We are about to fly through the Himalayas and our flight has been delayed. We’ve checked in at the airport, with its one and only terminal and one and only runway. If our flight doesn’t arrive, we face a 12 hour, 250 mile drive on a treacherous, potholes-are-too-kind-a-word-for-them filled, mountain road. Yes, 12 hours to go 250 miles.
But I find myself wondering, as I stare at my boarding pass, which trip should I be hoping for?
Yesterday we covered outdoor survival essentials (there’ll be a quiz at the end of this post). But what to do when faced with an indoor emergency? Like when you find yourself in the “luxury suite” in a remote hotel where the only luxury is the space heater that drowns out the barking of the feral dogs beneath your window?
Just remember to pack your K5 Whisky – and make sure it’s the Special Coronation Blend.
First off, let me say that we love our guides, Bill and Tsering. They are walking, talking Wikipedia pages, their knowledge of Bhutan encyclopedic. They answer questions that range from “what is the meaning of the eyes protruding out of that demon’s head” to “what type of rhododendron is that” to “why does that phallus have teeth?”
That said, wilderness quides they are not.
Yesterday, after a bone-jarring, Bonine-not-optional, 5 hour drive on a treacherous road (alas, no pics of the sheer thousand foot drops as I was too busy trying to maintain Buddhist non-attachment to my continuing existence) the bus stopped and we emerged onto a yak-lined road with this valley beckoning…
We began our descent through the scrubby field, following what we were told was an “ancient” path into a dwarf bamboo choked thicket, and crossed and re- crossed the same small creek until Tsering was lost from view.
Seeking peace of mind, I recalled the countless episodes of “Man vs Wild” that I watched with Quinn over the years. Bear Grylls, the star of the show, is a man capable of surviving many days in the wild with nothing more than a paper clip and a parking ticket . I was carrying a lot more that, all of it useless in the event of unscheduled camping with Yaks. Did I learn nothing from those countless hours of viewing!? Why hadn’t I brought a multi tool or a space blanket instead of lip balm and Pepto Bismol?
And then, just as panic took hold, Tsering returned and said he now knew where to go. By the time we staggered into our hotel, I had decided that, Mr Grylls notwithstanding, there really are only two survival essentials:
1. The people here are REALLY friendly!
We came upon these ponies under prayer flags on a hike around a huge gold and bronze Buddha that overlooks Thimphu Valley. One of the ponies wore a bell and, whenever she moved, it sent out the sweetest, clearest tone I’ve ever heard.
Pia, Stephen and I immediately began to reminisce about a trip long ago, when a similar bell was purloined from an unsuspecting Austrian cow by someone we all love.
On the off chance that an old and still-irate Austrian farmer haunts the internet looking for the culprit, we won’t tell you her name but, loved one, you know who you are..
In Bhutan, prayer flags are always planted in windy spots so the breeze can activate the blessings inscribed on their fabric surfaces. When the prayer flag fades, it’s good news. The flag’s work is done and all its blessings have been carried far and wide…
We lived in LA at the same time. She was Anna’s writing and tennis partner, and my college classmate. She left town and had kids, we stayed in town and had kids. 22 years passed, the kids left home, and from different parts of the world we set off on empty nest adventures that landed us in the same hotel lobby at the same time on the far side of the world. Thank you, River of Kings.
When we saw this Hmong woman in her dirt floor hut in Northern Laos, warming herself by a fire that she’d later use to cook dinner for eleven family members, our guide said life among remote tribes like hers hadn’t changed in 200 years….
…Uh, except for the arrival of the cell phone. That’s her daughter, swapping out the battery…