We reached Jigmelangtsho – the Ox Lake – at the end of our third hiking day on the Druk Path of Bhutan. The trail had taken us through bud-covered rhododendron forests that were waiting for the first rays of vernal sun to burst into blooming delight, and meadows dotted with forget-me-nots. We had traversed ridges at 4000 m altitude, waded in giggling creeks, and followed a steep descent before arriving at our camping spot already set next to a magical lake which was embraced by the mountains, the snowy tops reflecting on the water.
The Ox Lake from above, as we were descending towards our camp.
Our pitched tents can be seen here, by the creek that leads to the lake.
Legend has it that initially there was no lake there, and the place was dry until a Bhutanese came with his ox and camped for the night. The next morning, the ox had disappeared, and a large pond had emerged, a few bubbles on its surface indicating the location where the ox had drowned. Allegedly, it was the drowning of the ox that allowed the water to flow to the surface, leading to the creation of the lake – hence the name. The lagoon is home to large flocks of trout, but humans are not supposed to swim as the mermaid that protects the waters will take the careless swimmer’s soul.
The night was quite bitter – the winter had not yet said his last word – and our small team found refuge inside the tents earlier than usual – to the great disappointment of our guides who were looking forward to one more night with songs and dancing around the fire. The sparks of the flames rose to a sky that dazed us with its immensity, our headlights blended with the stars, and the humming sound of the last conversations of the day lulled me fast to sleep.
One of our guides warming up under the morning sun, next to the lake.
The creek next to which our tents were set.
Our mules crossing the water.
The next day, we stopped for our picnic lunch by Jangngtsho – another lake which, despite its smaller size, is more protected by myth than Jigmelangtsho. According to the lore (whose warnings are still thoroughly believed and followed to the letter), one is neither allowed to fish nor to cook (especially, fry) food by this lake; otherwise, the waters become impure, bringing down very harsh weather as a punishment imposed by the residing pixies. Our guides threw a handful of rice into the pond to feed the fish, and the rest of us were careful to follow the rules, as, anyway, the weather, with its occasional snowfalls and ice-cold nights, had not been entirely on our side.
Jangngtsho lake: one can see a line of Buddhist flags left as a prayer and protection.
Our last camp on the mountains before reaching the outskirts of Thimphu, was, once more, next to a lake – Tshemakotatsho – which offered us stunning views for our breakfast, and a large trout, fished by our guides and served at night as dinner.
Tshemakotatsho in the afternoon.
The most beautiful breakfast set ever! (the lake can be seen at the background)
*This article was first published on the Patreon page https://www.patreon.com/