The misty mountain passes create a mystical air to the adventure of travelling high in Bhutan. Their one road winds along the side of the slopes, twisting around corners and the ghostly shapes of trees. High above the road the trees rise with mossy trunks and spreading limbs.
At all the high passes are stupas, white shapes strung with Buddhist prayer flags. These scraps of cloth are bright points of red, yellow, green and blue and are left to deteriorate in the weather until the wind blows them away. In the mist they hang damply, the many lines of flags crossing one another to create a canopy of colour.
Some of the high passes have multiple stupas and even a temple. One could easily imagine a large abominable snowman appearing and vanishing in amongst the structures. All the trees in Bhutan are protected so on the high passes there are usually a collection of tall limbs which have survived the harsh winter weather and they are also covered in prayer flags. Rather like living washing poles they drift in the low cloud.
Usually at the high passes we stop to walk around and then walk on down the other side. When the driver has had enough of a rest he slowly moves forward picking up the walkers. On the other side of the pass can be high pastures where the yaks are fed during the summer. The occasional Bhutanese house will appear with its whitewashed walls and brown roof. Its rare to see a person but if we do, there is always a friendly (if shy) smile and a cheery wave. The ladies wear fabric which is woven in many colours; across their neckline are silver clasps holding the fabric together. Gentlemen wear plainer cloth which is belted in the middle so there is an enormous fold of material which is like a pocket. I have seen many an article withdrawn from these ‘pockets’, not just wallet and cell-phone.
Its cooler up high but not chilly, at least not in the Spring and Autumn. My favourite time is Spring when the many rhododendrons are in bloom. The petals of these beautiful shrubs float in the breeze and in the mist it can appear as if it’s snowing flowers.
Mandy has been a tour leader with Tours Direct for over 15 years. She has a wealth of experience and never gets tired of travelling to old and new destinations.