GREAT FIGURES OF THE MISSIONARY WORK – Bengal and the Kingdom of the Dragon (87)

– Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

The tranquility of the beautiful Paro valley is only broken by the zigzag flights of the Bhutan Airlines and Druk Air planes, the only airlines authorized to fly over this narrow piece of land, which is quite plowed and surrounded by a mountain range with an average altitude of 5,500 meters. A few times a day a plane is seen breaking out of nowhere towards an airport, “the most challenging in the world,” whose runway, so short, does not even reach 2,000 meters. There are only a handful of certified pilots able to accomplish such a delicate task. Flights in Paro are allowed only during the day and under excellent weather conditions, which is not always the case in the summer, monsoon season, which causes some discomfort as the tourist is, by law, obliged to resort to the air transportation at least once – entering or leaving Bhutan – being able, of course, and if that was your wish, to do so in both cases.

At the end of a five-day tour in this self-proclaimed Dragon Kingdom, I hear myself saying, “So many questions for so little a time!” I would need to stay here for a few months to be able to delve into a series of clues that would surely lead me to pleasant surprises. Unfortunately, I can’t afford that luxury and, after saying goodbye – a dinner of our team with the guide and his boss, washed down with a good Portuguese red wine, sponsor of the project, here I am inside one of these medium size airplanes that in a slalom fashion weaves through the different pinnacles until it reaches the cruising speed. Attentive, the co-pilot calls out: “On your right, Everest” and, minutes later, “Annapurna, on your left,” and so on.

Never had the snow white Himalayan peaks seemed to me so close…

I take advantage of the hours that separate us from Bangkok to take stock of the situation.

Summarizing succinctly the activity of the Jesuit priests in the cliffs, foothills and plateaus of the Himalayan chain, it remains – in the form of an epilogue – the size of a few more chapters, to follow the steps of Father João Cabral after his Hindustan-Bhutanese saga; and this because we already know that Estêvão Cacela died in the city of Shigatse, in Central Tibet, and it is there that his remains are buried.

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