The Royal Academy

A group of ten students and four adults started the journey with great excitement and joy on October 26, 2016, wanting to explore nature’s creation and create unforgettable memories.

We left the school at about 8:30 am in the morning and drove all the way till Gynekha village in Thimphu. We had lunch nearby a stream as we waited for the porter and pony that arrived at around 12: 30 pm. It took quite a while to beam balance the weight of bags on the pony. At last the porter and two teachers could complete the task and the group started ascending towards the day one’s camp called Gur. We walked for about an hour and a half before descending to the campsite, which was a beautiful place to be. The boys quickly started pitching the tents and the girls fetched water. The teachers started fixing the stove and lit fire on hearth for cooking.

We prepared a delicious dinner, which included chicken fried curry, kewa datshi and rice. The night would have turned dull had the boys not collected firewood to start a bonfire. The bonfire got the children excited and they wanted to have an Antaksari (singing competition) between the boys and the girls. It was a nice evening and after about an hour of singing, everyone felt they must retire to bed. By then, the time was about 8 P.M and everyone went to bed, knowing that the next day was not going to be easy. 

We woke up at around 6:30 am in the morning, made tea and started preparing lunch as the day’s journey was going to be the toughest as informed by our porter, Ata Tshering and we needed to eat something substantial to keep us going throughout the day. We had bread, biscuits and tea for breakfast. The students quickly packed their lunches and were set to go ahead.

Day two’s journey was a very steep climb and we had to cross rugged mountains and resist the chilly breeze that pierced through our bodies. Despite trying our best, we could not catch up with our students who just left half an hour before. The teachers finally met the students as they were waiting for us to have lunch. The lunch tasted very delicious and the hunger added fragrance and spice to the food. We walked for another 2 hours to reach the base camp called Labatama, which was 4300 meters above sea level. The serene natural makeup of the environment kept us fresh.

The base camp was in the alpine region and there were no trees to be seen. We could see some shrubs of rhododendron miles away but luckily we could collect broken pieces of wood to use them for cooking. We performed the basic chores and used the yak herder’s shed as one of our tents for girls as it was warmer. We ate dinner and sat beside the fire before we retired to bed. 

The third day was comparatively relaxing and we woke up at around 8 a.m. as we were to spend a day at Labatama exploring different lakes. We cooked our brunch and slowly started for the day, as we were to explore at least 6-8 lakes. We walked up for about an hour before sighting the first lake. We kept on exploring as we found more and more lakes (both small and big) and each seemed to be uniquely beautiful.

We had a great day and like Rabindranath Tagore’s quote, “The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough”, we felt that the moments experienced were more than what we anticipated. Each and every scene was more picturesque than the one before, which fueled our curiosity in wanting to exploring more and more. Time passed by very quickly and we wanted to stay longer but we knew that we had to return back to the camp. We left the magical place but our memories are vivid and shall remain forever. 

The fruitful day three ended as we returned back to our camp and shared our thoughts. We saw nine lakes in total and everyone was excited as the students started narrating stories associated with the lakes. Some of us went to collect firewood and had to walk about a kilometer downhill before we could gather some. We cooked our meal and stood by the fire to keep us warm, as the night was quite chilly.

The next morning, we had our meals and decided not to stop for lunch in between. Our next destination was Panka, which would take 4-5 hours from Labatama. We started at around 10 am and reached the place at around 2:30 pm. The place was beautiful and everyone was happy to see tress around. We pitched tents, made tea to have with snacks, and started to prepare dinner as the boys collected firewood. We had dinner by the bonfire but retired to bed soon as everyone was really tired.

The next day, we arrived at the last campsite, Kamtsho (which means a dry lake) at around 2:30 pm. We pitched our tents, collected firewood and got settled. We had to walk quite a distance to fetch water and some of the team members volunteered for the job. The others continued collecting firewood for bonfire. Then, we made suja and had some snacks. After that, we started preparing supper and everything was ready before dusk. Then we lit the bonfire and had our meals. The evening was very entertaining as the children sang a wide range of songs for almost 2 hours. 

The next day, we started walking towards Chemgang at around 9 am and arrived there by 11 am. We had to wait for about an hour for our taxis to arrive. Then, we finally drove back to the school. Everyone was tired but happy.

Overall, it was a tiresome journey but the great experiences we had made the trip very memorable.