Few years back when I went to the Alpine regions of Dhur in Bumthang to photograph the collection of Cordyceps, I came back totally disgusted by the amount of litter strewn on the grounds at altitudes in excess of 16,000 ft. The litter included plastic wrappings of precooked noodles to beer cans and bottles with Chinese markings. At that altitude, the culprits have got to be the Cordyceps collectors. Another problem I noticed was the desecration of the fragile Alpine flora.
The kinky, crinkly half-worm, half-grass wonder called Cordyceps sinensis
This time during my trip to Lunana, the litter was even more but it was evident that the cause of it was the local residents. But strangely, 95% of the litter had Chinese markings - they included plastic wrappings, cans and bottles of beverages, cigarette packets, paper cartons - the works. This can mean only one thing - there is good bit of trade between these areas and Tibet China. And why not - Phari’s proximity to these areas makes good business sense. Thanza is about 9 days from the nearest road head in Gasa. Phari is probably only 2 days away. I am told that trading goods bought in the Chinese bazaar across the border can fetch handsome profits - as much as Nu.60-70,000.00 with an investment of as little as Nu.10,000.00. Even more attractive, I am told by some youth in the area that the girls there are like Khandums (celestial nymphs) - simply irresistible. That seems to be part appeal for the burgeoning illegal Cordyceps trade across the border - including the fact that the traders there offer better prices for the kinky worms.
Made In China, Littered in Bhutan
At Ganglakarchung campsite, part of the litter was an empty bottle of red wine. Now the craggy Bjops cant be drinking wine at that altitude - they are all completely sold on Black Mountain Whiskey or Druk 11000 lager beer. This means that the litter must have been generated by the support team of tourist groups - irresponsible and poorly educated guides, most likely.