We are now well and truly in the midst of the monsoon season in Thimphu. The days are warm and humid with temperatures up around 30°C and then they typically break with a shower in the afternoon which seems to wash the air clean.
There are other days that are just grey and drizzly where the clouds hang low over the mountains.
And there are nights that we fall asleep to the sound of the rain falling on the metal roof next door.
Then there are the occasional thunder storms that roar up the valley, and dump their load all at once turning roads into rivers and then stop just as suddenly as they started.
The rivers have swollen and the landscape is vivid green, lush and overgrown, quite a contrast to when we first arrived. Even the marijuana that grows wild has become so abundant along verges and in vacant blocks that community clean up days have been organised to uproot the stuff!
But this weather doesn’t seem to deter the construction workers – buildings and road widening continue unabated! Tell that to an Aussie contractor next time he submits an Extention of Time claim for a few millimetres of rain! But here, in my opinion they really should halt works during the monsoon season, particularly the widening of Bhutan’s main East-West road. The section they’re working on at the moment, between Dochula Pass and Lobesa is a mud bath at best. Every time I’ve had to travel that road in the past few months we’ve been delayed several hours due to a truck getting bogged and impatient drivers trying to overtake and ultimately causing gridlock. On the last occasion, Jordi actually got out and started directing traffic!
After I returned from my work field trip in June the surveyors had to stay on a few extra days to finish taking the levels and measurements of the existing villages to prepare the survey plans. I had been waiting for the call from the office to advise that the survey plans were ready so we could commence some concept designs and wondering what was taking so long. I later learned that an electrical storm had fried the surveyors laptop on which they had been recording all the data. The office in Thimphu had to dispatch a car and driver to drive a spare laptop out to site – a 2 day drive. Part of the way there, the driver encountered a landslide that had blocked the road and there was no access. Instead, he had to drive all the way back to Thimphu and then south into India and back into Bhutan from the southern border to reach the surveyors!
Knowing the risks of driving during the monsoon season, when my friend Nicci and I went on a trip to Bumthang during the July school holidays we decided to drive only 1 way and purchase domestic air tickets to fly back. The flight only runs twice a week and we were lucky enough to get seats on the last plane before they were scheduled to finish until after the wet season when flights would resume. Our last full day in Bumthang we enjoyed a beautiful clear sunny day riding our hired bikes around the valley. But of course, the day of our flight the cloud was so low it was touching the runway and the rain was pelting down. We hung around in hope, but ultimately they cancelled the flight.
It just so happened that the other passenger, a Singaporean tourist, had a guide and a driver and 2 spare seats in their car …. and a deadline to make a connecting flight! Thankfully they agreed to give us a lift with them for the 11 hour drive back to Thimphu. And what a drive that was. As I’ve described before, the main road that traverses the country is narrow and winding with plenty of blind corners and landslips waiting to happen. It hugs the hillsides, invariably with a steep cliff towering above you on one side and a steep drop on the other. Now imagine this in the dark and rain, with zero visibility due to the fog, along a road that is for large sections unsealed and muddy from the roadworks, with no street lights or reflectors, and random obstacles like cows appearing in the middle of the road! I won’t forget that journey in a hurry! Those Buddhist meditation classes I’ve been attending came in very handy 🙂