Bhutan Diary No.2

Yesterday we started our journey to Punakha after another early start.

Before setting off we first stopped off at the National Postal Museum. Here we were able to put pictures of ourselves on stamps so that we were able to send postcards home. Some of us then went to a textile factory and the other group of us went to buy Gho and Kira, the cultural clothing of Bhutan.

The bus journey to Punakha was a long one and took us past the site of the Dochula Festival the day before where we had a brief stop off to once again admire the spectacular views. We then continued on our journey down through the pass which was exceptionally windy; fortunately there were no repeats of Kathmandu road sickness!

We then descended into Punakha and stopped off at a riverside restaurant for lunch. After lunch we continued on through the town and passed by the Punakha Dzong on the other side of the river. The Dzong was situated on the headland created by the joining of two rivers, the right river was the "Father" river and the left was the "Mother" river. The Father river was fed by a glacier further upstream which gave the water a characteristic blue colour.

Having passed the Dzong we drove on to a temple. To get to the temple we had to first climb up a substantial hill. On arrival at the temple we were greeted by spectacular views especially from the roof of the temple. We then climbed down and walked through paddy fields back to the buses, briefly stopping to try some guava. This was the end of the day's planned activity and hence we proceeded to the hotel. After supper we then managed to entertain ourselves by playing headtorch football with some local children.

This morning we got up promptly for another full day in Bhutan. First on our list was Chimi Lhakhang, also known as "The Temple of the Divine Mad Man". A short walk through the local village and paddy fields in the morning river mist led us to the temple. This temple in particular is known for providing fertility, although as we learnt that is not where it's unusual name stems from. Instead it came from a religous leader with unusual teaching methods.

Our next stop was the magnificent Punakha Dzong, a fortress turned temple and religious centre that had us all stunned; Firstly for its beauty and secondly for how it's not already a world famous structure. Another highlight, for some, was a walk over the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan, nearly 200m long and 2om above the river. Whilst the views were spectacular, it felt a long way down.

The final activity of the day was a rafting trip down the Male River. What started off as a gental drift with the occasional rapid and splashing war soon became significantly more challenging, resulting in 4 lost paddles, 3 regained paddles and a pair of floating flip flops that apparently belonged to none of those who took an accidental dip.

Tomorrow we start the second part of our expedition, the trek! However we must first get to our starting point near Paro. On our journey back past Thimpu we plan a stop for lunch, archery and celebrating our second 18th birthday of the trip. After an important snack stop, 5 days of trekking demands a lot of snacks, we plan to reach our first camp site at Shana by 16:30, all ready to start the hiking the next morning.

Imy Davies and Henry Chapman