“Firsts” come in many forms, to access the Upper Mangde Chu this time it came in the form of using a roto-tiller to shuttle our boats to the put in.
The heavy rains of the past summer monsoon season had left the road too heavily rutted for our normal vehicle to navigate. I had long admired the Bhutanese ingenuity in fashioning a trailer to the back of one of these machines, converting it from just a means of turning soil to a family wagon and hauling machine. Now we were experiencing their versatility first hand. The suspension might need a little work though.
Our trip had started back in the Paro valley, the location of the only commercial airport in the country. We warmed up on the Paro Chu with some straight-up class III-IV- and moved on to Thimphu, the capital and the river by the same name. From there we traveled East to the Punakha valley and some of the more challenging stretches of the Mo (mother) and Po (father) rivers we offer.
While staying in the valley we base out of a safari-style luxury camp along the banks of the Mo. Besides kayaking we took time out to mtn. bike, hike and explore the surrounding area and temples.
Leaving the Punakha valley we traveled further east, first to the village of Trongsa and the former center of government, then south to the once winter palace of the first king. There we were treated to an evening display of monks performing masked dances and some of the local women singing and dancing.
Working our way back to Paro we got in another run of the Upper Mangde Chu and a visit to the Pubjekha Valley for the Black Necked Crane festival which celebrates the return of these rare birds to the area.
Our final day of boating was on an action packed stretch of the Dang Chu upstream of the town of Wandge. This low volume river is non stop in it’s upper reaches, then tapers to class II until it’s confluence with the much larger Punasang Chu and our take out.
As the cooler days of fall settle into the Himalaya I often have to remind myself that Bhutan sits at roughly the same latitude as Florida, but at a much higher elevation. In the mountains precipitation falls in the form of snow and the river levels begin to drop making fall the perfect time to boat in Bhutan. We’ll be back in 2011.
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