Monday, 23 November 2015

The rally is over!

The Last couple of days we have been camping which has been interesting. The penultimate road we were about 170km from the border and only had enough beds for about half the rally. Paddy and I volunteered to camp and were allocated a tent.

We had had another brilliant, challenging and exciting drive covering more massive hills with indescribable falls along the roads. We shared the driving and dropped into a smaller nomad festival when we arrived. It was even more interesting and as the sun fell produced some fantastic photographs.

We returned to the campsite and when we were shown the shower room we suddenly found ourselves being offered a very comfortable room for the night. So, much to the disgust of Xavier and Ines who were in a tent, we snuggled down in great comfort! Result!

After an excellent nights sleep we headed down the final 170km to camp near the border. It was another fantastic drive and a really well prepared camp site by kind permission of the local llama.

We even managed to have a shower which was a big plus. The llama had laid on some dancing for us which as usual Paddy and I were more than happy to throw ourselves into when the time came. It was a great evening and ended with a few rounds of Perudo. I am getting increasingly concerned about my Perudo expertise, a source of some pride for many years. Perhaps it is time to accept that this pride was somewhat misplaced!

Yesterday morning we left at about 8am to drive some 20km to the border and cross into India. What an extraordinary change it is to go from Bhutan to India. Everything is suddenly so frantic, noisy and dirty. The process was really simple and took no time and then we were off to Guwarhti. The road was fine but you are back to managing enormous volumes of traffic and if you don't push you don't get anywhere.

We got to within 8km of the hotel and ground to a stop, traffic not car I'm relieved to report. We had to cross a big bridge and about 6 lanes close down to 1 which caused chaos. Two cars boiled, Dougie's XK150 and Gerry's Model A, but everyone got there in the end.

What a fantastic rally on brilliant roads in a beautiful country with the most fantastic people. I simply cannot fault Liz and her teams preparation and every detail of running the rally. I knew that it was going to be great but Bhutan simply exceeded all my expectation. As Craig would say "fabuuuuulooooos"

2km to go

8km to go and we all grind to an Indian halts 4 lanes go down to 1

Local government leaders

The local leaders

Our third festival

And the roads go on!

Extraordinary weavers

An incredible young lady

We stopped for tea in a small village and met this 16 year old. She has never left the village but spoke perfect English. Her ambition is to travel the world and got 100% from Paddy and I. We purchased a fermented yaks milk cheese wrapped in yak hair which will be in the back of the Buick for the next 2 months. We have been told that it tastes like "wood" or alternatively "Parmesan", time will tell.

And so the roads go on

Just so sweet!

And still be friends

They may be young monks but they can still mess about

It's a hard life in eastern Bhutan

The local lama

A smaller festival for the nomads

Paddy meets a local clown!

Monks going for a roam

This young monk was just going for a "roam" with his friends. He is wearing a Porche sweatshirt and supports Manchester United. I made a big effort to convert him to Leicester City but without success. He told us how lucky he was to live in the local monastery where he has everything he needs without any stress or worry. He roams, he is fed and watches movies and football. Not a bad life at all!

Lovely people

Lovely people

Lovely people

Lovely people

Challenging to the border

Bhutan has never failed to amaze and challenge

The last few days

Festival at Tashingang. Thanks Paddy for the pic.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Visiting the Dzong in among at

Car 9 team amongst the prayer flags. God knows that we need them

Arrival at Mongar

The last 30km or so we had bad squealing for the front suspension and the car started to pull to the right quite heavily. Paddy was concerned that it was a reoccurrence of the problems he had in Scandinavia which resulted in him getting through a pair of tyres a day!

Luckily it was the bolt securing the wishbone which were quickly replaced and we are back in the game! That was the second time that Paddy got his overalls out, and did so with not inconsiderable enthusiasm.


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From Bumthang to Mongar

Yesterday was a long drive from Bumtahang to Mongar, I drove the morning shift handing over to Paddy at the lunch stop. There seemed to be an over powering smell of marijuana as we left the hotel and sure enough there was an enormous forest of the stuff. It is illegal to cultivate, harvest or consume marijuana in Bhutan but it does grow wild everywhere. It is permissible to feed it to the pigs so that they can be transported the slaughterhouse in a calm and restful manner, probably quietly chuckling to themselves at they wander off to meet their maker!

What a fantastic drive, first climbing above the tropical rain forests into the dryer pine forests, finally summiting a pass as always at a stupa and prayer flags. We simply did not get a straight road of more than 500m all day. As we passed the 140km mark we had passed about 4 cars. There cannot be anywhere in the world with more exciting driving roads and less traffic.

When we got to lunch, in a typically Bhutanese fashion the restaurant had decided to only serve locals. Chimy arranged for lunch to be sent from Mongar and we all picnicked on the side of the road, cooked by the Kings chef on Mongar where he has a home.

The roads were simply fantastic and just a complete joy to drive on. Sheer drops constantly on one side (today usually the passenger side) falling thousands of meters with simply nothing to stop a falling car. There is so little traffic and that which there is drives so slowly, that the dangers are minimal. Frank and Ross's back brakes faIled during the morning but they soon fixed them and arrived on time for lunch. Frank was driving and turned to Ross, "we haven't got any brakes mate" as they were heading down a steep section, "well I cannot help, I haven't got any on my side" he sardonically replied sitting in the passenger seat.

We arrived in Mongar after another simply fantastic days driving.

Tomorrow is the Mongar festival a very popular dance event with the locals. So it's Goes on and off to the festival!

All good here, we are still talking to each other and our business meeting have been regular and successful.


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The festival at Mongar

A young Buddhist monk taking time out

The festival at Mongar

The festival at Mongar

The festival at the Dzong in Mongar

Amazing road to Mongar

On the road to Mongar having launched our prayer flags

New prayer flags for the Kings birthday

Best show for months!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The road to Bumtang

We parted Trongsa at 8.00am and climbed steadily to about 3400m. A great drive arriving at a site of multiple prayer flags and a huge arch.

As we then descended the terrain changed dramatically into much gentler countryside. Amazing we drove the longest piece of straight we have seen about 900m long!

It was a short journey of about 65km taking about 2.5 hours. Amazingly in Bumtang there is a Swiss chap married too Bhutanese who has built a brewery making Weiss beer, a dairy making cheese and a guesthouse and restaurant serving fondue. Xavier had arranged for a fondue lunch so 10 of us slipped away for a heavy cheese lunch. It's been some time since we have seen cheese and we all ate far too much. Sophie with her gallstones shouldn't be eating but couldn't resist, likewise Chris is allergic, getting what he also cheesy cheeks, but could not resist. Great lunch!

More Dzongs this afternoon and then back to the hotel for tea. Check the steering once again which Paddy thinks is pulling to the right. I'm sure that it's fine.

Tomorrow 180km so a long haul. Looking forward to it.

Fantastic country


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Eating deep fried chillies in Bumtang

Photobomb in Dzong Bumtang

Paddy having a snoop in Bumtang Dzong

Another Dzong in Bumtang

Rebuilt temple at Bumtang

This temple was burnt down on 2010 and has been rebuilt. It is all carved and painted and is unbelievably intricate.

The wood burner factory in Bumtang

Road to Bumtang

Road to Bumtang