Monday, 29 March 2010

Friday 19th March

Suffering from a slight relapse of Vietnamese food poisoning, we pack up to start our 8-day trek. Nothing like taking it easy to recuperate? Headed up the valley from Paro; first on a dirt track and then on an old drove road linking Tibet and Bhutan (now only used by smugglers of Chinese luxury goods - and tourists). As we become more remote, we see some amazing sights - a man ploughing a field with a single furrow ox-drawn plough, spirit catchers (remains of traditional animist religion), stupas and prayer flags everywhere and the army resupply donkey train heading up to the border.

Further up the valley the path becomes steeper and more twisted and we eventually set up camp a few miles past the army base at Shana. Wait for it... We have 8 mules, 4 tents (dining, cooking, toilet and sleeping), 4 attendents, including cook and guide, and 2 hot water bottles - this is trekking luxury. It's weird being waited on hand and foot - but quite frankly my dear I don't give a damn. We also saw the remains of an old defensive fortress, Drukgyal Dzong (burnt down again - if you haven't picked up that butter lamps aren't safe yet, take note) built as an early warning against Tibetan attack. The structure was massive and must have been sustained by heavy tithes from the Paro valley farmers. Prior to its 13th century Buddhist conversion and unification Bhutan was your good old oppressive feudal realm.

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