2 – Thimphu to Haa, 18th February

A group photo before we set for Haa, underneath the Walnut tree
A few missing in the picture, though.
It was almost noon our team leaders were already there by the time I reached and as always tea was served. Slowly folks started coming in one by one with huge back packs but heavier were smiles on their faces. Once again trekkers flooded the ambiance of the Walnut Tree. Our two new girls from Phuntsholing Dechen and Dawa just arrived.  With them everyone was in and ready to load up except for acho karma T. and ashim Chimi they were caught up in meetings. As we waited for the duo I went around trying to get to know the new comers so as to make the trek easy and comfortable, not for me but for them. Within a few kicks of chungkee (bunch of thin rubber bands tied together in a bounce able size) we got along quite well, instantly I knew it is this same feeling and love for the mountains or eagerness to experience mountains that bonded us invisibly.
A quick chungkee break and time to pose
 The late winter sun started leaning to west when we were done with loading our stuffs, bid farewell to Thimphu and departed for Haa 112km away, where we are going to crash for a night prior to our big event, the NobTshonapatta trek. After three and a half hours of cruising through Paro valley to the highest motor able pass in the country – Chelela at 3988 meters above the sea level – down the narrow and steep highway through thick jungle past the highest pass we reached Haa. It was already dark and cold outside but soon we were ushered to our team leaders’ aunt’s home.  Yes, our team leaders are cousins.
The black insulting cushion was laid across the wide wooden floor retaining every heat our body produced and there was a huge Bhutanese wood-fed heating stove in the center; all of us – not tired at all, or maybe holding back and not letting it show on our faces for from next day it will be a real test ­- we sat in a big full circle. The stove was burning and it was so warm and cozy inside the huge traditional house, our host served hot tea and honteys (delicacy famous in Haa and Paro, made out of buckwheat with turnip fillings inside. It comes in the size of momo.) but acho Karma T. and Kinely Penjor left for Janatenkha to drop our kitchen stuffs and tents, so our cook and other guys will have our breakfast and pack lunch ready the next morning. All the while we chit chatted on numerous topics sitting in full circle by the stove waiting for them to come back for dinner.  
At Haa sitting around Bhutanese wood-fed heating stove feasting on Hontey
Azey, chilly paste that makes a perfect combo with Hontey

When they got back and dinner was done, the watch on my wrist read 11.50 PM. Except for couples and girls rest we were to go upstairs to crash. Team leaders announced, “Everyone, be ready to depart by 7 AM tomorrow!” Bid sweet dreams and up we climbed the steep and narrow but strong traditional wooden ladder to crash.  



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