Saturday, 15 October 2011

Hot stuff in Bhutan

Up at 6. Away late at 745. Today we are heading for the hills - we ascending nearly twice the height of Ireland's biggest mountain, over 6,000 feet.

In no time, a foggy mist envelops us - to the point that visibility is limited to only 30 feet. At least the roads are much quieter. In the course of the first two hours we encounter less than 5 vehicles coming the opposite way. The roads are also much smoother, although I have come to recognise the comparative value of that word. We stop once or twice to take pictures of waterfalls but the fog defeats our National Geographic aspirations.

Our lunch stop is in a small village whose locals come out to stare at Snowy - and us. It seems visitors, especially those in a big green and White truck, are few and far between. Lunch is a mad collection of local dishes: chillies in a fabulous cheese sauce, spiced roasted goat, local fish (carp?) in a spicy broth, curried vegetables and chilli noodles, all with a monster bowl of white rice. Is the spicy connection becoming apparent? You had better have a taste for spicy food or a taste for experimenting if you want to be fed! It's absolutely wonderful - you leave the table with a pleasant after-burn in your mouth. Whoo-haaa! It reminds me of the first time I had chilli - my sister completely misjudged the chilli and the quantity and did a splendid job of recreating the feel of a furnace in everyone's mouth. Thanks Ann.

The mist clears in the afternoon and we are treated to fabulous views of mountains and ravines. One or two sections of the road are badly affected by landslides and we slow to a crawl to negotiate them. With a steep cliff on one side and a several hundred feet fall on the other, the narrow passage (barely wide enough for a car let alone a truck) makes for compulsive viewing. Suddenly the dirt road surface is behind us and we are back on smooth tarmacadam. Strange that the same road authority (from India) maintains roads in both countries, yet Bhutan's are vastly superior.

Bhutan is wonderful. The people are friendly, the food is delicious, the scenery spectacular. As a youngster I remember reading a book called 'Lost Horizon' about finding Shangri La. I have a feeling I might just have done just that.

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