Before I get into today’s post, I’d like to add a postscript to the one on hiking in Bhutan. I didn’t want to leave you with the impression that the fine folks here in Bhutan are a bunch of perverts or anything, so I’d like to pick up where I left off…penises. Actually, the first thing I would like to say on this subject is how impressed and somewhat surprised I am that the friends and family members (so to speak) that commented on the post all took the “high road”. I could think of all sorts of comments that the blog could have elicited. Pesonally, I’m kicking myself for missing the opportunity, with regard to the Divine Madman, to use a Himalayan joke in there!
With regard to the Bhutanese, I want to say that there is nothing pornographic about the paintings and carvings whatsoever. This is a farming community. Fertility is EVERYTHING to these folks. They want fertile land, fertile livestock and, I imagine, fertile husbands and wives so that they can divide the many, many chores of the farm with strong kids. This is the reason they have adopted the erect penis as their mascot; it represents fertility to them. So that’s that.
Ok, now on to my rustic experience. I had a great day yesterday. Actually, I’ve had a bunch of great days. Although I miss home, family and friends, this has been a wonderful experience in so many ways. This day started with a 3 hour drive to the the next town. We had a lovely rustic lunch at the farmhouse I mentioned in a previous post. We all sat on the floor and had a delicious meal. Afterwards, we were offered ara, the Bhutanese wine that tastes more like kerosene. From the farmhouse, Chencho and I hiked 10 miles around the valley through a wooded area, through farms, through bogs, across streams, over fences, and on wooden planks. At the end of the hike was an uphill climb to our next hotel, the Hotel Dewachen. I learned the name means “Eternal Bliss” so my expectations were high. I checked in and was shown to my room. The first thing I noticed was the little wood burning stove in the room and a large supply of firewood on the porch. The room was dim even with both lights on, but I brought a headlamp for reading so it would be fine. The young woman who showed me the room lit a match, and within a minute or two, I had a roaring fire heating the room and providing a wonderful ambience. This would be a special stay!
I added some wood then proceeded to wash some clothes in the sink (that needed it, believe me) and hang them on the drying rack in the room. I moved the rack closer to the stove to speed drying. I unpacked and checked out the room and, in the closet, I found a real hot water bottle and a candle. Now this was really rustic! When I thought about it, the closest thing to a hot water bottle I have ever used is a whoopie cushion. When you look up the word, “rustic” in Webster’s, one of the definitions you will find is, “Rustic (adj); a hotel room with mold and mildew on the bathroom ceiling.” Based on this definition, my hotel room was very rustic.
As some time had passed, I checked the warmth of the stove and the dryness of the clothes and it seemed that, at this rate, I wouldn’t have clean and dry clothes by morning. I grabbed two logs and laid them on the stove in parallel and put the essential clothes, a pair of socks, underwear, and tee shirt on the logs for faster drying. I had about an hour till dinner, so I laid on one of the twin beds with my headlamp to read.
I guess I was engrossed in the book, because when I took the headlamp off of the book and onto the room, I saw that the room had filled with smoke! I dashed to the stove and found that the logs I had placed on the stove had started to smolder! I removed my now smokey clothes and the logs and opened the door and a window to air out the room. With the emergency over and my designated time to meet Chencho approaching, I headed out for dinner. I mentioned none of this to Chencho.
Upon my return, the fire was out and the room was cold. But I had seen the young woman from the hotel light the fire effortlessly in 5 seconds, so obviously I could do it too. But all I had was wood and no kindling to get the fire started. I had some paper from my travel itinerary and I found some scraps of wood in the bottom of the wood container in the room which I used to try to start the fire. It failed miserably. Tried adding some more scraps a second time. Still no good. After a third unsuccessful attempt, I threw in the towel. As it was getting late and I was exhauted from the day, I decided to deal with the fire the next day and just go with the conventional manner of heating. I went over to the thermostat on the wall and turned the dial. Nothing. Turned the dial all the way, still nothing. I scanned the room and saw no vents or radiators. Uh oh. At this point, my brain was fried and I just couldn’t handle any more thought so I put on a bunch of clothes; and by a bunch I mean 3 shirts, pajama bottoms, socks, a hat and gloves. I knew the warm clothes I packed would come in handy, but I expected that they would be used outdoors! Added to this ensemble, were the 3 available comforters in the room over the top of me.
As I was drifting off to sleep, a sense of regret for dropping out of cub scouts before learning the key survival skills like making a fire came over me.
I’m not sure what the temperature in the room was when I woke, but it was basically the same as outside, minus the wind chill. Given the temperature, I seriously debated whether to take a shower. I decided to give it a try and turned the water temperature up very hot and warmed myself under the water. Once done, I dried and dressed in about 30 seconds, which, I suspect, if Guinness tracked such things, I would hold the current record in this event.
Once dressed, I stepped outside to assess the weather for the day. As soon as I stepped outside, I saw a coffee can filled with wood chips that were soaked in kerosene, or perhaps ara. Here was the missing ingredient. This was how the woman from the hotel got the first fire lit so quickly! I can’t say for sure that the can wasn’t there the previous evening, but I’m pretty sure. I brought my new found treasure back into the room and I quickly put some chips in the stove and laid a couple of logs on top. In literally 30 seconds, the fire was roaring and providing much needed warmth to the meat locker I had slept in. Success! The regrets about leaving the cub scouts in mid-stream faded away and were replaced with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Tonight would be a very different story! In addition, I figured the cleaning staff would no longer be able to size me up as a “city slicker” who couldn’t get a simple fire lit when they came to clean the room. I could leave for breakfast with my head held high!
As I was enjoying a bowl of porridge and honey, I overheard the conversation at the next table between another tourist and his guide. At one point, the guide said that he would stop by the tourist’s room to start his fire. I just smiled to myself and thought, “city slicker”.
I share this story with you just in case you ever find yourself in the middle of Bhutan, freezing at the Dewachen, so that your bliss can truly be eternal, even overnight.