The trip to Ura began at 9:30 on Monday morning. Kinga, who is a forester with WCP, had arranged for a taxi to take us on the 58km (36 miles) journey. The pavement is as wide as a single lane road back home, but divided into 2 lanes. When one comes upon a car going the opposite direction, one of the cars has to pull off the road to pass.
The road has many tight turns as it climbs to 11,200 feet to the main town of Ura. Most of the waterfalls were frozen and snow was still on the ground from the overnight storm. We stopped two or three times at various points overlooking the valleys. The mountains are all around us and become a faint blue the farther south you look. Turning north, one can see the valley of the remote villages we just passed through and the snow caps of Bhutan’s highest points peek over the lower ranges of the Himalayas; all of it is covered in forest. Bhutan currently boasts a 70% forest cover rate and the constitution states it must maintain a minimum of 60% at all times, thus insuring the environment and the animals in it.
Because the Chief Forestry Officer for Thurmshingla Park was not in for the next few days we were only able to stay for the day. Our first stop was for a quick lunch in the one “hotel” in the town… potatoes and rice! Next we visited the Rinchen Jugney Lhakhang which was built in 1308. Though from outside the building is rundown and looks to be in need of repair, it houses three enormous bronze statues of the Buddha and Guru Rinpoche. (Pictures are not permitted inside monasteries.)
From there we walked 3 miles into the forest and looked for any animals. We found barking deer, blood pheasant, and Himalayan monals… no red panda though. On the drive home we came across a government labor camp where men were winding down their day playing khuru and let me have a chance to throw the darts. It was a nice way to spend a day out of the office.