Our Druk Path trek was a relatively epic adventure, hiking and trekking for 15-20 kilometers per day at passes between 12,000 and 14,000 feet over a four day period that was exhausting, exhilarating, challenging, vomit inducing (yes), and ultimately amazing. We launched shrouded in prayer flags in the mountain tops over Thimphu, afraid if the kids could make it; we keep pushing their limits on this trip (typically with strange foods and unique cultural experiences)… but we ended up with the kids leading the daily hikes at break-neck pace and worried that the adults wouldn’t survive or be able to keep up with our fearless leader kids. We did our five day hike in four days, and came down from the experience inspired and amazed that we (ok, dad) survived. Since it was a big part, possibly the highlight, of our trip both kids are going to share their perspectives on this experience.
Brayden’s Trekking Perspective:
Recently, we went trekking from the capital city of Bhutan, Thimpuh to Paro. The trek was planned for five days, although we were so fast that we completed it in only four days! It was hard, but it was an amazing experience.
We began our trek at a small dirt trail overlooking the city of Thimphu. Our driver drove us up past the Takin reserve, and up to the top of the mountains over Thimphu. For the first five to ten minutes, there were prayer flags lining the path everywhere.
We walked up the steep, dusty trail until we were all tired and sat down for a well-earned water break. We hiked our trail surrounded by green trees and shrubs of all colors and sizes. We had been walking for about forty-five minutes when we stumbled upon a monastery. Even from our position thirty yards from the monastery, we could hear the clash of symbols, and a low rumble from the horns that were being played from inside. We walked around a metal fence and came into a courtyard where we could see into the monastery. In the center, there was a statue of the magical dagger. On the walls there were large detailed murals of Buddha and many Bodhisattvas. To our right, there was the source of the sound. Many monks were chanting and playing many instruments creating a beautiful orchestra of sounds. Before exiting the monastery, we were given a small apple juice that we all gratefully chugged and were given a boost of energy from the sugar. We walked out of the courtyard and deep into the endless maze of trees and bushes.
At one point, we passed a loggers tent, and saw many wooden planks littered around the area. We walked for what felt like days and finally came to a large clearing where there was a small wooden overhang so we could ease the pains and cramps out of our legs. Oh, and by the way we were hurting, this was not a three and a half hour stroll in the park, it was hard. We were climbing a steep and muddy path where we could at any second fall or trip on fallen logs, branches or roots trying to strangle our exhausted feet and legs. At this small clearing, we saw our ponies carrying our luggage and tents come up the hill on another path. We ate some lunch, and the ponies got some time to relax as well. Our lunch felt like it flew by, before we knew it we were back on our feet climbing hills and summitting mountains.
After what felt like hours to our tired, feet of walking through beautiful and muddy terrain, we were finally able to see our campsite. When our bodies felt like they were about to collapse, we all got a boost of energy from seeing the campsite and rushed over to it. I got a burst of energy and actually ran the last kilometer to the top. We were camped near a small monastery that had living quarters for some monks attached to it. We all sprinted into our tents to get inside of the warm and cozy tents and ready to ease our aching muscles.
It only got better from there, we had chai tea and popcorn! When we finished our snack, we walked into the monastery that was near our campsite. The monastery had a large statue of Buddha inside of it. We all gave a small donation, and then drank some holy water. After looking at the monastery, we all headed to our tents to escape from the growing coldness of the night.
We ate a delicious dinner of chicken wings, rice and apples with sugar on them, and I thought the food would be bad. We all snuggled into our sleeping bags in our tents and went to bed. Sadly, after about an hour of sleeping, I woke up freezing cold when the hot water bottle at my feet got cold. I looked up at the ceiling, and I scratched an odd shape on the ceiling and I brought my fingernails back to my face to see what was on them. Snow! The tent was literally frozen on the outside. No wonder I was freezing. At such a high altitude, of almost 14,000 feet, everything freezes ice-cold at night, including me!
We woke up the next day, ready for another adventure of trekking through the Bhutanese Mountain ranges. We all got up, packed our few belongings, had tea and breakfast and began hiking again.
Today, we were hiking for seven hours. Six of those hours, we would be going uphill and the other hour, we would be walking across the top of the ridge line. We also learned to love prayer flags in a new way, since prayer flags are always at the top of mountains or mountain passes, so when we would see the flags we always knew we had made it to another peak and could stop climbing for a bit.
Right as we set off, we had a surprise of some company. A dog who we named Pema, or Lotus Flower in Bhutanese, was following us the whole way to the next campsite. After about an hour of climbing, we came to a spot several hundred feet above our old campsite, and we hung prayer flags with our names written on them. In this location, there were many other prayer flags that had been hung up by other people that had been trekking the same route as us.
After hanging the prayer flags and saying little prayers for our safe travel and trek, we walked on through a huge valley that was surrounded by hundreds of feet of tall rocky mountains looming over us. Many parts of the path were nearly flooded by streams that were running from the tops of the mountains. After two to three more hours, we came to a large grassy area that had many lakes and stone stupas popping out of the grass. This spot was today’s lunch site. We all sat down on a large and smooth rock and ate our lunches. Before we left, we all fell asleep for about ten minutes and rested every aching and cramped part of our bodies. We all woke up a little tired from our “naps,” but we eventually were able to get going again.
We walked on until we came to another mountain we had to summit. The mountain looked really small, but boy, looks are super deceiving. What looked like a fifteen minute barely steep climb actually took about an hour, and it was super steep. When we finally reached the top, we were all panting so we took a well-needed water break. After another hour of trekking through the mountains, we finally came to our campsite. There were other people that were camping there as well. We were on a huge lake and surrounded by mountains on either side. Right as we got there, we rushed into our tent to get warm, just like the previous day. After an hour of reading and school-work and relaxing, we came back out to have tea and some crackers. We were all exhausted so we quickly ate dinner and went to bed. Our tent froze again tonight, although we weren’t as cold as the last night, because we grabbed blankets off the chairs that we used for dinner.
We woke up and got dressed for another day of trekking. We ate breakfast, packed our bags and started our day. We had to first get across the lake, so we had to parkour our way across some rocks that stood out and made a path across the water. Thankfully, no one got soaked five minutes into the trek. After crossing the lake, we had to navigate our way to the top of a hill that was overlooking the campsite. We made it to the top and the view was amazing. We could see the whole campsite and we got an amazing view of the lake. We continued on our journey to our next campsite. We walked for around an hour, until I went up in the front of the group. About a minute later, I stepped my foot into a mud-hole that was at least a foot deep. I yanked my foot out and found it to be covered in mud. Literally, my whole leg, foot, sock and shoe was soaked in wet mud. We learned that only 30 minutes away, there was a lake where I could dip my foot in. When we got to the lake, everybody but me walked on the path, I took a different approach. I just walked right through it soaking my legs, although I got the mud off! I learned that the lake that I just walked in was holy, so nobody fishes in it or swims in it. I think my legs and feet were an exception though.
We walked on, until we came to a great lookout point of the lake. In this same spot we could also see Paro! It looked so close, like I could touch it! Although, as I said, looks are very deceiving. We stopped here for lunch, and then headed on to reach our campsite. After another hour, we came to an area that was flat for about a mile, although there were many spots that we would have to jump across rocks to get to the other side. We crossed the area without any wet feet and made it to the mountain on the other side.
From our vantage point, we could see our next campsite. We rushed over as fast as we could go to get to the area. Our campsite was in a large lettuce field. We sprinted to our campsite and relaxed in the camp chairs while the sun’s rays warmed us. We all ate dinner and went to bed. Tonight, we all slept amazing until three o’clock in the morning when Brooke threw up in Mom and her’s tent. Her blankets and sleeping bag had to all get tossed out into the frozen field. Then, she came into our tent and then threw up in ours. While Dad and I cleaned up the tent, Brooke kept throwing up outside. Mom and Brooke basically slept in one of the camp chairs, while dad and shivered in our tent since we had to toss out our blankets and sleeping bag since they were covered in vomit. I had to sleep on lacrosse sticks the whole night because the mattress had vomit all over it. When we got up three hours later, we were all tired, and because I slept on top of the lacrosse sticks, I had a really annoying and painful cramp in my back. Poor Brookie.
The hike should’ve taken us five days, although we wanted to complete it in four because we could not sleep in sleeping bags that had vomit all over them. Today’s hike should’ve taken three hours and tomorrow’s should’ve taken three, for six total hours of hiking but we decided to combine it into one hike, because we had just done two seven hour ones.
We began our hike through a very dense forest that had one narrow path snaking though it. At one point, there was a spot where there were many dead trees and we could see out. We saw a huge Himalayan Mountain that we learned was 24,000 feet tall. The whole mountain was completely covered in snow, and the day was completely clear so we had an amazing view of the mountain. The mountain that we were looking at is the second tallest mountain in all of Bhutan. We walked on until we came to a small stream where dad and I waited for Mom, Brooke, Ryan and Dorji (our guide). Then, we headed back onto the trail to continue our journey to Paro. We walked through another forest, although in this one the trees weren’t as clustered together as the other forest. We had a hard time finding our way at first, but then we noticed a trail of red dots that were painted onto the trees guiding us to Paro. After about two hours of following the red dots, we came to a dirt road and we learned that we had completed our hike!
We were so excited to be in Paro, but also bummed out because we couldn’t trek anymore. We also learned that we completed today’s hike in only three and a half hours. Later that night, we learned that the Sherpas and ponies with our luggage carriers and workers who set up the tents lost the pony that had our luggage on it, but they eventually found it.
We had an amazing time trekking through the beautiful mountains of Bhutan, and taking the way to Paro that people that traveled hundreds even thousands of years ago did and traveled. We are so happy we did the trek, and also really happy to be in Paro in a nice warm hotel with a pool that we can swim in and relax our bones and tired bodies.
Brooke’s Trekking Perspective:
We went on a very green adventure while we were in Bhutan. We went hiking at the bottom of the Himalayas, which still felt pretty high. It was called the Druk Path Hike (Druk means dragon). We went hiking for 4 days but we were supposed to go for 5 days. We decided not to add the fifth day because it was just a waste of time. 1) because I threw up all over the sheets and we would be freezing without the blankets and 2) because the next day would’ve been 2 hours but our amazing pace would’ve made it in one hour.
During day and night there were many temperature swings. During the days it was hot in the sun and we were all sweating. While we were walking the sun was so intense that Dad and Ryan were sweating so much that literally if you just put a finger on them your finger would get wet, and their hair looked like they just took a shower not because it looked good but because it looked really wet. The nights were freezing cold. Two of the three nights we stayed in the tents we saw frost on the tops of our tents that had seeped through the layer that was for rain protection. BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!
The second day when we were trekking we had a little buddy come with us. It was a dog from the campsite that we stayed at the last night and we named him Pema. Pema means lotus flower in Bhutanese so now Mom and Dad call me Pema, too! Pema the dog stayed with us the whole day and took many shortcuts and then beat us to our break spots. At lunchtime while we were still hiking we gave Pema our leftovers and he only ate the chicken because our guide Dorgi (pronounced Door-G) told us that Pema only liked spicy food and the chicken was spicy but the rice and veggies weren’t spicy enough. Pema’s food choice was very Bhutanese of him because Bhutanese people LOVE SPICE and chilies. The Bhutanese dry chilies on their roofs for more flavor in the chilies. The small peppers are extremely spicy. Anyways, Pema was sooo sweet I thought he was like Tembo. Pema let us pet him on our breaks. He would wait for a few seconds and then he would run, take a shortcut and then take the lead. Pema slept with us that night but outside.
The next day, we saw one of the Himalayas. It was beautiful and covered with snow. Dorgi told us it was the second highest mountain in Bhutan. It was funny because right before we saw it I had said to dad, “We’re not seeing any mountains covered in snow today.” It was also funny because dad had said, “C’mon guys, who wants to stop by that mountain and climb it?” We all laughed but then we said, “No way, this is hard enough,” and then we started laughing again. It was very funny.
I had many emotions inside me waiting to be let out at one point or another.
I felt sad when we were walking very fast and the people who carry our food must’ve been working extremely hard, because they had heavy backpacking backpacks filled with canisters of food. I felt happy, because I was with my family having a family experience that I will never forget. I was proud when I was leading the group, because everyone was pushing me further than my limits. I was also proud of dad for persevering because he had to run to keep up with us and that is not easy especially at that altitude. I was also proud of Brayden for keeping up a good spirit when he had soggy and heavy shoes that must have been very hot and heavy.
We had an amazing camping/trekking experience (besides the part when I threw up). =-)