Bhutan Class III Kayaking And Cultural Tour


Kuzusambo la!

Bhutan! It is often referred to as a magical Kingdom. Here are two examples of what just happens there.

Before the first trip began, Phil and I were meeting with Yougs, our good friend and outfitter in Bhutan, for lunch in our hotel restaurant. Suddenly he is bolt upright -on his feet like a soldier, then does a deep bow. We rise and turn to see a top Minister walking briskly toward him, greeting Yougs with kind words and questions as he takes his hand. We bumble into a bow, and he shakes our hands and welcomes us to the country. He then strides past, teenage kids in tow, and sits to eat at the next table. Bhutan Day One: Lunch with the Minister.

Continue reading “Bhutan Class III Kayaking And Cultural Tour”

A Little About Prayer Flags In Bhutan

In October and November of this year we will be returning to Bhutan to lead two, 13-day kayaking adventures.  In addition to paddling on Himalayan rivers we’ll take time out to visit monasteries and temples, hike the countryside and learn more about the culture of these gentle, gracious and fun loving people. Between now and our fall departure we’ll have regular postings featuring images and short stories about our past travels there. You can learn more about our trips by boofing over to our website or contact us directly.

Prayer_flags_Bhutan_riverIn Oct

You’ll find these colorful panels of fabric slung across rivers, posted outside of dzongs and temples, in front of houses, at the top of mountain passes and in meadows. They can be a single color vertically tied to a tall pole, or a series of five individual colored panels joined together horizontally by a string. Their shape, color and positioning all have meaning.
We westerners are probably most familiar with the string of five individual flags colored blue, white, red, green and yellow. Mary and I have a string of them over our porch as a reminder of our time spent in Bhutan. Each color represents an element; water, sky, fire, wood and earth. These are printed using wooden-block printing techniques. The print is a series of blessing which Buddhist believe are carried by the wind across the land and into bodies of water to further spread their benefit to all sentient beings.

On ridge clearings you will sometimes see a cluster of vertical poles with long white flags lashed to them.  These are erected to honor a deceased family member in order to guide them to the next life.  When possible there will be as many as 108 of these vertical flags, a number of significance in the Buddhist religion.  Atop these poles is a small wooden disk that represents the lotus blossom. From the disk extends the blade of a wooden dagger, signifying that the Buddhist teachings slice through ignorance and lead the way to enlightenment.

Outside of monasteries, temples, dzongs and other important structures you will find the tallest of the flags.  They are often white with red, blue, yellow and green colored ribbons sewn to them.  The pole is topped by a metal or fabric parasol that is known as the victory banner. This too signifies Buddhisms triumph over ignorance and harmful behaviors.

Most times an astrologer will determine the exact date for placement of the flags. He may also give instructions for the direction, location and color. The lightweight and loose weave of the fabric assures that they will soon begin to erode under the force of the elements, reminding us of the impermanence of all things.

 Buddhist or not, sitting on a mountain pass with the sound of the wind rippling across the surface of the flags, or seeing the play of light on the translucent fabric will pull you into the moment in a present and meditative way. This slideshow is just a teaser.

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Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking all rights reserved.

Living Large And A First “D” In Bhutan

Dochu la Bhutan

Prayer flags float in and out of my camera frame, pulsing with the light breeze that blows across the Dochu La, the 10,330 ft pass we just summited.  Beyond the flags is a collection of 108 chortens arranged atop a small hill in a neat oval that the road circumvents. Chortens house relics of religious significance and are places of offerings. These are simple, squat and square whitewashed affairs with slate roofs and a gilded crown at their tops. Far in the distance is the Himalayan range and the border between Bhutan and Tibet. Separating us from the mountains is a multitude of lush, deeply carved river valleys.  In two of them, the Mo (mother) and Po (father) rivers will be the focus of the next few days of our kayaking trip. Continue reading “Living Large And A First “D” In Bhutan”

Bhutan Dates For Fall 2012 Posted


We’ve just finalized our dates for our kayaking and cultural trips to the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan during the Fall of 2012.  We’ll be offering a class II-III+ Oct 23- Nov. 4  that features a rafting option for non-kayakers and a class IV kayaking trip Nov. 6th – 18.  This is a big adventure in a small country so we recommend you start planning early.

In addition to our time on the river we’ll have opportunities to walk the countryside, learn about the country and it’s culture,visit temples and monasteries and relax.

Learn more about it at our website or drop us a line.

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.

Continue reading “Bhutan Class III-IV+ Nov. 1-13, 2010 trip report.”

Bhutan Class II-III, 2010

I traveled to the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan during the fall of this year and had the honor of spending nearly two months there. My trip began by meeting up with our friend Zach Collier of ECHO to prepare for a combined kayak and raft trip at the class II-III level.  It was Zach’s first time to Bhutan and my third.  We arrived  four days ahead of the trip so Zach could see as many of the rivers as possible before the group arrived.

Zach Collier kayaker tea.
Zach taking time out for a civilized cup of tea during our pre scout of rivers in Bhutan.

Our guests arrived on October 18th and we spent the next twelve days working our way from Paro, in the west, to the town of  Chumkar in the Bumthang region located in the middle of the country and back again.  During that time we kayak and rafted the Paro, Thimphu, Mo, Po and Chumkar Chu (rivers).

Rafting, Thimphu Chu, Bhutan
Rafting on the Thimphu Chu, Bhutan

Continue reading “Bhutan Class II-III, 2010”

Much to tell- just no time.

River_Rice fields.
The lower Mo Chu meanders amongst rice fields of the Punakha Valley, Bhutan

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.  I’ve been in country for about 5 weeks now and have almost three more to go before returning home in early December.  My stay here started with four days of kayaking on the Paro, Thimphu, Mo and Po rivers.  For our first trip we teamed up with our friends at ECHO to offer a nearly two week combined kayaking, rafting and cultural tour that saw us traveling to the Bumthang region in the middle of the country. Continue reading “Much to tell- just no time.”

Join Us For Kayaking In Bhutan, Fall 2010.

We are planning two trips in Bhutan in the Fall of 2010; a Class II-III and a Class III-IV+. Because resources for tourists are limited, we need to confirm our lodging reservations for these trips well in advance. The minimum number of paddlers for each skill level is eight. If you are interested,  email us for reservation information . Click here for more details.

Continue reading “Join Us For Kayaking In Bhutan, Fall 2010.”

Bhutan – Late post, Class III-IV+ Nov. 7-19th, 2008

It was around this time last year that we were in Bhutan finishing up a 2 month stay.  We spent that time traveling with a Buddhist study group, scouting rivers for upcoming kayak groups, running our Class II-III trip, catching what we could of the fifth king’s coronation and capping it all off with our Class III-IV+ trip.  What follows is an account from that final kayaking trip (woops- for some reason the text disappeared. We’ll get it back up there)  You can follow the links to these Bhutan posts to read about our other adventures there.  If these trips sound interesting to you, consider joining us in the Fall of 2010 when we’ll return again to kayak Bhutan!


Mike W. getting

Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking all rights reserved.

Bhutan- In The Captial During The Coronation Of The Fifth King.

(Is it O.K. that I am sitting in a hotel in Quito, Ecuador while writing about part of our trip in Bhutan this last fall? The reality is, if I don’t do it now, it will never happen and our time there was just too special not to write about!)

Part of the multi- storied fabirc religious banner, or Thondrol, is seen hanging from the Trashi Chhoe Dzong in Thimphu.

Between the Class II/III cultural trip we had just finished and the Class III-IV+ that was about to start, we found ourselves with an unscheduled day and a half. We had planned to spend it in the town of Paro where the airport is located, and where we could do laundry and relax while waiting for the next group to arrive. Instead, we received a last minute surprise from Ugyen, our generous Bhutanese outfitter. The gift was in the form of a hotel room in Thimphu on the eve of the coronation of the fifth king of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. (Thimphu, the capital, is located east of Paro, just over an hour away.) We weren’t sure how much of the actual ceremony we were going to be able to see, but we couldn’t pass it up.

Since our arrival in country on October 4th we had watched people hard at work preparing the roadways, temples and dzongs for the upcoming event. Roads were decorated with arches, banners and prayer flags.

The van we used during our week of scouting passes under a decorative arch on the road between Punakha and Thimphu prior to the coronation.

Continue reading “Bhutan- In The Captial During The Coronation Of The Fifth King.”