Travel i feel is not about reaching your destination, it is about the experience of the journey. What you see, what you do, what you learn along the way. And that was how it was when I made a trip to Manas last, along with my family. I made this promise to document my journey for those who would like to travel the same and to reach out to people about this wonderful route and its possibilities. Bhutan is an amazing place. Even for me, born and bred there; i have come to appreciate its beauty and uniqueness from the rest of the world as i grow and learn.
The last time when i was in Thimphu, it was in December. You cannot do much trekking during this time as all the mountain passes remain closed with snow but you can definitely go south. Thats what we did. A family trip towards Manas, with lots of stops, short day hikes ranging from 2 to 4 hours and stories and laughter along the way.
Day 1: Thimphu to Trongsa. We started at around 7.00 am from Thimphu as we had to make it past various road closures along this way. Usually if you have time you may stop at Dochula to see the mountains beyond but we raced by to make it in time to Trongsa. We had picnic lunch on the way by the river side. When we reached the view point at Trongsa, we were left with enough time in our hands to do a small 2 1/2 hour hike down and up the old trade route for Trongsa Dzong.
Day 2: Trongsa to Gomphu. We spent here at an Eco
Lodge. These are two small log cabins in the woods, not exactly woods but almost (:P) with one kitchen and 2 toilets. It is actually located just above Gomphu Park range office but it does give you a feeling of being in the wild. You can build camp fire at night and entertain your team with ghost stories.
Day 3: Gomphu to Silangtey. Another Eco Lodge for this day as well. If you want to experience the local community, i would recommend staying at eco-lodges as these are built close to the villages. It is cheaper than hotels and the money goes to the community. These eco lodges were built as part of a pilot eco tourism project to promote community stewardship and involvement in preservation of the parks. The people here are very friendly. They come and visit you at the lodge with gifts from their homes and entertain you with stories.
Day 4 : Silangtey to Panbang. Pangbang is a very small town but different from rest of the small towns in Bhutan, probably because of its proximity with India. When we were there, it was short on fresh vegetables because of strikes in neighbouring India from where most of the food and commodities were brought. We spent two nights at the Eco Lodge here as well.
The lodge is situated beside the river at the junction where Mangde chuu meets Drangme Chuu. If you are bold enough, there is a small natural pool in an enclosure of rocks adjoining the river. In the morning and evenings, you could keep watch from the balcony of your cabin in anticipation of catching animals who come to drink and bathe in the river. You can also find birds; we did catch some water starts and lots of monkeys off course.
Day 5: Manas. Manas National Park is roughly about an hour drive from Pangbang. So we could explore Manas and drive back to Panbang in the evening. You could choose to do some river rafting and take elephant rides, but we decided to drive further to the Indian part of the Park. Along the way we caught sight of some fish eagles and deers.
Day 6 and 7: Back to Trongsa and Thimphu. We spent a night at Trongsa and head to Thimphu the next day.
This brings an end to our adventure sadly, but hopefully there will be another time again. I loved the entire assortment of small things along this route. The wilderness, the villages, the rope bridges, the rivers, the people and even the dust along the still un made roads. This route definitely screams adventure and is a must for anyone seeking one.