TID 8584 - Haa & Juniper Ridge Trek (Aug 11 to Aug 22, 2014)
Thank you for your comforting email in inviting me to provide feedback on my Bhutan experience.
The trip was a huge success for me, and at the centre of it there was Wind Horse Travel. From the moment I got in touch with Jambay and Ugen to discuss my itinerary, I instinctively knew that the trip would be nothing but special.
Teamed with knowledgeable guide Yonten and dependable driver Tshering, my Bhutan journey began with a great excitement. What really impressed me was the punctuality and professionalism of the pair, which stayed consistent until the very last day of the trip.
Every monumental sites I visited, Yonten was excited to tell me all related stories and histories, in as much details as I wanted them to be. Yonten always invited me to ask any questions and he was delighted to answer them when I had any. On the other hand, Tshering was always polite and pleasant to deal with. He ensured that the Wind Horse Travel ride was the shiniest of all at all times. Needless to say, his driving skills were unmatched for- safety and smoothness above all else.
A pleasant surprise was when I found out that Wind Horse Travel had arranged a five-star hotel accommodation for me in Punakha- the stay was really nice and I very much appreciated the extra consideration that Ugen and Jambay have given for my special Bhutan trip. Also, I really enjoyed my stay at the Gayul Guest House, where I got to make friends with the host Lhapsel and his cute niece Karmaniya. Lhapsel even made momos for me after he found out that momos are one of my favorite foods. What a beautiful place it was, I really wish I can visit it again in future.
Then came the trekking experience, which was the highlight of my trip. I met the A-team trekking crew, which was made up of the best members that I could have ever wished for. Wangda the cook made food that was tastier than any of the hotels that I visited in Bhutan; the assistance cook Dorji took care of all uneasy jobs throughout the travel; and the horseman Wangdi was unforgettable for his charisma and skills in controlling the horses, and for his comforting presence throughout the trip. Then there was Yonten, who guided and supported me throughout the whole trekking experience, and this was also the time that I got to meet the other members of Wind Horse Travel, the two Pemas and Sonam.
Begun with climbing a small monastery located in the middle of the Haa Valley Mountains, my heart was pumping with each step I took forward. As difficult as the trail proved to be, my spirit was being cleansed with fresh air and immaculate scenery surrounding me. The first day of trekking was very challenging and by the end of it I even felt that I was experiencing some mild altitude sickness. However, it was all good after having some nice warm milk tea followed by delicious dinner at a military soldier's lodge in the middle of mountains. The warm fire pit we had in the room was definitely a bonus.
Then came the second day, when the other Wind Horse Travel guides joined the group at the top of the Chelula path. The day turned challenging when the weather started to rain. We climbed through the jungle following Wangda the cook who led the way with machete in his hand. At times we had to jump from rocks, and at some point on this day I stopped caring about my socks and shoes getting soaked in the rain. It was a wild experience. However, with the bigger group came greater fun at the camp site, especially with some Ara (Local Homemade Liquor) that Sonam and Yonten had brought for me to the trip.
The third day of trekking was good and we were all lucky to see sunlight for the most part of the day. The hike was moderate compared to the two previous days, until we reached the camp site where a cow farmer had already occupied the space. We decided to continue on to do the 4th day's hike, which turned the day into another challenging journey. After 9 hrs of total hiking, we arrived at the airplane signal transmitting site, where the two residents greeted us and provided shelter. We had our last supper together and enjoyed the rest of the night (except Yonten, who got a moth trapped in his ear during the night).
The fact that I was the first taker ever on the Haa Valley-Juniper trek was definitely very special for me. Although some of the paths were hard to spot due to heavy fogs, the trekking crew really ensured the safety and wellness of me. Yes, the trekking was physically challenging, especially for the first two days of the hike; and yes, the rain made the trail very muddy which created difficult challenges at times. However, the fact that I was able to really see the untouched nature was priceless, and the fact that there was no sign of pollution - like garbage on the trail - was also a huge bonus for me. I would say that any moderately fit person in between 15 and 45 years of age can handle the trail no problem, although the speed may have to vary depending on each person's physical conditions. One suggestion I have is to confirm the usability of the camp site ahead of the time, to avoid any unexpectedness like the one I experienced. It was not a big deal for me, but the 9 hrs of hike did feel quite tiring especially near the end of it. I need to highlight again that the trekking crew that accompanied me was truly a gem, and I truly appreciate all the excellent and hard work that they did for me.
Last destination of the trip was Paro, and it definitely topped my expectations at an entirely different level. Hanging out with my new friends from trekking trip - Pema, Sonam in addition to Yonten and Tshering - was the main aspect that made the Paro experience extra special. I played Bhutanese darts and hung out with them in Pema's restaurant and at his place, which are activities that I will always miss here in Canada. Oh and Yonten and I climbed the Tiger's Nest in 64 minutes and 66 minutes, respectively, which is a new record set to be challenged by future Wind Horse Travel guides and guests.
The Bhutan trip was definitely one of the best trips that I experienced in my life. I truly feel like I've met real friends (or even more, brothers) while I was in Bhutan. The experience was so special to me that I am honestly considering to re-visit as soon as I could afford the trip again.
Thank you very much for your the excellent service that your company has provided to me. I sincerely command the team that you have established. Without you guys, my Bhutan experience would have never been the same.
If there is anything I can be of help at any time, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Posted on Sep. 10, 14 Scot S. J
Toronto, Ontario, Canada