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Exploring Bhutan

October 15, 2017

in Bhutan

Greeted as we land by the golden rice fields of Paro Valley Golden rice fields of Paro Valley

 

Bhutan is everything I love about trekking and travel. Endless expanses of alpine wilderness are dotted with high altitude flowers and sacred lakes, and yak herders roam the high country. In the valleys, richly painted monasteries are full of red-robed monks and secret markers lead to forest temples of fierce Tantric deities. Traditional farmhouses have red chilies drying on the roof, and people everywhere are ready with a smile or a cup of tea for a curious visitor. So much to explore!

My heart surged before we landed, as the plane banked into Paro Valley and golden rice fields ready for the harvest were spread before me with green forest all around. Bhutan’s constitution mandates forest preservation, and over 70% of the country remains forested, which is part of the country’s allure. For trekking, this means you can walk off into real wilderness–vast tracts of land still inhabited by abundant wildlife, occasional yak herders, and perhaps a yeti. Another part of Bhutan’s allure rests in the deep Buddhist belief and practice held by everyone from the king to local farmers. Buddhism is an integral part of preserving the environment, conducting daily rituals, building monuments and monasteries, and governing the country based on Gross National Happiness (GNH), a defining marker in policy and decision-making.

After a summer immersed in research about 1200 years of Bhutanese history, little-known trek routes, and ancient Buddhist masters, I am spending 5 weeks in Bhutan this fall, with a trekking group as well as scouting areas for new journeys. In the first moments exiting the airport, where all the local staff in formal Bhutanese clothes stand quietly smiling, allowing travelers space and time to get their bearings, my body relaxed into a peaceful joy that has only expanded in the days since. At home in the Himalayas…

Trekking past a sacred alpine lake Trekking past a sacred alpine lake

 

Young monk Young monk

 

IMG_1111 First days in Bhutan

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