Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Out and about for the weekend

After the slow and concerted start we made to writing exams it was something of a shock to discover that the exams had been ‘preponed’ (I do know that that it isn't a real word but Bhutan doesn’t) and all the deadlines moved forward by a couple of weeks. We should already be used to the nonsensical and arbitary administrative decisions that are often made but we weren’t. The elections are the reason for the shift and that of course means silently comply. We frantically did all that was necessary to meet the new deadlines but when we discovered that our holidays no longer match up and we probably won’t be able to travel anywhere I hit rock bottom!

As usual the only pick me up that came to mind was take a break and go somewhere now! Armed with fresh coffee from a recent package arrival and chocolate from a local source, as well as a few other treats we took ourselves to beautiful Bartsham.

We escaped from school as soon as possible on Saturday and went downtown to look for a ride. Unlike last time we decided that we were not going to stand around forever. After momos for lunch I saw a taxi and asked and he gave me an inflated reserved price and I just accepted and decided that given it is a bit more than $10 for 2 of us it is fine. We got to the gates of my school and picked up 2 other teachers there, even though he would have driven right past them and had already done exactly that to another potential customer in that short distance.  We said to pick them up and then further down the road another man jumped in and then 3 nuns in their Buddhist robes joined us too. The idea that no-one wants to go to Trashigang on Saturday afternoon is obviously a fallacy.  When we got there the others, with the exception of the nuns, contributed the usual fare and we still paid over the odds but it sure beat the crazy waiting around and hoping and their contributions brought the price down for us. 

We bee-lined to the photo shop and ordered up all the prints I wanted for the photography club and then had a quick scoot around to see if any of the little luxuries we were hoping to take with us were available but both the shops we wanted were closed so we took the first taxi we saw that was heading for Bartsham and it took off within 15 minutes of me spotting it. That gave us enough time to find some alternative treats to take to Julian and Shauna and we were loaded into the front of the 4-wheel drive with an English speaking driver and a full load of passengers and luggage crammed into the 2 rows of 3 seats behind us.

Ian texted Julian as soon as we took off and before we even got to the turn off from the "black top" everyone on board knew who we were and where we were going and most were also acquainted with Madam Shauna and Julian Sir.

We thought that it would take 2 hours but is was only a little over one and most of the route was unsurfaced and therefore we were travelling at an even slower pace than usual. 30kms per hour max and still bumping and jostling around inside the cabin. Before we even got to see the main street we were unceremoniously dumped on the roadside below Julian and Shauna's place and we started clambering up the hill with our backpacks, quilt, bakery items, juice, boxes of muesli, some fresh asparagus and a good amount of good cheer. 

Bartsham is like a fairytale village. It is so pretty and so quiet and friendly that you could be forgiven for thinking that you have travelled back in time. There are huge peaks all around it and even in what seemed perfectly clear conditions we were told that there were still higher peaks hiding in the clouds and they are still snow covered! We reveled in the cooler air and the spectacular views, as it has been so hot in Rangjung for the last few days. After dumping our stuff in Julian and Shauna’s gorgeous renovated house, we took advantage of the remaining light to do a brief tour of the town and even met a couple of the locals doing likewise. We enjoyed the smallness and the views immensely, but mostly we settled in for a good chinwag and a few beers. It was nice to laugh again after what has been the most stressful week thus far in Bhutan. 

It was so nice to wake up on Sunday knowing that we had the whole day before us and we could really relax. A real weekend after what seems and eternity of endless commitments!  We took off for a walk after a great breakfast and a chat with one of the neighbours and her gorgeous little baby girl. We were told that we were going to do a circuit around the mountain top chorten and up to a ridge and then down to the local temple and Shauna's school. I am sure for J & S it wasn't even a hike but we found some stretches quite difficult and needed a couple of ridge top rests and time to catch our breath. We stopped at a family home for tea and then again at Shauna's principal’s place for a few beers before finally getting back at some time after 5pm.

The bath scenes are from that family home and the second one is to show the setting. Amazing! We could hear those girls squealing with delight as we approached. Once we were home again the neighbours and kids dropped by again and out came the drinks so it was quite the party. 

Monday morning we headed off in a taxi that Julian and Ian booked the night before and we didn't have to reserve the whole vehicle but just paid the usual rate for our 2 seats at 8am. Once we were in T/gang we ordered up another round of photos for the Bartsham crew, did a bit more shopping, paid the rent, and the internet fees and both got haircuts. I went to the barber that Ian has been to a few times and he did a pretty good job. I even took the last of the dye I had so I feel so much better about the way it looks now. Deepak the barber was chuffed to get the business and even called today to see if I was happy with the result as there are no washing facilities and one must go home and shampoo the dye out for one’s self. I wasn’t overly concerned about taking the public bus with the dye still in and a heap of shopping and luggage but our luck was with us on this occasion.

We had spotted the man that lives downstairs from us as we arrived in Trashigang that morning and gave him a wave. To our surprise just as we were thinking that we would get momos for lunch he spotted us and offered us a lift home! We jumped at the chance and we piled into his car with all our awkward collection of luggage and shopping just after midday. It was therefore somewhat different from our last run into T/gang and back as far as the transport was concerned. 

If all else fails we might be able to repeat the journey to beautiful Bartsham in our shared week of holidays or else we might be content to stay at home and see who comes out east to visit us!!

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