Bumthang Owl Trek – July, 2019
Hotels Bumthang - Mountain Resort
Tang - Phola Farm House
Camp - Tent
Punakha - Zhingkham Resort
Thimphu - Hotel Druk
Paro - Hotel Gangtey Palace
Dear Windhorse Team,
Where to begin with insights into our wonderful Windhorse holiday in Bhutan in July 2019.
We were four mature women travelling together. We are members of a walking group in Western Australia and most years some of us travel overseas together. This year Penny, Deb, Elspeth and I decided to go to Bhutan. Just the idea of the place was magical. The long wished for Shangra La. The country that limited the arrival of TV and tourism. My main planning was to buy a novel about a family’s trip to Bhutan but my intrepid companions planned the trip down to the last detail with the excellent help of the people at Windhorse Tours. My planning for the trip was eclipsed by breaking a toe 2 months before our departure date and a week before we travelled I requested a horse for our 3 day trek in the mountains. I imagined myself on one of the pack horses or a mule but I was determined to go on the holiday and to not hold the others up.
We travelled in the monsoon season, the low season. The downside was the rain and cloud and we never did get a glimpse of the snow capped mountains but the upside was the lack of many other tourists at this time of year, and most days we had little rain. Flying into Paro airport then on to Jakar was great fun in the small aircraft. Our guide Yonten and driver Sonam met us at the Jakar airport and after that we never had to worry about a thing. Every bit of planning, every meal, every contingency was taken care of with kindness. We felt thoroughly cared for. Our first feelings about Bhutan, coming from dry and often brown Australia were that we were in a very green mountainous country with abundant flowing water, and a country which truly cares about the environment and the future of the planet. During our first couple of days we went to two festivals. The costumes, the amazing masks, the music and the dances were very colourful and exciting to watch. Yonten had a great depth of knowledge and he explained everything to us in detail; the history, the role of the royal family, the architecture, the costumes and the meaning and the purpose of all things ranging from the statues in the temples to the new hydro electric power facilities. We visited a nunnery, a palace and museums and many temples. We stayed in very nice accomodation each night and had 3 delicious meals every day. We all enjoyed the Bhutanese food, especially the ginger potatoes, the chilli cheese and the chicken and green vegetable dishes.
On our 5th day we set off for our trek. It was raining and the road became too boggy for our car. We all piled into a pick up tuck with our waterproofs on. At the start of our trek we were met by the cook and his helpers and the pack horses and the horseman Pema and his 4 beautiful riding horses. Yonten explained that the 3 extra horses were there in case my very fit travelling companions wished to ride at any stage. I hadn’t ridden in over 10 years but with my broken toe there was no other way I could have done the trek without my noble steed Prince. My friends did do some walking but with all the rain and mud and the very steep rocky streams and some altitude sickness we all enjoyed the remarkable experience of riding in the cloudy mountains with forests hung with lichen. There were wildflowers, wild strawberries and we saw yak and monkeys which made it a once in a lifetime experience. Windhorse kindly included the horses in our tour and by the end of the trek my friends were praising my broken toe and the horses. After one wet night in tents Yonten arranged for our second night to be in the guest room of the monastery, for which I was extremely grateful, as I was exhausted and unwell by the end of our difficult descent.
After the trek we enjoyed several more day walks including up to the Tigers Nest which I climbed up in hiking boots and down in sandals, at Yonten’s suggestion to save my toe. The drive to Thimphu with the landslides onto the road was exciting for us but required all of Sonam’s driving skill and concentration. One day we had car trouble and even that became an adventure. An auto repair shop appeared out of the clouds on cue and we were taxied into town to visit temples and have a feast while the repairs happened. Our last accomodation was the old governor’s residence in Paro, a fine example of Bhutanese architecture in lovely gardens, where we had time and comfort to prepare for our onward journey. Yonten and Sonam dropped us at the airport, the most beautiful airport in the world, with its traditional Bhutanese buildings, and they would not leave until we were safely checked in. We were all quite sad to leave the Land of the Thunder Dragon and we all truly hope that we can return one day.
Thank you again for a remarkable holiday. It exceeded all of our wildest expectations.