Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Trekking in Bhutan

We hiked the Long Trail in Vermont a couple of times for 2-3 days, carrying tent, sleeping bags, food and clothes on our back. But hiking in Bhutan is quite a different experience, both exhilarating and tough.
We had a wonderful crew for just the two of us, my husband and I: 5 people (guide, cook and horsemen) and 6 horses carrying dining room tent, table and chairs, other tents, food, propane tank, even a tent for the outhouse (toilets) with a hole in the ground, quite a luxury way of camping.
Trekking is a wonderful way to discover Bhutan. The Himalayas are spectacular. And of course, you see places only accessible that way.
We hiked for 3 days and a half, from Timphu, the capital of Bhutan to Paro, and saw 2 beautiful monasteries (Phajoding monastery and Jili dzong) and and a few nice altitude lakes (including Jana Tsho lake).
But even though we chose easy trails (we trekked from 2600 meters to a maximum of 4300 meters - some treks go as high as 6 or 7,000 meters), it was not easy. Starting at 3500 meters, the altitude really affects you before you get acclimated to it. You are short of breath and you start getting pounding headaches. Hiking periods are March-April and October-November, and beginning of October, when we were there, the temperatures drop rapidly as the sun sets, and we were very quickly in our -20ºC sleeping bags trying to stay warm.
But the views are breathtaking. And our trekking team took great care of us! Even the food was impressive (our cook also worked in a major hotel in Timphu). I am still looking for the recipe for the great tomato-ginger-garlic soup he served us every night!
One more thing: if you decide to go trekking in Bhutan, bring some little items you need... sunscreen (the sun is strong!), Tylenol, bandages, kleenex and... toilet paper. They bring a lot with them on these horses, and tell you the only thing you need is warm clothes and warm sleeping bags, but I think you will be glad to have some toilet paper when you need it!
PS: Our wonderful travel agent: Dragon Quest Adventures, owned by Yeshey Dorji, an expert bird photographer.

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