The Royal Academy

We started our journey early on Wednesday, the 26th of October towards Wangduephrodang on the bus. We were joined by the groups travelling to Gasa. The bus made a brief stop at Dochula, and then we enjoyed our picnic lunch near the tsho at Lampelri Royal Botanical Park. We reached Punakha to drop off the Gasa group to their campsite near the river. Then, we made our way up to Samtengang in Wangdu. When we finally reached there, it was nighttime, and we had to make our camp in the dark. We had decided not to bring a stove or LPG cylinder beforehand in order to survive on our fire making skills, so the boys were sent to collect firewood and the girls agreed to set up the tents. We enjoyed a delicious meal of ema datshi and rice before tucking in for our first night.

On the second day, we met with our porters, Asha Namgay and Asha Tsagay along with their 5 ponies that would be carrying our luggage and provisions. We quickly packed and made our way on the trail. This day was our longest hike, clocking in around 6 hours. The path was wide and had clearly been used for many years as a trading route. There were many wild fruits such as monkey apple and kousa dogwood along the way. We decided not to stay at Tsasakha and to push on to Ratho. Our campsite was situated between a small village and a chorten in a depression between two hills. There, we collected walnuts and mushrooms to eat. We learned from our porters how to cook using two logs instead of rocks. We enjoyed a bonfire and told stories and jokes until we decided to call it a night.

The third morning, we packed early and headed towards our next destination. At one point during this day, the boys and I got separated from our group and we became a bit lost. Finally, we found our group and they were already making camp in the village of Zhil. We spent the rest of the afternoon interacting with the villagers and exploring the village before we started making Brangji, a traditional meal made in Karma Sonam’s village, Phosorong, Mongar, during festival times. We met an old gentleman who lived alone. He graciously agreed to show us some amazing pieces of artifacts he had carved.

On the fourth morning, we took our time getting ready as we had a fairly shorter hike ahead of us. We made our way down to Dangchu and crossed a small suspended bridge. We made our way up to Rida and in less than 2 hours, we reached our destination. We made our camp early in the afternoon with plenty of daylight, so we decided to visit the lhakhang up on the hillside. Unfortunately, the Lama was not present when we arrived, but a caretaker let us inside the lhakhang. After our visit, we were invited by some villagers to see the primary school in Rida. We headed back down to our campsite and reached just as it was getting dark. Our dinner was delicious, and we shared many stories and jokes with our porters, who would be leaving us the next day.

The next morning, we packed our tents and bags before distributing some of our leftover supplies to Asha Tsagay, who was leaving us to return back the way we had come. After saying our goodbyes to Tsagay, we headed up to Nobding, a short hike of 1.5 hours away, with Asha Namgay, We entered into Nobding and walked down the road a few kilometers to our campsite for the night- a small turn off point right next to the highway. We parted ways with Namgay and were once again on our own for the night. We worked together to pitch our tents and collect wood for our fire. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and playing games. As it was Diwali, the night was filled with various celebrations within earshot of our tent site. We enjoyed one last meal and bonfire together, and discussed our adventures over the journey.

On the last morning, we had to take a taxi to Lobesa where we were to meet up with our friends who visited Gasa once again. We arrived several hours before them in Lobesa, so we enjoyed eating momos in the town. It was decided that we should visit Chime Lhakhang since we still had time. We made our way down from town, and on the way we stopped to enjoy ice cream at Drubchhu resort. After exiting the lhakhang, we had to rush back up to Lobesa as our friends had already reached. We boarded the bus and were finally reunited with our friends. Together, we made our way back to Pangbisa with stories and jokes to tell the whole way home.