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Trekking in Bhutan: Day 1 from Drukyel Dzong

Updated: May 27, 2020

It’s amazing to think about the amount of people, horses, and equipment that is needed to take 8 Americans on a 9-day trek. Besides our trip leader, Tashi, and our guide, Pema, we had 10 camp staff. Some dedicated to us and some dedicated to managing the 28 horses who carried our packs, food, tents, stove, cooking fuel, and other essentials. Some of the horses who carried our gear.

After the warm up hike to the Tiger’s Nest on the previous day, we were all ready to begin our adventure. We started from Drukyel Dzong at an elevation just over 8,200 feet. Today's hike was an easy 11.2 miles; it had an elevation gain of only 1,624 feet. Much the hike was on dirt roads through small villages.

Children Learn English

After only a few miles of walking past homesteads, we came upon a school. The children happened to be on a break. Many of them were running out the door of the school to play or visit the small store across the street. When they saw us, they ran to the fence to greet us with a big "Hello." One girl saluted.

Most of them were eager to pose for our cameras and even more delighted when we showed them their image on the camera's LCD screen. 

Red Rice is the Staple of the Diet

We walked past fields and fields of red rice. Along with hot peppers, this is one of the everyday foods eaten by the Bhutanese. So, too, it became one of the staples of our diet on this trek. I often had the opportunity to eat red rice twice a day. It is served rather bland, with no flavoring, but serves to cut the heat of the pepper and cheese dish that is also commonly served on a daily basis.

As I walked, I heard a continuous whirring sound. It got louder with every step until I finally came upon the source. It was a foot-powered thresher. Entire families—men, women, and children were in the rice fields harvesting. One person would constantly pump the thresher while others cut large bundles of rice and brought them to the thresher where the grain was separated from the rest of the plant. 

Outdoing the Aussies

I lied before when I said the horses were carrying essentials. At our first lunch stop on this trek I discovered that some of the items weren't really essential. Like the table and chairs that appeared at the lunch stop and every lunch stop thereafter.

On this portion of the trek, we seemed to be playing leap frog with an Aussie group. They'd take a break and we would pass them. Then we would take a break, and they'd pass us. We walked pass them when they were sitting on the damp ground eating lunch. Just a few hundred feet from them we came upon a table with pots of food, and a line of chairs which were waiting for us. We waved at the Aussies.

It was the beginning of a great trek.

Thanks to Glen Gould for photos used in this post. 

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