Down the other side of the highest pass of our journey, Norbu connected with another uncle and cousin he had not seen for many years, but this time it was prearranged. They had hiked down from their village with a bottle of a homemade spirit called ara, an essential element of social interaction, especially in eastern Bhutan. We sipped ara and ate hard-boiled eggs on the side of the road while they had a chance to catch up, but as always, we had to keep moving on.
We turned off the main east-west road onto a dead end route heading north to Lhuentse. Norbu pointed out his native village across the river valley and high above us on a steep hillside. We wished for his sake, as well as ours, that we had time to hike up there. Instead, we spent the night in Autsho village, and continued the tradition of an evening exploration in search of spontaneous interaction with its residents.