Recent developmental activities in Laya and change in lifestyle of Layaps have not changed its age-old practice of migrating to the lowlands in winter and returning home by spring.
More than a decade ago, Layaps depended on yaks to move to the lower lands. Many made sure to travel before monsoon.
Pem Tshewang, 50, from Laya said that not many Layaps owned horses then. “We depended on yaks for migration.”
He said there were also times when they had to carry their loads, as only people could pass through some stretches of the trail. Rearing yaks was the main occupation of Layaps then. “It was the only source of livelihood we inherited.”
The trend is, however, vanishing with other sources of income and livelihood. Yaks are hardly used today and the residents started buying horses to ferry goods. Bolero cars and other heavy vehicles are also used.
Pem Tshewang said there were times when Layaps migrated to Punakha carrying the produce of livestock, meat, and incense and exchanged it for grains and other necessities from people in Punakha. “We bartered our produces.”
Today, livestock products are sold in the village itself and incense has become a gift item.
“Each household used to behead at least a yak at the time of migrating to Punakha. Now, this trend doesn’t exist anymore. We carry cash earned from cordyceps. The change has come far,” Pem Tshewang said.
A businessman in Laya, Yangla, 45, was readying a troop of horses to ferry his shop and household items from Koina, the nearest road head in Laya.
He camped by the roadside for the last four days. It would take more than a month to reach all his items to Laya.
Yangla has been running a shop in Laya for the last seven years. He said it has become easier to continue his business. “We fetch better prizes after reaching Laya but we need to consider the transportation cost. It is difficult to transport goods during monsoon.”
The ongoing road construction from Gasa to Laya has become a place to camp for Layaps returning home. The roadside is lined with camps.
Layaps say camping along the roadside and guarding the goods was not an easy task with bears’ attacking the camps for food.