Wangdi to Phobjekha, AKA Gangtey
After breakfast we leave for a very bumpy drive (recent road widening construction) to Phobjekha, the valley known for being the winter roosting grounds of the legendary black neck cranes that fly in from Tibet and Siberia. The cranes will have already left the valley but it is a beautiful and authentic place with a new hotel with required Bhutanese architecture but Western style rooms, a quaint village with farmhouses to visit and an ancient temple. The drive follows the national highway to Nobding and just before Pelela Pass we will turn onto a nicely paved farm road and drive another 13-km to Phobjekha, crossing over Gangtey Pass at 3140 m, (10300 ft.) before dropping into the Phobjekha Valley. It is a beautiful pass that is surrounded with blooming Rhododendron at this time of year. Also, there is the likelihood that we will see yaks and their herders as they work their way higher to summer pasture.
Phobjekha is a glacial valley on the periphery of the northwestern tip of the Black Mountain National Park. The valley is a conservation area and lies on the northern boundary of the Jowo Durshing range. People sometimes refer to the entire region as Gangtey after the name of the Gangtey Temple that is situated on a ridge overlooking the Phobjekha valley.
We arrive here in late morning so we have most of the day to visit the Black Neck Crane Information Center, arrange for mountain biking, visit a farmhouse for lunch, and visit an ancient temple for a special puja (ceremony) to bless our tour. Here we are allowed to take pictures of the puja and the inside of the temple. (But never of the Buddha statue.) There will be monks blowing horns, beating drums and chanting so it’s a good place for video and close-ups of faces with cheeks puffed out, etc.