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Bhutan, June 2015

Bhutan 1-12th of June 2015

Participants: Peter Ericsson, Kjetil Schjolberg, Kolbjorn Schjolberg and Bjorn Fuldseth
Tour leader: Peter Ericsson
Guides and local agent: Norbu Bhutan and Sherab Dorjee


Background:

For years I had wanted to visit Bhutan having heard glorious stories of snow covered mountain peaks and mountains laden with green prime forests in a country filled with birds.
Not only that, but a culture less affected by Western values and materialism with a strong focus on nature and spirituality helped to nurture my desire to one day visit. As it was we didnít see a single billboard during our stay, in stark contrast to Thailand where I live.

Time and money played in to the decision to do this trip just right after the peak tourist season when the government tariffs are dropped slightly. I was assured by Norbu that previous years birding in early June had been productive as well. Instead of doing the regular 18-20 days normally done by overseas birding companies at great expense I decided to do a shorter version and see how it would go.

Three Norwegians quickly jumped on the offer and so with a group of 4 the decision was made.

Transportation:

We all met up in Bangkok and from here flew with Druk Air. The plane was of good standard and meals and drinks were included. A short stop over in India (Assam) at the foothills of the Himalayas and then a short flight to Paro at 2300m asl in Bhutan.

We were greeted promptly by the team and taken to our hotel in a modern Toyota Hiace van that would serve us well throughout the trip.

Besides the van we had a supporting crew of 1 cook and 2 helpers in a second vehicle that carried all supplies for the 3 days camping we did. This came in real handy as we often had fully cooked meals right at the birding sites.

The road that crosses Bhutan from West to East is under heavy construction to widen the road. This will take a few more years and at times slowed us down. The road is very narrow in part and traffic flows at an average of 25km/hour inspite of traffic being sparse. The driver was skilled but admittedly it was an eerie feeling being so close to steeply angled road sides (80% at times).

Weather:

We had no rain until day 11 and 12. Temperatures were almost always temperate as we mostly birded higher elevations.

Insects:

There were some nasty sand flies in places and caution must be taken. Wearing short pants can be risky as I found out.

Accommodation:

Fantastic! Often in former high ranking Bhutanese official's housing turned into hotels.
Every hotel was spacious with comfortable beds, hot water, working toilets and often nice gardens.
The camping was also comfortable with proper raised camping beds and even a tent for our own lavatory.

Food:

Simply delicious! Lots of fresh vegetables and not lacking in protein cooked in Bhutanese style which included chili for those that wanted. Plenty of coffee and tea available.
Beer was available everywhere and not only inexpensive but also quite good with Druk Lager being my favorite.


Culture:

Building styles are regulated in Bhutan and so house decor such as windows and doors have to follow cultural design. Also dress code is held up to foster gratitude for cultural heritages. We did not seek out monasteries per say but did visit one and the option to visit more was always there. More then anything we fed on the incredibly untouched environment and much must be given in appreciation for a country that has warded off economic greed in preference for a rich environment.

Altitude:

Most of the birding was done between 2300-4000m with only a couple days below that.
I experienced slight altitude sickness towards the end of the trip (strange I thought as one is supposed to get used to it) and everyone could feel the thin air but no one got sick besides myself feeling dizzy.

Birding:

The emphasis was on birds of high altitude, the higher the better
Flags
Flags
Forest
Forest
Ready, shoot, go!
Ready, shoot, go!
Hemlocks
Hemlocks
Yak
Yak
farming
farming
Sherab and Norbu, our guides
Sherab and Norbu, our guides
Water in abundance
Water in abundance
Picking berries
Picking berries
Smultron (small strawberries)
Smultron (small strawberries)
High ground!
High ground!
Lunch in the clouds
Lunch in the clouds
Hotel
Hotel
Comfortable beds!
Comfortable beds!
Stunning views!
Stunning views!
Our hotel
Our hotel
The team
The team
View from hotel!
View from hotel!
Our vehicles
Our vehicles
Narrow in part
Narrow in part
Decorations
Decorations
Kolbjorn, Kjetil, Norbu, Peter, Sherab, Bjorn
Kolbjorn, Kjetil, Norbu, Peter, Sherab, Bjorn
Paru
Paru
Peace!
Peace!