After a day’s layover, we are well rested, clean, and ready to move on. It’s a short hike to our next campsite—less than 5 miles. The campsite is near two lakes, at an altitude of 14,100 feet. It’s time to say goodbye to Chomolhari, and hello to Jitchu Drake, a mountain we saw earlier on our hike, but that fell our of view at base camp except for a tiny peak. This morning, before everyone else was up, we hiked a bit out of camp to catch a glimpse it. We’ll see more later when we ascend to higher ground. Before we begin our ascent, we are going to visit the home of a yak herder and his family.
The yak herder family—a woman and her two children—graciously welcome us into their home. It is a traditional two-story Bhutanese home on a large plot of land with a stable and grazing areas. The home is comfortably furnished. In addition to the sleeping, cooking, and living room areas, it has a small area dedicated to Buddha. There are offerings, multicolored flags/banners, and butter lamps.
Jitchu Drake Appears
After leaving the yak herder's home, we head uphill. The higher we climb, the more Jitchu Drake unfolds itself. The scenery at the top of our climb is spectacular because there we can see both Jitchu Drake and Chomolhari. Several of us have a difficult time leaving this vantage point. We just can’t pull ourselves away. We linger while the others rush on to camp. When we finally get to camp, it is quite windy and cold, but like most days, have a tent with a view.
Mixed with the sound of the wind is the sound of a bell. It is ringing constantly. It sounds like the same incessant ringing we’ve heard for the past two nights when we were trying to sleep. I track down the sound to a horse. She is eating, constantly chewing. With every bite the bell around her neck rings. I find out from the horseman that a horse with a bell is a problem horse--typically a wanderer who needs to be kept track of.
The temperature drops around dinner time. The staff make hot water bottles for each of us to keep down the chill of the night. It is the coldest night, but it turns out to be crystal clear and one of the most beautiful nights of the trek.