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01/25/19 - Back From The Crane Center

On our way back to our hotel after visiting the Crane Center, we saw a cluster of birds fussing and fighting on the ground across the wetlands. Some were Himalayan griffins. Obviously, something had died and attracted notice. We watched for a bit, then headed on, back to Amankora.

The Crane Center

A bird in a tree on the way back

The town

Another farm house

A Himalayan griffin showing off

More exciting bird action

A crowd of birds

Griffins among the flock

In the distance, hence some of the blurry photos

A stream in the light

Another stream

A crow on a rooftop

Yet another stream - These are wetlands.

Keywords: bhutan

01/24/19 - From Monastery to Wetlands

As much as we hated to leave Amankora Gangtey, we set out to the local dzong, the monastery on the hill across the valley. The monastery was fascinating enough, but then we headed through the adjacent village, down and into the pine forest on the monastery hill. We saw black necked cranes in the fields. They love that stubble.

We walked through the forest, past daphnes and dwarf bamboo, and emerged to an overlook adorned with prayer flags. There were black necked cranes in the wetlands below. Then we made our way down to the wetlands, crossing on a cow damaged causeway and watching for cranes as we went. We saw some flying and as we followed the road we saw many others, some nearby and some in the distance. Apparently, this has been a great year for the black necked cranes.

Amankora Gangtey - Why would we ever leave?

The monastery

Some detail

Prayer wheels

Monastery dogs

The village on the hill

People hard at work, unlike us

Black necked cranes enjoying field stubble

A daphne in bloom

Pine forest

Prayer flags overlooking the valley

Descending to the wetlands


Across the wetlands

Cranes in flight

More wetlands

More black necked cranes

Even more cranes in the wetlands

The road to our ride home

Keywords: bhutan

01/24/19 - Country Evening in Gangtey

We had a country evening in Gangtey. First we had a traditional hot stone bath in a wooden shed. There were candles, hot water, artemesia floating like seaweed in the water and the setting sun. Then we had dinner in a potato shed. There was a hot fire, traditional music and song, and a wonderful dinner with a view of the valley. Did we mention candles? There were candles too, so dazzling one of us nearly tripped over one as we entered, dazzled.

Fire near the bath house

Inside the bath house, candles

The traditional bath

The mat door for privacy while changing

When we left the bath, fire was out.

Country walk

The moon rising

Arriving for dinner, a welcoming fire

Bhutanese musicians

Candles at dinner

Our table setting

Keywords: bhutan

01/23/19 - More From Our Welcome to Gangtey

Here are some more pictures from our first hike in Gangtey.

Farmland view

Melting snow

Wooded mountains and broad wetlands, perfect for cranes

Ruts in the road

More red branches

Water runs all through the valley

Song birds

A farm house


Another farm house

Our valley of the cranes

Keywords: bhutan

01/22/19 - Welcome to Gangtey

We left Punakha, and once again were on a winding mountain road riding through wild forest with snow capped hills in the distance and glimpses of rivers far below. We followed Bhutan’s east-west highway, then turned south to the Pobjikha Valley and Gangtey, beautiful isolated farm country. We had no sooner settled into the Amankora there than we took a walk from the hotel through the countryside. We went through a farm village, past drying turnips, half wild cattle and black necked cranes. Yes, there they were, wintering in the wetlands of the valley and foraging on the crop stubble.

The river in Punakha

A rest stop en route

Mountain road

More mountain road and snow capped peaks

Yet more of the road

And even more

Amankora Gangtey

Farm land

A farm shed

Black necked cranes

One of those cranes again

A farm field with drying turnips

More cranes, farther afield

Traditional Bhutanese architecture

The farm road

Beautiful rock

Red branch tips, a sign of spring

Keywords: bhutan

01/22/19 - Not the Port Angeles Farmers' Market

We checked out the local farmers’ market in Punakha. It’s held every Saturday morning and is full of local produce, rice, vegetables, betelnut, cabbages, potatoes and so on. We were sorry we didn’t have a kitchen or we would have gone crazy there.

A lively market

Punakha has a broad range of local produce

More of the lively market

Chiles and spices

Local peppers, perfect at high altitudes

More peppers

More produce

Local red rice, great with scrambled eggs and hot chiles

More pretty produce

More of the farmers’ market

Bhutan may be in the Himalayas but it is not much farther north than Hawaii, so it has wonderful produce.

Keywords: bhutan

01/21/19 - Rafting in Punakha

We took a rafting trip down the Female River that runs through Punakha. This was the gentler option than the Male River. There were a few rapids, short stretches of white water, but this was not an adventure by anyone’s standards except our own. We had never been rafting before. We squeezed into wet suits and put on helmets. Then we boarded the raft and learned how not to hit each other or our guide with the paddles. That done, things went smoothly.

The high point of the trip was the Palla’s fish eagle that swooped over our raft and downriver. We watched this great gray bird in awe. It was a rare sighting. There was no way we were going to be fussing with cameras. We did take a few pictures of the more common and more cooperative ruddy shelducks. We had views of the snowy mountains whose meltwaters in which we were rafting. We passed prayer flags and shrines. It was an amazing journey, and, for us, quite an adventure.

The banks of the river

Snowy mountains upriver

A placid stretch

Silver water and exotic trees

Another view of the river

A sparkling day on the Female River

Yet another view

A ruddy shelduck

A few more ruddy shelducks, just for luck

Beautiful water

Exotic trees

Keywords: bhutan

01/21/19 - Punakha and Its Fortress

Punakha is the garden of Bhutan with fruits and vegetables grown year round. Farm stands in the outskirts of the city sold spinach, apples, oranges and other vegetables even in January. Bhutan is in the Himalayas, but it is also far south at 27N. The big agricultural product is rice, especially their wonderful local red rice. The land is terraced and irrigated, and vegetables are often grown under plastic tents in the colder months.

We visited the 17th century dzong, once a fortress, but now a temple. We couldn’t take photographs inside where Buddha presided and murals told stories of his life and enlightenment and those of other great teachers. There is a major winter festival next month, and we watched young monks practicing one of the dances. The teacher was clearly the master of the art. He moved with great grace and control. Some of the young monks had developed some skill while others were new to the dance. We didn’t feel right taking pictures. We’re sure they will give an excellent performance come the big day.

View of the mountains from Amankora

Another view from Amankora

The infinity pool and agricultural land

The great Dzong of Punakha

Almost a Tuscan villa

Terraced rice fields

Indian cotton silk (or perhaps silk cotton) tree flowers

The river

The entrance to the Dzong

In the courtyard

One of the many murals

The bodhi tree in the dzong

Another view of the courtyard

Bhutanese architecture

Another view

Monks in red robes in the courtyard

The river below

Mountains above

Misty late in the day

Keywords: bhutan

01/20/19 - A Stroll Before Rafting

Before our raft trip we took a short walk. The trail led to a shrine, but we didn’t make it that far. The river below was waiting for us. We did see the rice fields and had a glimpse of the distant snow covered mountains. Punakha, as it turns out, is great for just about every variety of vegetable. It also produces rice and winter wheat.

Across the bridge - We added our own prayer flags.

Rice and vegetable fields

Rice fields

Christmas plant - poinsetta in an un-Christmassy setting

Another view

Christmas flower

More terraced farm land

Another pretty view

We’ll update this when we look this bird online.

Keywords: bhutan

01/19/19 - On To Punakha

We headed east from Thimpu, over the mountain pass to the next valley and the city of Punakha. We stopped at the pass for a view of the high mountains beyond, capped with snow. Then we descended into the mild valley. Even in January, there were oranges, spinach and other vegetables on sale at the little farm stands we passed. That afternoon, we crossed the suspension bridge over the Female River to our hotel.

View of the Himalayas

More mountains, more snow

Another view

A magpie with a long tail

Snow and color

That bird again

Another view from the pass

For safe travel

Distant mountains

The bridge to our hotel

Christmas plants

The Female River

Across the valley

Keywords: bhutan

01/18/19 - Thimpu Bhutan

Having been in an airplane for days on end, we went for a short hike on our first morning in Bhutan. It was a short trail not far from our hotel. We walked to a shrine overlooking the valley. There were prayer flags all about. The white ones commemorated the dead. The more colorful ones were for the living. The prayers were as if recited when moved by the wind.

Our hotel - just like in the pictures

Prayer flags at the start of the hike

The Buddha overlooking Thimpu

A view of the valley

Pine cones

Another valley view

More prayer flags

Keywords: bhutan

01/17/19 - Coming Into Bhutan

We knew we weren’t in Thailand anymore. Those mountains were huge. We had been flying north for over two hours. Now we were coming into the place of the snow, the Himalayas. Our destination was Bhutan. We aren’t in Port Angeles anymore either.

More to follow.

A first glimpse

We were at 34,000 feet, and those mountains didn’t look flat.

Another view

Coming closer …

… and closer

Not Port Angeles

Definitely not Fairchild Airport

Keywords: bhutan

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