Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Images of Bhutan - Leg 2 - Thimphu to Punakha

The Golden Buddha
After an amazing visit to the Haa Valley, Madge, Kristin and I loaded into the min-van with Chundu, our guide, and Themang, our driver, for the journey to Thimphu.  During our brief stay in the capital of Bhutan, we hooked up with a couple of local trekking guides to climb at the only developed crag in the country - the Nose!  Just a bit smaller than its namesake in Yosemite, the 100-ft Nose basically includes all 14 of Bhutan's established rock routes.  Over the course of a really fun morning, we got to sample 4 of those 14 routes before lunch.

During the rest of our stay in Thimphu, we explored the local markets, visited the Giant Golden Buddha, still under construction, and saw the National Memorial Chorten, where locals spend their days spinning the large prayer wheels and walking clockwise around this holy site for good karma.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Images of Bhutan - Leg 1 - Chelela Pass to the Haa Valley

In December of 2010, Kristin and I gave my mother Madge a golden ticket for her 70th birthday.  This golden ticket entitled her to a trip anywhere in the world she chose to go.  After a few weeks of research, Madge decided on Bhutan and our preparations began. 

In March of this year, after many long months of planning, the three of us traveled to Bhutan for a two-week tour of the western and central portions of this tiny country.  At approximately 18,000 square miles, Bhutan is roughly the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, but this Himalayan kingdom retains a rich and unique cultural and religious heritage all of its own.

The images below tell the story from the first leg of our trip, in which we drove over Chelela Pass, the highest road in the country at close to 13,000 feet, and then descended into the Haa Valley.

Isolated to the west of the main cities of the country, fewer than 10% of the tourists that visit Bhutan venture into this area.  We began our trip with a hike to a tiny, cliff-side monastery, a visit to a local farmhouse for lunch, and a memorable drive down a deeply incised river valley choked with old-growth trees.

if you click on any of the images below, you can view a gallery where you can easily scan through the photos.

You can also see a slide show of these same images set to some local music here: VIMEO slide show.  (Be sure to watch the HD version.)

Over the next couple of weeks, we'll publish shots from the rest of the trip, including the five-day Druk Path trek, a visit to the famed Tiger's Nest monastery, and the annual religious festival in Paro. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sin or Salvation? Skiing Mt. Rainier National Park - The Nisqually and the Tatoosh

The Mighty Mt. Rainier
Home from Bhutan just over a week, I drove down Interstate 5 on Friday morning after a mid-week meeting in Seattle.  Following a month of constant travel, I silently debated whether I should go skiing or simply stay at home and tend to the every day details that had fallen by the wayside.  Laundry, unpacking, work, even processing the 5,000 photos from my trip - I had plenty of excuses to remain in town and slow down.

For a few minutes, the classic debate between the angel and devil, both perched on opposing shoulders, played out in my mind.  But then I turned a corner on the highway and saw the mighty Mt. Rainier rising up off the horizon in clear, morning skies.  The mountain was covered in a deep blanket of snow that had fallen almost constantly since I left for Asia in March.  I couldn't deny the strong temptation presented by a weekend of chores, the lure of yard work and organizing the basement.  But having assumed the form of a majestic mountain temple, the angel on my shoulder reminded me that these sinful pleasures just lead to further moral degradation.  In a split second, she squashed that puny devil and illuminated the path.  Let's go skiing!