy, I took a photo of the valley from near the now-deserted monastery.
As we walk away from the festival I got a photo of our very knowledgeable and extremely dedicated guide, Lakey. He is also an enthusiastic photographer.
Back in my room in our lodge, I got an evening photo of the valley out the window.
Less than a week ago I returned from a wonderful 24 days in Bhutan. It is a marvelous country with extremely friendly people. Our trip was choreographed by Dhamey Norgay of Noble Traveler. In my opinion, he is the only person one need consider when planning a trip to Bhutan. The dedication he showed to making our trip a phenomenal experience was amazing.
So why am I posting a photo of a nomad’s hut as my first image from the trip? Because I found the nomads fascinating, cheerful, and very friendly. Plus their way of life is likely to disappear in 10 to 20 years for a surprising reason that I will detail in a later blog.
We first met this nomad along the trail late morning. He was heading in the opposite direction searching for a party that was lost. We were partly through a tiring 10-hour hike over several passes at around 12,000 feet. After lunch we reached the nomad’s hut. He had already found the lost party and got them heading along the proper trail. How did a nomad living far from anywhere even know to look for them? It seems that in Bhutan they have much better cell phone coverage than in the Upper Valley.
You can zoom into the photo above, pan around, and explore. Can you find the nomad’s cell phone? In the photo below you can see a small photovoltaic array resting on a piece of a tree on his roof. What more could a person need?
It was a beautiful day, though a bit foggy — wonderful for photos — and the hour of heavy rain was at most a brief distraction. Lee Carvalho led a group of 10 hikers up SRK Greenway Trail 10 from Proctor to Winslow State Park. All misjudged the length and steepness of the last mile, but all enjoyed the hike — at least I did.
The light was great on the drive to the meeting place, so I got some photos, including this one along Route 11.
While waiting for the group to assemble to carpool down to Proctor, I made this photo of Ragged Mountain.
We saw several cellar holes and two impressive old chimneys. We took a detour to beautiful Morey Pond seen below with Mount Kearsarge in the background in fog.
After the hike I bought an apple fritter at the Blackwater gas station — a ritual for me — then took some photos in North Wilmot on the way home. Here is Kimpton Brook.
Please enjoy the slide show that follows.