On Christmas Eve, I saw an amazing sight. Surreal. It was around 7.00pm and we were waiting at our apartment for our Bhutanese friend to pick us up. We were all off to a traditional Bhutanese restaurant for dinner (this was before THE incident). El Hubs was standing at the top of the stairs, which lead down to the pavement and towards the small parking area. He suddenly declared there were horses in the circular driveway.

Naturally, I thought he was joking but rushed out anyway to have a look. Sure enough, I could see dark shapes running through the car park area. I ran down the stairs to see three horses dash by; they ran between two buildings that form part of the apartment complex. At first, I thought they were mangy-looking donkeys or mules and then realized they looked a bit like Karma and Saffy (Welsh ponies) just not as well-groomed. I thought there might have been five horses and they disappeared into the darkness.

A few minutes later, our Bhutanese pal arrived and, just as I opened the door to get into his car, I heard a wild clomp of horse hooves. Just as well my ear is attuned to horses running and moving. I quickly realized that I needed to get in the car because the horses were about to run me down. They had circled the whole apartment complex and were heading back into the car park, unfortunately being chased by some dude holding what looked like a witch’s broomstick.

Our friend didn’t seem to think anything of this or my excitement (actually, worry for the horses because I could see where they were heading – out onto the road). We took off down the driveway and, as we were about to turn right and head off down the hill, the horses dashed by the bonnet of the car. I closed my eyes at this point because cars were coming up the hill and about to meet a herd of scared horses. Our friend calmly took off down the road and I could see that cars coming up the hill were slowing down. The horses were caught in the headlights but continued galloping down the hill.

We went to the restaurant and about two hours later headed back to the apartment. As we entered a road with a small roundabout – you guessed it – there was the herd of eight (not five) horses, calmly walking along the road with a few cars slowly following.

There are no traffic or street lights in Thimphu, so it’s all very dark and eerie-looking. I caught a glimpse of a grey-coloured horse with pink ribbon threaded through its tail. I’m not sure I have this right – but our friend said that this means it’s the lead horse. I guess it also means someone owns the horse (or herd) but, as with all animals in Thimphu, they are allowed to roam wherever they wish. No-one seems to worry about the safety aspects of animals being hit by cars or humans being endangered by animals suddenly dashing along a road.

This final sighting of the herd happened around 1.30am Christmas Day NZ time and Saffy was born on Christmas Day 2011. So surreal was this night horses incident that my wild imaginings led me to believe that Saffy and my other horses were communicating with me. It’s okay, dear reader, I’ve come to my senses and realize that it’s just another daily occurrence in Thimphu!


Stairs leading up to our apartment in Thimphu.


Driveway area where horses were running around.