Part 1 Festival Time
I bet you didn’t know the Circus is in town” Festival
On a partly cloudy Saturday I headed down the road to Doksom with the aim of reaching Trashigang. I got a series of rides in a van, car, and ta ta (Indian psychedelic bus) to T-Gang to meet Becky. In between rides I stopped at Gom Kora which is hosting a huge festival on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Hundreds of people were already camped along the river and in the bush with tarps and open aired tents. Vendors had set up around Gom Kora proper selling socks, handbags, and all variety of cheaply assembled clothes. Unfortunately very few traditional items were there. The whole scene was a hybrid flea market and carnival with gambling tents, restaurants, and loud Hindi music. The crowd was a mix of Bhutanese in national dress and western dress, Brokpa people, and Indians from Arrunachal Pradesh. The Indians made a three day walk pilgrimage to the site. I accosted a group of Austrian tourist’s running up to engage them in conversation. My next ride took me as far as the infamous Chasm bridge AKA “The Bridge of no Return.” Apparently I am not permitted to overnight out of Yangtse without special permission and paperwork which I did not obtain. With a friendly smile and a Jedi mind trick. I was permitted, “Just this once.”
Just as my last ride arrived in the metropolis I saw Becky strolling up to the central prayer wheel. It would be a blessed weekend indeed. We headed out to the local bakery (an oddity in Asia and especially
) to get some sweet and salty treats. We then checked out various hotels before settling on one. We got room 108 the most auspicious of the Buddhist numbers at an inn on top of a prominent hill. We milled around the streets of T-Gang in the gloaming wandering to the Trashigang Dzong which was bathed in subtle natural and bulb light. One could feel the history in the soft and warm spring air. We found a veranda typed enclosure for dinner. I had chicken chow mien which was sublime. At dinner we met the education officer of Trashigang district and had a lengthy and pleasant conversation. We roamed onward being chased by vicious hounds finally winding up back at the hotel. In the lobby we ran into the Austrian tourists and their friends and had another conversation. Becky later told me I was using frenetic hand gestures which are my alibi in the classroom. I offered them my contact information and invited them to Tsenkharla if their itinerary permitted. Becky and I retired to our shared room and lay on twin beds laughing and talking until 4 AM. She spoke of her meeting a “bone healing” shaman in Bhutan Guatemala and her travels in . I talked (too much) of my adventures in Ecuador and lost love. We also spoke hysterically of Bhutanese names, which to me sound like carton birds, Deki Wangmo, Bumpa Zangpo, and Purpa Lhamo AKA Purple Lama. The name Bumpa Zangmo washed into my dreams like a mantra. We had so much fun we never even flicked on the flat screen TV. Korea
In the morning T-Gang looked like a cradle of civilization, its shops, wide paved streets, and mid evil architecture. One round yellow building other buildings set in the green hillside with steep stairs ascending up towards them. We met fellow BCF teachers Vicky and Ian an Australian married couple in their second year and Martha a gritty Canadian. The three of them are older and wiser then Becky and I with great sarcastic sense of humors. Vicky and Ian treated us all to carrot cake and tea in the same Veranda enclosure as the previous night. Vicky told stories of the Kings visit last year to her school while we ate laughed and commiserated. Martha made her trademark hilarious sound effects at opportune moments. It was all pleasant and civilized. Traveling is a great equalizer as it allows bonding to those from different backgrounds through a shared experience. At the conclusion of tea we snapped a group photo and said our reluctant goodbyes. Becky and I split to Gom Kora.
I was fortunate to bring Becky into my neck of the woods. (Although it is a slimly forested wood) We graced Gom Kora then went down to my power spot on the river to relax. The visibility was horrific with smoke encasing the canyons. We chilled by the rapids on the cream and olive river before moving towards Doksom. On the way we met two vibrant and beautiful Indian women with luxurious braided hair hanging down over their shapely buttocks. Their braids were like an Indian Repunsal. They gave us oranges as I commented to Becky on the good energy we were receiving from strangers on our journey. I made a circular gesture with my hands commenting “Something must be in the air” The more curvaceous woman laughed hysterically and emulated my movements. She then engaged me in a long confusing conversation playfully whacking me on occasion. Becky laughed as I got shy and bashful around her. The two women wore flowered skirts and tight blouses. They radiated sexuality and friendliness in comparison to the rather reserved Bhutanese women. They reminded me of a phrase by Gary Snyder, “sexy primate clowns.”
From Doksom we hitched in a car full of students with none other than Bumpa Zangmo from my 7B and a dozen other happy shiny faces. I gave Becky the quickest tour of my school, the ruin, and the temple. Unfortunately you couldn’t see any of the view due to the smoke. I sent her on her way around 4:20 with a vehicle headed back down to Gom Kora where she will catch a ride back to T-Gang for the night.
The gods were with us in our travels and one couldn’t ask for a better day in
Eastern Bhutan. It was great to see my Western clan and meet some friendly tourists too. I am now home exhaustedly grateful for the epic twenty eight hours on the road. I feel reassured that there are some fine people sharing this path called life.
Part 2 Late Night at Gom Kora
“They never stopped rockin’ going round and round” Chuck Berry
I bounded back down the hill in a packed vehicle for the late night revelry at Gom Kora. The complex and surrounding camps were all lit up in blue and gold light. Karlos Sonam and I circumnavigated the temple about fifty or so times stopping briefly for dinner and drinks. The vibe at night was buzzing with comradely, sexuality, and a hint of mischief. People held hands in various groups, walking together around and around. In the campgrounds on the terraces people ate drank and gambled. The story goes that men were once encouraged to find a suitable women and drag her off into the forest to fornicate. (A mass night hunt) But the real purpose of the festival is to honor Guru Rimpoche (the second Buddha) who meditated on this site thus subduing a local demon (with the help of a guruda) who is now encased in the huge rock. The guru’s imprint has also been left on that rock. This is the same rock that I meditated on over Losar under a huge broadleaf tree. As the night progressed the crowd got rowdy and a fight almost broke out. Under a phosphoric half moon a self proclaimed, “great lama” sat drinking a bottle of beer on a field. He had several more unopened bottles in front of him and a dozen or so people surrounding him. He offered me a drink which I politely refused. He then went on to say he was well known in
and was a reincarnated lama. He had his two brilliant young children at his side including his daughter wearing devil horns. We had a quasi philosophical discussion on Buddhism to the amusement of the onlookers. But mainly he boast of how drunk he was and how many people gave him beer. He then bragged on how he would drive his family home. I implored him to find another driver but he laughed at me saying he was above worldly harm. My assessment was that he was a foolish man endangering the lives of his children and so called disciples. After midnight my party piled into a taxi with karma Bhutan Om’s mother on my lap and headed up the mountain towards home.
P.S Emillio if you are reading this I will send a letter soon but the Bhutan postal system is slow and unreliable. I think your quest is admirable. For everyone else see comment in Blue Mountains Walking.