From the Capital Thimphu across to Phunaka

Bhutan blog 1 from Live The Adventure on Vimeo.

From the Capital Thimphu across to Phunaka

 

The first member of the group, John, arrived on the morning flight into Bhutan, but unfortunately the remainder coming in from Delhi on the afternoon flight were diverted due to low cloud and a had an overnight in Kathmandu, Nepal, before arriving the following morning on the first flight in.

After a quick change of clothes and cup of tea it was straight up to ‘Tigers Nest’ one of the most picturesque Monasteries built high up into the side of a cliff. The 700 metre ascent up to 3000m is well worth the effort, and a great way to start any trip to Bhutan. Later that day it’s an hour’s drive across to the capital Thimphu where we spent 3 nights. Our cultural guide that I use for each visit to Bhutan is Karma, the best cultural guide in Bhutan with 15 years experience and amazing knowledge of the culture religion and regions we are to journey to. Our first day in Thimphu was spent seeing the local culture, school where traditional crafts are taught and the famous textile museum. Of course you can’t come to Bhutan without seeing the ‘Takins’, the national animal of Bhutan, a cross between a horse, cow, goat!

The next day was a trek day up to another monastery at Tango Cheri further up the valley from Thimphu with some stunning views back down the valley and another practice for the following days trek, followed by a walk around the bets farmers market I’ve ever seen! Of course by this time the group have sampled some of local delights including the national dish of chili’s and cheese and the local ‘Ara’, distilled rice wine! A few of the local ‘Druk’ beers at ‘not more than 8%’ were also being sampled!

As we left the Capitol we swung by the biggest Buddha in the world being constructed high up on the mountain over looking Thimphu, before driving as far up the valley our bus would take us to start our trek.

The trek took us 2 days and would take us from the Thimphu valley across a high pass into the Phunaka valley and our destination for the second part of the adventure. The 5 hour hike through Rhododendron forests up to the pass at 3400m just reminded you how unpopulated and under developed Bhutan is. No one but us, our 9 horses to carry our kit and our team of staff following local trails rarely used. After successfully reaching the pass it was another 3 hours down to our meadow camp through more Rhododendrons and Magnolias where the team had the tents up and snacks ready. The cook presented us with a feast including pizza, local dishes and even crème caramel for dessert – all in the middle of dense mixed jungle!

 

After an early rise and a bowl of hot water to wash in it was time to reload the horses and start our 4 hour trek back to meet our bus. The trek down was a challenge! The not well trodden path presented us with regular stops to remove leaches with each of us having at least a dozen on boots or ankles as we descended through damp jungle type forest before the dryer sub tropical Phunaka valley. The final part was absolutely stunning as we crossed waterfalls, terraced fields, walked through small settlements to our bus and Hari our trip driver who has driven me the length and breadth of Bhutan over the last 8 years.

 

Quite easily the best 2-day trek I have ever done, regardless of bugs. It was isolated yet stunning, exciting and rewarding – a reminder why Bhutan has seen little in the way of adventure tourism as we never saw a sole throughout the trek. We are now back in Punaka valley, one of my favorite places and becoming the adventure region of Bhutan. This is the region that will see my colleagues develop the first Luxury lodge for adventure, and where I get to work with the guides I have trained up over the last few years – its the destination for the next 3 days of adventure – rafting, mountain biking and a trek up to camp at the hot springs. All that in the next blog!

 

Ant

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