Have you ever wanted to experience the Himalayas without the fear of crime, funky food, crowds and pollution? Look no further than Bhutan (minus the funky food) right next door to India and Tibet in central Asia. Greg and I did the 8 day Chomolhari trek through this amazing mountain range with REI Adventures. Bhutan is a pretty cool place – however it can be an expensive destination. They do not have an appreciation for backpackers so don’t even think about it – they have no desire to mimic Nepal. The culture here is as thick as molasses – they are Buddhist through and through and have a strong desire to keep it that way.
We started our adventure on a crisp day in November. It was one of the most challenging treks we have ever done – the average hiking distance was about 10 miles per day. We hiked on rocky terrain and over steep mountain passes, there was nothing easy about it. When it was all said and done, we logged approximately 80 miles and crossed over 3 mountain passes, one reaching ~16,000 feet. All 7 of our nights were spent in a tent – in a cold, cold (did I say cold?) tent. Our guide swore a snow leopard passed through our campsite – only the shadow knows if that was a true statement – I think it could have been a Yeti. REI does a great job, but there isn’t much they can do when it is below 30 degrees at night and first thing in the morning. I learned my lesson and now have a -20 degree sleeping bag for trips like this.
A few things to note:
- Do not be shocked if you happen to see a penis painted on every house you pass.
- In order for you and the rest of your group to enjoy this trip, you must be in good physical condition. No one likes a whiner or someone who holds the rest of the group back.
- Please make sure you bring the right gear and test it before you go on this trip.
- REI has a packing list for a reason – pay attention and don’t think you know more than the masters of the outdoors.
- If you wear new hiking boots for the first time on this trip – well, I don’t really know what to say.
- Don’t over pack – those tents get small, REAL quick and if you have a roommate you don’t know (or can’t stand), it could be a heinous experience.
- If you like meat – don’t expect a big juicy steak here. It is a Buddhist country after all and they get most of their meats from India (and you know how they feel about the bovine species).
- Hydration is key – altitude sickness is not pleasant. I had a rager of a headache after one day of hiking and wanted to shoot myself.
- Bring your meds – as usual, there is is always one person who contracts montezuma’s revenge and suffers horribly for several days.
- No matter how tempting it is, do not attempt to share any beetle root with the guides, your teeth are sure to turn a nice cherry Kool-aid color.
- Be flexible and kind to your fellow travelers – do not, under any circumstances, ask the group to sing the ever popular, “Puff the Magic Dragon” at the dinner table.
I think my pictures speak louder than my words for Bhutan – hope you enjoy. If you are interested in a challenging trip that will push your physical limits, I highly recommend it. REI is my travel company of choice – I have been on 4 trips with them and have loved every single one of them. I plan 98% of my trips, but when a guide is necessary, it’s REI all the way.
Jump on the Life Bus and visit Bhutan which is rich in culture, scenery and some of the most incredibly wonderful, kind, gentle people you will ever meet in your life.