MONTROSE and District Probus Club met last Tuesday when the speaker was Sally Atkinson from Glen Isla.
This retired lecturer from St Andrews University proved a most interesting, entertaining and informative speaker.
She recounted her experiences during an incredible 50-mile cycle journey through the land of Bhutan, which she accomplished in just 10 days – members agreed this was a most unusual way to celebrate a 60th birthday!
Bhutan is very keen to limit its annual quota of foreign visitors, and it is not the easiest country to enter.
Many of the amenities which we take for granted are either sorely lacking, or are just now being introduced.
For instance, there is only one tarmac road in the whole country, and most other highways are little more than dirt tracks.
The steep gradients and hairpin bends do not make for easy driving.
TV was not introduced until 1999, and Internet facilities are just becoming available to the population.
Bhutan is a monarchy, bordered by India and China, in the foothills of the Himalayas.
It has a population of only around 700,000, most of whom are very devout Buddhists.
The King recently abdicated in favour of his son, who now is the figure-head of a more democratic state.
Everybody has ready access to royalty and to those who govern the country.
Bhutan is protected from the outside world by mountains to the north and jungles to the south.
Seventy-two per cent of the land surface is covered by trees, and many of the houses are built of wood and decorated with beautiful panelling.
Rice is grown and much of it is winnowed by hand.
Oil from locally grown mustard is used for domestic purposes, and some homes have had solar panels installed.
This is because electric wires can prove lethal to migrating cranes, revered there as sacred birds.
Expensive and beautiful silks are hand woven and many people wear their national dress every day.
Although the average life expectancy in Bhutan is only 66 years, there is evidence of a sense of contentment and well-being, and an all-pervading sense of a ‘Gross National Happiness’ is evident.
Any proceeds which Sally Atkinson makes from her lectures go to help the overseas work of Sight Savers.