Many valleys in Bhutan are remote, taking hours of travel to reach. In some cases, you travel through small villages and communities filled with cows, dogs, and the occassional horse. On this day, we took the road from Thimphu south toward the Indian border and then turn off toward the Haa valley.
In the world, there is remote and then there is REMOTE…the Haa Valley is situated in the folds of the mountains in a small valley with a river running through the center of the valley and town.
One goal for today was to see the Haa Festival. We arrived just in time to sample the local food including one of the tastiest foods I have ever had in Bhutan, buckwheat and spinach mo-mos. These small delicacies are served just twice a year and we were lucky enough to have them on this day.
The festival included dancing, music, archery, and spear throwing as well as booths on local health, botany, farming, history, and art. As we wandered around the grounds, most of the festival goers were waiting for the evening activities….as rain descended on the valley, we wondered if those events would happen!
After the festival we headed west up the valley to just a few kilometers from the Indian border to a village called Hatey (or Champa….a couple of people argued about the name). Namgay found a farm house (Soednam Zingkha) situated along a stream in this farming community.
The house was owned by a family whose matriarch was known as Zingkha Mii-aum, or mother of the village. The house gots its name Soednam (jewel of luck) on the surface of a pond (zingkha) because the location was considered auspicious between a running stream and pond.
Just across the stream from the house is a working wheat grinding mill, centuries old. We found a woman grinding wheat into flour to be used in the regional dish tsampa. Her work was in a this small, dark building and she managed the grinding wheels as she poured wheat into a basket just above the grinding stone.
In the afternoon, we hiked down a farm trail / animal trail near the stream and into another village just below. We found farmers using cows to plow a field, children playing soccer, and folks hanging wheat in the rafters of their houses for winter.
This place is so worth the visit and stay; I will definitely bring students to this village in the future. It is, truly, a lifetime away from the rest of the world.