The third day would prove to be the main cultural experience of the trip. We drove to Phobjikha, the home of the Black Neck Crane Festival. The festival was relatively new, and celebrates the migration from Tibet to Bhutan of the black neck cranes which winter in this valley. The main dancing and music are held at the temple in Phobjikha, and was the most colorful display that we saw. Lots of Bhutanese and tourists crowded the main square to watch the 4 hours of dances and tributes to the cranes. We joined a small crowd on the second floor balcony for a birds eye view of the action.
One of the more memorable cultural anomalies that we saw was a line of bright red tractors and small trailers used by farmers for their crops and which double as taxis for these types of events. We had seen this in “Travelers and Magicians” a movie about Bhutan, but this was the first day we actually saw them driving around.
After having lunch in a nearby field where we communed with some of the local fauna, we headed to the Crane Interpretation Center, which had displays and videos about the cranes and the migration from Tibet each year. They also had a spotting scope to view the cranes that were in a nearby field. In order to protect the cranes no one is allowed in the boggy field that they inhabit while they are there.
As part of the rural electrification program, this valley received extra money from foreign aid agencies to bury all the electrical cables underground to preserve the environment as much as possible for the cranes. It will be one of the few inhabited valleys that will not have any overhead wires.
The farm house that we stayed in was the most rustic of any of the hotels that we visited. The 2900m elevation combined with the lack of in room heating, made it a chilly night, hypothermia avoided by use of a hot water bottle in the bed!
The fourth day was a long road day, traversing two mountain passes to get to the central city and former capital of Bumthang.