“There’s going to be some turbulence, but that’s normal. Just be patient, we’ll be on the ground soon.”
That ‘s what the Druk Air pilot–some of the world’s best trained, I’m told–assured us as we made our initial descent into the ragged Himalayan mtns. that surround the tiny, single runway into the country’s only airport. Flying into the country requires a “sight-only” landing, as modern technology is futile here. Looking out of the window of our airbus, I felt like I could practically touch the mountains. WTF???!!! After 2 passes, a couple of sharp banks to the left and right, we landed smoothly.
After meeting our guide, Jambay, and driver, Pema, from Windhorse Tours and Treks, we waited for our other travel mate, David, to arrive on the next (and only) flight in. His plane didn’t make it in that day. If the weather isn’t close to perfect, landing is not possible. His flight made two failed attempts from Nepal, and after the last attempt, had to divert to Calcutta for an unexpected overnight.
Assuming that the worst was over, we climbed into our van for the 1-hour drive to Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan. With it’s continuous hairpin turns and steep cliffs with no gaurdrails, the drive is not for the squeamish-which I am. I rode most of the way with my head in HK’s lap, afraid to possibly witness our certain demise, except for the chance sighting of a languor monkey sitting on another car’s hood having a snack…( I could’ve sworn he flipped us the bird as we drove by…)
We visited the Memorial Chorten (a Buddhist monument), where a Bhutanese man gave us each a piece of candy and a gold-colored string to tie around our necks. Jambay said that it could represent whatever we chose, so I declaired that mine was for protection (a much-needed psychological assurance since we’ll be driving a lot on bhutan’s roads over the next several days).