Lunaps worried about journey back home with the COVID situation not improving

As the lockdown continues in COVID hotspot districts, Lunaps in Punakha are worried about reaching their home in time. The journey back home is a race against time, as they have mountains to climb which will soon be inaccessible due to snowfall. Today there are about 200 Lunaps in Punakha. They all migrated to the lowland with their horses to escape the harsh weather back home, like every year. And they would be heading home by this time if not for the lockdown.

They usually migrate towards the lower regions starting from October and return by January every year.

“Horse cannot resist coldness like yaks and also do not have access to enough food, as the dried grasses are blown away by the wind in highlands during this season,” a highlander said.

The journey back home is not always pleasant. MemoriLate start is costly, they lose their horses to the arduous journey and the journey takes more time. The timing becomes a matter of life and death for the elderly. Moreover, they will miss some important work back home.

“We will get late for sowing barley. It is one of the only crops that grow in our village”, a Lunap in Gumkarmo of Punakha said.

If the journey back home is unpleasant, their stay is also getting uncomfortable by the day. With the restriction on movements, they find it difficult to take care of their horses and mules. Some Lunaps stay in their own houses while some stay in rented houses today. And for them the longer they stay here, the more will it cost them.

“We expected the lockdown to end by the 30th of this month but we are now worried since positive cases are still found in Punakha”.

Some pin their hopes on the helicopter service to return to their village.

However, the Incident Commander of Punakha Dzongkhag COVID-19 Task Force said the task force did not receive any request from the highlanders for permission to return home.

“They will have to undergo quarantine process to ensure clean enough to move to the green zones as per the task force rules,” the dzongkhag incident commandant said.

It is about a nine-day journey from Gasa for the Lunaps to reach home if they start their journey on time.

Changa Dorji, Punakha

Edited by Sonam

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