Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hike to Phajoding / Dungtsho

"I can turn to that day as though it were a page in a book. It’s written so deeply upon my mind I can almost taste the ink." 
                           Hannah Kent, Burial Rites 

Well, that's how I feel when I remember the hike to Phajoding last month. Phajoding was on my bucket list for some time now. Six years to be specific. Until I crossed it off on 22nd February. Phajoding lies at an altitude of 2500m to 3600m and is 5.7 km hike uphill. Our itinerary was:

Day 1: Hike to Phajoding top most monastery and halt for a night
Day 2: Hike to Dungtsho which is about 8.1km (according to our walking speed) from the base monastery

We were blessed with absolutely good weather for the entire hike. The weather was sunny and warm with clear blue skies, perfect for the hike! We started at 9am in the morning from Sangaygang as the base and reached Phajoding by 12 in the afternoon. After a quick lunch we hiked up to the top most monastery which took us about an hour. 

Since we were banking on the monks for a place to halt for the night and if possible some supply of food and warm blankets we reached there by early afternoon. It was already freezing then! The kind monks gave us a room to stay and some hot tea with biscuits. It felt heavenly! If you’re planning to carry your own tents and food supply, it’s better to start in the afternoon and reach the top most monastery just before dusk.

With nothing to do the whole evening, we had a quick dinner and got into bed by 8pm. Mice ran over us in our deep slumber. So it’s better to cover your entire face like a ninja and curl in bed.  By bed, it means that we slept on the floor. We waited for the dawn to come. Literally counting the hours. Soon sleep overtook and we had a good night rest despite the mice running over and the dog bark at night.

My alarm was set for 5:30 am the next day just before sun rise. I had been meaning to see Thimphu enveloped in the morning mist. Unfortunately, mist is a thing for monsoon and not winter. Nonetheless, I got to experience the glorious sun rise from the monastery at 6am. The morning air was dead silent and far from the horizon, marmalade strips of sun started appearing. The wonderful silence just hummed my ears. The moon from the previous night was still there. However, the sunrise soon overtook it. The night battling the cold and mice was totally worth it!

The coffee that made the morning sunrise even better
We had some quick breakfast and started at 7:30 towards Dungtsho, our final destination. After half an hour hike, we reached the topmost point from where you see snowy clad mountains and rhododendron shrubs and valleys and valleys of mountains. The mountain air is absolutely thin here. We were equipped with basic medicines for headache and chocolate bars to beat the altitude sickness. 

Then we faced the most difficult part of the route. And the most worthy as well, now that I look back. A long snowy downhill trek. Later we found out that it was a short cut route which cut down our time by half an hour. Skidding and shrieking and playing, we were finally able to descend the snow clad mountain. 

After an hour’s hike also, we couldn’t come across any tsho (lake). Doubt started to creep in and the fear of being lost started to shroud. We hiked a little further and crossed a mountain and that’s when we encountered the first tsho. Good heavens! The feeling was almost ethereal.

After that, it just became more heavenly. Tshos after tshos, a total of five tshos before we finally reached the final one – Dungtsho. Without any proper trail and directions, one needs to solely depend on one’s intuition. We were a lil’ confused on the route when we finally found a small plate that points the way towards Dungtsho. The uphill climb was treacherous, but it did not deter us. After 3.5 hours of treacherous hike we finally reached Dungtsho. The feeling was out of the window! 

Travel always teaches me new things; endurance, patience and a different outlook in life altogether. It makes me appreciate my country even more and I always always emerge with a positive outlook in life. It makes me feel blessed. I'm grateful for this little life, always! 


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