Hampshire Archers go Abroad Again
For the second year in a row, Hampshire archers went off to shoot in Malta then six days later Julian & I set off to Bhutan, in search of some traditional archery! As archery being Bhutan’s national sport. Once we were out of the airport with our guide & driver, I spotted an archery event, in the next village. The gents were dressed in their national costume, participating in a match between a neighbouring village. We were surrounded by mountains, but the little valley floor had just enough flat land for their ground. The club was in the grounds of the Uni of Business Management and to our surprise, our driver just drove straight in. We bundled out of the car and were beckoned to across to meet the teams. Their wives and children were at the middle of the range, picnicking and barracking the teams and what looked like a mass of stray dogs sleeping everywhere.
Our guide explained the basic principles of the match. They shoot 2 way at a target (plank of wood) at 150 m using a traditional bamboo bow. Fast and heavy poundage. Each target has a scoring zone similar size to a 6 ring 18m (single face) If the target is hit, the archer collects the matching coloured scarf. This is then worn around their belt. The team mates then perform a dance and chant, while the opponents laugh and taunt them. All very light heartedly.
The host village elder came across and we explained that we do archery in the UK and that we have bought from our County of Hampshire a small gift. The gent said “Hampshire, as in Portsmouth” “yes” we replied, “oh I know it” as I study at the University there. He accepted our gift of the Hampshire Team shirt and medals and said that the archer with the most flags through the day would be given the shirt and the winning team the medals.
As we drove around the valleys, each of the villages had their grounds. Most had a permanent pagoda alongside the range, which in truth was not very wide and the archers were happy to walk up towards the far target, while there were still others to shoot. Day 3 took us to Thimphu the capital city and the other side of the road from out hotel was the National sports stadium, comprising of a football pitch and archery ranges. We managed to watch the archers from our hotel, whist having dinner, as the ranges were floodlit. Traditional archers were practising on one range and compound archers on the other. So, after dinner we walked around the perimeter fence and again, we were encouraged to go inside. We chatted to the archers and one explained, he was getting in some last-minute practise for the Country’s championships the following evening. Only 1 archer was using a release aid, but they are not permitted in actual matches. The club house and the archery shop looked very pretty, built in the style of their houses and matching score board. Julian was offered to have a go, but having never shot a compound, weighing over 60lbs off his fingers and the bow being used for the championships next day, thought it was safer to say politely “no thank you and that we were just happy to watch” so we sat inside the concrete blinds and watched several ends being shoot.
We did see the Olympic archery practise ground, which was the other end of Thimphu city, but no one was practising there. Interesting its only the gents that participate in the traditional archery, but a few ladies shoot the Olympic bow.
Carla & Julian Piper