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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

We were in Laya (Part – 1) : Thimphu

It all began with an invitation from Gasa Dzongkhag to set up and manage public toilets during the Royal Highland Festival in Laya, 4,200 meters above the sea level, from 16th to 18th October, a month ago.  Since then temptations started running through my veins like a wild horse. I have read and seen the pictures of Laya in magazines only, and majority of the stories about Laya I have heard it from others. I have always wanted to go to Laya and the invitation was a ticket to Laya on a perfect timing.

Two weeks after the invitation Dasho Dzongda of Gasa came over to my office to discuss and give us an overview of the whole program. That was fine because that’s what we do and we do it good. But, after the discussion when he showed us pictures of Laya and the festival ground with giant snowcapped mountain ranges in the background, it made me go, “Wow, it is so beautiful!!!.......It appears like an easy hike to Laya?” Dasho Dzongda was, “It is easy, I went there just a few days ago.” From that day on wherever I went and whoever I met, it was always, “I am going to Laya. Oh, yes, I am going to Laya finally!”  

When it was down to just two weeks prior to the festival, we had everything ready and stacked in the corner of our office. Three of us would-be-going- colleagues appeared full of energy and in a mood to start heading Laya anytime. Except, we had no idea where we will eat and sleep while in Laya, because it was only later did we realize the invitation didn’t include food and lodge. There were farm houses in Laya, but too expensive for a young organization like us, on the other hand cannot afford to buy tents either.

Now with just a week left pressure started to build on. We will have to book ponies, look for transportation from Thimphu to Gasa, and then a place to crash in Gasa. The weather was getting worse day by day. We do not have any money, though all the toilet gadgets for the festival were bought by the Gyalpoi Zimpon’s office, but for us to go up, survive and manage public toilets, seemed like a huge problem for us. It was also already late to write a blog seeking donations.  We were in a dilemma and I could already see my dream of going to Laya crashing right in front of my eyes.

However, I was positive something will come up, and there came Sabah Bhutan and Trekker 360 to our rescue. Sabah Bhutan an NGO was already going to Laya but Trekker 360, a group of enthusiast and experienced trekkers, who treks round the year, were actually planning to go Dagala trek and Passu who is a good friend of mine plus Executive Director of Bhutan Toilet Org. suggested Laya. Without a second thought Trekker 360 decided to go Laya together with Sabah Bhutan and us. Kindest of all, Sabah Bhutan and Trekker 360 decided to sponsor the three-about-to-run-outa-luck-guys: us. If you had seen me in that particular moment, you would have seen my face cutting into two halves with a huge smile. That night I was in Laya!

Our team leader Sir Karma T. Dorji (Out of courtesy and respect, I address him as Acho, an elder brother, for the way he takes care of his group) Executive Director of Sabah Bhutan, had everything ready and then he called upon all 18 trekkers to brief on the plan, underneath the Walnut Tree at Dorji Elements. Ah, underneath the Walnut Tree, just a lovely place to be with your favorite folks. Over a lovely cup of tea and cake brought in by our soon would be trekking mate Ashim Ching-ching, our team leader acho karma T. gave us the overview of how we will roll. In the evening of 11th October we were to bring in all our stuffs here so we can set off early on 12th morning. That evening the air beneath the Walnut Tree was filled with lovely tea aroma, cake and excitements. A few minutes from the Walnut tree gathering, we crossed our ways so many times in the town checking out shops for last minute shopping. 

Underneath the Walnut tree.
Pic: Menda
Last minute shopping
The happy feeling was all over us as we started to count down the days, but the sky refused to smile. Rather, she cried since 9th and when we gathered yet again with our stuffs underneath the Walnut tree on 11th it was sobbing. The weather started to make us worry, for we were warned the road and pony trail goes bad in the rain posing threat to both animals and commuters. However, we had already made up our mind, “Be it rain or sun, it is Laya!”


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