During our last few days of hiking, we crossed our final pass and strung prayer flags across the top, then descended for two days to reach the road. We passed a monastery being restored by prisoners on work-release-rehabilitation, herds of Blue Sheep, carpenters repairing a health post, and old hermit huts built high on cliffs.
As we worked our way down, and back into cell coverage, I found myself on the phone far more than usual. We were exiting the trek in a completely different town than planned—and two days early. All of our prior hotel arrangements were useless, and every hotel was now packed with Indian tourists escaping the blazing heat of the Gangetic Plain before monsoon. We were also about to have two free days in the capital of Thimphu and two more in Paro—much more than we originally planned. In the kitchen tent-turned-office, I worked with the staff to plan excursions, call contacts, and arrange a cultural tour while drinking more and more tea. I was acutely aware how the installation of cell towers has changed guiding over the last 14 years. Expanded coverage has made it easier to pivot on a dime and make a whole new plan.
When we reached the road, we were met by our driver with a cooler full of beer and soft drinks. It took another few hours to unload the horses, pack the bus and jeep, have lunch, and say our goodbyes to the horsemen. They planned to take a shortcut over a high pass and head north to return home. The journey would take them another 5 days.
For us, however, it was a straight shot to hotel, showers, and a pizza dinner! We were also happily reunited with our once-sick trekker. After resting for a few days in Thimphu, she had headed out with one of our other guides on an adventure to tour the middle of the country for a week (and stay mostly below 8,000 ft). The group was elated when she suddenly arrived at the restaurant just as pizzas were coming out of the oven. We all had so many stories to share.