Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Haa – A Photo Essay

There are 2 options for road travel to and from Haa and both offer spectacular views.

The roadsides and valleys were awash with irises at this time of year,

and a joy to behold both close up and from a distance.

Chelela is the highest road pass in Bhutan and we had a 5- minute window of opportunity to glimpse the Haa valley below from the top before the clouds completely obscured our view.

Undeterred by the vanishing view, I applied myself to the mission of flying a new string of prayer flags at the top while Ian waited patiently in the car.

The windy conditions and crystal clear air more than compensated for the disappearance of the views,

…which reappeared intermittently as we descended anyway.

The main street is a sleepy row of general stores and parking space is easy to come by…..

…… as is the laid back lifestyle and a sense of friendly camaraderie among the locals.

Summer is certainly the perfect time to visit Haa as it is the season for blooms…….

……. and brilliant blue skies.

Winter on the other hand must be extremely chilly as the as the ever-growing stockpiles of wood verify.

When we made our booking to visit Haa during the Summer Festival we weren’t aware that hiking wouldn’t be an option.

Wandering slowly around town certainly provided entertainment enough for us, and confirmation that traditional culture is alive and well way out west.

Some of the best examples of freshly painted Buddhist motifs were to be found on the newly completed rammed earth buildings, we are now very familiar with. This one is on a building, for which we saw the foundations being rammed on our first visit to Haa last September.

I was surprised that the raven crown is also a symbol, which appears on noticeboards and signposts in abundance throughout the town, when I have hardly ever noticed it before. This example is the finial on the entrance gate to Gongzim Ugyen Dorji Higher Secondary School.

The thirst generated by our afternoon walk was more than adequately taken care of by our host in this little family style restaurant.

The locals were thrilled to see us and keen to communicate too, even if it did mean using only gestures and the topic of conversation was always Ian’s injury.

The best local use for the bright sunshine of the summer season is drying meat to hoard for the long, cold, winter months ahead and there was an interesting variety of hanging spots utilized.

With a new dzong under construction and the beautifully maintained ancient one currently housing IMTRAT (the Indian Military Training Team) this magnificent structure is the Ha Namgayling Dzong.

So wherever the wind may blow us next year and beyond, we certainly hope that this will not be our final visit to the sensationally beautiful Haa Valley. A small part of me hopes we might even be posted there despite my knowledge that no-one in BCF ever has been and my dread of the extremely cold winters.

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