Bhutan 4: Hikes & Extra Heat

April 6, 2011 - Punakha, Bhutan

Hi all

We've spent the last few days in Punakha, a small town two and a half hours away from the capital Thimphu, which is much warmer than Thimphu, but doesn't have all that much to offer. Since my last update, last Saturday we went on an epic 9-hour hike over the mountains around Thimphu. We started at the Radio Tower at the edge of the city, then hiked up to the small village of Phajoding - only accessible by hike, it seems pretty medieval, until you see the electrical cables branching over the mountains to it. Next we hiked up via a monastery cut into the cliff (not unlike the Tiger's Nest which we hope to see in Paro next week) to Skeleton Peak, at about 4100m. It was a pretty gruelling climb up, the worst bit being getting through the thick snow and thicker rhodedendron bushes to finally reach the peak - the path seemed to fade out a bit! I also managed to wipe out, twist my ankle (painful, but managed to bear it on the way down!) and plant my face in a fairly spiky bush - all on seperate occasions, it was pretty slippy! We had no guide, but a map and a compass, and the views from the peak were incredible - down the valley to Thimphu, and in the other direction with amazing mountains, just unbelievable. The climb down was a little easier, though there were some incredibly steep meadows which were not the easiest to get down, and, knackered, we finally got back to our hotel and had some rest before watching the World Cup final (cricket, in case you hadn't noticed it) and getting a very good night's sleep!

On Sunday, we travelled to Punakha by taxi, and the views were pretty amazing along the way. The valley itself is beautiful, with a clear blue river running through it, and the Punakha Dzong (fortified monastery) is set at the convergence of two rivers, the mother & father rivers. Our accommodation in the hospital was pretty basic - a squatter toilet, and my sink was broken and had no taps - but seemed pretty adequate, and we both slept fairly well after checking out the new town, 4km down the road from the hospital & Dzong, which has very little apart from a couple of restaurants, guesthouses and lots of taxis.

Monday, we woke up to find there was no running water - apparently someone had diverted it from the hospital to the town, and the night porter had forgotten to go and divert it back. Brilliant. There are only a few doctors in the very small (40-bed) hospital, plus an anaesthetist and a gynae surgeon, so not much happens. On Monday we went on the ward round and spent some time in clinic, and Tuesday, having been told there'd be gynae surgery, pitched up to find there was none, so again spent time in clinic. The doctors are very friendly, but fairly blasé - I basically ended up running my own clinic, since he didn't give me a great deal of supervision, or much choice. Anyway, it was good experience, and I had one of the student nurses to translate for me where needed.

On Monday afternoon, we went to the town's only internet cafe, to find it closed. Checking the guide book, we saw that the Meri Puensum Resort, 3km from the town, had internet, so we caught a taxi up there, and liked it so much that we haggled down a twin room to a reasonable place and got our stuff up there to spend the rest of our time in Punakha. It's basically a hotel, pretty comfortable, free internet, and the food's reasonable and not too expensive, plus it has free internet, so I've been able to Skype Connie in Cuba, and Mum, Dad & Tom in Bognor, which has been lovely. Also I've been able to write this update and upload some photos!

Today, I've had a lovely birthday! We got up early and went for a hike up the mountain that overlooks the town. It was a much shorter hike than Saturday's, but that was very welcome, as it is so much hotter here, so we both sweated like the proverbial (I looked lots of these up, this was a combo of the best/cleanest) cat in a Korean deli. We had some amazing views down the valley, and of some proper mountains in the distance - snow covered peaks, jagged rock, truly incredible. Unfortunately it was dense forest at the peak, so no real views from there, but we had plenty along the way, and it wasn't too challenging - none of the snow we had on Saturday, though there was some scrabbling up 70 degree slopes!

And tonight, I've been relaxing, having a birthday beer courtesy of Tom, and reading the birthday wishes people have sent me via email/Facebook. Tomorrow, we catch the very long (probably 8 hours) bus ride to Bumthang, and we'll probably spend 5 nights there. I will again say that internet is likely to be fairly unreliable there, but there's a chance we'll find somewhere great as we did here, so stay online on Skype!

With love,

Tim (24!)




1 Comment

April 6, 2011
Glad you are having a great birthday Tim. Lovely to hear of all your adventures in what is clearly a fascinating land.
Lol Dad
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