Only a half-day walk today. Four hours and only sixty metres of climbing and we would be in Laya. As in all cases when the day promises to be easy, it is always just that little bit harder than expected. Nonetheless after leaving camp and walking along an undulating path with lots of short, sharp climbs and descents, we came over a ridge and found ourselves on a plateau and only a few minutes walk from the village of Laya. Having flat ground was a bit of a novelty, as was a collection of houses greater than a handful.
(Arriving in Laya)
After finding our campsite, having a hot lunch in one of the houses (adorned with a very clear picture of a penis – apparently a holy man came through Bhutan a few hundred years ago and his teachings included putting such paintings on houses protected their occupants from bad luck and evil spirits) and spending some time watching the locals go about their business sorting the grain and wheat, it was time to do the usual chores that come with time at a campsite – generally washing and dying clothes. There were also a couple of shops that became apparent after some looking around.
(Typical Bhutanese architecture in Laya)
Day11 (Rest Day)
So, what do you do for a day in Laya? There were some shops to go and explore, there were view aplenty to sit and gaze at for a while, and there were hours to snooze and regain some of the energy that had been lost on the previous leg of the trek. Some of the guys visited the local school and had a good time talking with the teachers and children.
One of our crew livened up proceedings by finding a plank of wood and fashioning a cricket bat. We made a ball out of whatever we could find – lots of tape, and then the game was on. Cricket at 3900 metres! A good indication that I was over the altitude effects was that I could run around now and my headache had gone. We played around for an hour or so, repairing the bat when necessary, and providing some entertainment for the locals.
That evening we were treated to some traditional local dances and some local Black Mountain whisky. We partied on into the night, even getting up and trying to learn the dances, which were not that difficult, although some found them more challenging than others. I was happy that we had had a rest day. I felt refreshed and ready to tackle the next leg.
(The author drives through the covers in Laya - photo courtesy of my wife Miriam)
Today we started going down; all the way down below 3300 metres. This was cruel, because we then had climb back up to 4200 metres. Once we had reached the bottom of the valley and crossed the Mo Chhu, we then began a long 100 metre climb back up to our camp for the evening.
This was a long climb up to Rodophu. At the start we made our way through often muddy and rocky forests with sharp, steep turns that provided very few places where we could move out of the way of our yaks when it was time to let them past. Like many other days, the yak’s passage gave us an opportunity to rest for a while. This was a seven-hour climb and it was relentless, particularly where there were high rock steps to climb up. The landslides were also interesting; they gave us an opportunity to look right down the precipitous slopes to the valley below.
On the bright side we saw yet more rhododendrons and pine trees, and the forest sheltered us from direct sunlight during the morning. It became cloudy later in the day, and rained a little bit. While we were still in the valley there were plenty of waterfalls coming down from the clouds above. We arrived at camp fairly late in the day and were happy to rest our feet. We were treated to a old hit, which sheltered us during dinner from the cold wind that was blowing in the evening. Well, partially sheltered us as there were no windows in the hut, but it was nice to sit inside. We did, of course, sleep in our tents. Tomorrow we would climb yet again to our highest camp to date, at just below 5000 metres.
(The camp at Rodophu)