Hike No. 1 : TABEDING TO TANGJEY LHAKHANG :
DISTANCE: 10 – 12 KMS
ALTITUDE: TABEDING( 2870 MTRS). TANGJEY LHAKHANG (3050 MTRS).
TIME: 4 – 5 HOURS EXPLORATIONS
After a hearty breakfast from the guesthouse, we begin our hike through local shops where they stock basic groceries like iodised salt, butter, sugar, tea leaves, cooking oil, clothing and good supply of Betel nut for the local Bhutanese addiction. We then proceed following the farm road via the Primary School toward the southeast direction through the vegetation of dwarf bamboos that adorns the Phobjikha valley and also where the rare species of Crane called, Black Necked Cranes resides during winter from beginning of November till mid March.
After an hour and half of easy hike in the valley, we reach our first village Kilkhorthang, consisting of about nine household and beautiful village temple located towards the end of the village. We still stay on the farm road for about half an hour, where it reaches a vista point and can view distant villages in the Phobjikha Valley. To name a few, Gatheyching and Khebithangkha Natural Research Centre to the South, Thawa , Gangphey and Tanjey villages to the East.
From this wonderful vantage point, we take the road to our left towards Tanjey where the road leads with a gradual climb but a breath taking and fantastic approaching sights of the surrounding villages and farmers working in their fields, where they are restricted to cultivation of buckwheat, potatoes and turnips. Unlike other districts in Bhutan like Punakha and Wangdhi. Phobjikha does not have suitable and favourable conditions for cultivation of Bhutanese red- Rice.
As per the local folklore and the believe about the reasons why rice cannot be cultivated and harvested in the valley. According to the story, many years ago before the inhabitants settled in Phobjikha. From the inhabitants of the animal world, the Snake and the Pig had a race where each one had their own priorities if they win the race. If Mr. Snake wins, rice can be cultivated and if Mr. Pig reaches first in the valley it wished that Rice couldn’t be harvested in the whole valley of Phobjikha.
So the race began, the snake took its time in manoeuvring through the valley with its usual pattern of movement. Where the Pig rushed and gushed through the valley where it did not waste any precious time and ultimately won the race. Presently Mr. Snake is represent by the main river, which flows with absolute silence through the hub of the valley (locally it’s known as CHU NAP- means black river). Where as Mr. Pig (known as CHU KARP – means white river) is just a tributary that flows with dominate roaring sound from Tangjey village into Chu Nap.
Finally after about an hour of gradual walk from the road junction, we reach this picturesque and spacious hamlet of Tanjey with its temple located above the village with total serenity and dominance from its golden roof.
The main representation and statue inside is dedicated to Lord Buddha – Sakyamuni and to its local protective deity Yeshi Gempo. The original foundation of the temple is serenaded during the time of Naggi Wangchuk ( 1517 – 1554 ), great – grand father of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. Recent restoration and modification was done during the first King Ugyen Wangchuk ( r 1907 – 1926 ).
After our visit inside the temple, we then cross a wooden bridge following the Chu Karp to your right through the village community school till the bridge across Mr. Snake River, which give access to our way back to the guest house for a late lunch with a special Bhutanese dish of Kewa Datsi(local potatoes with cheese ) and Red- rice from Punakha or Wangdhiphodrang. For those interested, you can have the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful hike with a local traditional drink known as ARA ( distilled liquor similar to Japanese drink Saki ). A good way to end the day with a local tone in this beautiful valley.
ALTITUDE: LHONGTEY (3160mtrs )
GYECHE PASS (3590mtrs)
GANGTEY GOMPA (3050mtrs)
TIME: 3 – 4 HOURSFrom the East to West, National Highway which is about 5kms from Pele La ( the main pass dividing East and West Bhutan ) towards Trongsa, we get off from our vehicle at Lhongmay, a roadside village comprising of 5 households. The trail that leads to Lhongtey is below the motor road and we start to follow the trail through the bamboo thickets and crossing a small wooden bridge next to a tiny chorten gradually upto the village of Lhongtey, which proudly displace its landmark of 6 houses all facing towards the East for the early sunlight and its warmth.
We then climb up gradually and continue our journey through the village towards the Gyeche la pass( 3590mtrs ). The trail that we are hiking on is being, mainly used in the olden days before the motor road came, by the natives of Gangtey and Sephu for trading and movement of yaks to higher grazing meadows during the winter months.
The vegetation growths that we encounter on this hike ranges from blue pine, dwarf bamboos, maple, larch, rhododendron, birch, oak, spruce, hemlock and juniper and some Rosa species. After about two to two and half hours of gradual to steep climb through this pristine mixed forest, we reach Gyeche La Pass marked by a stone structure with prayer flags. The view from here of Phobjikha Valley and its monastery Gangtey Gompa is absolutely gorgeous ad break taking.
After a break of photo opportunity here on the pass, we then continue to descent quite steeply but with option of switch – backs trails. For those who have trouble with knee problems, please be cautious with every step you take. Walking sticks will be highly recommended on this trail. Once we happily completes our descent to the bottom after about three quarter of an hour, we make a stop at the Kumbu Monastery and other retreat and meditation centre at the back drop against the precarious cliffs but with absolute tranquil for those mediators mediating for at least 3 years with complete cut off from the rest of the world.
As we gradually following the dirt road, we will notice that the valley widens and open with more scenic and distant views of the Black mountains and its villages. The valley of Phobjikha is also a home to the rare species of Black Necked Cranes, which they dwell during the winter months (beginning of November – beginning of March). So if you’re hiking during these months please look out for this rare and gorgeous living bird feeding in the fields.
After a short and gradually hike through the pine forest, our vehicle awaits for us above the monastery to take us to our guest house which is about 30 minutes ride down in the valley.