National Geographic : 1961 Sep
even toyed with the idea of staying there, but then he grew homesick. Nimchu, a Bhutanese Don Juan, was our Jack-of-all-trades. A splendid entertainer, he sang, cracked jokes, and called to every wom an he passed. This calling of a man to a girl is something I will always remember about Bhutan. The man calls as Nimchu did, with a hand to his ear to catch the echo. "Women prepare, I am lord of the moun tains and I own the sun. Your valley is mine, as are the fish in the streams and the animals in the forest." "But are you a man?" trills the woman, a distant speck in the flooded rice fields. So they called to us, and Nimchu invariably told me that they sang my praises. But I suspected the wicked glint in his eye, and Matay, with his Western manners, often looked plainly embarrassed. The first part of our route lay over densely forested Sinchula Pass, where prayer flags and flowers decorated a cairn of stones. Here in 1865 the Bhutanese and British met to sign a treaty that ended the Bhutan wars and cost the kingdom vast tracts of land. 390 As we labored over the pass, I wondered about our British predecessors. Had they stuffed tobacco leaves in their boots or salt in their stockings to ward off leeches? I did, because leeches are the scourge of Bhutan. Millions of them swarm in the undergrowth or drop from the trees. They bloody the horses' eyes and noses and make them a fear ful sight. I have had a leech suck away un noticed at my chest until blood soaked my shirt from collar to waist. Bird Call Inspires a Ghost Legend At first we encountered only trees and mountains, the peaks rising higher and high er toward the north, their monotony broken by spectacular waterfalls. In the forests stood banks of rhododendron, often festooned with moss. Orchids sparkled like jewels in the un ending green. The jungle vibrated with bird song. One anonymous bird set up a strangely haunting cry that rang through the trees. In the mist it was an eerie sound. Legend can hardly be blamed for labeling it the voice of a lost soul. Often we rode through clouds of butter flies so dense that they brushed our faces.