December 2018January 2019 February 2019

01/31 - Butter Offering in Paro

We made a traditional Bhutanese butter offering at one of the temples in Paro. We lit 108 butter based candles. One hundred and eight is an auspicious number in Bhutanese Buddhism. The offering pavilion was cold when we started, each of us lighting half of the candles. We focused on our task, lighting each candle in turn. Slowly, the space filled with light followed by warmth. When we had finished, the whole aspect of the space had changed from dark and cold to warm and light.

We've posted a short video of the butter offering.

After the offering, we explored the wintry temple grounds. Branches were bare, and the air cool and damp. There was a pervasive sense of calm and quiet.

Amankora in Paro

A view from near the hotel

Snow covered mountains

Seed pods

The temple grounds

The temple again - photography is not allowed inside

The temple grounds

The butter offering

Relighting a flame

Winter grounds

The offering pavilion across the garden

The pavilion

More of the grounds

As noted, a wintry morning

More of the grounds

Prayer wheels

The view of the valley

Keywords: bhutan

01/30 - Our Long Delayed Flight to Paro

The weather in Paro was better today, so we flew from Bumthang to Paro. It was perhaps 12 hours on the road but only a half hour of flying. The weather was cloudy, but the ride was easy.

Boarding our two engine turboprop ATR52

A peek at a peak

A snowy ridge line below

A glimpse of a fortress

Paro below

Our final approach, a corkscrew into a valley

Another dzong

Keywords: bhutan

01/30 - A Short Hike in Paro

We took a short walk around the Amankora north of Paro. There was farm land, farm houses, tourist hotels, snowy mountains and everything else we expected in Bhutan.

Willow trees

This grows in front of our house. It’s an import to Bhutan as well as to the US.

Winter fields and misty mountains

Snowy mountains

Winter color

More color and mountains

A rocky stream

Another bit of the stream

Green trees on a wintry background

Terraced fields

The old dzong

More terraced fields, mainly for rice

A picturesque ruin

Terraced fields again

Hard work in farm country among the cypress trees

A prayer wheel

The dzong

What was this bird again?

Another country view

Keywords: bhutan

01/29 - Extra Day in Bumthang

We were set to fly back to Paro, but the weather was not cooperative. The approach to Paro is tricky. The airfield is located in a narrow valley which means a long corkscrew of a descent before lining up with the runway. The plane flying in from India attempted a landing, but the snow, winds and bad visibility made it impossible. The plane returned to India. That meant no plane from Paro to Bumthang, so our flight was cancelled. We would have to endure another day in the lap of luxury in Bumthang.

We settled back in our room and unpacked a bit. Then, we took a hike in the pine forest across the valley on a trail offering views of the valley and one of the dzongs. We passed through forest, crossed streams, slogged through mud and snow, then descended along a country road through a farming village. We were properly tired when we turned up for a last Bhutanese dinner at Amankora Bumthang.

Early morning color

A view of the dzong from the forest

Pine forest

More forest

Even more forest

Ground cover

A hillside scene

Daphne buds

A bit of mud

A forest tunnel

Low hanging branches

One of the streams - the folks from Amankora maintain the bridge crossing it here

Farm fields

A farm house with a scare crow

A view of the valley

More farm houses

More country

Some more morning light

The hotel as we settled in for dinner - Weather was worse in Paro.

Keywords: bhutan

01/28 - Bumthang Farm House Lunch

We visited the local fortress and another fine temple near Bumthang. The fortress was like a small city with hidden streets and courtyards. Nowadays much of it is office space with all sorts of local and national administrative offices, but it still serves as a place of worship. Then we walked cross country to another temple and saw the ancient cave, the oldest part of the sacred site.

After that, we crossed the river and walked farther into the country to a farm house for an excellent farm house lunch. Our hostess is the a member of the family that has cooked for the royal family of Bhutan for at least three generations. She served us a traditional lunch featuring buckwheat noodles, local vegetables, buckwheat pancakes, beef, red rice and, of course, the traditional green peppers and local cheese. She capped the meal by serving us small glasses of her home made ara, Bhutan’s grain based wine. She had added the rare and valuable cordyceps fungus. It was delicious. Our guide and our driver, who did not partake, each took home a plastic bottle of the ara as a souvenir.

Dramatic doorways

Dramatic views

A hidden street

A hidden courtyard

A window in a courtyard

Old murals

Prayer wheels at an old window

Farm fields in winter

A wagtail on a post

A shaggy horse

Another temple

Traditional architecture for a mountain valley

The suspension bridge

The river

Seed pods

The river again

A farm house

Our farm house lunch

The artist in her studio

Keywords: bhutan

01/27 - Bushman Trail in Bumthang

We took a longer hike on our first day in Bumthang. After the long ride the day before, we needed to stretch our legs. We started in farm country overlooking a convent and made our way into the hills. There was snow on the ground here and there and frozen water. There were pine needles carpeting the forest floor. We had glimpses of the valley and the mountains beyond. We climbed for a fair way, almost 1200’ from the trailhead, then we stopped for a rest. Then we descended through more pine forest before emerging just above town. We could even see our hotel down below us. As is so often the case in the mountains, things that seem nearby are often quite far away by foot or even car. We were glad when the trail met the road and we descended to meet our driver for the ride home.

Farm house

Looking down at the convent

Distant mountains

Spanish moss

Frozen water

Daphne buds

Winter ferns

A pine cone - Couldn’t you guess?

A cooperative bird

Pine forest

More distant mountains

Possibly rose hips

The trail continued

More pine forest

Coming out of the forest towards Bumthang proper

Another bit of trail

Bamboo in the forest

Even more mountains

We passed an apiary on our way to the road.

Keywords: bhutan

01/27 - Amankora Bumthang

These are just a few pictures of Amankora Bumthang, some taken by dawn light.

Very early morning

Dawn light in the valley

The main building

Keywords: bhutan

01/26 - From Gangtey to Bumthang

We woke up early, Venus and Jupiter were still in the sky, and we could see the moon over the valley. We had a long way to go up twisting roads and down into narrow valleys. We could see distant mountains covered with snow and glacial rivers. There were prayer wheels and flags and dzongs dominating hillsides. We even saw a monkey.

Parts of the road were covered with snow. Parts were under construction. Parts were narrow with steep drop offs and amazing views. Those two seem to go hand in hand. We had a picnic along the road, wonderful egg salad sandwiches. All the eggs in Bhutan seem to be organic and taste it. After a long day on the road, we made it into Bumthang in time for dinner.

Dawn light

Venus and Jupiter

The moon over the valley

We left one of our prayer bands in Gangtey

Snow covered mountains

Dramatic vistas …

… and more dramatic vistas

A hillside town

Those crenelations made us feel much safer.

A brown monkey by the roadside

One of the fortresses

The road ahead with a dramatic drop

A river below

Another view

Snow by the road

Amankora in Bumthang

The cloister at the hotel

Keywords: bhutan

01/25 - Gangtey - To The Crane Center

We took a longer walk, this time to the Crane Center which has exhibits explaining the lives of the black necked cranes and the efforts being made to preserve them. We walked through farm country and pine forest. There were cranes out foraging and archers practicing. Archery is like pick up basketball in Bhutan. A bunch of guys get out with their bows and arrows and shoot a few. Here, they were using compound bows, and there were a number of bullseyes, each worth two points and accompanied by a bit of celebration. Apparently, one of the archers we saw is the best archer in Bhutan.

A view from the pine forest

Winter color

More pine forest

A black necked crane posing for us

A forest stream

Still winter

Another country scene

More cranes - This has been a great year for them.


More cranes

A country road

Winter light


Celebrating a bullseye

More country

The archers in context

On to the Crane Center

Keywords: bhutan

01/25 - Back From The Crane Center

On our way back to our hotel after visiting the Crane Center, we saw a cluster of birds fussing and fighting on the ground across the wetlands. Some were Himalayan griffins. Obviously, something had died and attracted notice. We watched for a bit, then headed on, back to Amankora.

The Crane Center

A bird in a tree on the way back

The town

Another farm house

A Himalayan griffin showing off

More exciting bird action

A crowd of birds

Griffins among the flock

In the distance, hence some of the blurry photos

A stream in the light

Another stream

A crow on a rooftop

Yet another stream - These are wetlands.

Keywords: bhutan

01/24 - From Monastery to Wetlands

As much as we hated to leave Amankora Gangtey, we set out to the local dzong, the monastery on the hill across the valley. The monastery was fascinating enough, but then we headed through the adjacent village, down and into the pine forest on the monastery hill. We saw black necked cranes in the fields. They love that stubble.

We walked through the forest, past daphnes and dwarf bamboo, and emerged to an overlook adorned with prayer flags. There were black necked cranes in the wetlands below. Then we made our way down to the wetlands, crossing on a cow damaged causeway and watching for cranes as we went. We saw some flying and as we followed the road we saw many others, some nearby and some in the distance. Apparently, this has been a great year for the black necked cranes.

Amankora Gangtey - Why would we ever leave?

The monastery

Some detail

Prayer wheels

Monastery dogs

The village on the hill

People hard at work, unlike us

Black necked cranes enjoying field stubble

A daphne in bloom

Pine forest

Prayer flags overlooking the valley

Descending to the wetlands


Across the wetlands

Cranes in flight

More wetlands

More black necked cranes

Even more cranes in the wetlands

The road to our ride home

Keywords: bhutan

01/24 - Country Evening in Gangtey

We had a country evening in Gangtey. First we had a traditional hot stone bath in a wooden shed. There were candles, hot water, artemesia floating like seaweed in the water and the setting sun. Then we had dinner in a potato shed. There was a hot fire, traditional music and song, and a wonderful dinner with a view of the valley. Did we mention candles? There were candles too, so dazzling one of us nearly tripped over one as we entered, dazzled.

Fire near the bath house

Inside the bath house, candles

The traditional bath

The mat door for privacy while changing

When we left the bath, fire was out.

Country walk

The moon rising

Arriving for dinner, a welcoming fire

Bhutanese musicians

Candles at dinner

Our table setting

Keywords: bhutan

01/23 - More From Our Welcome to Gangtey

Here are some more pictures from our first hike in Gangtey.

Farmland view

Melting snow

Wooded mountains and broad wetlands, perfect for cranes

Ruts in the road

More red branches

Water runs all through the valley

Song birds

A farm house


Another farm house

Our valley of the cranes

Keywords: bhutan

01/22 - Welcome to Gangtey

We left Punakha, and once again were on a winding mountain road riding through wild forest with snow capped hills in the distance and glimpses of rivers far below. We followed Bhutan’s east-west highway, then turned south to the Pobjikha Valley and Gangtey, beautiful isolated farm country. We had no sooner settled into the Amankora there than we took a walk from the hotel through the countryside. We went through a farm village, past drying turnips, half wild cattle and black necked cranes. Yes, there they were, wintering in the wetlands of the valley and foraging on the crop stubble.

The river in Punakha

A rest stop en route

Mountain road

More mountain road and snow capped peaks

Yet more of the road

And even more

Amankora Gangtey

Farm land

A farm shed

Black necked cranes

One of those cranes again

A farm field with drying turnips

More cranes, farther afield

Traditional Bhutanese architecture

The farm road

Beautiful rock

Red branch tips, a sign of spring

Keywords: bhutan

01/22 - Not the Port Angeles Farmers' Market

We checked out the local farmers’ market in Punakha. It’s held every Saturday morning and is full of local produce, rice, vegetables, betelnut, cabbages, potatoes and so on. We were sorry we didn’t have a kitchen or we would have gone crazy there.

A lively market

Punakha has a broad range of local produce

More of the lively market

Chiles and spices

Local peppers, perfect at high altitudes

More peppers

More produce

Local red rice, great with scrambled eggs and hot chiles

More pretty produce

More of the farmers’ market

Bhutan may be in the Himalayas but it is not much farther north than Hawaii, so it has wonderful produce.

Keywords: bhutan

01/21 - Rafting in Punakha

We took a rafting trip down the Female River that runs through Punakha. This was the gentler option than the Male River. There were a few rapids, short stretches of white water, but this was not an adventure by anyone’s standards except our own. We had never been rafting before. We squeezed into wet suits and put on helmets. Then we boarded the raft and learned how not to hit each other or our guide with the paddles. That done, things went smoothly.

The high point of the trip was the Palla’s fish eagle that swooped over our raft and downriver. We watched this great gray bird in awe. It was a rare sighting. There was no way we were going to be fussing with cameras. We did take a few pictures of the more common and more cooperative ruddy shelducks. We had views of the snowy mountains whose meltwaters in which we were rafting. We passed prayer flags and shrines. It was an amazing journey, and, for us, quite an adventure.

The banks of the river

Snowy mountains upriver

A placid stretch

Silver water and exotic trees

Another view of the river

A sparkling day on the Female River

Yet another view

A ruddy shelduck

A few more ruddy shelducks, just for luck

Beautiful water

Exotic trees

Keywords: bhutan

01/21 - Punakha and Its Fortress

Punakha is the garden of Bhutan with fruits and vegetables grown year round. Farm stands in the outskirts of the city sold spinach, apples, oranges and other vegetables even in January. Bhutan is in the Himalayas, but it is also far south at 27N. The big agricultural product is rice, especially their wonderful local red rice. The land is terraced and irrigated, and vegetables are often grown under plastic tents in the colder months.

We visited the 17th century dzong, once a fortress, but now a temple. We couldn’t take photographs inside where Buddha presided and murals told stories of his life and enlightenment and those of other great teachers. There is a major winter festival next month, and we watched young monks practicing one of the dances. The teacher was clearly the master of the art. He moved with great grace and control. Some of the young monks had developed some skill while others were new to the dance. We didn’t feel right taking pictures. We’re sure they will give an excellent performance come the big day.

View of the mountains from Amankora

Another view from Amankora

The infinity pool and agricultural land

The great Dzong of Punakha

Almost a Tuscan villa

Terraced rice fields

Indian cotton silk (or perhaps silk cotton) tree flowers

The river

The entrance to the Dzong

In the courtyard

One of the many murals

The bodhi tree in the dzong

Another view of the courtyard

Bhutanese architecture

Another view

Monks in red robes in the courtyard

The river below

Mountains above

Misty late in the day

Keywords: bhutan

01/20 - A Stroll Before Rafting

Before our raft trip we took a short walk. The trail led to a shrine, but we didn’t make it that far. The river below was waiting for us. We did see the rice fields and had a glimpse of the distant snow covered mountains. Punakha, as it turns out, is great for just about every variety of vegetable. It also produces rice and winter wheat.

Across the bridge - We added our own prayer flags.

Rice and vegetable fields

Rice fields

Christmas plant - poinsetta in an un-Christmassy setting

Another view

Christmas flower

More terraced farm land

Another pretty view

We’ll update this when we look this bird online.

Keywords: bhutan

01/19 - On To Punakha

We headed east from Thimpu, over the mountain pass to the next valley and the city of Punakha. We stopped at the pass for a view of the high mountains beyond, capped with snow. Then we descended into the mild valley. Even in January, there were oranges, spinach and other vegetables on sale at the little farm stands we passed. That afternoon, we crossed the suspension bridge over the Female River to our hotel.

View of the Himalayas

More mountains, more snow

Another view

A magpie with a long tail

Snow and color

That bird again

Another view from the pass

For safe travel

Distant mountains

The bridge to our hotel

Christmas plants

The Female River

Across the valley

Keywords: bhutan

01/18 - Thimpu Bhutan

Having been in an airplane for days on end, we went for a short hike on our first morning in Bhutan. It was a short trail not far from our hotel. We walked to a shrine overlooking the valley. There were prayer flags all about. The white ones commemorated the dead. The more colorful ones were for the living. The prayers were as if recited when moved by the wind.

Our hotel - just like in the pictures

Prayer flags at the start of the hike

The Buddha overlooking Thimpu

A view of the valley

Pine cones

Another valley view

More prayer flags

Keywords: bhutan

01/17 - Coming Into Bhutan

We knew we weren’t in Thailand anymore. Those mountains were huge. We had been flying north for over two hours. Now we were coming into the place of the snow, the Himalayas. Our destination was Bhutan. We aren’t in Port Angeles anymore either.

More to follow.

A first glimpse

We were at 34,000 feet, and those mountains didn’t look flat.

Another view

Coming closer …

… and closer

Not Port Angeles

Definitely not Fairchild Airport

Keywords: bhutan

01/10 - Flowers in Bloom

It’s awfully early, but we saw some salmonberry flowers, and it’s barely the middle of January. These usually bloom in early February.

Salmonberry flowers

Keywords: flowers, port angeles, weather

01/06 - High Water on the Dungeness River

On our last visit to the Dungeness Dike, the river was full of brown, milky water, lots of it. The water was high and quickly flowing. The trail was still wet, but the sun was out. It's rain season, so we expect the river to rise and fall for a while, then rise again for the spring melt.

High water in the Dungeness River

The Dungeness DIke

Another view of the river

Keywords: dungeness

01/01 - New Year on the Spruce Railroad Trail

We decided to start the New Year with a walk along the Spruce Railroad Trail. With the government shutdown, we weren't sure of whether the trail would be open, but it was. At least the first three miles are open. There were signs indicating that the section from the second tunnel to the western trailhead was still closed for remodeling. We joined quite a number of other people enjoying the trail and the good gray weather. The water was still which made for a sense of calm and great reflections of the mountains and forests around the lake.

The footbridge

Storm King, quite placid today

A small waterfall, where we turned around


A small stream, the outflow from the little waterfall

Another dreamy view of the lake

Keywords: spruce railroad, storm king, waterfall, weather

December 2018January 2019 February 2019