Escapism

Jill Worrall leaves Timaru to take on the world - bringing adventure travel to your desktop

Bhutan: Chewing gum change and sledging with arrows

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Jakar, Bumthang district, central Bhutan: This is definitely my favourite internet cafe in the world. It is to say the least, rustic. The interior reminds me of a car parking space and the entire structure creaks alarmingly. But each of its four booths is curtained off with Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse curtains and if you need change after paying your fee it often comes in the form of chewing gum.

Two monks are in the next cubicle. When I first saw them I assumed maybe they were using some kind of online Buddhist teaching service but as I passed them by the site looked more Man U than Om Mani Padme Hum.

I've just come from an archery tournament - a friendly match that was being fuelled by a generous quantity of beer which, combined with high-tech carbon-fibre bows and arrows being fired down a 145m long range, seems somewhat risky. However not one of the archers was more than two or three metres off target, which is probably just as well given that I'm standing not much further away.

When the two teams of 11 archers each are at my end of the field I can just see the small rectangular target, the bullseyse itself is just a blur. But the players regularly hit the mark - and there are no sights on their bows and the arrows travel so fast they are almost impossible to detect in flight - but when they make contact with target or earth they do so with a resounding thwack.

Very occasionally there is the odd fatality.

When a team member does hit the target his fellow members, who have already taken their turn and are standing near the target, form a line and perform a celebratory dance. If their mate is a little off line they will bellow down instructions for the next time.

During a serious competition women form the Bhutanese equivalent of cheer-leading teams - they dance in traditional fashion but there is nothing quaintly folk-lorish about their songs.

This is the Bhutanese equivalent of good-natured sledging.

"You have a very ugly nose" might be sung in sweet unison or even "We've heard your wife complain you are not much of a husband".

Games can go on for hours if the two teams are evenly matched and the liquid refreshments flow throughout.

When I left, a dog was ambling unconcernedly across the range and alongside the game a group of little monks were playing soccer (Sunday is their day off). There was no sign of the game concluding any time soon.

It was time to leave before any wayward arrows came my way.

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