The black-necked crane festival



p1030578Breakfast starts the day well, the mountain top horizon rising up before me across the valley so close I can make out individual trees at its crest while I sup my buttered and salted tea. The white flecked river at the valleys bottom swirls past a renovated dzong to my right before flowing past the wide rice paddy terraces to my left.

The Gantey monastery in Phobjikha is a fantastic backdrop for the black neck crane festival, the drive to get there involved some of the worst roads I have ever experienced. The roadside cliffs newly hewn from the mountain are textured like the road surface itself, with the road smoothed only enough to facilitate cars. I couldn’t shake the repeated mental image of our cars tires treading too close to the sheer drop, this was a genuine white knuckled ride. Though to be fair the landscape views from the cliff edge roads were astounding.

The festivities themselves are a cultural spectacle including a lot of dancing from monastic, societal and school groups. Throngs of locals and tourists alike, crowd intermingled inside the courtyard, traditional dress abounds, the more formal wear separates the guides and drivers from the well worn attire of the local people, predominantly farmers. The crowd is friendly with people cramming into every vantage of the courtyard to see the show, the temple itself incredibly ornate and beaming in the bright sun. Ravens craw, flying in the peripheries while the dancers twirl, inside the courtyard the cool breeze chills slowly, in spite of the sun blazing overhead.