Bhutan - HT Wandelreizen - Lingshi Laya - October 2011

Below you will find a list of pictures, taken on our Lingshi Laya trip in Bhutan from October 1 2011 to October 24 2011.
The most interesting images have a red bullet in front of them. In a hurry? Just want to see the pictures? Check out the slide show.

October 1: Amsterdam - Delhi

We had a quiet flight to Delhi where we arrived close to 11pm.

October 2: Delhi - Paro

Shortly after midnight we couldpass through security and headed for the recently opened New Delhi Aiport Transit Hotel. We stayed there because our "connecting" flight would only leave around 2pm. We could have gone for a hotel in Delhi and see some of the sights, but there would have been little time with the travel involved AND we would have had to araange a visa for India - a hassle these days and not worth the money or the time involved. The room was very clean and well decorated. We slept well and had breakfast round 9. Around 11.30 we checked out and headed for the gate.
Shortly after 2pm our plane took off. We were lucky to sit on the left side of the plane (something to specifically request if you get the chance!) as the flight takes you over Nepal with (if weather permits) excellent views of the Himalaya. About 4.15 we landed at Paro. We swiftly went through immigartions ans then had to wait for our luggage. It turned out that someone had taken Patricia's luggage earlier and then returned it. One of the group was not as lucky, her luggage did not arrive.
We went by bus to our first hotel. On the way we passed the landing strip, apparently the longest flat area in the country. We had dinner - a buffet - around 7.30, our first taste of the delicious Bhutanese food, although slightly modified (much less spicy) for us westeners.

October 3: Paro - Kyichu Lhakhang - Dumtse Lhakhang - Paro

We first went to the bank in Paro to get some Ngultrum (local currency). From there we drove to Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest tempels in Bhutan. As in many temples in Bhutan, it was not allowed to take pictures inside. The temple was damaged by the earthquake that had hit neighbouring Sikkim a few weeks earlier. Our next stop was Dumtse Lhakhang, a small temple. We then drove back to Paro where we visited the Dzong (kind of a combination between town hall and temple) in two groups. We could briefly watch a ceremony that included a dance before we had to leave again. While we were waiting for the other group to return, Patricia was blessed by an elderly monk who gave her an orange ribbon to wear around her neck. After lunch we went to the local archery lawn. Archery is the most popular sport in Bhutan. It is also the sport that won them their only olympic medal ever. There was a tournament with three teams playing eachother. They have to hit a small target located about 140 meter (about 466 ft) away! When some hits it, his fellow team mates perform a dance. If he misses, the oppositions laughs at him.
Around 5pm we arrived back at the hotel and took a shower. After dinner we talked about the plans for the next day in the bar. Arjen got the key to the wifi connection and could send a short mail home.

October 4: Paro - Tiger's Nest - Thimphu

We got up early as we wanted to do the climb to Tiger's Nest in the morning as it is less warm that time of the day. We parked at the parking area at 2585m / 8,617ft. and started walking up. We had very nice views of Tiger's Nest on the way up. After tea at the cafeteria we continued to a viewpoint (almost everybody took a picture from that spot). Just before 11 AM we arrived at the monastery. ALl luggage had to stay behind at the entrance. We looked around for some 90 minutes around the various temples. At the cafeteria we had lunch before heading back to the parking area. From there we continued to Thimpu. On the way we stopped at a hanging bridge and later at the border between the Paro and Thimpu districts. The hotel in Thimpu was ridiculously luxurious to our standards After freshing up we headed for dinner at the hotel restaurant. This buffet was very good as well.

October 5: Thimpu - Dochu La - Wangdue Phodrang - Doche La - Thimphu

--> After a good night's sleep we got up early again as we had a long drive to a Buddhist festival ahead. First stop was at Dochu La (3115m / 10,383ft) from where we had a great view of the Bhutanese Himalaya range and walked between 108 chorten. From there we drove to Wangdue Phodrang where the festival was in progress at the local Dzong. We saw many people in beautiful traditional clothes (Go's for the men and Kira's for the women). There were dancers with beautiful clothes and masks. After watching the festival for some 2,5 hours we went for lunch at the Chimi Lhakhang restaurant. From there we drove to Doche La again where we had dinner. Just before 7 we arrived at the hotel again. We walked through the shopping street of Thimpu before heading to bed.

October 6: Thimpu

We could stay in bed for a little longer than the previous days as we would visit the festival in the Thimpu Dzong. Again many people in beautiful traditional clothes and dancers with very nice masks. Fortunately we got a leaflet explaining the ceremonies so we could understand a bit better what we saw. At 12.30 we headed for lunch at Karma's Coffee. The coffee was very good indeed. Then we headed back to the hotel. We had the afternoon off so decided to do some wlaks that were described in the Lonely Planet. We saw the National Monument, the roundabout that previously had traffic lights but now a human to arrange traffic again as people were unhappy with the traffic lights and this country is all about happiness of its inhabitants. We had drinks and pastery at the Swiss Bakery. After a bit of reading we had dinner again in the hotel.

October 7: Thimpu - Drukyel Dzong (2581m / 8606ft.) - Sharna Zampa (2848m / 9,493ft.)

After the last night in a normal bed we drove to Drukgyel Dzong, the starting point of our trip (2581m / 8606ft.). Around 10 we started walking. We had a good view of the Jomolhari at the start. The first part we followed a road, but after lunch it became more of a trail. Around 3PM we arrived at the sharna Zampa campsite (2848m / 9,493ft.). Around 9.30 we went to bed.

October 8: Sharna Zampa (2848m / 9,493ft.) - Second campsite (3346m / 11,153ft.)

When the sun lit the tent it quickly became quite warm so we started packing up before bed tea. The landscape was nice and we saw some nice looking mosses and trees too. We eventually walked a bit further than planned, arriving at the campsite (3346m / 11,153ft.) around 3PM. When the horses arrived, our tent bag was ripped open and the inner tent was damaged too. Fortunately we could fix them with duct tape. We took our first Diamox after dinner and did a bit of reading before going to sleep.

October 9: Second campsite (3346m / 11,153ft.) - Third campsite (3806m / 12,687ft.)

In the middle of the night the horses started wandering between the tents. Apart from waking us up, they damaged one of the tents. The plants and trees where similar to the day before. We arrived at the campsite (3806m / 12,687ft.) early enough to get some sun on the tent so it could dry a bit.

October 10: Third campsite (3806m / 12,687ft.) - Jangothang (4098m / 13,660ft.)

There was ice on the outside of the tent as we woke up. The sun helped a bit while we were having breakfast, but the tent was still a bit wet as we packed it up. The temperature was still low as we started walking, but because of the sunshine it was nice enough to start walking in a t-shirt. We passed a hurd of Yaks that was crossing a river. Around noon we arrived at Soe. The village was rather empty (everybody working the land) but we could visit the school, where children were studying outside in the sun, as well as inside the tiny building. Just before 1PM we arrived at the campsite of Jangothang (4098m / 13,660ft.). We had a great view of the Jomolhari. We washed in the (very cold) river. We said goodbye to the horsemen; it is custom that you get a new crew when entering a new province. During the evening it became foggy and cold.

October 11: Around Jangothang (4098m / 13,660ft.)

When we woke up it was 1°C / 33°F inside the tent, but as the sun quickly rose, we had breakfast outside. Around 9 we started walking. We decided to go to a high viewpoint on this acclimatisation day. The first bit was quite steep, we zigzagged up the slope of the mountain. As we got higher we got a better view of the Jichu Drakye. Later on we spotted a couple of hurds of blue sheep. Arjen headed back to the camp with one of the others who had joined us. Patricia continued a bit further up (eventually to 4678m / 15,593ft.) to get an even better view of the Jichu Drakye with some others before heading back as well. The rest of the day we spent reading.

October 12: Jangothang (4098m / 13,660ft.) - Nyile La (4874m / 16,247ft.) - Fifth campsite (4042m / 13,473ft.)

The first bit of this day's hike was reasonably flat, but after we crossed a stream the path headed uphill very steeply. Looking back we had great views of the Jichu Drakye and our campsite. The path kept heading up, later on a bit less steep as we reached a meadow before a final steep bit to the Nyile La pass (4874m / 16,247ft.). We put up the prayer flags we had bought in Paro. The first bit downhill was also quite steep. Afetr a short flat bit we could see the Dzong of Lingshy in the distance on the top of a small hill. After a long walk we arrived at the campsite (4042m / 13,473ft.). We quickly put up our tent so it could dry off the melted ice of the night before. At dinner time we learned one of the group had health problems and would head back the next day. Like all days so far, dinner was delicious.

October 13: Fifth campsite (4042m / 13,473ft.) - Lingshy - Goyul - Chebisa (3890m / 12,967ft.)

It was a could night with freezing temperatures, also inside the tent. As it would be a relatively easy day, we had time to let the sun dry the tent before we went on the road. We headed up to a chorten from where we had a good view of the Lingshi Dzong that was clearly severly damaged by the earthquake that had struck the region only a few weeks before. Our next stop was Lingshi itself. We visited the medical post, watched a bit of the archery tournament and then continued on our way. We stopped again at Goyul, a lovely tiny "town" where a family was working the land. We then had to climb up to our campsite in Chebisa (3890m / 12,967ft.). Unfortunately the horses with our luggage were delayed. Because of the very strong wind we had a tough time putting up the tents, fortunately some of the local kids helped us. Luckily we carried our Nooks in our daypacks so we could at least pass the time waiting for the luggage reading a book. Early in the evening, the temperature dropped below 0 (Celcius) again ...

October 14: Chebisa (3890m / 12,967ft.) - Goyu La (4440m / 14,800ft.) - Shakshepasa (4003m / 13,343ft.)

The path headed straight up the mountain from the village. After about two hours we reached Goyu La (4440m / 14,800ft.) where we had great views of the surrounding mountains. From the pass we headed down into a valley with beautiful rhododendrons in autumn colours. The whole setting reminded us of a Bob Ross painting. After lunch we arrived at the campsite in Shakshepasa (4003m / 13,343ft.) where we tried to find a flat spot (we couldn't) and had trouble with the wind again when putting up the tent.

October 15: Shakshepasa (4003m / 13,343ft.) - Jhari La (4740m / 15,800ft) - Robluthang (4146m / 13,820ft.)

After a relatively warm night we started with a steep climb. The path got reasonably flat before becoming steep again close to the pass, Jhari La (4740m / 15,800ft). On this pass we put up prayer flags too before we headed down again. Because of the clouds, the view of the distant peaks was blocked unfortunately. When we were at the lowest point of the day (3985m / 13,283ft.) we had to wade through the Jholethang Chhu. The water was very cold. On the other side we had a short but steep climb before we reached the camp in Robluthang (4146m / 13,820ft.). The last minutes we had a bit of rain, but it started raining harder just as we had put up the tent. After dinner it was very foggy, but at least it was dry.

October 16: Robluthang (4146m / 13,820ft.) - Sinche La (5018m / 16,727ft.) - Limithang (4160m / 13,867ft.)

Just after we had started, Patricia fell quite hard with her shin on a rock. Fortunately the skin was in tact, but the brooze was visisble immediately. A little later we had a bit of rain, then wet snow. After we crossed a stream the path headed up quite steeply and even more so as we reached the pass. Advantage was that we arrived above the clouds and had some sunshine when we arrived at the pass, Sinche La (5018m / 16,727ft.). At this pass we put up our last set of prayer flags. After the last of the group had arrived we took a picture of all of us at the highest point of the trek before we headed down. It was quite a long walk, but with great views, downhill and as we got lower, the weather deteriorated again. By the time we recahed the camp at Limithang (4160m / 13,867ft.) we felt the first raindrops. By the time we had dinner it was dry again.

October 17: Limithang (4160m / 13,867ft.) - Lingshi (3830m / 12,767ft.)

After a warm meal for breakfast (delicious!) the tent was dryish and we were good to go. We saw a couple of Lingshi women wearing traditional "hats". It was a relatively flat day although a bit long and with some surprisingly steep climbs through a fantastic landscape. Looking back we could see the Great Tiger Mountain and ahead in the distance the Masang Gang. We arrived at 1PM in Lingshi (3830m / 12,767ft.). We first had lunch and when we finshed, the horses arrived with the tents and when we had just put them up, the yaks with our luggage arrived. Patricia and some others went to explore the town and buy some soda. As we had entered a new province again, we had to say goodbye to the yakmen and horsemen. During the evening we had a bit of rain.

October 18: Around Lingshi (3830m / 12,767ft.)

The sun was on the tent early so it quickly became quite warm inside the tent. We wahsed our hair and spent the day reading a bit. During the afternoon we had some showers unfortunately and by the time we headed for bed it was snowing a bit.

October 19: Lingshi (3830m / 12,767ft.) - Koina (3286m / 10,953ft.)

The day started with sunshine again so we wanted to leave early as the pattern during the last days was sunshine in the morning and a chance of showers in the afternoon. Unfortunately not everybody recognized this, but as our guide pushed for an early start as well we headed out reasonably early. On the way down we passed an army camp / check point. Close to the junction where the snowman trek heads further to the north, we saw a squirrel. Close to the river (3260m / 10,867ft.) we had lunch. The path then went up and down (more up than down) to Koina (3286m / 10,953ft.). That sounds like a village but was only a single house with 4 bedrooms, one of which was occupied by the owner. We spread out across the other 3 bedrooms where we laid down our sleeping bags. We were not the only guests - some mice were spending the night there too. Arjen spotted one before we went to bed and during the night we could here them toddling around.

October 20: Koina (3286m / 10,953ft.) - Ghasa (2821m / 9,403ft.)

As we didn't have to break down a tent, packing up was easy. It had rained during the night, but was only cloudy as we started walking at 8. It was a long path slowly heading up to the Bale La (3820m / 12,733ft.) before the trail headed down. After a delicious lunch (marinated potatoes) we headed down slowly but surely, but we only arrived at the campsite in Ghasa (2821m / 9,403ft.), our last camp, just after 3PM. We helped put up all tents as we arrived as one of the first on this long day. Everybody had arrived when it started raining. Then our group emptied the local shop (soda, chocolate, potato chips). After dinner we said goodbye to the last group of horsemen and one horsewoman. It was still raining when we went to bed.

October 21: Ghasa (2821m / 9,403ft.) - Punakha Dzong - Dochu La - Thimphu

After a delicious breakfast we started walking to the spot where the bus would be waiting for us. We expected to only have to walk about 90 minutes, but as there had been a landslide the bus could not reach that spot. Instead we had to walk for 3 hours. By 11.15 the bus took off. We had lunch and then went to the Punakha Dzong. This had been the location of the royal wedding less than two weeks before and that was still visible in the wonderful decorations of this normally already beautiful monastery/temple. We then drove to Dochu La where we had dinner before arriving in Thimpu around 9PM. We took a shower before we went to bed close to midnight.

October 22: Thimphu

Arjen started the day with shaving his 2-week beard. We took the bus to an empty field where we put up our tensts to dry. Our guide would break down all tents once they were dry so we were free to go. We went to the local weekend market, a wondurful place to walk around the neatly organized stalles with vegetables, meat, herbs, dried fish, etc.. after that we walked to Karma's Coffee house for brownies and a milk shake (Patricia) and cappuccino (Arjen). As they had free wifi we were able to catch up on email and news back home. We went shopping for souvenirs (a bunch of very soddy solar powered prayer wheels). Back at the hotel we packed our luggage for the way home. Our last dinner we had dinner in a restaurant next to the hotel. Very nice! Plus we had the first beers in 2 weeks. Druk 1100 and Red Panda (the latter was especially nice).

October 23: Thimphu - Delhi

We drove to the aiport where it turned out the King and Queen would be on the same flight to Delhi. We caught a glimpse as the walked towards the plane. They were in business class and we were not allowed to go there. When we arrived we had to wait for nearly 10 hours before our flight to Amsterdam took off.

October 24: Delhi - Amsterdam - Home

We had a good flight and great connections with train and bus so we arrived at our house very early in the morning.