Nov 9 (Fri.) Bhutan Day 3 Dochula Pass, Pana Village - Punakha
After the workout of yesterday, we were told we would have it much easier at a lower altitude (3,000 feet) in a lush valley. We also started at 9AM so we had time to rest and build up the energy for the Tiger's Nest climb in a couple of days. As the van negotiated the switchbacks, we passed a roadside market where besides apples and oranges, we saw a large hanging bunch of strings of yak cheese which was described as chewy and not too appetizing. It was just over an hour to drive to the top of the Dochula Pass where we had hoped to sight the highest mountains in Bhutan. However it was not clear (after all we were at 10,000 feet in the clouds themselves!). At the pass, we drank some welcome hot tea in a restaurant to ward off the chill of the high altitude.
On our way down into the valley, we sighted a herd of yaks. The terraced rice and vegetable fields were punctuated with farmers threshing the harvested rice. Our guide told us that rice stacks with a point on top were ready for threshing and the ones without the point on top had already been threshed and the stack was merely hay that is used for feed for the livestock. Lunch was at a local restaurant where the owner asked us how we liked the food and proudly proclaimed that he had grown the vegetables on his own land and had done so organically. There is a top down movement in Bhutan to do all farming organically. After lunch we headed across rice paddies (that had already been harvested) and toward the temple that had been built and dedicated to the Divine Madman by his cousin. It was interesting to see the larger statue of the cousin to the right of the smaller statue of the madman.
We walked back to the road from the temple and settled into our hotel. Our room had a spectacular view of a winding river. An excellent dinner was enjoyed in the hotel's restaurant and we slept soundly with the faint whisper of the rushing water in the distance.