4th February : Day 4 : Thimphu to Phobjika via Dochula :
Today our plan was to move to Phobjika obviously to experience the rarest Black Neck Cranes after spending two nights at Capital of Bhutan – Thimphu In & Around. We had to go a long distance, so we all were ready by 8:30 as instructed by Raj, but at the last moment we somehow got a bit late. Finally we started for our first halt point, Dochula at sharp 9 o’clock in the morning.

You’d come across a checkpoint after around an hour where you’ll have to show the Restricted Area Permit

Punakha Checkpost

After driving for around 1 hour, we reached at Dochula. What a spectacular view it was. The 108 chortens or stupas was fully snow covered.

Dochula Pass

  • Dochula Pass

After spending some time at Dochula and clicking few photos, we started for Punakha where we planned to have lunch before moving on further to Phobjika. After nonstop driving for around 2 hours we reached Punakha at 12:30 AM. Raj took us to Yak Herder’s Camp for lunch.

Yak Herder's Camp

While taking our seat we noticed that the restaurant had a balcony, so we asked Raj whether it’d be possible to open the gate. The owner lady opened the door for us after Raj spoke to her. Whoaa!! What a view it was. My dad said he can spend his whole day sitting here.

Yak Herder's Camp

Yak Herder's Camp

After having our lunch we left for Phobjika at 2 o’clock. After driving for around 5 minutes, we came across a home which just touched our heart. We immediately asked Raj to stop for few minutes and quickly got down from the car.

Home Near Yak Restaurant

  • Yak Restaurant

Throughout these days, Raj came very close to us due to his funny nature and became like a family member to us. He always keeps doing something while driving the long way to keep us enternatined. And as he was almost of our age, we four became friends. Raj told us stories about his childhood when he used to study at Kalimpong and then moved to Bangalore for graduation. He is from Bumthang which is our next destination after Phobjika. We asked him to take us to his home and introduce us to his family members. He assured us that he’d take us to his home and shop there at Bumthang which is run by his father. While going to Phobjika, we came across a snow filled road. We asked Raj to drop us here as we’d like to have a small walk.

Way To Phobjika

Way To Phobjika

Way To Phobjika

Way To Phobjika

And finally after driving continuously for 3 hours we reached the valley of Black Neck Cranes. Raj told us that these cranes migrates from Tibet to here on November – February. Generally tourists who comes to watch these birds comes here at November – December. And at that time, it gets tough to get a room here. But at February, hardly any birds stays here, so we might not be able to see any bird now.

Right at that moment, my wife, who was sitting in front seat (Generally I don’t allow anyone to go to front seat, but that’s another story which I’ll come at later point of time) screamed that “Oi to Black Neck Cranes” (See, it’s there) and yes she was damn right. There were 5 of them at the end of valley. Raj asked us not to shout else they may go away. I tried getting a shot but my 18-55mm failed miserably to zoom at the end of valley.

Black Neck Cranes

Black Neck Cranes

I quickly got down and started walking towards the valley. Raj called me from behind and told me to come back, but I was in my mind. Ignoring all of them, I kept moving forward and shit my leg got stucked. I tried hard to pull my leg out but the shoe didn’t 🙁 As I tried to take out the shoe with my hand my another leg got stucked. At this point of time, I got afraid, that the whole valley is like this and even if I try to go back, it’s too dangerous with camera in hand. I was more concerned about my camera. After all it was my new DSLR and this is my first trip with this one. I thought of keep standing there but somehow I managed to gather up the courage and move forward gently and finally I came back up with all the mud upto my waist.

My dad, mom, wife and even Raj was scolding me for such an Idiotic action of mine. Raj told me “Main aapko bula raha tha par aap kisika nahi sune” (I was calling you from behind but you ignored me). Yeah…I should have listened to him. He then helped me to wash my hands and asked me to get into the car. My wife left the front seat again for me. While driving to our hotel, he explained how these valley’s are.

Within 3 minutes we were in our shelter for the night, Gakiling Guest House. By noticing us the ladies came forward to take our luggage. They were murmuring something by noticing me, but Raj explained the scenario. Wow!! what a place it was. Gakiling was one of the best hotel I have stayed so far. The decor, the environment, the view, everything was top class, awesome. Actually, Phobjika being the remote place, budget hotels are hard to find here. So you don’t have much options other than going for 3* Resorts.

Gakiling Guest House

But due to my idiocy, I had to spend whole 2 hours at washroom cleaning myself and other stuffs. Haha!! I never cleaned my own washroom this much as I did at Gakiling. Though I’d say the Geyser played a great role by continously providing sheer amount of hot water that I needed to wash the clothes.

In the mean time while we were having our Tea, Raj came to our room. We carried the same Peach wine from Thimphu. We asked Raj to join us, as he literally had nothing to do just like us. At Thimphu, his friends were there, but Phobjika being very remote, we all were isolated. We all enjoyed the Peach Wine for the rest of the evening before having our dinner.

At around 8:30 PM, a lady knocked and informed that the dinner is ready. As soon as we stepped out from our room, we felt the chilling temperature of Phobjika. As they have provided two heaters per room, we didn’t imagine how cold it’s outside. We quickly literally ran to restaurant and by noticing us, they asked us to stand near Bukhari, to heat ourselves up. Raj told us that, Bukhari is very common in Phobjika and Bumthang and other remote places as these places experience very low temperatures during night time and normal heaters like we saw in Thimphu doesn’t makes any sense here.

The hot food, served liked medicine to us. After having our dinner, Raj asked us to get ready by 8:30 tomorrow as we have to travel for around 6 – 7 hours.

5th February : Day 5 : Phobjika to Bumthang via Trongsa :
Today, we were in time. But unfortunately, due to my stupidity at Phobjika, my new Woodlands didn’t dried up yet. Though there’s nothing wrong with it, as I was sure that it won’t. So I pulled up the wollen socks I had, with chappal that I use at home. We checked out and started from Phobjika at sharp 8:30. The view from the balcony was splendid.

View From Gakiling Guest House

View From Gakiling Guest House

As we started from our Hotel, Ohh my god!! The Black Neck Cranes were just there, warming themselves under sun infront of our hotel. Raj told me “dekhiye aap kal valley me ghus gaye the photo ke liye, aj ye yenhi hai” (See, you went into the valley yesterday inspite of my warning, and these birds are here so close to you today). I thought, “please don’t remind me that incident again” in my mind. But as soon as Raj said that, my dad and mom started cursing me for yesterday’s incident. Anyway, ignoring them, I went out from car calmly and silently so that they don’t fly away. Finally I managed to get some close up shots of rarest Black Neck Cranes. The journey to Phobjika proved to be meaningfull and memorable too due to my stupidity.

Black Neck Cranes

Black Neck Cranes

Black Neck Cranes

Hotel Gakiling Guest House:
Gakiling Guest House

  • Gakiling Guest House

Tariff : Rs. 1800 x 2 (rooms) x 1 (night) = 3600 + 600 (extra mattress) = 4200/-
This was the best hotel we have stayed so far and in our whole trip to Bhutan. The candid traditional design in wooden architecture with a splendid view of Gangtey Valley from the balcony just in front of room was pleasant to the eye. Being a 3* hotel, you are bound to get a 3* treatment which feels awesome. They even provided shaving kit on each of the rooms. If you are visiting Phobjika, I’d say look no where beyond Gakiling Guest House.

The next part of the Trip Report is continued at The Most Historic Dzongkhag – Bumthang