Map of our trekking route to the Goeche La Pass and Khangchendzonga
We woke up early and had breakfast and Thupten picked us up and we trekked our way right out of the hotel and onto a small road that led up to the trekking office where Thupten got all our permits and crap in order. The picture of the trail map shows our proposed route up throught Bakhim and Tsokha today, then on to Dzongri, Thangsing and then up to Samiti Lake and the Goeche La Pass
While Thupten our guide was getting the permits in order, I snapped the picture of the Dzo with the Red Earrings.
A Dzo is a cross between a male Yak and a female cow. Apparently there is another animal (I forgot the name) that is a cross between a bull and a female Yak but they aren’t as good as pack animals so the Dzo are favored. Karma had told us that "Dzo always have the right of way so, if you see them, get out of their way!" which proved to be helpful information.
A Dzo in Yuksom
When Thupten was done, we followed a rock paved trail thru the outskirts of the village of Yuksom and into what seemed like sort of a tropical forest with bamboo, pines, silver fir, orchids and overall a huge array of flora and huge mossy trees. We figured we would use one of the trek day blog entries to just show lots of the flowers and plants that we ineptly tried to photograph so you can look at them later. If you look at the picture of Cindy and Thupten hiking up the trail, you can see our "Leech Sticks" that Karma gave us (bamboo sticks with a bag of salt on the end).
He had also told us that soap applied to the shoes would prevent leeches (Cindy liberally coated her shoes) so we asked Thupten if it worked and he chuckled and said no. We crossed over three or four bridges and then started heading up fairly dramatically, trying not to huff and puff to badly considering we kept seeing porters with sandals on and huge, equipment laden baskets tied to their backs and heads powering up the path. After about three hours, we pulled off to the side of the trail where there was a little hut and our chef, Lapa, and his two assistants, Bebe and Mundar, where happily making us tea and lunch.
The trekking trail out of Yuksom to Tsokha
We had heard that lots of people don’t make it all the way to Tsokha the first day because of the altitude, but we figured, since we have been in Bhutan for the last few weeks, we should be able to do it. We made it to the tea house you see at Bakhim after tons of switchbacks and rested for a bit before the last hour of steep climb up to about 2,800 meters and the village of Tsokha where Thupten’s brother and sister live.
Tsokha is a village of about ten families or so, obviously tiny, but really friendly and we were welcomed into Thupten’s sister’s house (you can see the kitchen in the picture) where we had tea and relaxed. The little boy with the woman shares the small house with them and he was quite cute and animated chasing moths, playing with a toy cell phone and generally entertaining himself. We found out that at this site, we wouldn’t be staying in a tent but in the modest trekker’s huts you see in the picture. Nothing too special but protected from the elements at least.
Cindy and Thupten on the rocky trail to Tsokha
Tsokha is where we had our first real views of the mountains - the pictures of the chortens (the square templish looking things) in front of Mt. Pandim were our first really nice views of the Himalya.
There are also Rhododendrons all over like the white ones in the picture, as well as pink and red, ranging in size from the tiny to the huge. There is no electricity in the village and it was getting wet and cold out so we retired to our chilly hut for a bit of audio book (Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz which looks interesting so far). We ended up having dinner up at Thupten’s sister’s house which was good (other than the "chicken" which looked mysteriously un-poultry-esque). Since there is no electricity and no nightlife to speak of, we headed to bed early, the most exciting thing that night being my precarious balancing in the lovely squat toilet out back of the trekker’s huts. Luckily, the shack was at a bit of a tilt as I do not have the level of flexibility necessary to maintain that position that everyone in Asia seems to be able to sustain easily forever. At least no one else was around. We ended up in bed early, not too cold but less than comfy on the wooden cots. At least our sleeping bags are of decent quality! I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night like I did on the first night of our Machu Picchu trek and find Cindy shivering and chattering her teeth.
Teahouse in Bakhim on the trail to Tsokha