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2013 Bhutan – Zhemgang lowlands

Saturday – Monday, October 26 – 28 ~ Birding and Golden Langurs in the Zhemgang lowlands

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From Trongsa, we drove on a road with beautiful waterfalls and ferns until reaching the bottom of the valley and then ascended to an elevation of about 6,500 feet at Wangdigang. Driving through a big agricultural area, then with more diverse forest habitats, the open farmland is impressive with rice terraces spreading down the steep hillsides.

This was another long day’s drive until we arrived at our campsite on a volley ball field in Tingtibi.  Along this route, we encountered huge trucks that were servicing the new hydro-electric development on the river. The roads, not meant for this kind of traffic, were terrible! It took almost an hour to descend the few km. down into the valley before going back up again. A stop for almost half an hour to clear the backlog of traffic that ensued because of a truck parked along the road, made the trip even longer. Lower down, the road was paved and wide enough to have lines down the center… which we were amazed to see were painted manually by a group of the road workers, male and female as usual.

Our lunch spot however was delightful… in a gazebo at a rest stop, complete with roadside bathrooms. Due to the slow driving conditions, we had ample time to observe farmers in their fields and women doing their laundry. The drive down was on a national holiday, Lord Buddha’s Descension. The story goes that Lord Buddha was conceived to his queen mother via immaculate conception by a heavenly tiger (where have we heard this story before, 550 years before the birth of Jesus. We stopped along the way to talk to the multitudes of  young adults and children walking along the road to the long monastery to make offerings on this auspicious day. Interestingly enough, although we saw lots of children walking along the roads, some very young, on their way to school or a monastery, we never saw any accompanying adults. This country is so devoid of what we would perceive as deviant behaviour, there is no fear of harm coming to their children.

This was also Kathleen Rilliet’s birthday and our cook baked her a beautiful cake complete with candles. We were all missing our American style sweet desserts, so the cake was devoured in a nanosecond. Brian received a standing ovation at dinner later on in the trip because he had managed to find 2 chocolate bars in a store, that we savored after dinner with the rest of the K5. Jackie Hill had a birthday a few days later, and we had another cake served to us, this one having been purchased at a bakery in Thimpu (something new to Bhutan). Thank goodness for birthdays!

We sent 2 days exploring along the TingTibi road and up into the town of Zhemgang. During these days in the Zhemgang District along the Zhemgang-Tingtibi Road, we found the Golden Langur, only seen now in Bhutan, with their long, straight beautiful tails, Black Giant Squirrels and the Yellow-necked Marten while exploring the mixed broadleaved evergreen forests at elevations between 2,000 to 8,000 feet.

We were awakened at night with the noise of the local farmers banging pots to scare away wild boars and monkeys in their fields. Early in the mornings, we watched parades of children piling out of the paths and roads on their way to school, carrying the inevitable insulated containers of rice for their lunches. We stopped and shopped in the village of Zhemgang for what is probably the worst wine I have ever tasted (local Bhutanese wine) and some of the best whiskey (K5). Hishey also bought a huge bunch of fresh bananas (60 for the US equivalent of $1) from a farmer carrying them on his back in a huge basket. He was on his way into town to sell them. We seemingly ate them for days.

We drove back the same way we came three days later, arriving at the lovely Yangkhil Resort in time for dinner.
Lodging: Mobile Camping at Zhemgang at Tingtibi

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