Day 09 (2-5) - Tuesday, November 05, 2019 - Nature Hike in Phobjikha Valley; Gangtey Nature Trail; Monastery at Gangtey Goenpa; Black Neck Crane Information Center; Massage
We woke up to gray skies, 37 degrees, and 91% humidity. The crows woke us up at 6:15 – they were looking for breakfast too.
We slept well and were warm and cozy. When we came back from dinner last night the staff had tucked a warming hot water bottle into our beds. When was the last time you have seen a hot water bottle?
Our camp breakfast was served from 7:30 and was nothing like “camp” as we were able to order eggs or omelets and fruit and cereals were also available. When we came out of the Dining Hall the sun was out! A great omen for the day but there was a recent dusting of snow in the surrounding mountains.
We met at the bus at 9 and left our belongings on the bus, then went for a brief orientation walk around the village. We met Sanga, the owner of the village convenience store. She sold canned goods, non-perishable foods, and some of her own woven fabrics.
Wangdi offered us one of the traditional doma, an areca nut, betel leaf, with a dash of lime. The little pouch was chewed and a red juice was produced with one’s saliva. Popular in Asia, we have seen many Bhutanese enjoying this stimulant.
The next stop was the local bar and snooker parlor. Nothing was happening this morning, but the owner Somjunge invited us to come back in the evening for a lively time.
Yenten picked us up and we drove to the trailhead of the Gangtey Nature Trail. On the way Wangdi spotted the first of two Black Necked Cranes that had recently arrived in the valley for their winter habitat.
We spent 30 minutes sharing binoculars and getting a close look at this couple that had arrived from Tibet. The cranes are endangered and come here every year as the village folks revere and protect them.
Continuing to our trailhead, we spotted the cranes from the other side of the wetlands. Wangdi reminded us that we needed to get trekking so we left the cranes and climbed to the high point of the walk, 10,052 feet.
We are in training for our 5-hour hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery at the end of our trip. Each day we take longer and steeper hikes so we will be ready for the finale.
Our hour and a half trek took us above the Phobjikha Valley where we walked 1.5 miles through the blue pine forest. We made several stops for photos and spoke to other hikers as we met them on the trail.
At the end of the trail Yenten and our bus were waiting for us. We drove another 20 minutes to the village of Gangtey Goenpa. We visited the 17th-century Buddhist monastery overlooking the Phobjikha Valley. We departed around 12:45pm.
Instead of having lunch at a local restaurant, we came back to the camp. When Wangdi confirmed our reservation he found that the restaurant had also booked another group of 40 so we came back to another great family style meal prepared by our own camp staff.
At 2:30 with most of our group, we visited the Black Necked Crane Information Center. Called “Birds of Heaven”, we learned more about these beautiful big birds. We met Karma, an injured crane that has been welcoming visitors to the center for 3 years.
The center had four very powerful telescopes trained on the wetlands and we were thrilled to see that now four cranes had arrived in the valley. The birds were late in arriving this year as they usually come in mid October.
These cranes form long lasting bonds and arrive in mated pairs each fall. Predators such as foxes, dogs, and leopards threaten them, but the main concern is the loss of natural habitat in the spring breeding and fall migration seasons.
We had a few hours of free time after we returned and then went to the Dining Hall for dinner at 6:00. Wangdi had arranged massages for those who wanted them.
Several of our group had their treatments before dinner. Vic scheduled one for 7:00 so we hustled back to our tent to get ready for the masseuse.
By the time the massage was over, Vic was relaxed and we were ready to post the journal. There were so many great photos today; it was difficult to pick the five best ones.
Meals included: B, L, & D
Accommodations: Phobjikha Valley Tented Camp
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Mr. Victor Garcia Customer #673062
That hillside photo is gorgeous ! This seems like a beautiful area and reminds me of my all time favorite movie "lost horizon". The cranes are amazing and their call can be heard on the foundation website. I was lucky enough to go to a reserve in Wisconsin. They are amazing birds. I also can relate to the hot water bottle in the tent as I had that luxury in Africa. Those tents are amazing. Before staying in one I was not thrilled about it, but after, I didn't want to leave. Please post more photos when you get home if you have time. I love to see them. Enjoy, you two wild and crazy teenagers.
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