Wednesday 24 October 2012
We left Ogyen Chholing after an early breakfast and a breathtaking landscape. Low cloud crossed the wooded mountainsides and then we were in our cars, bumping our way slowly down the hill.
The oldest nun in the nunnery has few inhibitions and seems happy to be alive.
Pema Shedrup Choeki Gatsheling Shedra, Bhutan
On the way we stopped in at a nunnery that had recently been built and was home to over 100 nuns. It was interesting to note the feminine touches compared to the monasteries and while the younger nuns were somewhat reticent to pose for a dozen cameras, the oldest nun enjoyed the attention. In fact, she gave it back to the photographers, jumping and laughing like a teenager as she whirled her prayer wheel around. I convinced her to move out of the direct sunlight and into the courtyard shade where she happily repeated the performance.
We returned to Bumthang and the dzong at Jakar. A festival was underway and the locals were all dressed in their best clothes for the occasion. It was a short climb up to the walls of the dzong, through a couple of deep doorways and into the inner courtyard which was simply packed with brilliant colour. The locals almost outdid the performers with their colourful attire, but the masks and costumes carried the day. Everyone was in a festive mood, making it easy to photograph performers and audience alike.
After an hour or so, I wandered towards the tower which overlooked the courtyard. It looked like a great vantage point for a photograph and I could see some people up several floors looking down. I found a steep staircase heading up in the right direction, but I wasn't sure if access was allowed. However, just as I was contemplating the situation, three young girls arrived with an adult in tow, pretending to be tour guides and taking him into the tower. I smiled and tagged along, the guide's calling me 'sir'. We ascended four flights of stairs, although they are so steep they are more like ladders. At the very top we found a closed door with two demons hanging from the wall above. The girls dared us to touch them, but wouldn't be convinced to do it themselves. Skulls on the walls indicated that this was a special place and out of bounds.
I asked my guides if I could find a window looking out over the courtyard, so they took me back down a floor. We walked through a couple of doorways and I found myself in a temple with a beautiful alter. We were asked not to take photographs, so even at a young age, our guides knew the rules.
The windows were all glass and not great for photographs, so we descended another flight of stairs to the next level and walked into another temple. This was obviously the main temple with an incredible statue of the Buddha. I resisted the temptation to take a photograph and it actually felt great to leave without an image on my CF card, but I’m not sure why! The shots from the window of the courtyard were what I was after, although a part of me thinks that the monks really wouldn't have minded me taking a few snaps inside either.
Outside, a chill wind had blown up and there was talk of snow on the distant mountains.