Now we start the most exciting finale of the trip: which is a hiking adventure up Bumdra camp where we will spent one night under the starry sky, then followed by descending hike to the Tiger Nest. Unfortunately, it doesn’t goes as smoothly as we had first imagined
Day 5 – Hike up to Bumdra Camp
During one of our drive, Namgay gave us a brief for the night at Bumdra Camp. The one thing he said struck us the most was…
“There’s no shower”.
Audrey and my expression was literally like “Huh!? No shower!?”. We were really not prepared for this “no-shower” event. When we first booked for this trip, I was aware of the overnight camp, but I had not thought ahead about the camping facilities available, and I definitely didn’t even think about glamping.
But now reality for what we had signed up faced us, we should be anticipating, peeing in nowhere, no shower facilities, high altitude hiking, cold temperature, etc. And so we were advised to pack essentials. Essentials? Jackets, clothes to change, toothbrush, wet wipes, heat pack, makeup remover, cookies, chocolate, and etc :D.
After we got off the car, our driver, Uncle Sangay, carried a pack of incense wood on his back said he will start off first. Namgay and us then slowly ascended up the mountain.
You see us, with all the big backpacks, and I had one in front and one on my back. The front little pack was a pouch given complimentary by DrukAsia, and I thought it was an amazing idea to put the water, munchie goodies here than to constantly reach into my backpack.
Contrary to us heavily geared up, Namgay simply went empty handed. o.o? He also graciously offered to help carry our stuff if it was too heavy, and even citing to carry my pack, “Don’t worry I won’t eat your stuff”. Haha, in the end I couldn’t resist with all the weight on me, I handed my DSLR to him.
And when we first started the journey, I wore 3 layers thinking its going to be super cold up here. As we go along, off went my first jacket, then next my outer sweater. We got hot while climbing, but the perspiration got trapped inside which made me cold and uncomfortable. So I was down in my last Heat Tech layer hahah.
Along the way, being not the fittest and facing a hike against altitude, we had to keep taking short breaks like every 15-20 mins for water, and munching on goodies. My heart was thumping loudly in my ears, and it does get a lot more strenuous as we ascended. However so, the air up there was very fresh, and we are accompanied by awesome scenery. We were lucky to start off with a great weather.
Heres one on our hike. Oh and thankfully, Namgay provided us with the hiking sticks, so we needn’t bring one.
I don’t know is it because of bad timing, but subsequently hahaha our facial expression became glum and glummer…
And along the way we encountered some horses being herded up or down the mountain. They were actually used to bring stuff up or down the mountain, as can see the bulky barang barangs on their back.
Also, tourists can hire them to carry their stuff for their hike.
Lunch Point and an Unexpected Situation
Finally, we reached the lunch point for a longer break at a little wooden shelter. The cooks were already there preparing for lunch. We met with May, a solo traveller from Singapore, and we had a small exchange. After the lunch, they left first to continue on the hike.
During the lunch point, I wasn’t observant enough – but things had started to gone a little down the road…
We started off, with Namgay in the lead, then me, and lastly Audrey and CH. About few minutes in, Namgay and I was waiting for both Audrey and CH to catch up, but the wait was getting too long and we couldn’t see them progressing due to the tall grass obstructing the view. Then Namgay headed downwards to check…
CH was hit with a serious migraine, and he had to take his heavy duty painkiller and we returned to the lunch point for him to take rest and hopefully recovered. The cooks swiftly took out a bench for him for him to lie on, and he was blanketed up with down jackets.
Things took for a worse turn when huge rain started to pour. Imagine – huge rain, cold weather, freezing wind, high altitude, and us in an open shelter. We started to dish out the heat packs from Daiso, also giving them out to the cooks, Namgay, and a Lama who happened to be there. They also offered us betel nut on a leaf with some sauce – Audrey declined, but I accepted out of curiosity.
I followed their instructions to try and chew – but it was a tough nut to crack. I couldn’t bite it in to have a taste at all haha.
Namgay arranged with the Lama to move CH to his home, as he was having a hard time coping through the cold weather. CH was put to sleeping position to try and waft off to sleep amidst his migraine. His head was totally red and we could see blood vessels pulsing at his temple. He was in a really worrying and scary state.
We were super grateful to Sonam (the Lama) for accommodating us given the circumstances. He offered us blankets and tea for us to warm up while we hope for CH to get better. After a while, Uncle Sangay also joined us after he returned from Bumdra monastery.
We were very lucky, as Namgay shared that the Lama was supposed to go into retreat for 3 months (or years??). But he took a break instead, so he just happened to be there. In the case that he did go into his retreat, he won’t be able to talk, even if his family visited. They later arranged to do a ritual for CH so that he could get better. Even though this deviated from the modern science field, this is something that they believed in.Unglam sharing
Audrey then put me up to a decision and encouraged me on to continue on the trip while she stay back here and take care of CH. It was a tough decision, because it felt like I am abandoning them here if I did so…
Continuing up to Bumdra Camp with Uncle Sangay
In the end, I took up her suggestion, and Namgay arranged for Uncle Sangay to take me up the rest of the trip to Bumdra, and I would join May’s tour.
In here you see Uncle Sangay carrying my backpack! Lol, I honestly felt so bad for letting an elder carry my stuff, but he insisted he needed something to carry when going up.
So off we go ~ the heavy downpour was finally over, and the terrain was muddier than before. Uncle Sangay is definitely way more fitter and much faster than me on the ascending. I was panting all the way but I didn’t want to be too slow.
Along the way, Uncle Sangay ran into his little friend, the kitty from the monastery
They have an adorable friendship on this journey~!!
Uncle Sangay frequently calls out “Shoo shoo” to his kitty companion. I was confused. Don’t you want the kitty to come to you?
“Shoo shoo” means “come come” in Dzongka.
The interesting thing in Dzongka language, sometimes they are just complete opposite to what we commonly use in our language. For eg: they have “la” which is postfix to their sentence for formal speaking. Yet in Singlish, this is the complete opposite.
Haha, another shot here of Uncle Sangay 😀
About after 1.5 hours, we finally saw the end of the hike nearing…~!
We then gathered at one of the dining tent where I met May and her guide, Yonten Jamtsho. Shortly, dinner was served and the 4 of us were quite ready to start digging in.
The bittergourd and the dish of beef with chili was amazing~!
During dinner, we had a chit chat over random stuff, about Singapore and Bhutan lifestyle, his favourite tourist stories and etc. Its was one of the most interesting dinner session ever. During then, Yonten also shared that, Uncle Sangay is actually the father of the Bhutanese tour guide who married the Singaporean tourist – read here for more info.
Suddenly, Yonten whipped out a bottle of whisky, and lets have whisky! (Uncle Sangay had left for rest at then)
Imagine my surprise, lol – you think about this – tour guides generally don’t bring anything up Bumdra – as inferred from Namgay. And this dude brings nothing but a bottle of whisky!? I am definitely amused!
Then he poured us each a small cup, and both him and May added some water to dilute down the whisky, while I ask for neat version – surprising him and May. Cheers! And we did feel a lot more warmer after drinking it.
The cooks then handed out a hot water bag and a lamp to each of us. The hot water bag was the best, but the lamp was really too dimmed to be used. But luckily I brought my headlight – which I shall highly recommend doing so.
Soon later, we retreated for rest, while I headed out under the starry night for some milky way shot!
A newbie try at Milky Way – seriously my first time taking such (other than failed Auroras), and I had to do a lot of enhancement to bring up the light. But wow, I should have taken a shot with our Bumdra camp to make it even more imba~!
Back at my camp, I gave up changing clothes. Because it was simply too cold to even take out clothes! Even swiping wet wipes was such a traumatic experience.
Oh and here is my humble camp and bed:
It was almost a glamping set-up haha. Huge comfy bed, fleece blankets, a small table beside. There are also real toilets hundred meters away.
It was very cold even in the September monsoon season perhaps due to the altitude. It was still too cold even trying to hug the hot water bag (which eventually lost its heat), and with the extra blankets and towels from the double-bed arrangement. I tried hard sleeping – only to be disturbed by something that was constantly bumping into my camp. At then, all sort of thoughts just run through my mind – is it a cow, ghost, or a monster out there???
Lol, finally I couldn’t take it anymore, decided to just head out and scold this fella. At most I will just scream and everyone will gather and we will fight this thing.
But, there was nothing…Ok, so don’t think about it, just go sleep. At least I saw nothing. But the bumping noise continued.
Day 6 – Down Bumdra and to Tiger Nest
The next morning, I woke up early to try taking some photos:
May also shared the same experience – something was bumping against her camp. Haha, but the mystery couldn’t be solved. Although Yonten suggested that it might be horses or cows grazing nearby.
After breakfast, Uncle Sangay headed off to meet Namgay to help out. So for us, we headed upwards first towards the Monastery, was about about 30mins hike.
We had a short stop here at the Bumdra Monastery. If you hike up to the top-most part of the mountain, you would then be at the sky-burial for infants that passed away. Their bodies are left for the vultures and it is said to help them accumulate the good credits for their next lifetime. This is quite chilling for me to hear however.
Yonten did suggest for us to head upwards, but somehow we didn’t go. This is one of my regret now I think about it – since we already had a tough hike up, might as well just complete the journey right!? It would be another 40 mins to reach there I believe.
Down to Tiger Nest
Next, began the next long descending down to Tiger Nest. Some shot along the way and we were lucky to have a good weather on the way down.
Poisonous looking mushroom as we walk along…
Heading downwards and we eventually ran into the tour groups from Bumdra as well.
Finally, after much hiking, hustling, and panting, we finally saw the much anticipated Tiger Nest…from far. Best time to start celebrating our mini victory with a wefie!
Just seeing it perched on the mountain, this sight alone was just amazing. Soon, we reached and just look at this:
There are multiple temple in there, we only went through 1 or 2 of the more important temples, with Yonten narrating about the Buddhism and stories about the temple and the Buddhas.
Blessing from Rain
Soon, we started heading down from TIger Nest. All along the way, I was famished, slight dizzy, and really low on energy. I had to keep munching on the chocolates, cookies, drinking water – and I didn’t bring enough water. I had to get some of the mineral water from Yonten’s supply – who graciously does so.
I was really verbal about my fatigue, so all along I was whining “I am tired~!”, and Yonten just returned jokingly “Ok I kick you down!”. To which, I laughingly said, “Ok you better aim properly. Kick me back to Metta Resort!”. Hahaha, there were honestly lots of funny moments.
Throughout the journey, he kept reminding us, “There is no lunch”, and I was really brainwashed as so. In my mind I kept thinking about chocolates and cookies for ration. Then I recalled, “Hey! I got 2 cup noodles! Lets share when we get back”. And all my energy and enthusiasm grew in hope to get back to those cup noodles soon. Meanwhile he was just smirking all along upon hearing that…
We reached a point where I saw what looks like a restaurant…. “Hey! Can we go there and eat?”
“No no, no lunch in there. We will only go there for tea and cookies.”
Seriously…?! Seriously feeling dejected…I was starving.
We got into the restaurant, and we got seated. There was a delicious buffet serving in the middle. No lunch..? Maybe I should just buy myself…
“Ok, so I feel pity for you two. You two shall eat lunch!”, Yonten said.
Seriously don’t know to laugh or to cry man! But hahah, I have no idea if May believed him on the “no lunch”. Now thinking back about the “cup noodles” offer, I think he was really laughing inside.
Right then it was nearly 3pm or so – so it would be a very late lunch if you came down from Bumdra to Tiger Nest. Finally stuffed ourselves happy and satiated, now we could continue on our journey.
The sky became gloomy and huge raindrops started to fall. Then we got geared up with raincoats and umbrellas. The terrain got really tougher as the rain drenched into the ground. At some point, we saw some Indian hikers walking barefooted – perhaps already ditched their unsuitable footwear.
After more slips and falls – suddenly I became enlightened with their saying “rain is the blessing” – this actually feels good. Hahaha, idk but I think I felt sort of being relieved after falling for an umpteen time. Why so – because I was already partly drenched and feeling dirty and muddy that I stop caring about being clean and stop getting scared about falling. This may not make sense, but some sort of psychological burden was lifted off me, and it just felt so good at that time.
Finally reached the carpark and we were then whisked back to Metta Resort for some rest.
Dinner at a Bhutanese Home
Met up with Audrey and CH (now recovered, alive and kicking) at the resort – clean up and I immediately surrendered to the bed for a short nap. I was totally exhausted from the hike.
Afterwards, we headed out for the dinner session at the local Bhutanese home.
We met up with May as well! :D. For us three, we got help to change into the Bhutanese traditional clothes, Kira (female) and Gho (male) which was provided complimentary. 😀
Afterwards, we headed for our last souvenir shopping session in town area. But somehow Namgay and Yonten started taking out their phones to dial. We were sort of confused like “why the need to dial phone?”. Then this other tour guide jokingly said that, they calling the shops to stay open. OH, really??
Day 7 – The Flight
The next morning, I woke up at 4am – popped open my cup noodles and cooked myself an early breakfast. I have no idea why I just couldn’t sleep haha. Did all the packing and soon we were ready for the journey to the airport.
At the airport, we bade goodbyes to Namgay and Uncle Sangay. While watching Uncle Sangay waving goodbye at us, suddenly I was just overwhelmed with emotions and tears just flooded out. I have no idea, I just simply adore this Uncle, whom I felt was truly genuine during our trip together. I will truly miss him.
The first part of the travel felt like a blur to me now, because it was mainly a sightseeing tour – There wasn’t memorable experiences I would say – as we weren’t personally involved but just more of a someone peeking into Bhutan from a window, look-look-see-see then move on to the next window.
I must say – the tour guide makes all the difference. (I am still thankful to Namgay for helping to solve our most distressing moments) I had the chance of meeting Yonten, who was a much warmer and engaging tour guide and really knows how to create and plan a much more fun experience. As May had shared, instead of strictly following the original itinerary, he offered to take her to Phobjikha for black-necked crane bird and picnic, a last night view of the Paro Dhong – which we were very envious of :).
The most unfortunate but memorable part of the trip being CH having a migraine attack – thankfully he did recover. Audrey and CH had an unique experience of an overnight local home-stay, made friend with a Lama. This was also my first glimpse into the Bhutanese way of living, and they are very generous welcoming and invitingly helpful.
And as it seems, my story with Bhutan doesn’t end here, but thats for another post.
Last but not least, lemme end off with us teleporting: