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Bhutan: The Bumdrag Trek

When our local travel agent included an overnight trek in our itinerary, I didn’t think very hard about it. 

At that time, I thought trekking would be a great way of experiencing the mountains and enjoying what nature had to offer us.  The fact that the trek involved climbing from a height of 7,000 ft to 13,000 ft in 4 hours, failed to register in my mind.  I was a little concerned about the thin air and bought medication to prevent high-altitude sickness.  But that was about it. 

The husband angsted about the trek for months but he angsts about plenty of stuff so I didn’t pay any heed to his constant nagging about how he foresees having to push my butt up the mountains. 

Did we train for the trek back home?  Absolutely not.

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^ The advance party which brought food and camping supplies comprised 2 cooks, a horseman, 2 mules and a horse.  Accompanying us on the trek were our guide and another guy responsible for carrying our lunch and drinks.

Twenty minutes into the trek, I decided that this was a huge mistake.  The trail was rocky and steep, the air was thin, my lungs were bursting from the lack of oxygen, my heart was racing from the lack of oxygen and the physical exertion, my legs felt like lead.  And I thought I was going to die right there and then.  I had started to hyperventilate, breathing very heavily because of the thin air.  I felt sick and wanted to turn back.  There was absolutely no way for me to make the way up to the camping site which was several mountain peaks away from our starting point.  I was definitely going to collapse halfway and have to be carried down the mountains. 

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^ Very bored guides.

As it was not possible for me to turn back, I decided to walk VERY SLOWLY, which meant taking a rest after every TWENTY steps.  I drove the two guides and TBH insane with my constant hollering of  “RESTING….RESTING….RESTING!”  For our guides who regularly bring groups on 20-day treks and mountain-biking expeditions, this trek with us must be a walk in the park for them. 

Btw, there are no lavatories in the mountains.  So I relieved myself during the trek the ancient way – squatting behind the bushes! 

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^ Our tent for the night.

After 7 hours of climbing (and whinghing), we finally arrived at the Bumdrag campsite when it was almost dusk.  The trek took 3 hours longer than the estimated time but did it matter?  It was a miracle that I had actually huffed-and-puffed my way up.  On my own two feet.  And I was still ALIVE.  Not dead yet!

Did I feel an immense sense of satisfaction from having climbed all the way up?  Not really.   

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^ Campfire burning.

The advance team had set up our tents, prepared tea and started a campfire.   I sank into the chair, half-dead, sipping a cup of piping hot tea, enjoying the beautiful surroundings and the glorious sunset.   It was amazing being up there, so high up in the mountains I thought I could touch the sky.  I just don’t have the words to describe the feelings of wonder. 

Were the sights up at Bumdrag worth the trek? ABSOLUTELY, but I will never repeat the trek.  LOL.

With the sun setting, the weather turned cold.  The guides prepared a lovely dinner for us but we were too tired to eat much.  All I wanted to do was to sink myself into a hot tub of water but there was nothing like that up there!

While we were mentally prepared to spend the night at a temperature of 3 degrees Celcius, we didn’t realise it was going to be this COLD in the tent.   I shivered the entire night in my sleeping bag.  Every time I was about to fall into slumber, the horse trotted over to our tent and the bell hanging at its neck would give off a ringing sound, jolting me from my sleep.  I was kept up all night by the cold, the horse and my bladder (it was too cold to think about going to the make-shift lavatory like 30 metres away from our tent).

I woke up with a very heavy head, having hardly slept the night before.  I hoped I had sufficient energy to make the descent down the mountains!  After a quick breakfast, we left the campsite for the trek down.  The advance party was responsible for clearing the campsite after we left.  I was told by our guide that the authorities in Bhutan are very strict with enforcing the ‘no litter’ policy.  If they failed to clear the campsite, the next group that uses the site will have to lodge a complaint with the authorities and the guides could lose their license for the trangression. 

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^ The pair of dogs living at the monastery near our campsite scampering around.  Love their glossy coat of fur.

The trek down the mountains will be in another post.  I am falling asleep writing this one.

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