Bhutan: Punakha to Bumthang

4th April 2013

Previous posts:
Flying to Paro

Majority of tourists limit their travel to Western Bhutan covering the districts of Paro, Thimphu and Punakha. Only a small minority head towards Central and Eastern Bhutan. One reason is that the tourist facilities get limited as we go deeper into east. And it involves long road journeys for several days.

We decided to continue our journey towards central Bhutan. We started little early at 8AM as the journey would be long. The road goes next to Puna Tsang Chhu River.  The vehicle traffic thinned down after we crossed old Wangdue town.  It was mainly trucks carrying supplies for the construction of hydro power project in central Bhutan. The road was spoiled because of these trucks. At many places road widening was in progress that slowed our journey.

After two hours we reached a village of Nubding. We had to wait here for the JCBs to clear the debris of road construction. After the town, climb to Pele La started. Unlike the monster passes that we see in Ladakh, the passes in Bhutan are very gentle!! And it is surprising that even at 11,000 ft we do not find snow . It was still beginning of spring.

Somewhere during the climb, the road to Phobjika valley diverges from the main road. Phobjika valley is home to vulnerable Black necked crane. Winter is the best time to see them. White bellied Heron which is almost close to extinction is found in this area. There are only about 27 – 30 of these birds left in Bhutan (and possibly few more outside Bhutan). The series of hydro power projects in central Bhutan might seal its fate.

On top of Pele La was a stupa. It was very cold on top of the pass. My daughter’s clothing and expression tells it all!!

While going down Pele La, we also see another Stupa on the right side. This is a big one with Nepalese architecture.

We had our early lunch at a restaurant near the stupa. At 11:30AM, it was too early to have lunch but it was a wise thing to have food when it was available!!

Once down from Pele La, we can see the “Black mountain” ranges on the right side. The jungles looked extremely dense with a snow capped mountain in the background.

As we proceed further, the road gets narrower as it passes though steep valleys. On the other side of the valley is the road leading to the hydro electric plant.

At 1PM, we were nearing the town of Trongsa perched above a gorge. It looked very near on the opposite hill but then we had to meander through the hills to reach the end of the valley, cross the river and then climb to Trongsa. The great views of Trongsa and the Dzong can be seen from a view point.

At Trongsa, the highway diverges where the other route goes southward to the town of Galepu at India-Bhutan border.

Trongsa is exactly at the center of Bhutan. The main attraction of the town is the Dzong that rises above the gorge of Mongde Chhu River.

We spend some time in the Dzong before proceeding to Bumthang.

From Trongsa, the road climbs to Yotangla Pass. At 11,000 ft this is the highest pass we will be crossing on the stretch of our journey. Early April and we do not see any snow at this height. This is strange.

Top of the pass was fully covered by mist. Prayer flags hang on top of the pass.

The road after the pass climbs down to Bumthang. Bumthang encompasses four valleys: Chokhor, Tang, Ura and Chhumme. The road first enters the Chhumme valley. Small villages start appearing and the road is lined with Apple and peach trees. It is blooming time and flowers are seen everywhere.

From Chhumme we enter Chokhor valley to reach the town of Jakar. We are welcomed by rain as we enter into this quite town. Our hotel Wangdicholing resort is at the beginning of the town. Built on a bluff it overlooks the valley and the town.  And we will be the only people in the resort for next two days. Superb!! 

Jakar is at the altitude of 8500 feet. It feels very cold even before the sunset. Thankfully, the room has fireplace which keep us warm.

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