Monday, 29 March 2010

Sunday 21st March

Today we set off from the forest camp to climb above the tree line following the river up into the mountains. We passed through the winter pasture grounds for yaks and the winter homes of the herders, complete with huge piles of yak dung fuel. We also had to stop at an Indian army check point (the Indian army has certain rights within Bhutan in exchange for protection from China). The men were very hospitable but the camp looked like Shackleton's last outpost. The huts were made of any scrap of wood available and the walls were soot blackened. Crates and sacks of provisions were strewn around the place and several of the inhabitants appeared comatose. All of them spoke great English and wanted to know about our favorite Bollywood film (??? arrgh ???). Having stroked the lucky Yak's tail, we were packed off with tea and sugar offerings for good luck.

We reached the last habitation in the valley complete with a new health clinic which we were shown around by the proud health worker. The government commitment to rural health is pretty impressive. The clinic hands out all drugs / treatment for free - assuming that you need one of the ten medicines on offer. We leave with a small handful of paracetamol. We also weighed ourselves and think we've lost between half and one stone (each). Olly fears he will become a wraith. Before leaving we were forceably invited to watch the village TV, showing Bhutan pop idol - THERE IS NO ESCAPE! The entire village was packed into one room around a single solar-powered set. Luckily the battery was only good for a couple of hours. The show involved traditional religious chanting - remarkably similar to wildebeest in pain. First prize is a 500,000 Nu car which is prompting some excitement, particularly since Tenzin's brother's girlfriend is in the last 8.

We set up camp at Jhomolhari base camp (4200m).

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