Paddy Fields of Punakha
A long drive over the Dochu La pass to east Bhutan and Punakha Valley.
There is a huge change in the topography and geography. The area around Thimphu and Paro was distinctly mountainous. The nearest thing European is alpine. The Himalayan pine trees grow far higher up the mountains, with large pines growing at over 3000m.
The pass is 3117m and has panoramic views of the Himalayas with the snow caps vi ing with the cloud for magnificent. Set up against the blue sky with a touch of gold in the 108 stupa recently build by the current Queen mother. What more could a photographer want?
Once over the top and the road becomes more challenging. Sliced out of the inside bend as quickly as it disintegrates into the outside.
The pines begin to turn to broadleaf and the cicadas start to call from among them. Fruit trees are scattered about, dominated by the challenging persimmon, all set to rid your mouth of any moisture whatsoever.
As the tropical theme continued the paddy field, new to me, terraces appeared and the long green swathe of grass, rice, not a British hay crop and the glacial blue Punak Chha river dissects the valley floor.
The Go and Kiri (national dress) remain the same, though a slightly thinner fabric to cope with the subtropical heat. Hard to comprehend after the almost freezing temperatures of the previous night. The hotel corridor is lacking a wall so balmy are the evenings. The Dzongs and Cholrtons continue to punctuate the green. Now having new roles along with their religious significance. Chiri Dzong is now a school.
The vast and beautiful Punakha Dzong houses governmental and administrative offices as well as being an important Buddhist place of worship.
Walking poles are needed more to balance, tightrope style, along the terraces more than the rough tracks up hills to visit the Dzongs. One foot off the side and I found mud to match that of any peat bog at home. While pine trees draped the upper reaches, exotic plants, including poinsettia trees, yes trees, some almost in flower, were among the more exotic plants found alongside the river. Marijuana was pretty abundant too.
By the river birds darted in and out of the trees and small patches of cultivated land. The rivers are just beginning to clear after the summer monsoon so migration into Bhutan is beginning as well. As the valley floor widened bright yellow corn, berries and chillies were drying on rooftops and hung from beams. Cattle, sheep, goats and ponies grazed on the flood plain.
If I had found time to read my guide book before I set off then maybe I would not have been quite so surprised to find myself in this delightful place, but the unexpected is sometimes the best thing to find.