We started our day with a delightful breakfast in the hotel. Very hearty with a cheese omelet, chicken sausages, baked beans and toast. This would be a little heavy, but today we had a big climb ahead, and would need the energy!
Penjor and Kenchu met us at the hotel at 8:30. We left most of our luggage there as we would be coming back tomorrow for our last night in Bhutan! Penjor drove us to Sang Choekor Lhakhang, a Bhuddist monastic learning centre and temple, high above the valley at around 3200M. It was here that we were to begin our hike. Our climb today is an additional 750M, over a distance of about 8 km.
We started out at a relatively decent clip ( our altitude medication helping dramatically!). Kencho’s training over the past 15 days has acclimated and strengthened us both for the challenge ahead! Our objective was to take it slow and steady with lots of stops. Temperature at the start was about 12-15C…not bad for the elevation!
Our first hill took us through an area that had been devastated with a forest fire about a year ago. While the fire raged for over 2 weeks, no temple or monastery was touched! Considering the proximity to tiger’s nest, and the fact the this monastery had been destroyed by fire about 10 years ago, this was nothing short of a miracle!
While we walked through the charred remains, it was amazing to see the new growth coming through showing signs of hope for the area.
We soon climbed out of the charred forest and on up to a beautiful green forest filled with Rhododendrons and brown oak. The first time I saw this tree, it was little more that a bush and reminding me much of holly. Here, I could see the extraordinary height that this forest canopy had created!
All in all the climb was a mix of gentle rises, steep switchback climbs and the odd forest meadow thrown in for good luck! We got some great shots of Paro Valley, in particular, the airport runway. From our angle you could see just how difficult a manoeuvre landing an aircraft here truly is. I’ve been told that there are only 14 pilots trained to land here! When the Prime Minister of India came for a visit the pilots of the private jet spent 2-3 weeks here learning how to land and take off from this airport!
After about 3 hours, we came to our lunch break location. Kenchu had requested the hotel to send a packed lunch, and the guiding company running the camp here and at Bumdra also provided a hot lunch! Needless to say, we did not go hungry!
After lunch we started another steep ascent, and then it finally broke into gentle rolling path, with even a little downhill . The forest was thick and filled with Spanish moss!
More up and down and we finally came to a meadow where we could see the tents of the camp for the night. Another 10 minutes and we were there. We were shown to some lovely deck chairs under an umbrella. A table appeared and then hot ginger tea and biscuits were served! A little different camping experience from our normal practice!
Once we had a good rest and felt refreshed, we headed off to see our tent! A huge tent with standing room and full vestibule, a double bed on a full bed frame with a night stand and a beautiful wool carpet beside the bed. More like a hotel than a camping experience, but we’ll take it!!!
Dan promptly removed his boots and laid down for a nap. My mission was to find the camp toilet facilities! Who would have expected a western style toilet up here, with sinks and taps with running water!!! Ok, so the sinks are outside, but they’re there!!!
With my mission accomplished I decided to head up the meadow and hill to see if I could see the mountains on the other side of us. While I didn’t do the proper trek to the top of the pass ( another 150M vertical), I did see some great vistas!
Back at the tent, I gave in to a wee rest as well before dinner. As it turns out, Kencho, Dan and I had our own tent. We had a delicious hot supper, and in the privacy of our own dining tent, the guys had a little after dinner whiskey as well. Bhutan Highland!! As they were having their drinks, the waiter came in with hot water bottles for each of us!
When the guys had had their fill of antifreeze, we took the bottle over to the kitchen tent to see if any of the cooks or helpers would like a drink. They whooped in line pretty fast I must say! They even invited us into the cook tent where great cauldrons of water were being boiled for washing up!
We soon headed off to bed. It was getting pretty cold and we wanted to get the hot water bottles in bed to warm it up. We put many layers on, then got under the nice think covers! I must say, it was one of the most comfortable beds we’ve had in Bhutan! Well, it’s going down to at least -5C, so I’ll sign off for now! Until tomorrow!