Thursday, May 12, 2016

Everything you need to know about the Bhutan's Druk Path trek

The Druk Path trek is one of the most popular treks in the small yet beautiful country of Bhutan.Myself along with my friends did it last month.It was a wonderful experience.

Bhutan,especially in India,is very little known. Not many people consider going there. Trekking in Bhutan is even more unheard of which is a pity because Bhutan will leave you spellbound both in its cities and in the wilderness.Now with that short account of what I felt about out trip/trek let me move forward to the main intention of this post i.e to throw some light on some important info about the Druk Path Trek which will help you plan your own trip. 

First,this is a Himalayan Trek which starts from Paro (a city) and ends in Thimphu (Capital of Bhutan).This is not a 'summit' trek where the goal is to reach a peak or a highest point and from the base camp and then descend. This is A to B trek.From one point to another traversing through some 
wonderful scenery.The path takes you through rhododendron and pine forests,some stunning lakes and old creaking monasteries.  

Claim to Fame-
1. Beautiful lakes en route
2. Short and arguably most popular trek of Bhutan
3. Stunning views of Mt. Gangkar Puensum, the highest unscaled peak in the world.(In our case the weather was not good and we did not get any views)

The trek starts in Paro which is in Chukha Dzongkhag(District) and ends in Thimphu(Thimphu Dzongkhag).Both of these cities lie in the western part of Bhutan.

Best time to do it-
There are two windows for this trek.
2.September- November.
I will be talking about everything related to the March-May window in this blog post.

Duration-The whole trek starting from Paro and ending at Thimphu typically takes 5 days.It can be done leisurely in 6 days too or If you are fit enough it can be done in 4 days also.

Distance- Around 50 to 60kms
Grade-This is described as a Moderate trek. There is some amount of physical work required but relatively speaking I found this easier than my last trek ie Roopkund trek. First timers can easily do it by doing some amount of training for it. Indiahikes formula of running 5km in 30 mins will be more than enough for this trek.

Medicines-Altitude Sickness plays a factor in this trek.So be prepared with medicines.AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) differs from person to person.Some may get affected by while some may remain completely free from it.I strongly advise everyone to carry a set of medicines with you.While Diamox is the medicine for AMS,the various trekking agencies have differing opinions about it,Some suggest taking it may cause more harm than good.The locals prefer taking roasted garlic for every problem.
Even if you are the sort of person who despises taking tablets I suggest you carry a strip of Paracetamol with you.Calpol 500mg or 250mg is a good option.Make sure it is pure paracetamol.It shouldn't be added with any other compound.You never know what side effects it may cause.
Equipment- No matter what the trek, equipment always plays a huge factor in how much you enjoy your trek. And remember always pack keeping in mind emergencies.99% of the time you might not need them but prepare for that 1%.
My top 3 must have items on this trek apart from the usual sweaters,jackets,raincoats and rain pants are-
1.Torch (A torch is essential for movement in the night.Although there is no night time trekking involved having a torch is vital for movement between tents in the night)
2. At least 5 pair of socks (I carried 7 pairs with one woolen pair included.Woolen pair was for the night). With the many monasteries you have to enter, it is better for everyone to have a good clean pair of socks on your legs.The moment you remove your shoes it shouldn't send the monks into a pain induced trance.Thank you.
3.Garbage bags (Do not underestimate the worth of garbage bags.They have a number of uses.They can be used to store wet clothes,your chappals,sometimes shoes,your valuables in case of a rain.)

And finally the Trek Agency-
Choosing a trek agency is very critical.Remember the following points when choosing an agency
1.They are responsible for your fooding and lodging all throughout the trek.You don't have other options once you start the trek.You solely depend on the agency
2.They are responsible for your safety. The competency of your guide and his team is vital.Good guides are certified First Aiders and have undergone proper mountaineering courses
3.You get to use their gear.Good agencies use good gear.Simple really.
4.Go with agencies that do treks with small groups.Easy to manage and ensures proper safety of all.
5.Choose established agencies as they have local contacts in the villagers and can be of huge help in case of emergencies.

Apart from the above points you have to keep in mind one very important thing.In Bhutan it is a policy to take the services of a local trek agency only.That means whatever Indian agency that is offering treks in Bhutan has a Bhutanese counterpart which is providing the actual services.

We did our trek with GIO. This was my third trip with GIO after doing Nagtibba Trek and Roopkund Trek. Their services are excellent and there was a reason I was taking their services for this trek also. But GIO left me a tad bit disappointed this time.The Bhutanese agency which they engaged was simply not good.The food was not upto the mark and the hotels were disappointing. 
Add to that the way GIO handled a couple of last minute changes in the Border regulations left me angry.I believe that to be a one off bad experience with GIO. I have written to them and am still awaiting a explanation from them. Anyway point is, be very careful in choosing an agency.Find out how many treks they have organised in Bhutan till date and always inquire about the Bhutanese agency which they will be employing.

A short plan of the trek-

Day 1: Paro to Jili Dzong (3450MSL) 
Trek/4-5 hrs
Total Ascent-1090mtr

Day 2:Jili dzong to Jang chulakha (3760MSL) 
 Trek/5-6 hrs
Descent- 50mtr

Day 3: Jang Chulakah to Jimilang Tsho -Jana Tsho(3956MSL)  
Trek/7-8 hrs
Descent- 230mtr
Ascent- 330mtr

Day 4: Jana Tsho to Phajoding (3600MSL)
Trek/6-7 hrs

Day 5: Phajoding to Thimphu (2300MSL) 
Trek/3-4 hrs 

Over the next few weeks I will be writing a day to day report of the entire trek.Stay tuned.