Nov 12 (Mon.) Bhutan Day 6 Lighting Butter Lamps, Chele La Pass, and The National Sport of Bhutan
This morning we were well rested from our climb to the Tiger's Nest and had no more climbing scheduled on foot. After breakfast, we drove the short distance to a temple where we were blessed by a monk and later, lighted butter lamps. Bhutan has become more safety conscious in recent years after many disastrous fires started by these traditional 108 butter lamps that have destroyed temples. Now there are just a few lamps inside the temple and the 108 lamps (108 - the number of beads in the Buddhist prayer mala) are in a building, detached from the main temple.
After the lighting of the lamps, our van drove to the 13,000 foot Chele La Pass where we could breathe the rarefied air and view the peak of the 22,000 foot Jhomolari in the eastern Himalayas. As we descended from the pass, we stopped for a picnic lunch in the shelter of the giant trees. Bhutan is 72% forested and they are still planting trees.
Our next encounter of this fabulous trip was back in Paro where we witnessed an authentic archery match in a village. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and it is done is a spirited and wild manner with cheerleaders (who do a reverse cheer to the opposition!) and dances for victory. The target is so far away (130 meters - 430 feet!), it's impossible to see it. How amazing it is that these skilled bowmen even come close to the target. Their shots are rapid fire and as we crouched behind a protective brick wall cover, we saw the bamboo arrows come flying in, hitting the dirt with some nearly striking the target. When one actually hit the target, the archers broke out into a victory dance.
Before a shopping spree in Paro, we popped into a local farmhouse. Our guide, simply went up to the door and looked around for the owner. She was actually down the street and when she saw the stranger, she put on a puzzled face, but quickly understood and invited us in to see her house. There were three levels with very steep steps (almost like ladders) from the lower floor (which housed the cow) to the upper living quarters. As we left from the front door, we saw a traditional Bhutanese object meant to ward off evil spirits (be sure to see the picture).
Our excellent farewell dinner was at a local restaurant. We would have about half a day before our driver took us to the airport for take off on the rather short runway and another zig-zag flight though the mountain valleys as we gained altitude to depart this fabled and fabulous land.