My journey from Thimphu to my hometown in Tashiyangtse was a total nightmare.
The problem started with my car’s tyre.
I started from Thimphu at 9am with four of my family members. The road was wide and peaceful.
I drove slow as my mother suffered from motion sickness.
At Lobessa, a taxi honked from behind. I slowed down on the left side of the road to let it overtake. The driver said something, pointing at my rear tyre.
When I pulled over and check, right-back tyre was deflated.
Luckily, there was automobile workshop a few metres ahead. Three men were fixing something on a car. They won’t fix my tyre; they only repair mechanical problems.
I took out a clutch wrench from under the boot, wanted to fling it with all the force I could gather on heads of the three idiots there who wouldn’t even look at my problem, but let it be, and began working on the tyre myself, quietly.
I decided to drive to the next workshop, some metres ahead. This one does the tyre-fixing job!
The repairman located the problem quickly but could not fix the tyre and went looking for a friend who, according to him, is the wizard of repair works. Twenty minutes passed. No sign of the wizard. So I put the spare tyre back under the booth and drove on to another workshop.
There was one below the road but workshop too does not have tyre repair service. They don’t even sell new tyres. Upon reaching Wangdue bridge, I saw another workshop but knew better not to celebrate. And lo, here too, my tyre could not be fixed! And they don’t sell tyres!
On the ice and bumps
The journey from Bumthang to Mongar was the worst I ever experienced in my life. Nangar-Ura bypass road was full of potholes, worst than a bad farm road in some villages. There was not even a trace of blacktop on this stretch of road.
In 2006, when I was a reporter in Bumthang, I wrote many stories about the bypass, which was just being built. Little did I know that it would come to this!
I managed to cross Ura. Then came the notorious Thrumsingla Pass. I swear I was driving at a snail’s pace—so slow that I was barely moving. It scared the hell out of me when I realised that I was snoring behind the wheel.
After Gezamchhu, the road was glassy. It was early in the morning. Snow framed the road on both sides. Heavily laden lorries were struggling up the road. Upon reaching the pass, if there was any reward for the nightmares I had to endure, it was the sight of early morning sun kissing the wide expanse of the pass.
Towards Sengor the road got better.
At the end of the small Sengor town, just above the last shop, there was signage that said the road opens only twice a day for traffic. We had to wait until 11:30am for the traffic to open.
Angry travellers came out of their cars to curse. A four-hour closure was too long, they said. What angered them more was that their curses—which literally turned to icicle mid-air—had no meaning. So, before the cold wind turned us all dead and blue, we got back in our cars and waited.
At 11:30am the road opened and there was a mad rush. If we fail to cross Yongkala on time, there will be another block. But the road doesn’t get any better. I could barely see anything pass my rattling windshield. I could feel my good sense threatening to depart. Crossing Yongkala on time was such a relief that I wanted to get out of car and holler like a madman.
I was, at long last, driving on a proper highway again! Crossing Mongar, I meandered down to Chazam and headed toward Tashiyangtse with one back look. Pass some mean stretches beyond Doksum, driving left heavenly.
I was home already!