Bhutan Class III-IV+ Nov. 1-13, 2010 trip report.

“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.

Kali and Thinley head out on the "killer tiller" shuttle rig.

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.

Out of the gate on the first rapid of the Upper Mo Chu.

Maren draws a crowd along th banks of the Upper Mangde Chu.
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Evening shot of the lounge area of our base camp in Punakha Valley.

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.

Gordon B. getting some leg exercise en route to the put in of the upper Po Chu.

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.

Bhutanese girls and tourist.
Michael P. making friends at Endochiling during a masked dance performance.

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.

The black necked crane festival in Pubjikha Valley.

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.

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Black Mountains tower over the Mangde Chu valley.

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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Kayak guide Thinley drops into "King Pin" rapid on the Upper Mo Chu.
Our kayak group on the class III-IV+ trip.

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