To bed at 8 pm, so I wake up at 5 am with the sun just coming over the mountain ridge. The night was restful in the tent, or was it the exhaustion, but at times I struggled a bit with the thin air.
Our porters are already active and prepare breakfast.
Since it is still early, I manage to be the first one to use the toilet and shower tent. The grass on the way over is wet from the morning dew.
6 am the porters bring coffee and tea to the tent and advise that breakfast is ready at 7am at the dining tent. What a great service. As the weather is fine, breakfast is outdoors this morning.
As soon as the clock chimes 8 am, we get going. This is supposed to be a long but easy walking day, which turns out to be an understatement.
First back up to the ridge and Jili Dzong, a small temple, which can bee seen from Paro. A grand view over the adjacent mountain range opens up with snow topped peaks.
This mountain range forms the border to China.
The path leads us gently through light forest along the mountain ridge. There are surprisingly many flowers and plants at this high altitude.
Frequent views into the Paro valley open up and also into the opposite direction.
We see, very far below us, the morning Druk Air flight curving in towards the airport.
It is getting warm, even in the forest with its fantastic, crippled and moss-covered trees. Like a scene from a Disney or Harry Potter movie.
Up to midday the walk is easy and a relaxing lunch is taken next to a small lake.
After lunch we pass another clearing dotted with small huts and farmers working.
This is normally our campsite for the night, but since we have less time, as this hike is a day shorter than normal, we press on, much to our regret, as we later find out.
The path now descends steeply into a valley. We are entering a muddy, deep rutted section. One can not call this a path. It is very wet and the leg muscle hurt as are the knee joints. The younger members of our group have no problems with this, but I feel the strain, the reduced flexibility, allowing me to jump over roots and slippery sections.
I feel a bit guilty holding the rest of the group up.
By 3pm we reach the bottom and are released into a magic river crossing with a farmhouse next to it. But the tranquility is disturbed by the ferocious barking of two German Shepards. They are really aggressive and hauling themselves against the chainlink fence. We feel like fleeing and hurry up to get away from this place.
It is very idyllic here as we cross a meadow and pass some more houses. The farmers working the fields are all smiling and friendly.
Slowly the path climbs again. Gentle at first, but gradually turing into a a steep and long climb. It seems to be endless.
By now we are all down on energy and need a rest. We could just sink to the ground.
One really reaches a point when the brain switches off and walking is just by instinct.
The air is thin.
But just as we think it is over our guide leads us to a final hill. This one is steep.
From the bottom it looks like to leads directly into heaven. The stony ground is only dotted with a few trees, desperately needed to hold onto as we struggle up the site. Meter by meter.
Luckily our porters, which have been ahead of us and already set up camp on top of this mountainside, come to take surplus things from us, bags, coats, and cameras. Every gramm less counts.
After 1-½ hours very tedious climb we finally break out on the pass and the track levels.
I stumble, it is not walking to towards the tents in the near distance. Others tell me later, that I was white as a sheet freshly washed. Totally at the end of energy. I think I never have been so exhausted in my life. I am not even able to appreciate the great panorama opening up ahead of us.
Finally we stumble into the dinner tent and collapse on the chairs.
Peter, our guide, who is extremely fit and seem not to be affected by the ordeal, welcomes us with a glasses of Grog in his hands.
This is life recovering and soon colour returns back into our faces.
Not long after our arrival the sun sets and dinner is called.
Again and surprisingly the cook has prepared copious amounts of food and a great variety at excellent quality. We just wonder how they do it and how they manage to get so far ahead of us. Like they were flying in by helicopter.
The packhorses are feeding a short distance away and one can hear the clicking of their leg chains.
Our campsite is surrounded at the north and east side by a mountain flank of 5000 meter height. Just below is a a lovely, but bitter cold, lake.
The night has set in and the temperature dropped. It is now bitterly cold as we stumble to our tents, undress quickly and slide into the sleeping bag and collapse into a deep sleep.
At about 4 am I wake up to some animal noises near by. But these are only our horses, which are still feeding on the low grass next to our tents.
to be continued
Please excuse any dirt in the pictures. They will be cleaned up in due course. As it happened my digital reflex camera gave up early in the trip, so most has been shot on film.