LOST IN BHUTAN: 6 BIKERS, 20 DAYS, 7500 KMS OF INSANITY!
Chapter 9: Thimpu to Paro and the near-death experience
It was time to bid farewell to Thimpu and move towards our next destination planned to be visited in Bhutan – Paro. After relishing the special Bhutanese preparations in Thimpu, it was time to head to Paro, search for a hotel, and then hopefully head to the Tiger’s nest ahead the same day. A word with locals revealed that the road from Thimpu to Paro would not take more than an hour.
So thus, the journey started at 9:30 am from Thimpu, and slowly we rolled out as the city had a speed limit of 20 Kmph and with speed detectors, cops with radars, we decided to stay within the limits. Post a fuel up, and after solving the maze of Thimpu city, we finally found ourselves on the main highway. The lane being a two lane black top, we eased out on speed due to oncoming traffic on the outskirts of city. Once more distance was travelled, we found that it was hard to resist not going knee down on corners, and so we did. Once on the highway it was a full blown replica of MotoGp session as we could just not resist the temptation of speeding. The speed limit being 50 kmph, we were travelling almost at double the speeds that too, while taking mad corners.
The road, being silk smooth, kept winding through the mountains, and was flanked by river on the side. As we continued on the road, we found ourselves awestruck by the sheer beauty of the landscape, the flora and fauna, the mesmerizing depths of the valley and the bridges which crossed these rivers; we just couldn’t get enough of it. It was finally, when we saw a breath taking view before entering Paro, we just could not resist taking a halt to admire the natural beauty of the terrain.
Once on the outskirts of Paro, the roads got narrower, and the traffic got a little bit denser, and then suddenly, there was no road and the group had to employ their off-roading skills to get through the road which runs parallel to the airport. This road then converged into a highway and then turned into a bridge which crossed the river.
Now it was time to find a good hotel and stay. Luckily Glinfy’s friend was a travel agent who had contacts with most hotels in western and central Bhutan, and arranged a stay for us in Hotel Lahki Yangchak. The best part was the parking, smack right beside the hotel was a platform and thus, the bikes were safely parked for the day. Once done with all the formalities the boys had dumped their stuff in the huge hotel rooms. It was now time to get ready for the big daddy of all treks, the trek to Taktsang monastery. It was the only plan for the day, as we had a fair idea that it would be tiring, but what lied ahead of us, completely caught us off guard.
The Big Daddy of all treks:
It was decided not to take the bikes for the trek as one would have to leave the bike at the base camp, unattended, and carry our helmets all the way to the top. So on this note, we got into a cab and it was hardly a travel of 15-20 minutes.
So now, there we were, at the base of this magnificent structure, which was carved into the humungous mountains. It appeared as nothing but a tiny spec from here. Looking at this, we knew it would be difficult or probably even impossible, but we had travelled 3300 kilometres just for this piece of magnificence. And so began the trek at noon time. Close to an hour through the trek, were already panting and puffing, looking at this, a monk passing by smiled at us, and after being asked about the remaining distance, he laughed and replied that we were not even half way towards the cafeteria (midpoint) of the trek.!! WTF~!!
And yes, we were dead tired by the time we reached there. A climb from 7000 feet level to 10,000 doesn’t sound much but in practicality it was a completely opposite picture. Even tourists passing by going down were giving us good luck wishes, and that’s where we knew we were in soup. Climbing for 2 minutes and resting for the next 5 became a common sight, with the group being hardly able to cover any distance on the steep slope. While me, Sachin and Sherman were climbing slowly, Deepan and Akhil were running around like jumping jacks. At one point Mr. Kalsh had covered so much ground, that he had a good power nap of 20 minutes before the group caught up.
Nonetheless, we managed to climb the entire trek in 3 hours, which normal high-on-adrenaline-people take 4 – 5 hours. But once on the top, we gotta admit, it was a sight. That pain, which we all went through, was totally worth it. Although a little far from the monastery, we were already able to see it. Now it was time to climb a total of 1000 steps (Yes you read that right, one thousand!). A Bhutanese cop met us on the way and asked us to hurry as it was already 3:30, and the monastery closes by 5:00. Once on these steps, we were awestruck! Nothing can beat what we saw and experienced there..!
It’s still surprises me, as to how a small single place can have so much of awesomeness, so much of tranquillity, so much of positive vibes in the air, that you feel you are a part of it. It’s something that cannot be described in word, cannot be captured in lens, nor can be explained. It can just be felt, can be just taken in and cherished. Imagine this, as you cross the narrow bridge after climbing down the steps you can see huge Taktsang monastery in front of your eyes and there is nothing more pleasing than seeing it after the 3 hours trek and to add more magic to the place to your left there is a huge waterfall and colourful flags all around the bridge and look to your right there is a deep valley making the entire place so enchanting there is nothing more one could ask for. And so with this awesome feeling we were about to enter the tigers nest.
Inside the monastery:
The same cop which I mentioned previously managed to climb back up and passed by us. But, the dude was kind enough to show us through the entire monastery. We were asked to keep all our stuff (bags, cam, and wallets) inside the lockers provided outside the temple and then we were guided through the way.
The kind man showed us the paintings and the deities of the Bhutanese culture. The cave where the legend says existed the tiger, which was a big crevice, inside the mountain. There was so much calmness in the air, tranquillity, silence! Not a single sound was being heard. After spending 30 odd minutes and admiring the beauty of this amazing architecture, we were ready to head back. The cop gave us blessed prayer flags.
It was already 6, and had started to get dark. It was time to start the descent. Once out of the Monastery, the boys started flying down. After the steps, we halted for a pack of biscuits, some cool water to fight the fatigue. The altitude difference and the extreme work out of our legs had taken tremendous toll on us. As the darkness crept in, the temperatures started dropping, fast! And soon it was pitch black. It was time to take out the cell phones and torches. It was a fight between time and us. The darker it became the slower we descended. In the meanwhile, Deepan’s army boot was torn and he had to climb down only on socks.
We took a whole 2 hours to climb down with a short break in between to call our taxi driver. All in all, it was one experience to be enjoyed. No doubt our bodies were tested to the limits that day, but, there was a certain sense of achievement we felt, in punishing ourselves. It was a memory, which I guess all of us would cherish for rest of our lives.
Glinfy banged a dude:
As we reached hotel with our adventurous trek story to share with Glinfy we were welcomed by another story of his own. Glinfy was enjoying his ride in Paro city after we left for Tigers nest and unfortunately he met with a minor accident where he collided with a car. One of his bike’s mirrors broke and touchwood everything else was fine. To his surprise even though Glinfy knew it was his mistake the car guy showed concern if he was okay and guided him where he can fix his bike’s mirror. We were soo glad that people in Bhutan are soo caring and loving in nature as had this same situation happened in India we all know how that would go 😉
The last thing we wanted was to eat some food and head to bed. Unfortunately there was only 1 cook in the hotel compared to 3 cooks who are usually present which meant we had to wait for over 1.5 hours for our dinner to arrive. With all that frustration we ate the food and head to bed.
It was yet another beautiful memorable day for us in Bhutan which came to an end. Tomorrow’s plan was to head to Haa valley via Chele La pass as the journey continued further.