Pages

Friday, June 17, 2016


Welcome to Northern Vancouver Island!

While many people enjoy the coastal BC towns of Victoria and Nanaimo, fewer venture north to the wilder parts of Vancouver Island. This 4-day tour will include hiking on an historic native island, seeing a sunken ship graveyard, visiting the site of a Japanese/Chinese coal mining camp, following boardwalks to pristine meadows and lakes, viewing wildlife and several waterfalls, a salmon cookout, as well as unforgettable views of the inside passage and coastal mountains.

Cost of the 4-day tour is $200/person, which includes 3 nights comfortable lodging with private bedroom/bathroom, 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners and your guides. Not included is ferry from the mainland, chairlift ride, transportation to trailheads, day 1 and day 4 lunch/dinners, or snacks and beverages of your choice.  This tour is limited to groups of 4-6 outdoor enthusiasts.


Day 1: Take the morning ferry from Tsawassen to Duke Point. Meet at the dock in Nanaimo for fish and chips. After lunch we will take the short ferry to the native-owned island of Newcastle. Here we will hike 4 miles around the forested island to see old mining artifacts, impressive sandstone cliffs, the old dance hall and wonderful ocean views. We will drive an hour north to the beach at Royston to view the 14 iron and steel-hulled ghost ships placed there in 1936 to create a breakwater for logging operations. Dinner will be at the Cumberland Brewery, with a stop at the old Japanese/Chinese coal mining town site. From here we will head up to our 3-bedroom creekside condo at Mt. Washington for sunset views and a good night's sleep.









Day 2:  Breakfast on the deck with views of the mountains and glaciers of Strathcona Provincial Park. We will head out the condo door to take a leisurely 3-mile hike along the boardwalk through Paradise Meadows for lunch at Kwai Lake, possibly spotting resident eagles, white-tailed ptarmigan, deer, bear, wolves and beavers. Option to hike 1.5 miles further, past several more lakes, to the spectacular Cruikshank Canyon Overlook. In the late afternoon, we can hike a short distance to the ski lodge, with the option of taking the chair lift or hiking to the top of Mt. Washington for excellent ocean views, and meadows and lakes surrounded by lupine, foxglove, dogwood, paintbrush and adundant blueberry/huckleberry. Dinner at the condo with a slide show of photos of the area.


Day 3: 4-mile morning hike along a gravel road to a 1960s copper mill site and waterfall with great views of the inside passage and islands. Then to Anderson Lake to see prime wolf habitat and watch native trout jump. We will hike past a beaver pond to a small cabin on a hill to cook up some salmon over a campfire, watch for signs of wolves and enjoy a glass of wine with the sunset. We will return home for fresh blueberry pie and ice cream at the condo.


Day 4: Drive to Campbell River for a 5-mile hike along the coast to Ripple Rock and another short hike to view Elk Falls on the Campbell River. Option to hike to Horne Lake Caves or Comox Lake before departing for Nanaimo. We hope you’ll return home invigorated by good company, the island air, the spectacular scenery and completing over 25 miles of great hiking.

email: ih.gedu@gmail.com










Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bienvenidos a Ecuador!

This adventure tour will be an introduction to life in the Andes on top of the Equator, a journey of discovery to old historic towns, small villages, markets, local indigenous people, their music and culture, ancient ruins, lakes, waterfalls and hot springs, with the ever-present views of the snow-capped volcanoes of the high Andes.
The suggested itinerary can be modified according to the traveler's individual interests (birds, plants, Spanish language, hiking, geology, art, culture, photography, etc).  Cost of $800/person for the 2-week journey includes lodging, breakfasts, taxis, guides, and one-way air travel from Cuenca to Quito. Lunch/dinner, bus fare, entry fees and beverage costs are not included. RT airfares from Seattle range from $600-$800 per person, so the total trip cost can be under $2000. Trips are limited to 4 people and can be arranged anytime in the spring and fall months.

Ecuador is safe and clean. Roads are good, buses very modern. They use the US dollar, so no need to exchange money. Hotels and restaurants all meet international standards of quality. On this tour, we will stay in nice locally-owned hotels, all rooms with private baths, and visit places above 7,000 ft in elevation where mosquitoes and other insects are not a problem. Being high on the equator, day time temperatures are usually a pleasant 70 degrees F. Food is a very good combination of tropical fruits, soups, rice, quinoa and potato dishes, tamales, empanadas, fresh bread, seafood and  local trout.


Suggested Itinerary:
Day 1: Arrival at the modern, new Quito airport and drive one hour to the small town of Cayambe near the third highest peak of Ecuador.

Day 2: Visit the monument at Mitad del Mundo - Latitude 00°, at the Quitsato Complex in Cayambe, where you will learn how the ancient cultures used the sun and stars to guide their daily lives. Views of the volcano Cayambe can be seen, its glaciers are on the equator at 19,000 ft. The area produces a large variety of roses that are sold all over the world. We will visit the town center, historic church and local markets, and sample some foods, including the local specialty, biscoches with cheese.

Day 3: Travel via a 10,000 ft pass to the indigenous town of Otavalo, where we stop for views of Lago San Pablo and several 17,000 ft high volcanoes. Descending into Otavalo, we pass small villages and see the local Quechan Indians wearing their traditional dress in their daily lives. The town center is a picturesque historic area with the municipal building, old churches and a pleasant park with vendors and traditional music. Nearby Plaza de Los Ponchos is the famous handicrafts market where villagers come to sell high quality handmade goods. We will visit the local Ecuadorian Red Cross to hear how the earthquake relief efforts are going and make a donation to their efforts.

Other markets are close to the hillside, such as Copacabana market for fruits and vegetables. Ascending the stairs above we can reach the Balcon de Otavalo area, location of a cultural museum and great views of the town and Cotacachi volcano. Evening meal will feature a restaurant with extensive views and musicians playing Andean music.


Day 4: Breakfast of eggs, fruit, freshly baked bread, and juice. Spanish language instructor, Tania Filios, will join us to answer questions about the local beliefs and legends. We will visit Peguche, a small town whose inhabitants are famous for weaving on hand made looms in vivid colors. Nearby we will walk through eucalyptus forests to Peguche Falls, a natural area with trails, camping, traditional sites and caves.

A short drive from here is the Parque del Condor, for seeing condors, eagles, owls and hawks. Nearby is El Lechero, a sacred site of an old lechero tree with magical healing powers. The lake is just below us here and volcano Imbabura stands tall at 17,000 ft. We will descend to the lake and travel to San Pablo village to visit a small coffee shop run by three friendly sisters who will give us practice in speaking South American Spanish.

Day 5: We travel to the nearby town of Cotacachi and stay among the gardens at the Oro Azul B&B. Our driver will take us to Lago Cuicocha, a 2 mile wide crater lake at the foot of Cotacachi Volcano. There is an island in the middle of the lake in the shape of a guinea pig, with boat rides to it. There are viewpoints and hiking trails here, as well as a small visitor center on the misty slopes of the volcano.  After our hike, we can eat some fresh trout and fruit juice at a new restaurant built by a local Quechan family.

In the afternoon we will see the city of Ibarra, with its 3 cultures of Quechan, African-Ecuadorian and Mestizo, and drive uphill to Chachimbiro hot springs for a relaxing bath with a view of snowy peaks in the distance.

Day 6: Quito - will feature a walking tour through the streets and main squares of Quito Historic Center. We start at Plaza Grande, the central square with the Cathedral and presidential palace of Ecuador. Nearby narrow and sometimes steep streets are surrounded by classic architecture, colonial style houses, flowered balconies, charming squares and churches, convents, monasteries and historic monuments

Day 7: A ride on the new Teleferico of Quito, the highest cable car in the Andes. It reaches 12,000 ft and offers extensive views of the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Here the moors of Pichincha volcano are full of hiking trails, bike riding and horse rides. After enjoying the high altitudes of this area, we will continue our travels to Latacunga at the base of the beautiful Cotopaxi volcano, 2nd highest in Ecuador. This is a popular place for visitors and the town has charming narrow streets, old hotels and excellent restaurants. In the evening we can watch the sunset on Cotopaxi from a rooftop viewpoint.


Day 8: One hour travel by bus through high passes and rugged hills to a nearby crater lake. Quilotoa is an 820 ft deep water-filled caldera with an amazing greenish color. We can hike down to the lake, and can go kayaking there or ride back up on a horse. The hostals here are very nice and rustic, built by local families of a different Quechan speaking band. We will spend the night here, at 12,000' elevation, to catch the incredible view of the sunrise over the crater in the morning.

Day 9: After breakfast we continue toward Ambato with views of the active Tungurahua volcano, with almost continuous eruptions over the past 12 years. Another hour past Ambato takes us to the resort town of Banos, famous for its hot springs and waterfalls. Our lovely hostal rooms will have a view of the Cascada de la Virgen next to the hot springs. This town is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ecuador due to its amazing natural beauty, 60 waterfalls, birding and adventure sports, such as rafting, kayaking, canyoning, bridge jumping, hiking, biking and horseback riding. In the evening a high viewpoint can be visited for watching the ash and lava flows of the volcano.

Day 10: Visit some of the waterfalls, particularly the incredible hike over high suspension bridges and stairs to Pailon del Diablo (the Devil's Cauldron), to stand right next to or go behind this huge waterfall, one of the most impressive in the Andes. The nearby village is a good place to stop for some snacks and to visit the local orchid museum and walk along trails above the river to spot birds and  wildlife.
Day 11: Continuing south from here we will pass by the highest peak of Ecuador, Chimborazo at over 20,300 ft high. We reach Cuenca in the afternoon and visit the central area around Park Calderon. We will walk on scenic cobblestone streets, see the cathedral and splendid domed churches, ornate colonial buildings and antique ironwork. The city is lit up at night for some great photography and offers many places for fine dining and interesting street food.

Day 12: Explore more of the beauty of Cuenca, the four rivers that run through the city, and its easy-going tranquil atmosphere. The city was founded by the Spanish in 1557, but people have lived in the area for thousands of years. There is Pumapungo Museum and Arqueological Park and small aviary - located near the bike path close to the river. Several buildings in this area were built on top of the old Inca ruins. Now the area is excavated and visitors can see the walls of the old constructions. In the afternoon we can hike or taxi to the Balcon of Cuenca to see a great view of the city.



Day 13: A day-trip to see dramatic mountain landscapes and experience the high elevation habitats in Cajas National Park. This park features golden-brown grasslands, groves of hardy, reddish-barked Polylepis trees, and over 200 clear, cold mountain lakes. We will hike through grasslands and may glimpse some of the llamas, hummingbirds and condors of the park and view the gnarled, mystical appearance of ancient Polylepis trees.



Day 14: Our final day in Cuenca and a short flight to Quito airport with views over the Andes. Arrival at the airport and transfers to the international flights back to the US, or add on your own trip to the Galapagos or Amazonia.  We know you will be enchanted by this visit to Ecuador!!

email: ih.gedu@gmail.com

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Bienvenidos a Ecuador!

This tour will be an introduction to life in the Andes on top of the Equator, a journey of discovery to old historic towns, small villages, markets, local indigenous people, their music and culture, ancient ruins, lakes, waterfalls and hot springs, with the ever present views of the snow capped volcanoes of the high Andes.

The suggested itinerary can be modified according to the traveler's individual interests (birds, plants, Spanish language, hiking, geology, art, culture, photography, etc).  Cost of $800/person for the 2-week journey includes lodging, breakfasts, taxis, guides, and one-way air travel from Cuenca to Quito. Lunch/dinner, bus fare, entry fees and beverage costs are not included. RT airfares from Seattle range from $600-$800 per person. Trips are limited to 4 people and can be arranged anytime in the spring and fall months.


Ecuador is safe and clean. Roads are good, buses very modern. They use the US dollar, so no need to exchange money. Hotels and restaurants all meet international standards of quality. On this tour, we will stay in nice locally-owned hotels, all rooms with private baths, and visit places above 7,000 ft in elevation where mosquitos and other insects are not a problem. Being high on the equator, day time temperatures are usually a pleasant 70 degrees F. Food is very good combination of tropical fruits, soups, rice, quinoa and potato dishes, tamales, empanadas, fresh bread, seafood and  local trout.


Suggested Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrival at the modern, new Quito airport and drive to the small town of Cayambe near the third highest peak of Ecuador.

Day 2: Visit the monument at Mitad del Mundo - Latitude 0°, at the Quitsato Complex in Cayambe, where you will learn how the ancient cultures lived in the area and used the sun and stars to guide their daily lives. Views of the volcano Cayambe can be seen from here, its glaciers are on the equator at 19,000ft high. We will visit the town center, historic church and local markets, and sample some local foods here. Breakfast will feature biscoches with cheese - a local specialty.


Day 3: Travel via a 10,000ft pass to Otavalo, where we stop for views of Lago San Pablo and several  17,000ft high volcanoes. Descending into Otavalo we pass small villages and see the local Quechan Indians wearing their traditional dress in their daily lives. The town center is a picturesque historic area with the municipal building, old church and a pleasant park with vendors and traditional music. Nearby Plaza de Ponchos is the famous handicrafts market, where villagers come to sell high quality handmade goods. Visit the local Ecuadorian Red Cross to hear how the earthquake relief efforts are going.

Other markets are close to the hillside, such as Copacabana market for fruits and vegetables. Ascending the stairs above we can reach the Balcon de Otavalo area, location of a cultural museum and great views of the town and Cotacachi volcano. Evening meal will feature a restaurant with extensive views and musicians playing Andean music. Option for Spanish language instruction/practice with local instructor Tania Filios.     

Day 4: An early morning ride will take us to Laguna Mojanda, a small lake in the crater of Fuya Fuya volcano at 12,000ft. Here we can hike above the lake to see extensive views to the west and relax by the lake with a hot drink and fresh empanadas. In the afternoon we will visit Peguche, a small town whose inhabitants are famous for weaving on hand made looms in vivid colors. Nearby we will walk through eucalyptus forests to Peguche Falls, a natural area with trails, camping, traditional sites and caves


A short drive from here is the Parque del Condor, for seeing condors, eagles, owls and hawks. Nearby is El Lechero, a sacred site of an old lechero tree with magical healing powers. The lake is just below us here and volcano Imbabura stands tall above at 17,000ft. We will descend to the lake and travel to San Pablo village where we visit a small shop and pizza place run by 3 friendly sisters who will show us their hospitality and give us good practice in speaking South American Spanish.

Day 5: We travel to the town of Cotacachi and stay at a small but modern hostal a short walk from the town center. Our driver will take us to Lago Cuicocha, a 2 mile wide crater lake at the foot of Cotacachi Volcano. There is an island in the middle of the lake in the shape of a guinea pig, with boat rides to see it. There are viewpoints and hiking trails here, as well as a small visitor center and the misty slopes of the volcano above.  After our hike we can eat some fresh trout for lunch at a new restaurant built by a local Quechan family.
 
In the afternoon we will see the city of Ibarra, populated with 3 cultures of Quechan, African-Ecuadorian and Mestizo, and drive to Chachimbiro hot springs for a relaxing bath with a view of snowy peaks in the distance.

Day 6: Quito - will feature a walking tour through the streets and main squares of Quito Historic Center. We start at Plaza Grande, the central square with the Cathedral and presidential palace of Ecuador. Nearby narrow and sometimes steep streets are surrounded by classic architecture, colonial style houses, flowered balconies, charming squares and churches, convents, monasteries and historic monuments


Day 7: A ride on the new Teleferico of Quito, the highest cable car in the Andes. It reaches 12,000ft and offers extensive views of the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Here the moors of Pichincha volcano are full of hiking trails, bike riding and horse rides. After enjoying the high altitudes of this area, we will continue our travels to Latacunga at the base of the beautiful Cotopaxi volcano, 2nd highest in Ecuador. This is a popular place for visitors and the town has charming narrow streets, old hotels and excellent restaurants. In the evening we can watch the sunset on Cotopaxi from a rooftop viewpoint.



Day 8: Travel through high passes and rugged hills to a nearby crater lake. Quilotoa is an 820 ft deep water-filled caldera with an amazing greenish color. We can hike down to the lake, and can go kayaking there or ride back up on a horse. The hostals here are very nice and rustic, built by local families of a different Quechan speaking band. We will spend the night here, at 12,000' elevation, to catch the incredible view of the sunrise over the crater in the morning.

Day 9: After breakfast we continue toward Ambato with views of the active Tungurahua volcano, with almost continuous eruptions over the past 12 years. Another hour past Ambato takes us to the resort town of Banos, famous for its hot springs and waterfalls. Our hostal rooms will have a view of the Cascada de la Virgen next to the hot springs. This town is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ecuador due to its amazing natural beauty, 60 waterfalls, birding and adventure sports, such as rafting, kayaking, canyoning, bridge jumping, hiking, biking and horseback riding. In the evening a high viewpoint can be visited for watching the ash and lava flows of the volcano. 


Day 10: Visit some of the waterfalls, particularly the incredible hike over high suspension bridges and stairs to Pailon del Diablo (the Devil's Cauldron), to stand right next to or go behind this huge waterfall, one of the most impressive in the Andes. The nearby village is a good place to stop for some snacks and to visit the local orchid museum and walk along trails above the river to spot birds and  wildlife.

Day 11: Continuing south from here we will pass by the highest peak of Ecuador, Chimborazo at over 20,300ft high. We reach Cuenca in the afternoon and visit the central area around Park Calderon. We will walk on scenic cobblestone streets, see the cathedral and splendid domed churches, ornate colonial buildings and antique ironwork. The city is lit up at night for some great photography and offers many places for fine dining and interesting street food.


Day 12: Explore more of the beauty of Cuenca, the four rivers that run through the city, and its easy-going tranquil atmosphere. The city was founded by the Spanish in 1557, but people have lived in the area for thousands of years. There is Pumapungo Museum and Arqueological Park and small aviary - located near the bike path close to the river. Several buildings in this area were built on top of the old Inca ruins. Now the area is excavated and visitors can see the walls of the old constructions. In the afternoon we can visit a small village of Banos on the outskirts of Cuenca with a nice church on the hilltop and thermal baths nearby with volcanic mud massage.

Day 13: A day-trip to see dramatic mountain landscapes and experience the high elevation habitats in Cajas National Park. This park features golden-brown grasslands, groves of hardy, reddish-barked Polylepis trees, and over 200 clear, cold mountain lakes. We will hike through grasslands and may glimpse some of the llamas, hummingbirds and condors of the park and view the gnarled, mystical appearance of ancient Polylepis trees.

Day 14: Our final day in Cuenca and a short flight to Quito airport with views over the Andes. Arrival at the airport and transfers to the international flights back to the US, or add on your own trip to the Galapagos or Amazonia.  We know you will be enchanted by your time in Ecuador!!

Please contact us at: mntnvision@gmail.com 





Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wild and Medieval Bhutan - Trails of the Nomads

This is a custom trip prepared for avid hikers who wish to explore as many mountain trails as possible in a 10 -12 day trip. We will design the hikes depending on conditions, fitness level and interests of the participants. Each day is spent exploring and doing fun activities with monks and villagers, school kids and old folks.

Jomkerim Pass (14 km return, 1700 m up, 7-8 hrs )

This is one of the prettiest valleys in the Thimphu area, with abundant bird life. The long hike to Jomkerim Pass (4300m) leads through pristine forests and offers great views of the surrounding valleys.  If you keep going you will reach Yangtse Tsho (lake).
jomkerim pass 14,200ft

Starting point-- Pass through Dechhenchho’ling and follow the main road up to Dechhenphu lhakhang.







Dorjidra goenpa (7.5 km return, 490 m up, 3 hrs) or also Dui goenpa (10 km return, 850 m up, 4-5 hrs).

Nice hike from the road near 4th King's palace to a village inhabited by monks. Just past the main monastery there is a beautiful temple, built below a colourfully painted overhanging rock.

langurGrey langurs can be sighted in the trees/on the rocks above the village. The monastery guest house can be used to stay overnight here, attend classes and prayers with the monks, eat dinner at their canteen and help teach English class also.




Phajodhing gompa, Thujedrag gompa, Ridge above Thujedrag and Pumola, back to Takin reserve.
(15-20km, 1450 m up, 7-10 hrs)

phajodingPhajodhing is one of the most popular hiking destinations around Thimphu because of its commanding location above the valley. Great views when it is clear from 12000 - 14000ft high.

OR



himalayasTraverse of the ridge from Telecom tower, Chhokhortse gompa to Phajodhing to Thaptsa peak via Pumola and down to Buddha point (19 km one way, 1550 m up, 8-10 hrs, strenuous).



Tshelung nang via Pumola (12 km one way, 1000 m up, 4 hrs, easy)

Nice hike to Gida valley, trail  meets a rough forest road where the valley opens up at the houses, and you get a view up the valley with more farmhouses and some fields (Tshelung nang village). High up on the ridge straight ahead stands Jili Dzong above Paro. Car will meet us here and take us to the hidden valley of Tselung Nye where Guru Rimpoche rested and left some interesting artifacts in the rocks.
tselung nye

YHS school in Thimphu to Thadranang gompa, to FM Transmitter(3908 m peak) and down to Hontsho village. (18 km one way, 1800 m up, 7-10 hrs)
The peak is directly above the main town of Thimphu and gives clear views to the north and west.


DochuLa to Lungchuzekha goenpa and Trashigang goenpa - to Hontsho (10 km one way, 550 m up, 4 hrs)
chortens at Dochula in Bhutan Himalayas
Lungchuzekha goenpa is one of the best destinations around Thimphu: beautiful forest, and a spectacular view from the goenpa.
The loop to Trashigang is easy and pretty. You can even get an earlier start (and better views) if you spend the night in the hotel just near Dochula pass. Can also include HingeyLa pass for extra hiking, and explore the ridge and temple above DochuLa in the rhododendron forests.

Talakha goenpa to Talakha peak (17 km return, 1350 m up, 7-8 hrs).

The trail to Talakha goenpa is hot on sunny days, but the views from the goenpa are excellent. Hikers who reach the peak on a clear day are rewarded by the best mountain views in the entire Thimphu area; virtually all mountains between eastern Nepal and central Bhutan can be seen from here.
buddha and the himalayas
Talakha peak itself is at 4,278 m. You can see most of Northwestern Bhutan from this spot. Straight ahead the rounded cone of Jhomolhari, Bhutan’s most sacred mountain (7314 m), the sharp pinnacle of Jichhu Drake (6989 m), and Tserem Kang (7000 m) guard Bhutan’s northern border. 150 km to the west, on the Sikkim-Nepal border, massive Kanchenjunga (8598 m) towers over the lower mountains of Paro and Ha.  Further to the east the high Himalayas of Lunana and the Black Mountains dominate the skyline.

Tokchu meditation huts and traverse to Tango monastery. High traverse above cliffs, past a small holy lake and visit to monastic school on the way down. Trail starts from a rough road in Jigme Dorji Park, reached from the village of Dodena north of Thimphu valley. (7 - 8 hours, 1000 m elevation gain)


Droley gompa and Sinchula pass. Starting near Dodena a short hike to the gompa with views above Kabesa.
yakherder camp near Droley GompaThen continue over a high ridge, yakherder camps to the pass which is an old route to the Punakha valley. Return via steep trails to Kabesa village, where a private Art school is located.
(6-8 hours, 1000 m elevation gain)

Dongka lhakhang and Bemri lhakhang - at about 3700 m with views of Paro and Thimphu. This can be reached easily by 4x4 vehicle and walk from Shaba village in the Paro valley, after visiting Drakarpo.

 Drakarpo monastery on a cliff where you find caves, footprints, where Guru Rimpoche meditated in the 8th century.
drakarpoA short drive above the Paro valley and a walk up and around a cliff, the holy cave and a temple, visiting the interesting places and views of the area. On the way down we also see Eutok gompa which was restored recently to fix earthquake damage. It houses many relics of the founders of this place and has a young new principal lama who is keen to show visitors the refurbished monastery.

A drive to Chele La Pass which, at 3,988m, is the highest road pass in Bhutan, snaking upwards through blue pine and rhododendron forests for 35 kilometers. On a clear day the view sweeps away to the snow-dome of Bhutan’s second highest peak, Mt Jomolhari (7314m), and down to the Haa Valley. The Haa valley has a simple traditional life with yak pastures over the open ridges leading to Tibet. Hiking along the ridge, we pass a sky burial site (4200 m).
somewhere over the rainbow
Descend for an easy hike through rhododendron forest to Kila Gompa (3500 m), an ancient nunnery nestled in a craggy patch on the mountainside. Kila Gompa is historically significant as a sacred meditation site. Many renowned Buddhist saints have come here to find peace and seclusion. There are 7 temples and retreat huts housing 30 - 70 nuns.

chomolhariHike back to the road and drive down to Paro, with side trip to a village, and another small temple built on a cliff overlooking rice paddies. (4 - 5 hr hikes and several hours drive).


The floating statue of Chumphu nye -
The hike to Chumphu Nye starts from the upper Dop Shari Valley after a drive for about half an hour on the dirt road from Paro till its end. Then keep walking along the river till you get to a place where there is a small chorten (stupa).

Chumphu NyeYou see Chumphu Nye above you atop a hill on your left. Hiking time 4 - 6 hours to visit the small pond and waterfall above the temple, and do a loop down the cliffs to visit caves and a large waterfall.
peaks at Chumphu NyeAccording to Lama Namgay - The statue inside is not resting on anything.  It is floating in the air.  That is because the statue is not man-made.  It is Dorji Phamo who appeared in person and turned herself to a statue.  Also, anything you wish for, here, will come true.

 SangChoekor monastery high above the Paro valley. Several temples and a monastic school are found here, so we can visit and hike to Rinpun gompa and others to about 10000ft (3000m) above sea level.
old nun at the chorten
Hike from SangChoekor Buddhist College to Yak pasture below Bumdra Monastery (3,800 m). Hike takes you up into fresh mountain meadows with views of the snowy Himalayan mountains.


Paro Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) - monastery is located 10 km to the north of Paro and hangs on a precipitous cliff at 3,120 m on the right side of the Paro Chu. The rock slopes are very steep and the monastery buildings are built into the rock face.
 Though it looks formidable, the monastery complex has access from several directions, such as the northwest path through the forest, from the south along the path used by devotees, and from the north (access over the rocky plateau, which is called the 100,000 Fairies) known as Bumda. The track leading to it passes through pine forest that is colorfully festooned with moss and prayer flags. On many days, clouds shroud the monastery and give an eerie feeling of remoteness.


There is enough hiking here for 12 days and as much as 10,000 meters of climbing in total. All the peaks and passes are 3700 m to 4300 m range. Additional days can be spent in the Haa valley or Punakha valley for more hikes, hot springs, holy lakes and caves and sacred sites.


We can easily choose a set of 10 hikes to cover 10 days visiting the most interesting places, and vary the itinerary according to weather and trail conditions, as well as optimum photography of flowers, birds, monkeys and Himalayan views.

Hotels would include overnights in Thimphu, Paro and possibly at DochuLa.

3 star accommodation would include: Gangtey Palace, Tenzinling Resort, Peaceful Resort, Yeedzin guest house, Khamsum Inn, Dochula resort, or others similar.

http://www.hotel.bt/hotels-in-paro/gangtey-palace-hotel

http://www.hotel.bt/hotels-in-paro/tenzinling-resort

http://www.hotel.bt/hotels-in-thimphu/bhutan-peaceful-resort/

http://www.hotel.bt/hotels-in-thimphu/khamsum-inn/

http://www.hotel.bt/hotels-in-thimphu/yeedzin-guest-house

http://www.hotel.bt/hotels-in-punakha/dochula-resort/


http://www.hotel.bt/hotels-in-punakha/meri-puensum-resort/

http://www.hotel.bt/hotels-in-punakha/damchen-resort

Contact me for more information ---  Istvan --- email:  ih.gedu@gmail.com
or Please write to bhutaneasytours@gmail.com or rdcchoden@gmail.com
(http://www.bhutaneasytours.com/)




Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hidden Valleys of Bhutan - Treasures of Guru Rinpoche


A trip to the remote and less visited places in Bhutan. The tour is completely customized for the interests of the participants, weather/road conditions and special events to be a completely fun and educational experience for both first-time visitors to Bhutan or for those who have seen the usual places already.

Drakarpo monastery on a cliff where you find caves, footprints, where Guru Rimpoche meditated in the 8th century. A short drive above the Paro valley and a walk up and around a cliff, the holy cave and a temple, visiting the interesting places and views of the area. On the way down we also see Eutok gompa which was restored recently to fix earthquake damage. It houses many relics of the founders of this place and has a young new principal lama who is keen to show visitors the refurbished monastery.
drakarpo ghost towns of Bhutan

Continue to Sang Choekor monastery high above the Paro valley. Several temples and a monastic school are found here, so we can visit and hike to several of these to about 10000ft (3000m) above sea level.

monks at play

old nun at the chortenHike from Sang Choekor Buddhist College to Yak pasture below Bumdra Monastery (3,800 m). Hike takes you up into fresh mountain meadows with views of the snowy Himalayan mountains. Rinpun gompa is a short hike above the monastery where only a few old people live for meditation and to act as custodians.

Drugyel dzong was built centuries ago to protect Bhutan from Tibetan invasion. It is only 30 km from the border. It burned down in the 1950's and not restored. It is in a spectacular location below high peaks and has a medieval feel to it. A favorite spot for the locals to visit and have a picnic here.


drugyel dzong













Tiger's Nest monastery was built on the spot where Guru Rinpoche meditated in the 8th century. Paro Taktsang  monastery is located 10 km to the north of Paro and hangs on a precipitous cliff at 3,120 m on the right side of the Paro Chu.
 The rock slopes are very steep and the monastery buildings are built into the rock face.
Takhsang dzong
monks heading to dzong




A drive to Chele La Pass which, at 3,988m, is the highest road pass in Bhutan, snaking upwards through blue pine and rhododendron forests for 35 kilometers. On a clear day the view sweeps away to the snow-dome of Bhutan’s second highest peak, Mt Jomolhari (7314m), and down to the Haa Valley. The Haa valley has a simple traditional life with yak pastures over the open ridges leading to Tibet. Hiking along the ridge, we reach a sky burial site (4200 m).
stone hut on chele la








kila nunnery at chelelaKila nunnery is located just below CheleLa, a temple and houses are built into an overhanging cliff face. Some 75 nuns of all ages live here in a harsh environment at 12,000ft.
nuns at nunnery

Dobjey dzong is located near the confluence of 2 rivers - it is on a steep cliff, was built as a prison originally where death sentences were carried out by throwing inmates off the cliff.

dobji dzong







On the way to Thimphu we will travel up the narrow Gida valley which leads us to the hidden valley of Tselung Nye where Guru Rimpoche rested and left some interesting artifacts in the rocks. Here we find a small temple, meditation houses, a cave used for meditation, a medicine pill and holy water for long life, footprints and various signs in the rocks.

tselung nye

The hike to Chumphu Nye starts from the upper Dop Shari Valley after a drive for about half an hour on the dirt road from Paro till its end. Then keep walking along the river till you get to a place where there is a small chorten (stupa).

prayer flagsChumphu Nye
You see Chumphu Nye above you atop a hill on your left. Hiking time 4 - 6 hours to visit the small pond and waterfall above the temple, and do a loop down the cliffs to visit caves and a large waterfall. The temple contains a floating statue of Dorji Phamo.


waterfalls
Thimphu area has access to several valleys where important monasteries are located. These include Dorjidra, Tango, Chedri, Droley, Phajoding and Dechenphu monasteries. These are reached by hiking 2 - 4 hours usually at altitudes up to 3500 meters.



dorjidra
buddha and the himalayas

From Thimphu we travel over the 3200 meter DochuLa pass where views of the Himalayas of the Tibetan border can be seen.
In April the forests are full of blooming rhododendron trees, with pink, white and red flowers.

rhodies
Droley GompaBelow the pass is a small village of Hontsho, where life is mostly unchanged, families cultivate fields of potatoes, radishes, cabbage and other vegetables. Ancient mud-walled dwellings are seen in various states of decay.

ghost town
class at monasterydebateThe Punakha valley is far below, where we visit several monasteries and a nunnery. Nalanda monastery has a large monastic school, teaching Buddhist philosophy and English as well. Monks spend each afternoon practicing debate in the courtyard.



From Punakha valley we can reach the mountains of the Gasa area on a new road up the valley of the PoChu river. Along the way we can do a jungle hike to a hidden holy lake, Hokatsho. This is rarely seen by outsiders, and is reached from small villages above the valley floor. This large lake is great for picnics and locals make offerings of money floated on small trays on the river.

hokatsho lake
The next point of interest in the valley is located on the other side of the river, reached by another hour of driving to a small village of farmers. From here a hike of at least 1 hour will get us to Gensephu nye.

gensephu nye
A small temple is carved into huge rocks and pilgrims visit caves where one can squeeze through small openings to purify sins. Large ancient paintings of gods and godesses are visible on the boulders next to the temple. The meadows below are used as pastures for horses and cows, with a view to the snowy peaks above Gasa.

peaks at Gasa
Several hours of driving is required to reach the end of the rough road at Gasa dzong, a majestic spot high above the steep canyon ringed by rocky peaks.

gasa dzong
The small village was quite isolated until recent years. It is also the gateway to the high plateau where Layans live, tending their horses and yaks. In winter Laya is covered in deep snow, forcing villagers to descend to Gasa and Punakha. The famous Gasa hot springs provide winter relief to the older people who suffer from arthritis and other ailments.





Another hidden valley is accessible by a long drive from the Wangdi area. Belandra nye is located up at the end of the valley.

temple at the monastery
The temple is built into a cliff face just like Tiger's Nest, but the hike will only take just over 1 hour from the end of the road.


 Contact me for more information ---  Istvan  -- send email to ih.gedu@gmail.com  or Please write to  bhutaneasytours@gmail.com or rdcchoden@gmail.com
http://www.bhutaneasytours.com/

belandra-nye