Wild East Rodung La Trek

Wild East Rodung La Trek

This journey across the top of eastern Bhutan follows what used to be an important trade route before the establishment of the national highway. Although the trek does not lead into really high altitude, it is tough, as it involves going across over the undefeatable Rodung La pass and a long steep descent from there on along the narrow path that runs down through the cliffs. A few groups take up the challenge which this long and demanding trek presents each year. It is definitely one of the harder treks in Bhutan!

Day 01: Arrive Paro

Flying in to the country’s only airport, in the beautiful Paro valley, the clear mountain air, forested ridges, imposing monasteries and welcoming Bhutanese people in their striking national dress, provides a breath-taking first impression.

Your guide who is going to be with you throughout your trip from Bhutan Travel Designers will meet you at the airport. A fifteen minute drive follows the narrow winding road to our hotel which is a traditional Bhutanese building with attractive gardens and an exceptionally peaceful atmosphere. In the afternoon, we will visit the Ta-Dzong which was built in 1651 as a watch tower for the Rinpung Dzong. Since 1967, the watch tower has served as the home of the National Museum and holds a fascinating collection of art, ancient relics and religious artifacts. Next in line is Rinpung Dzong built in 1646 by Shabdrung, the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan, the Dzong houses the monastic body of Paro and its district administration. If there is time, we will walk along the small main street of Paro in the evening with its typically Bhutanese shops and small lodges. Altitude at Paro – 2250 meters.                                                                                       Overnight – Hotel in Paro.

Day O2: Taktsang Excursion

Today, we will hike up to the famous 17th century temple called Taktsang or the Tigers nest perched on a rock face 900 meters above Paro valley. In 8th century, Guru Rinpoche; the great Indian saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, is believed to have arrived here flying on the back of a tigress and have meditated here for about three months. It is revered as one of the most sacred places, every Bhutanese wish to visit this place at least once in their lifetime. To get there, it takes about two hours of uphill walk. The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. We will have lunch at the cafeteria on our way back from the monastery, and then continue our hike down to the bottom to take a drive to Thimphu for two hours.                                                                                                                                                                                            Overnight – Hotel in Thimphu.

Day 03: Sightseeing in Thimphu

This morning, visit the Memorial Chorten, built in 1974 in memory of the third King, His Late Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, lovingly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. It is a rare stupa that has an inner sanctum of temples. There are intricate paintings and statues representing tantric reverence and practice. A very popular religious monument in the city, there are always numerous devotees circumambulating or turning the giant prayer wheels.

Next stop at the Textile Museum, Established in 2000, this is one of the new theme museums in the city. It is dedicated to the rich skill of Bhutanese weaver, primarily women. Literally, women were ones who clothed the family before the availability of machine made fabrics. The museum has a good collection of sample including rare pieces and antiques, some belonging to the royal family. Since its establishment, the museum has organized competitions to encourage weavers as well as pay tribute to the rich old tradition and skills.

Visit to the Institute of Traditional Medicine; Bhutan has long and rich tradition of medicine based on natural remedies derived mainly from plants and earth, and some animals. This institute has facility for out patients, training, research and production of traditional medicine. The courses to become traditional doctors, called drungtsho, entail six to eight years of strenuous study after high school. The institute has an exhibition room that imparts excellent look into the tradition.

Next stop is at the School of Traditional Arts and Crafts. The school offers an eight-year course in the techniques of traditional art in religious and secular paintings, woodcarving, clay sculpture and traditional mask making. One can see students working through progressive levels practicing precise rules of Bhutanese art. The school also has a showroom from where student works are sold at very reasonable price compared to town for same quality of work.

The Folk Heritage Museum; established in 2001, this is an interesting museum housed in a very old traditional house. The museum is a walk through the fast changing rural tradition, habits and skills, and those of the past. They organize special exhibitions annually on select subject pertaining to Bhutanese heritage. Demonstrations of traditional way of extracting oil, brewing traditional spirit, husking rice etc. and a buffet of traditional food items can be arranged with prior notice

After offices close at 5 pm, visit Tashichhodzong, the beautiful medieval fortress/monastery. The massive fortress, whose name translates as the fortress of glorious religion, was initially a smaller structure but took the present form after expansion/reconstruction commissioned by Late Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1965. Besides being the summer seat of Je Khenpo, Head Abbot, and the central monastic body, it houses some ministries, the secretariat, the Golden Throne of the King of Bhutan and His Majesty’s office. The National Assembly Hall initially in the Dzong has since 1993 moved to a new location directly across the river.
Before dinner stroll around the town, visiting handicraft stores and mingling with the local people.                          Overnight- Hotel in Thimphu.

Day 04: Thimphu/Punakha (03 Hours)

The road from Thimphu to Punakha goes northeast and one of the highlights of the journey is at Dochu La Pass, the highest point between Thimphu and Punakha at 10,000 feet. It provides a spectacular view of the Himalayas to the north when the sky is clear. On top of the pass are 108 chortens (Tibetan and Bhutanese name for Stupa), honoring those who were recently killed by insurgents. Chortens are Tibetan Buddhist reliquaries, memorials to the teachings of the Buddha. Sometimes actual relics of the Buddha or revered monks are inserted into the dome of the stupa, but whether or not there are relics inside, the stupas mark the landscape with reminders of the Buddha’s teachings.

In Punakha, we will visit the Dzong that was built by Shabdrung, in 1637, on a strategic junction at the confluence of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers. The Dzong has played a hallowed role in the history of Bhutan. It served as the seat of Shabdrung’s government, several foreign delegations were received here in 18th and 19th century, the election and coronation of the first King was observed in 1907 and the Third King convened the first National Assembly in the Dzong. The central monastic body continues to reside here in winter. The embalmed bodies of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Terton Pema Lingpa are housed on the top floor of the main tower. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King from the latest fire in 1987.
Next in line is a short hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten in the northern part of the valley. Newly built, it is a more elaborate version of the Memorial Chorten in Thimphu. It has an astounding work of frescoes and intricate statues.                                                                                                                                                                                        Overnight – Hotel in Punakha.

Day 05: Punakha/Tongsa (06 Hours)

The drive to Trongsa takes approximately 6 hours. We start early for the fabulous drive to the central valleys of Bhutan through the breathtaking beauties and serenity of Bhutan’s rich flora and fauna. As we cross the fertile valley of Punakha and enter into the valley of Wangdue Phodrang. We take an opportunity to photograph the majestic fortress of Wangdue Dzong, which stands on a spur of a hill at the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers. We then climb steadily passing through semi-tropical vegetation and then to Pele la pass (3,300 m/ 10,989 ft.) With an alpine environment of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo, the Pass is traditionally considered the boundary between West and East Bhutan. During the clear weather we can view the high snow capped peaks specially the Mount Chomolhari (7,314 m/ 24,355 ft.). As we descend from the pass through the dwarf bamboo and quite often Yaks grazing we reach at Chendebji Chorten. Lama Shida built this Chorten or Stupa in 18th century. Continue your drive to Trongsa, as you enter Trongsa valley, the huge fortress of Trongsa makes you wonder if you will ever reach it. Backing on mountain and built on several levels, the Dzong fits narrowly on a spur that sticks out into the gorge of the Mangde River and overlooks the routes south and west.
In the evening, we will visit the majestic Trongsa Dzong, built in 1647, by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal, this Dzong was the source of many important historical events in making of Modern Bhutan.                                                                       Overnight – Hotel in Tongsa.

Day 06: Tongsa/Bumthang (03 Hours)

This morning, we will take a drive for about an hour towards south to see the winter palace of the second king, Jigme Wangchuk. It’s an interesting drive, passing Takse Goemba and a large expanse of rice terraces in the lower Mangdechu valley. It’s a good side trip from Tongsa and it gives an intimate insight into life in the early days of Bhutan’s monarchy.
After having lunch in Tongsa, we will then proceed to Bumthang crossing the Yotongla Pass and then into the first valley of Bumthang known as Chumey. We will make a brief stop at Tsungney village, where we will observe the weavers weaving the famous Bumthang fabric known as Yathra.                                                                                                                     Overnight – Hotel in Bumthang.

Day 07: Bumthang/Ngang Lhakhang (4-5 hours)

This morning take a drive for about half an hour to the trail head of your trek to Toktu Zampa. The route takes you around Chamkhar Chhu, a river rich in trout. After passing Thangbi Lhakhang, a temple built by the first Karma Shamar in 13th century, further ahead you enter Ngang Yul, ‘Swan Land” and at its center is Ngang Lhakhang, the “Swan Temple”. This part of the valley was at first inhabited by swans who gave their name (Ngang) to the place. The Lama Namkha Samdrup, having dreamt a vision of how to build a temple, shot an arrow and at the spot where the arrow landed, the Ngang Lhakhang was erected.                                                                                                                                             Overnight: Camp at Ngang Lhakhang (2800m)

Day 08: Ngang Lhakhang/Tang (5-6 hours)

The day starts out across meadows and with the view of the valley below. Then you climb gradually to Phephe La (3,360m), the highest point of the trek route. The trail passes through beautiful forested areas where many stops can be made to enjoy the natural beauty of the place. The path leads you downhill into a broad valley. Amongst several possible camping places the most likely one is uphill behind the village of Tahung.                                                                      Overnight: Camp at Tahung ( 2720m)

Day 09: Tang/Phokphe (5-6 hours)

Today we begin our trek with a short and steep climb to Ugyen Choling Palace which houses a museum. We will have a brief stop to see the museum before we proceed along the old trade route to Phokphe. The path takes you gradually up through the meadows and then trough the thickets of bamboos, hemlock and finally up to the alpine forest. We set up our camp in a beautiful meadow before Rhodung La.                                                                                                                  Overnight: Camp at Phokphe (3680m)

Day 10: Phokphe/Pemi (6-7 hours)

Rodung La (4,160m) is about two hours climb from the camp. From the pass you then continue downhill through a gorge, overlooking some of the mountain valleys. The path is so narrow built incredibly through the vertical cliffs with what seems an almost endless stone wall. There is an old phrase, which says “Rhodung La the pass of justice where even the king dismounts from his horse”. The region is well known for its sightings of ghosts and yetis. Towards the camp you see pine trees and the ruined stone building was the grain storehouse during the times of the first and second king.     Overnight: Camp at Pemi (2950m)

Day 11: Pemi/Khaine Lhakhang (7-8 hours)

The trail goes straight down to the bottom of the valley to Ungar where there are cluster of households along the bank of Ungar Chu. From here, the path winds up and down, passing the villages of Bulay, Kulaypang and Gomda till you reach Khaine Lhakhang. It is one of the oldest temples in existence today, built in mid 7th century by the King Songtshen Gampo of Tibet to subdue demons.                                                                                                                                                     Overnight: Camp at Khaine Lhakhang (2010m)

Day 12: Khaine Lhakhang/Tangmachu (6-7 hours)

From your camp, the trail goes down to a stream and back up to a basic health unit and community school in Gorsam. Further on, you pass a Tibetan-style Umling Mani, built by a lama from Tibet, and a chorten on Zerim La (1,940m). Before reaching the next pass, Taki La (1,760m) you will see Menjabi, a beautiful Bhutanese village with large white houses. South-east of Taki La is Tangmachu High School. About 400 students study in this school. Our vehicle will be waiting for us at Takila to take us to the campsite and to Lhuntse to see its impressive Dzong.                                 Overnight: Camp at Kuri Chhu (1400m)

Day 13: Kuri Chhu/Menji

Lhuntse is one of the most isolated districts in Bhutan. The landscape is spectacular, with stark cliffs towering above river gorges and dense coniferous forests. The region is famous for its weavers, and their distinctive textiles are generally considered to be the best in the country. The Kurtoe region of Lhuentse is the ancestral home of the monarchy.

In the morning, we will visit the Dzong which sits high on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Kurichu valley. Lhuntse Dzong is one of the most picturesque in Bhutan. After lunch, we will take a short drive to Menji, to the trail head of the last part of our trek and explore Menji village for its distinctive textiles.                                                                                             Overnight – Camp Menji (1830m)

Day 14: Menji/Pemi (2450m)

The path goes up through the thick forest of oaks and rhododendrons and it’s fairly wide as it’s being used by the cow herders and their herds from Menji. After a long climb, we get to numerous patches of meadow called Pemi. All these meadows are being extensively used as the summer pasture for the cow herds of Menji.                                            Overnight: Camp at Pemi (2450m)

Day 15: Pemi/Taupang (6/7 hours)

Continue up to Dong La (3900m) and pause at the pass to enjoy a splendid view of the surrounding snowy peaks. After the pass, there is a long descent through thick evergreen forest to reach our camp site at Taupang, a forest clearing with a wooden shelter in it.                                                                                                                                                                 Overnight: Camp at Taupang (2450m)

Day 16: Taupang/Tashiyangtse/Tashigang (7-8 hours)

This is the last day of our trek, and we will have to set off early as we have to take a little over two hours drive to Tashigang after the trek. The trail runs gradually down through thickets of bamboos and evergreen forest occasionally passing by small settlements. Our vehicle will be waiting for us on the roadside to take us down to Tashigang.          Overnight: Hotel in Tashigang

Day 17: Tashigang/Samdrupjongkhar (08 hours)

Today, before we proceed down towards south to Samdrup Jongkhar the border town between Bhutan and India, we will make a short visit to Tashigang Dzong.. En route we will visit the Zangdo Pelri temple at Kanglung, a town with clock tower and the college campus; this is the only degree college in Bhutan. In Khaling, we will visit National Handloom Development project, operated by the National Women’s Association. The hand woven products manufactured from this institute are sold in Thimphu market. You can purchase any hand woven products that you may like.                                            Overnight – Hotel in Samdrup Jongkhar.

Day 18: Departure (02 hours)

Your Indian agent will come and pick you up this morning from Samdrup Jongkhar to take a drive to Gauhati which is about two hours. From Gauhati you can fly to New Delhi or Kolkata for connection of your International flight back home or to Bagdogra and then take the flight to Kathmandu