Bhutan and Nepal

October and November
 

Highest elevation reached: 4,130 metres

Vastly differing temperatures from pleasantly warm or hot sunshine with
almost no rain, to below freezing with snow at altitude.

A quote from the recent Wainwright exhibition at Keswick museum sums up the pursuit of
Rambling neatly, aptly indicating what interesting trips and adventures open up with the
modest membership fee and the rich seam of fellow Ramblers encountered!

Five weeks in Bhutan and Nepal in October - November 2015 was not so much an intention,
more a development of ideas gained through conversations and encounters.



Meeting Martin, an HF worldwide leader and keeping in touch since 2007 started the "fancy Bhutan?" idea, followed by, "well, we're going so far so could do a Nepal trek while we're in the region.......and a few days in Chitwan afterwards would be great chill-out time". Hence the result of booking the HF Bhutan Adventure and adding a further three weeks private trek in Nepal.

The trip was twelve months in the planning, the Bhutan part being straightforward until the two Nepalese earthquakes in Spring 2015. The implications of these huge disasters gave Martin close contact with our chosen company, Acclimatize Nepal, namely Mingma Tenzing Sherpa (his father had worked with Edmund Hillary on both Annapurna and Everest expeditions - impressive connections) who advised and developed our trek, which was originally for the Langtang region. Tragically, Langtang was obliterated in the second quake after which Mingma finally presented an alternative of trekking to the Annapurna Sanctuary, also known as Annapurna Base Camp (ABC).

The after effects of the quakes made us query the wisdom of the entire venture, but Mingma's sound advice proved positive, practical and invaluable, resulting in us using Kathmandu as our centre for all parts of the trip and finding that in spite of the tragedy, Nepal is recovering and needs to bring in trekking business for their livelihood.

Photo opportunities are endless, but I have edited my entire trip to about fifty pictures, hoping to give you a flavour of an experience I would never have thought would be open to me before I encountered such useful encouragement from fellow Ramblers.

Martin, Karen, John and Les; you told me I could do it and you knew better than me. Thank you!

 

Bhutan


Bhutan was an unusual and fascinating experience, enriched by the company of my lifelong friend, Chris. There is an aspect of the Kingdom of Bhutan being rather like an Asian version of Trumpton, with the expectation that each citizen contributes to Gross National Happiness and this is borne out in their entire way of life.
The main road traversing Bhutan is far from complete so walking is an ideal way of seeing the countryside, albeit with many uphills and downhills, it is moderately tough but manageable, HF organising good walks each day with the experience of an excellent local guide throughout our stay.

Thimpu, capital of Bhutan

Students of the Thirteen Arts & Crafts (Zorig Chusum), Thimpu

The Takin, Bhutan's national animal, legend records a goat's head on the body of a cow

National Memorial Chorten, Thimpu. Tibetan style and the focus of daily worship, prayer wheels and clockwise procession

Gathering rice near Punakha

Home from school - almost all Bhutanese wear the traditional 'gho' for men and the 'kira' for women

Mountains and rice terraces near Punakha

Punakha Dzong, situated at the convergence of two rivers, built 1637 and the coronation venue of Bhutanese kings

Buddhist monks at Punhaka Dzong

Crossing this prayer-flag-decorated bridge to reach Namgyal Choeten

Namgyal Choeten - cleaning the paintwork!

Blue skies and butterflies

.......and shingled, painted houses. Note the chillies drying outside for 'ema datse' - firy chilli cheese

Walkers' lunch, simple, hot and stylish under the trees

Buddhist monks renovate the prayer wheel of Wangdue Stupa

Grey Langur monkeys, long-tailed and graceful

Our bus. The road through Bhutan is far from completed and very difficult with no after-dark access

Cottage industry

Head-to-head. Yaks

Yak cheese, hanging here in cubes, is apparently tooth-breaking but long-lasting

Bhutanese three day festival. This dancing is at Bumthang

Every Bhutanese aims to visit the Tiger's Nest (Taktshang Goemba) the country's most famous monastery, once in their lifetime. It is in the distance, high behind this religious icon on the route

Nepal

Our Nepal trek team included Mingma and another guide plus three porters. Once we left our first overnight stay, roads and vehicles dwindled and mule trains serviced the needs of the sparse villages. We stayed in simple tea houses, our trek team looked after us wonderfully well, ensuring hygiene and comfort to the greatest degree. As the six of us trekking averaged 66 years in age, maybe they saw this as a challenge but were involved and supportive throughout.

After the thirteen trekking days, Mingma had organised us to travel to Chitwan National Park in the Terai region further south. This was a third aspect of fascinating wildlife and local interest to round off a terrific experience.

Typically Nepalese - colourful and welcoming

Evidence of the earthquakes earlier this year, not as great as feared

Kathmandu street market

Trek checks. Glad to know they kept tabs on us at both ends!

Water buffalo, similar, but less hairy than the yak

The Annapurna range beckons seductively

.....but first we have a tough route. The mules carried supplies but not ours. Our bags, on the right, were carried by three porters

The six of us arriving at Ghorepani on the third day of the trek. Looking good - then the rain started!

Two days later the rain stopped and we were on our way again. Two guides and three porters were the lynchpins to our team - they looked after us so well

On foot - across bridges, lots of ups and downs as we climbed higher

Bridges of all shapes, sizes and conditions

Ghandruk, comprehensive village life in the first days of the trek

The approaching mountains dominate our route. This is Machhapuchhre, or Fishtail

French marigolds and butterflies in profusion along the way

Recognisable Machhapuchhre

Our route to Annapurna Sanctuary took us to the head of the Modi Valley

Deep ice and moraine remains beside the path

Arriving at Annapurna Sanctuary, it was very cloudy and snowing slightly

The base camp looks gloomy in the poor afternoon light

Commemorations to those who lost their lives here are poignant in the mist, decorated with prayer flags

Early dawn shows the views we had hoped for, with spindrift, blown snow, on the summits

Annapurna Sanctuary is a natural amphitheatre surrounded by magnificent mountains and glaciers

Awe inspiring

Timeless and celebrated

The 'we did it' shot!

Never thought we'd meet this fellow on our trip

......or make friends like these

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