Off smoothly. All-City is certainly the way to go to the airport -- a dispatcher who speaks English, lovely sedan car, pleasant driver, all at $27.50. Who could argue? I've got to remember to call then to get home. Flight was OK -- quite full so I was on the aisle, all seats full to the left, crying baby to the right. Still, I got some sleep, maybe 4 hours, and was just about OK when we hit Heathrow. I've never seen Immigration so crowded. All the cattle pens packed with five abreast lines stretching back down the rampways. It took over 45 minutes to clear through and there was still a bit of a wait for luggage. I think that it's true that all of the U.S. is descending on England and this should be past the summer peak. George and Martha from Youngstown are swarming to England.
I played ugly American and splurged on a cab in to the Mayfair, which turns out to be a Holiday Inn. The hack was a pleasant chatty type named Marty who specializes in the airport run. We arranged that he'd pick me up on Thursday at 8:30 to go back out. I lazed around the room a bit and picked at a room service lunch before bracing up and heading to the office. Ah London. The sidewalks are like NY and the noise...but you look up and there's Nelson or there's St. Martin or ...I had just a familiar feelings, nothing walking on air, just nice. A pleasant day for walking too, cloudy and cool but no rain.
Citibank turns out to be discreetly tucked in the entrance to the Savoy. I went up to 2 and was met by Caroline who turned out to be younger than somehow I'd guessed. Brought M&Ms to David and was introduced all round while trying not to act like a zombie. Who turns out to be here but Saleem. Small world department. I managed to bumble through the afternoon and then it was a mad dash off via the tube to meet Eileen at Cannon St. Station and toddle off to Tunbridge Wells for the evening. The new house is lovely with a fabulous outlook at the back over English "gardens" and a central playing field. All aglow in the dark green. The giggle is that the house is furnished like Mitcham, but infinitely nicer of course. Family's only two houses down so Val and the twins -- they're 18 now’’. -- came over while we ate and we sipped and chatted too long for my energy, but not for the pleasure. John had just flown off today for Dallas (Ugh) so he's the only one I missed. Lovely crew. The twins (!) took me off to the train at Tunbridge and we had a half hour wait. They were dolls. Michael is far more outgoing, but Rich has the young, clear English looks...oh too young, but. a couple of years at university and I'd take a tumble. Finally crawled into Charing Cross at midnight and took a cab to hotel to crash.
What fun! popped along to the office -- not too late -- for a real day's work. Spec changes and reconciliations. But all good work has a reward I'm told and mine came in a smashing lunch at Rules. Blessed memories! This time it was John Mead, John Heaviside, David, Caroline and myself. And we did justice to the food and drink as was meant to be. Back for the afternoon, but I left the office walking on air. Thought about going out, but ended up with a glorious stroll round Berkeley Square then across Green Park, along Birdcage Walk, past Whitehall to Trafalger and back. What a gift to be here just noodling along.
If I could run around Green Park every morning, maybe I'd become a serious jogger; it was delicious. Quiet, only two or three others (Americans?) out, glowing, perfect. Jogging doesn't quite fit in, really, it doesn't seem English. It's far too noisy and undignified for Green Park. That t was half the fun! Office was dull. The big reorganization so far is just what we knew. IPB out, Treasury in, Collins out (Planning Officer if you buy it), Theobald in. No word on the Financial Control world of course. Possible mutiny in Asia. The Treasury folks don't want to work for Schuring. Grabbed lunch in the cafeteria with Caroline and one of her friends, then killed time around Covent Garden; the usual route: box office, Cecil St. bookshop, Arts Council, and St. Paul's. Then back to wait out the pm. Caroline joined me -- no, took/led me -- to dinner at a pasta joint (Palms) then a quite good RSC play, Breaking the Silence at the Mermaid with Alan Howard, Gemma Jones, and Jenny Agutter. Not great, but a joy to see. I love these British actors with their perfect technique, even though Howard does tend to the mannered. They just do it RIGHT.
A marathon day (year? century?) Cabbie picked me up at 8:30 as arranged so getting to Heathrow was taken care of nicely. I leave my heart in London. Into the departure lounge where serenity is shattered by the announcement that courtesy of a strike by French air traffic controllers, our 10:30 flight will not depart until 12:30, BUT we'll board now just in case a slot pops open. Vive la France!!. Boy Scouts should be prepared, etc., but then again, no good deed goes unpunished. We sat gate side until 12:30 then headed off. First leg about 6 hours to Kuwait, including a quite nice steak dinner. I polished off two newspapers, the BA promo mag, 1 Dance and Dancers, and 300 pages of Kristin Lavransdatter, Part 3. Ho hum. Everyone in business class got off in Kuwait. A lmost no one else so far as I could tell. It seemed as though several women veiled up before leaving, but maybe I was paranoid -- they may have been "orthodox" when they got on in London. Few announcements: "the importation of alcohol is strictly forbidden. Transit passengers will remain on board." Kuwait in the dark is flat, seriously, and quiet -- no signs of cars or lights on the approach roads. Great clumps of coarse grass growing up through cracks at the edge of the runway. Airport could be Omaha, Nebraska. Buses to terminal, so I couldn't even suss out the appearances. Back of the (air)bus for an hour or so on the way to Dubai. No seatmates by now so I could stretch out and curl up for the hop. I ate the snack instead! Dubai also flat. Also straightedge -- no natural Coast or harbor lines. More lively though: cars out even though it was close to their midnight. A huge shopping mall (?) right at the end of the runway. One skyscraper in the distance. Also one fire. Looked like the controlled burn-off at a refinery. Made quite a beacon as we took off ... could have gone ashore, but didn't. Getting a bit bored by now Plane filled up with a bunch of Sikhs, but luckily still no seatmates for me.
Takes another three hours or so to Delhi. Another meal and finally a couple of hours sleep before the ordeal. (I know now of course that I have successfully negotiated arrival at New Delhi. Many Hall Marys rewarded.) The good news was/is/will be that the flight delay brought us into Delhi at 5:30am so it began to get light almost immediately. It's all so much easier with the sun! Same as last time -- long hot (80) smelly lines at immigration and baggage claim right out of Dante. Four carousels in a huge dirty barn of a room filled with Indians, mostly men, pushing and staring. Few otherWesterners, but I glued myself to a young English couple while we waited. The signs over the carousels were great: one said 7777 while the other was listed far flight ####. After an interminable wait, we realized that our bags had come in and were by the door, not on the carousels at all. The English girl mused, "I'm beginning to wonder if Delhi was a good idea."
Straggled out, changed a bit of money and easily , Thank God, arranged at the tourist window far a cab to the Centaur Hotel. Price 90 rupees ($7) may be a rip, but I ain't arguing. Getting through the crowd and to the car was a nightmare. Mobs of people pressed in while cops of military type tried to hold open a passageway. Driver pushed my bag on a trolley while I drafted hard on his heels. Someone else drove a trolley up my heels. Crowd surging forward, not crawling around me exactly, but unruly and fluid. I felt as though I was the only Western Woman within a hundred miles. Very unnerving. Follow the heels of the driver; don't look around; don't catch anyone's eye; keep an eye on the bags; don't think. Safely to the car, an oldish Toyota if you can believe it, then drive through the same crowd. No one making way, all drivers leaning an their horns. People gazing in windows, tapping the car, walking in front. It was like a movie scene. I can't come up with the right one because, of course, it didn't get ugly, but...if I didn't feel threatened, I sure as hell felt conspicuous.
Hotel big splashy atrium lobby type in sight of airport. Lobby is spectacular, room is icy cold and comfortable. Not deluxe like the Oberai, but fine. It's only the touches like fruit baskets (who'd touch it anyway?) and fluffy towels. This is a transit hotel and does just dandy. Bellboy told me all about the free buses to the City. Hah. Talk about falling on deaf ears! I intend to sleep, read my dirty romance, and maybe go down to the dining room. Probably do room service. I'm proud enough of getting this far; I see no need to test myself any further in Delhi today. thank you very much. Swallow that line like the Brits! I just went to the window. it's not yet 9am and the sun on the roof below and on the road is painful white light. I wonder if the light here is all that the books say; that it has a personality , often brutal, but always a presence?
Did I mention that as we left Dubai, they announced that "due to Indian regulations" they would have to spray the plane. Whereupon the cabin crew sauntered through the aisles spraying what seemed far all the world like ineffectual room freshener. What can they think they're preventing? Did I also mention that peculiar Asian smell of wood smoke and diesel fumes?
Amazing how it takes only a good night's sleep to make all things manageable. Link up this morning was easy; four others had been right in the hotel and the rest met at he airport. Seems like a good crew: lots of laughing. Several notables. Clarence and Flo are both in the mid 70's -- she's the oldest woman to have climbed Kilimanjaro. Bill Fix is a serious climber. I'll have to check the books when I get home, but he is definitely big time as is Col. Kumar. I'm afraid I'll be outclassed badly by some, but with luck, and willpower, I won’t bring up the rear every time!
Flight to Bagdagra with one stop was uneventful. My God is that plain immense. While waiting and eating in the airport we were treated to some test flights of several fighters, probably MIGs. Then on to the bus far a bouncing ride up to PhuntsaIing. Windy road from plain over river, complete with very definite breakdown -- a truck with a broken axle and two flattened wheels. Then on across the plain. The hills (in the distance far most of the ride) seem to sit abruptly on top of the flat. Miles of tea plantations and rice paddies, even an elephant in view at one point. Funny how the views varied. Ann remarked that the people all looked so clean and neat against all obstacles; Joanne thought all looked pretty dirty. Me? Somewhere in the middle. I have a far more charitable eye today than yesterday. Villages usually perfect crossroads with shack-like stalls for shops lined up like a mall. Everywhere overloaded trucks draped with tinsel and belching diesel exhaust. Amazing change upon crossing "the line" in Phuntsoling. Faces suddenly oriental vs. Indian; buildings stucco and more official; wooden shack arrangements out of sight for the moment. Hotel Kharbandi up on hill overlooking town. Lovely view; hope to get pix tomorrow am. Best roadside sign: Have a safe journey. Royal Bhutan Insurance Co.
Lovely shower, nice meal and so to bed. Rooming with Nicole. Don't know what rooming setup will be going forward.
What a day of traveling! Civilized start from Hotel Kharbandi with stop at temple right at the end of the drive -- fabulous overlook of Phuntsoling. Also right by the Queen Mother's palace and garden. The view over the wide valley to the plains was fabulous. Then it was on the bus (I was in the back row this time) for a wild 180km trip. The road was never wider than 1 1/2 lanes, it corkscrewed around these hills and ridges with only a few blocks to mark the precipice, it climbed up to 10,000' before the day was done and ...Well, at one point you could look down and see four switchbacks of the road clearly below. Along with everything, it was, shall we say, a rocky road so the four of us in the back were periodically launched towards the roof. No damage done. Our first break came at Jumja, a small collection of tea shops sitting up in the mist. Beautiful beautiful people. Joanne later said that she'd been expecting a Third World experience and she was thrilled to find the brightness and lightness of the people. Then on passing an ugly accident -- a milk truck had missed the turn and landed on its roof maybe 20' below (it could have been 2000'). Apparently the tourists in a bus ahead have helped, but it put a real chill through me.
Onward to a brief stop by and with a view of long wild waterfalls; even a small house, formerly a rest house for the King. Vegetation very lush and green: rhododendron and flowers. On past the Chukka water project, lots of construction, little to see until lunch break. Good meal, then pouring rain so we didn't linger. Road topped off at 10,000' with a tremendous view and another King's rest house. Less lush now, but still green, more firs, deep narrow gorges, dark secret valleys. Road seemed then to come down, although in Thimphu we're at 7,6900' and so we didn't come down all that far. Winding on past confluence of three rivers -- very bad place; three is related to the legs of the boiling pot that is the Bhutanese version of hell. Valleys now a bit more open, just as steep, but less green. Probably more rock, less soil. Still terraces growing rice and millet. Passed two monkeys. Finally jounced into Thimphu and straight into the deluxe hotel. Intricate wood carvings, yellow-gold walls with painted signs in red, blue, orange, green; painted beams; carpeting. I lucked into a single (don't know how the charge system will work).
Social notes: 1) Local guide Singey is on King's basketball team and wears local robe with hightop sneakers.
2) Col. Kumar led expeditions that first climbed Kanchenjunga ('77?) and Chomolhari ('70?) as well others. Founded Indian National Ski School. We saw a film this pm about the Kanchenjunga climb. Joe Leary would be pea-green.
3) Wee bit chilly and dank, but rain seems to have stopped. All fingers and toes are crossed.
4) Met Bhutan's Chief Justice via the Girvins and some Canadian muckety-mucks in the bar.
5) More on decor: gold walls with medallions; striped border at bottom: red (wide) , blue, light blue. Border at top: blue and orange stripes. Ceilings: orange with blue beams all across. Medallions between the horizontal beam end.
6) Girvins have a son in NY. Trained with "City Ballet" (SAB?) Wants to be choreographer. Now at Tisch. (NYU).
Festival day in Thimphu and boy did we get royal treatment! For the first time ever the dances were held in the stadium rather than the dzong, but we were swept through the crowds into a VIP enclosure. The dances were beautifully costumed, but rather slow. The fun was 1) the weather -- glorious and 2) the crowd, all in native dress and all happy and festive. Wandered through the crowd snapping like crazy -- basketball court, square court, tennis court, billiard room, kids, kids, kids. Back to the hotel for lunch then a bit more of the dancing. Into town for shopping, but Ann and I tuned off that real quickly and strolled down Main St. Met up with Singey and he led us off to the Swiss Bakery for a fun hour. Then a stop at the King's Memorial Stupa. Modern Buddhist snore. Whole crew then went off for tea at -- guess where? -- so Ann, Ruth and I headed back. Bus met us 1/3 or 1/2 way up, but it was reassuring to know that I lasted that bit nicely. After dinner, Col. Kumar's slides of his 1970 expedition up Chomolhari. Certainly the last since it's been banned since; possibly the first since there's some doubt apparently about an earlier conquest claim. Real mountaineering, no doubt about it. (These guys are K-K-Krazy.) Will have to rib Chuck about his film: off the spool. I rewound inside the sleeping bag and all should be OK.
Taktsang today. Wow! I'm proud of having made it. Bus out at 7am passing river confluence again, house of (ancient) builder of bridges, Paro V alley , Paro airport ( the one and only) , then brief view of Paro Dzong itself. Real tour later. Then around 9:45 THE START. Looking up (2000') it's hard to imagine how anyone could get up there. Steady climb up through heat to tea house. from then on there was off and on rain. Tea break much enjoyed, then up again through moss-draped forest to a point above (let's say 10,000') the monastery. Down slippery looking stone stairs, precipice for the unwary , then across a bridged waterfall and up heartbreaking stairs to the monastery itself. Spectacular and tiring. Gave myself a good start down as I didn't want to be rushed on the stairs. Also, the steps were, of course, uphill now and I was losing steam. Back to the tea house for reviving lunch, then down. Felt like a goddess going downhill of course. Just tried to be careful with knees nicely bent. Arrived base around 4:30pm. Waited for others. Joanne Craig had a bad time; could be altitude -- splitting headache. She made tea house but was hurting. Rumored now to be feeling a bit better after soup and rest in the hotel. I am tired, not pained, and proud. I expect I'll be slow, but not disgraceful. Didn't think much, am not even sure it was fun, but oh! what an accomplishment! Am hoping now for a long sleep (past 2 nights have been restless) and have laid off the tea with the idea that it's been more caffeine than height.
Other notes: This was Singey's 64th visit to Taktsang, Tiger's Nest. Place was built circa 1692.
Bus trip today. Oh my queasy tummy. The fumes are what nearly did me in. All survived of course. On the way to Punakha crossed Dochula Pass: something like 10,218'. Supposed to have views of the high mountains, today had views of Bhutanese mist (also the name of the local whiskey). Road featured at least one serious landslide being repaired by Indians who do all the road work. Then down to the valley and the dzong. w e hit in time for a Buddhist ceremony complete with head monk in yellow robes. Little kid monks chanting while trying desperately to watch these strange visitors. Some time spent meandering in the shops before having a picnic lunch in a field by the river. Quick detour to suss out Wangdiphodrang Dzong (Look do not approach) then back over the pass, still misty , but stopped at the top for tea. Early morning included a run through Tashichho Dzong. No pix allowed. An hour in town before heading back to shampoo and pack at the hotel. It's called Motithang for the record. Masses of wildflowers along every road. Mostly purple cosmos (?) but I'm sure I also saw some goldenrod!
Started off with a bit of an upset due to nerves I'm sure and the 5:30am wake-up. Cleans the system out for sure and not related problems so it's just as well. We drove out of Thimphu for maybe an hour, passing Tashichho Dzong again, finally getting the overall views. We passed through a little village -- Singey stopped to get change -- then on to the end of the road. Now I'm writing this a day later so the detalls will be fuzzy, but we set off into the forest up a trall that seems in memory like a switchback staircase. Up and Up. After lunch break -- far too short -- it began to rain leading to the joys of mud and mirk. I tralled along in the rear contingent with the Craigs and Girvins and I was working though not wasted. We apparently hit a high of 11,900' before coming down to camp in a field at Dolan Koincho (11,500 or so). Ingrid was piping the slowpokes down with her recorder and that was truly a joy to hear. The camp field was ankle deep in mud with rain still falling off and on. W e all drank tea in a smokey hut with some local travelers until the horses arrived and camp was set up. I marvel that horses can negotiate these narrow muddy tralls and stone steps, all while fully loaded. It doesn't seem possible. Didn't spend much time gazing around, but there was a lot of splendid bamboo. Day seemed very hard, but I was running on empty , having not put away much lunch or breakfast. Shared tent with Nicole and will quickly learn some of the tricks of the trade. Sleeping bag was deliciously warm and dinner very enjoyable. After eating we got a lecture/warning on altitude problems which was interesting rather than macabre. Mostly stuff I'd heard or known, but rather more vivid when live and in person.
Slept remarkably well and coped with 6am rising quite nicely. Temp seemed warmer so it was lovely to wash face and hands and get ready. Breakfast was a bit tough -- I never want to eat that early. , -- but I hung on and we started out. What a difference! The whole day was gentler, more gradual ups, some down, drier (not dry) trail. We followed the Thichu River much of the way , lunched by the river, then climbed up through the forests to Barshong Dzong (a ruin). Could be the world's prettiest campsite. We're up high on an open ridge, spectacular waterfall opposite, impossible mountain views, just gorgeous. Sound of falls and rivers clear. Most of day dry, but some sprinkling around lunch and after arriving at campsite. Very comfortable day. I was able to keep at a nice pace and actually stay with the front half of the parade. Tomorrow should be similar if the colonel is to be believed. Early camp ( around 2 arrival) so lots of time to chitchat and hang out. Absolutely no effects of altitude so far -- this camp is 12,250' -- so I feel readily lucky. My confidence is way up now; long may it last. [Later note: This was the night that the cook got lost. He was confused about where we were going to stop and went on to the NEXT campsite. Singey was faced with having to (1). cook dinner, which he did with a little worry and no trouble, and (2). find the cook, who eventually showed up of his own accord.]
Today's camp above Shodu (we register 13,600'). Beautiful LONG walk along Thichu River. Some sunshine, mostly after lunch at Singey's Pub, a campfire under a cliff. Last night restful complete with rain, chili, and horses stumbling over the tent ropes. Up at 6:30 and on the way by 8am. Went like a goddess all morning then faded to subhuman by mid afternoon. Gorgeous views of snow covered mountains beyond the green gorges. Passed yaks then tightroped along above river. Slog up to camp from Shodu seemed endless, but here we are. Above timberline. Wee bit nippy.
Triumph! Clocked 22kms today from 13,600' over 15,800' and back to 13,000ish and I feel great. \Last night rained through dinner and one porter was sick and coughing long and loud. Still, slept like a top and woke at 6am to clear sky and sun. We hit the road at 7:15 and headed up valley along a river. Then climbing. Gradual trail but up and up. Past a lake, around the bend and one last haul to the top of the pass. Slow but steady does it. Much merriment and picture taking among the crew. Wonderful snowcapped views around. Down twisty path from pass for a fun lunch in the sunshine at the head of the valley. Incredibly barren and desolate halls. Followed river right down the valley -- would make a great scene in a Western. Faced with crossing the stream/river we found the chivalry is NOT dead. Singey carried Ann, me and Ingrid across, while the Colonel carried Nicole. On we went down the valley, gentle downward trail through yaks. Stopped with Singey at a yak herder's tent for butter tea and yak milk. Both wonderful much to my amazement. Onward from there along the valley still, Got mine back when we hit a stream that just had to be waded. Squish. Luckily it was only another twenty minutes or so to the beautiful sight of our blue tents down a side valley overlooked by some spectacular looking peaks quickly hidden by clouds. We are at Lingshi with a dzong up above on the other side. The pass was Yalila Pass (Yak Pass). All told we were on the road for nine hours, maybe 71/2 walking. Rolled in here around 4:30pm. Catch Up: The last night in Thimphu included a party for us with the Chief Justice and Minister of Tourism.
Yaks are BIG.
Second pass and ay and I feel great. Dinner last night in a round stone building round a campfire. Rafters, beams all festooned with drying socks and clothes, with the hearth was lined with boots. Everyone had taken a tumble at one point or another. Takeoff at 7:15 with clearing crystal clean morning views around the valley. Up the "hall" straight, sharing the trail with roaming yaks. Up to hilltop for last look back at Lingshi and dzong, then round the bend and traverse ridges past yak herders. Over a stream and then the longest slog up to Nyela Pass. (Translation is "the same" but Ingrid dubbed it "Yet Another Pass.") Avalanches heard clearly, but not seen. The walk up the pass seemed endless. There were almost no landmarks or goals. Hit top around 11:45; that's 2700' gained in 4 1/2 hours. George's reading at the top was 15,700' so just about the same as yesterday. Everyone rallied at the top and got very giddy and giggly. Straight loose gravel run down the back to a lunch spot just below the pass. Merriment continued wildly. After lunch all we had to do was go down. Mostly level trails. I was on a roll. It felt just like a good downhill ski run. Only Ball Fix, who jogged, hit camp first. Gorgeous views of valley leading down to Paro. Campsite view of Little Chomolhari. So far only distant peak view of main mountain, but God knows it doesn't matter. Ann E., Singey and I made quite a trio today. Into camp around 2:45. Tea is sooo good. Yak cheese is not. Rice, butter, and sugar aren't bad.
Birthday dinner for Ruth last night featuring a leaden Indian "cake" and adequate rum and whiskey. Afterwards Ann and I sat for an hour or two with Singey drinking more and having a good laugh. AM sleep in then al fresco breakfast and pictures with Chomolhari view. Breezing down the valley trail to lunch stop where we tanked up on tongba. Ann, Singey and I then put away a half bottle of whiskey on the way down to camp. Whee! Even beat BiIl Fix into camp. We started last from lunch then motored by the whole lot -- powered by Bhutan Mist! We sat for dinner in a smoke-filed hut and roasted wall. I should be preserved for the ages. Again, Ann, Singey and I stayed on for a drink or many and crawled out to the tents somewhat later than the others. The staff sat in with us and even did some private singing and dancing for us, particularly the little 16 year old, Gimbo.
LONG walk today -- 22k --"through pleasant forests." What is left out is the fact that it was endless walking from rock to rock to rock. Singey played rabbit as usual, but took Ann and me on "shortcuts" whenever he was by us: scrambling along little ledges over the river or daring what I would call baby rock climbing! Ann got sick on lunch (excess of grease on top of cold and hangover) but we powered on ahead anyway and arrived at Shana half an hour ahead of the pack -- ex BiIl Fix of course. Since it was our last night camping, we had a blowout planned. After dinner in the mess tent, we adjourned to a campfire up field. Everyone drank too much rum and whiskey and we did get singing and dancing from the staff. The Yanks also sang after much struggling to find common tunes. I've never seen such stars!
End of trek. Arrived Paro this afternoon. Early start with Singey discovered in his orange sleeping bag by the fire; he never moved under cover. The walk along the river was beautiful, but we definitely neared civilization. Lots of traffic along the main drag! Once more, mile after mile of smooth round rocks. If I see another one it wall be too soon. I went along great guns until the last climb to Drugel Dzong -- that was flat up in the hot sun and I thought I would die! Finally made it to find that the bus ordered was not in evidence. Singey whipped up some magic while we sat in the shade drinking beer and eating cucumbers. Bus arrived, we packed on, and off we went to the deluxe Olathang Hotel. Straight to the dining room for lunch -- I can't imagine the Board of Health allowing it -- then to rooms. At lunch I pulled the female single room (happily) then Nicole pushed that it should be assigned more democratically. We drew lots out of BiIl Fix's Father Christmas hat, and I pulled single again. Some things are meant to be! Up to the room for an hour to scour off the first few layers of filth using cold water. Hot not avallable. Yeeouch. But it felt grand to be at least clean-ish again. I'd been absolutely caked with dirt. Onto the bus then for quick tour of Paro, primarily the dzong which is gorgeous. Full of little junior monks bopping around. Singey then took us back to his mother's house, so we'd have an idea of what a home is like. Walled entrance, then dark entry with storerooms on either side -- formerly kids' bedrooms. Up a ladder like wooden stair to a large guestroom; decorated, but bare of furniture. Occasional bare bulbs giving light. Elaborate family altar/room also.. Seems clear that the family is well connected. Kitchen dark, chimney-less with poured concrete wood burning stove ("much better that clay"). All rather primitive. I'd expected more in the way of Western touches, but no go. Back to hotel to get ready for farewell party. Drinks in the bar followed by dinner and the usual semi-pompous toasts, etc. Again adjourned to the bar. Went up to room after eleven.
Farewell. I hate to leave. Singey left early , then appeared after breakfast in his kho with short shock and sneakers. Much laughter when he moaned that he could get in trouble for not having regulation long socks. Lila then piled out a pair of pink knee socks which Singey donned to the accompaniment of much more laughter. Off to airport for twin otter trip (Druk Air) out. Last sight is Singey by terminal waving Ann's straw hat. Sweet. Flight out was 1) spectacular over the mountains and 2) boring as all get out over the plain to Calcutta. Most of the group gathered at the airport hotel to organize. I stayed with them until after lunch when the colonel and I went back for our 5:45 flight to Delhi. On the Airbus, I was the only Western woman. There may have been as many as 5 other women in all. Real bizarre. Colonel took me to his home for dinner -- modest house, lovely wife, nice kids and mother in law. Was supposed to cab to airport, but the cab that turned up was driven by two unknown drivers, so a quick decision was made to chauffeur me to the airport personally. Much appreciated. New departure terminal is INFINITELY better. Same Indian bureaucracy, but much cleaner, Western surroundings. Am now waiting endlessly to actually board the plane and start my nap. I am exhausted.
Coming to the top of Nyela Pass and getting a view of the groups' knees as everyone sat by the cairn.
BiIl Fix saying good-bye at the Calcutta Airport hotel, ''I love your laugh.”
Being dubbed "Happy Katie" by Colonel Kumar.
Wildflowers everywhere -- rich purple-blue. And Butterflies.
The reviving effects of hot tea at the end of a long day. Simply miraculous.
Being addressed as "Sir" by camp staff, etc.
Singey in his cowboy hat being the rabbit -- appearing from nowhere, loping ahead of the group, waiting at cross paths or bridges, bounding back and forth to keep track of everyone.
Druk Air flying out of Paro at 5000' LOWER than we'd climbed. Even then, seeing the foothills stop, then the endless plain down to Calcutta with the rivers meandering all over. The endless climb up to Shodu.
Waking up by the fire at Shana and seeing so many stars and the Milky Way...
Singing at our party at Shana -- Gypsy Rover and Devil be Gay. BiIl Fix doing the limbo, then degenerating into a game with the staff . jumping Over the stick.
The Yak-~- Hillaire BeIloc
As a friend to the children commend me the yak.
You will find it exactly the thing:
It will carry and fetch, you can ride on its back,
Or lead it about with a string.
The Tartar who dwells on the plains of Thibet
(A desolate region of snow)
Has for centuries made it a nursery pet,
And surely the Tarter should know!
Then tell your papa where the Yak can be got,
And if he is awfully rich
He will buy you the creature -- or else he will not.
(I cannot be positive which.)
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