Final Blog from Bhutan – Adventure in the Punaka Valley

Bhutan part 2 – HD 720p from Live The Adventure on Vimeo.

 

Ladies Meet - 'Inside Bhutan' with Live the Adventure Travel

Ladies Meet – ‘Inside Bhutan’ with Live the Adventure Travel

Adventure in the Punaka Valley

 

Having completed our time around the capital Thimphu and our two day trek over to Punaka (see previous blog) it was time to start some of the activities lined up in this stunning valley. From our hotel overlooking Punaka the easiest way into town was to use the nine mountain bikes from the roof of our bus. A 1000ft 40 minute downhill ride to the most impressive Dzong and monastery in Bhutan. The day then followed by a quick tour around the new luxury resort being developed on the banks of the Mo Chuu River. The resort is being set up by friends and colleagues and due for completion next year and will be the location to host our future visits as well as helping to train some of the guides. Just up stream of here was our put in for our first rafting trip, where we tackled the white water on the Mo Chuu River and a great technical class 4 run down to our lunch spot on the river bank, before continuing down on easier water floating past the Dzong to our take out. Not content with the day’s activities everybody then opted for the uphill climb on bikes back to the hotel for a well earned beverage and a good night’s sleep.

 

The following day it was back on the bikes down to Punaka Dzong and a tour around this impressive fortress. Set on the confluence of the Mo Chuu (Mother River) and Po Chuu (father River) the rivers seem to wrap around the Dzong before meeting just below it. It is easily one of the most stunning buildings in Bhutan. By now we were used to the constant need to change regularly, shorts for biking, long sleeves and trousers to enter the Dzongs, and additional clothing to raft in! Thanks to Hari and his bus for changing facilities!

 

After our visit to the Dzong it was a short bike ride to cross the Po Chuu River and meet the transport to take us to the start of our next trek. As the road following the river upstream became smaller we moved from our bus to the back of a truck until a landslide across the road halted our journey. The last 1 Km was then on foot to the head of the trail and the start of the trek. With the team of horses and staff we then started the steep climb up to our destination and the natural Hot springs high in the dense forest/jungle. After a few hours of trekking in stunning sub tropical forests, views of monkeys, and through a mass of naturally growing Cannabis plants! – We arrived at the hot springs, to the amusement of the locals who said it was last frequented by westerners 2 years ago. With two hot springs we spent the evening interacting with the locals in a surreal evening of soaking, singing traditional songs and a few drinks. In the morning we were waved off by a gathering from the settlement and will probably be the subject of many a months stories for them, as well as a very memorable visit for all of us!

 

After a trek back down to the trail start point by the river we then continued back to Punaka the best way possible – by raft! This time rafting the Po Chuu river and its many rapids down to the confluence by the Dzong. The upper stretches were remote fun class 3+ white water down to lunch followed by an easier paddle through the valley past villages in the afternoon. Surprisingly, know one took up the option to bike the 1000ft back up to the hotel, instead settling for the bus, shower and beer option before we headed into Punaka town for the evening.

 

Our last full day meant travelling back by bus over the Ducha La Pass at 3200m and rather than sitting in the bus back down from the top of the pass, it seemed to make sense to pull the bikes off the roof, and ride the 8 miles downhill back into Thimphu! Great fun! With the afternoon at leisure in Paro town and some souvenir shopping it was back to our last hotel for a traditional Hot Stone bath, cultural dancing and our last evening meal together.

 

This was not your normal trip to Bhutan where Culture and Monasteries are the reason for visiting and the basis for most travel itineraries here. This was a trip that included all of that, plus the opportunity to see inside Bhutan, its landscape and people and of course a large dose of adventure! We have trekked where very few have trekked – seeing no one else but each other, stayed in villages off the beaten track soaking with the locals in their hot springs, travelled with our own bus and bikes to break up the journey and rafting the white water that most commercial groups don’t find.

 

This morning I waved goodbye to everyone as they started their journey home. I think it’s fair to say it has been another amazing adventure shared with a fantastic group of people. I always feel very privileged to come to Bhutan myself, and even more privileged to be able to share these experiences with others which is the very reason we started ‘Live The Adventure’ Travel, to take others to the places we have been lucky to visit and work ourselves.

 

Its also a very rewarding experience to work with the guides and friends in Bhutan who, as ever, make the trip something very special for all that come – Thanks Karma – our main cultural, trekking guide who accompanied us throughout the trip, Hari – our driver and budding river guide, Chencho – a pleasure to work on the river with you again, and all the team involved. – see you next season.

 

For the last 8 years I have traveled to Bhutan and been involved with developing adventure travel programs and training local guides. This trip and many others are being developed as we expand our range of itineraries during 2014 and 2015 working with my good friend Uygen and his team at Xplore Bhutan so if any of the blogs have got you thinking about an amazing adventure –why not give us a call?

 

For me, its time to enjoy my last day in Bhutan this season, dry some kit ready for storage, meet Yougs to discuss more potential in Bhutan and then tomorrow start the commute back to Kathmandu, then the UK the day after that. Of course there may be time for one last hot stone bath and Druk Lager before I leave!

 

Again thanks to all that accompanied me and shared this experience – great memories.

 

Ant

Horses carrying all the gear on trek

Horses carrying all the gear on trek

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White-water rafting the Po Chhu River in Bhutan

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