Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

At 3,400 metres above the sea level, the Pele-La Pass is wet, cold, and foggy. Five vendors, wrapped in their coats await passing passengers in hopes to sell their goods—chugu, yathras, keras, incense and grocery items.

But business is slow.

Vendor Norbu Tshering said that business had slowed by around 80 percent after Covid-19. Before the pandemic, there were at least 12 vendors.

“Three days ago my friend came here but she couldn’t sell even a single item and so she left,” Tshering, another vendor said.

Tshering said that tourists would buy yathra, the main source of their income for the vendors here.

Yathra items are sold at Nu 5,000 to tourists and around Nu 3,000 to local buyers. Mufflers sell for Nu 1,500 and keras for Nu 400. Incense packets are sold at Nu 50 or Nu 100.

Chugu and yathra textiles are brought from Bumthang and Keras from Sephu and Dangchu gewogs.

Bhutanese travellers hardly stop at the pass. “Travellers have also decreased this year,” said Norbu Tshering.