Bumthang Cultural Trek (5 nights/6days)
[spoiler title=’Day 1: Jakar – Nanglhakhang (Distance 4/5 hours, 2800m). ‘]
It is a 3 km drive up the unpaved road from Kurjey Lhakhang to Toktu Zampa at 2654m. Two minutes down to a suspension bridge over a clear stream, the Dhur Chhu. A carved Buddha on the rock beyond the bridge is protected by a little shrine. The trail is level as it follows the right bank of the Bumthang Chhu upstream through buckwheat fields to a government animal husbandry office. It’s then a short distance to Thangbi Goemba with its distinctive yellow roof and the small village of Thangbi. The trail follows a broad ledge above the river past a 70m-long painted Mani wall and a Khonying with a mandala painted on the roof inside. Just beyond the archway is a trail junction. The trail to NgangLhakhang crosses the river on a new suspension bridge and traverses through pleasant meadows and forests of blue pine and scrub bamboo. Follow the left bank of the Bumthang Chhu (known locally as the Chamkhar Chhu) to a small cluster of houses and turn uphill to a small old Tibetan – style Chorten surrounded by prayer flags. The trail then makes a short, steep climb to a settlement of old – looking houses at almost 9000ft. There are two water-driven prayer wheels. This is NgangLhakhang, the Swan Temple. Just across the bridge you’ll find a good camp next to a line of prayer flags in a meadow below a small cluster of houses.
Overnight at Farm stay or Tent.
[spoiler title=’Day 2: Nanglhakhang – Tahung (Distance 5/6 hours, 2856m). ‘]
The walk starts out across meadows, with a view to the valley below and several small hamlets in the hills. Fifteen minutes beyond Ngang Lhakhang the trail forks and you take the lower, smaller, more level one that leads to the right through a muddy area with rocks. There is a lot of dwarf bamboo and there are several little streams to cross. The little trail cuts across the top of some fields. Goes over a small hill and down to a stream. After crossing a stream the trail starts climbing, crossing back and forth across the steam on a series of slippery logs and stones. The forest is birch, sycamore, dwarf bamboo and lot of real bamboo, forming a cold, sunless forest. Spanish moss drapes from trunks and petrified trees, giving an eerie feel to the steep climb.
Tattered prayer flags stretch across the patch at Phephe La (3360m). There is no view from the pass and it is just a forested ridge with big birch and fir trees. There is more deep forest on the opposite side; the trail leads down to a stream, then into a side valley covered in dwarf bamboo, passing a small Mani wall, much of the walk is delightful, breaking out of the forest into broad meadows and pastures of grazing cows.
It continues through ploughed fields and wide meadows and then into a broad valley, surrounded by rounded treeless hills. Near a herder’s hut the trail becomes indistinct as it crosses a meadow. As the trail approaches the bottom of the valley, there are several side trails that lead to pastures and buckwheat fields. Take the most prominent trail, which leads to our campsite behind Tahung Village.
Overnight at Tahung campsite.
[spoiler title=’Day 3: Takung- Tazur (Distance 6/7 hours, 2750m) ‘]
Start from the Takung village descending through the buckwheat fields and occasional farmhouses. There are some conifer forests and some areas you will pass by stag bamboo. We pass through the village sheep farm. At some point you will cross the stream and proceed towards the Ugengencholing palace while the trek staff continues down towards Misethang. Have packed lunch at the palace and visit the museum inside. Relax for a while and continue downhill which is gradual with broad trail. When the fields are harvested then we can go horizontally through the fields otherwise drop down to the suspension bridge and continue south. Do not cross the bridge. From here follow the Tang River and gradually ascend towards Tazur village. Through this walk enjoy the view of the Tang valley and the temple on the rocks-Tang Rimochen on the either side of the river. This afternoon walk goes through scattered village farmhouses and then through conifer forests. In the early autumn when berries locally called “Jee” ripe, be careful and look out for any signs of bears if you choose to walk alone. We camp nearby the Tazur village.
Overnight at Tazur campsite.
[spoiler title=’ Day 4: Tazur – Genergang. (Distance 4-5 hours, 2840m)’]
After a late breakfast start climbing for about 2 hrs to a small pass. The entire way through conifer forests till the lunch point near a cattle ranch. After lunch it is gradual towards Genergang and the trail becomes little mushy. On the way you pass through lots of cattle ground and camp for summer. They use this part of the valley mainly as summer pasture for cattle from Tang and Ura. Just before the camp you will have to cross a crude wooden bridge over a stream. From here it’s just around 10 minutes walk to the camp which is not a flat area- a little sloping.
Overnight at Genergang campsite.
[spoiler title=’Day 5: Genergang- Ura (Distance 4-5 hours, 3100m) ‘]
After breakfast climb to Shangba-la for about three hours. We pass through conifer forests and thickets. The pass is on a saddle marked by an extended Chorten, which is often used as trail markers all over Bhutan. From here have good view of Ura valley and some high peaks towards north. From here we pass through some forests and thickets for half an hour and then into the open sloppy ground where the villagers bring their sheep for grazing. These forests around Ura where mountain oaks grow, we get a special mushroom called Matsutake (a Japanese delicacy) in the months of August. Sometimes one can see lots of pheasants, wild boars and deer species. Also look out for the red mountain fox with bushy tails. The best time to see the endangered species of pheasant called the Tragopan is in late April to May. It is the mating season for these birds so one can see quite close. If camping is becoming tiring for you then stay in Farmhouse. Over dinner a display of “Puta” making, a dish made from buckwheat, something like a noodle. This gives us a taste of Bumthang food. End of the Trek.
Overnight at farm house or camp.