“KIWIS TO BHUTAN” TOURS

 

Your tour organiser and leader is New Zealander Martin Curtis, an experienced Himalayan trekker and mountaineer. He has already arranged and led 5 expeditions to Bhutan and consequently he is very familiar with this amazing country.

 

Bhutan is a remote independent kingdom in the eastern Himalaya and the last bastion of the Tibetan Buddhist culture and religion in its purest form. Despite opening up to tourism in the late '70's it has managed to minimise the effect of outside influences and the country is virtually untouched, in terms of the environment, religion, architecture and lifestyle. Bhutan has the youngest reigning monarch in the world who guards Bhutan's culture and national identity fiercely. Just a few years ago his father decided to abdicate in favour of his son and at the same time change the system to a parliamentary democracy with the king as a figurehead only – despite the protests of most of his people. However very little has changed in the country, a great tribute to the Bhutanese people.

 

Punakha Dzong(2)

Tsechu dancers(2)

Bhutan Snowman Trek 001(2)

Punakha Dzong, Bhutan

Dancers at a Bhutan festival

Local children, Bhutan

 

It is a remarkable country and trekking in Bhutan offers the opportunity to see not only the exquisite Himalayan scenery but to experience its rich and ancient traditions in both remote villages and in Thimphu, the small capital of 100,000 people. Few people have been privileged enough to experience Bhutan and in the light of the fragility of such a small nation and traditional culture in this age of superpowers, this slice of an old world may be denied us in the future.

 

Bhutan is a remote and still largely undeveloped country where over 70% of the land area is still untouched forest and participants must be prepared to take times and itineraries in their stride. Weather and/or trail conditions can vary enormously and change quickly in these wild areas and we may have to re-route sections of the trek. Also, walking hours can vary a great deal with each individual. It depends entirely on their own pace and, of course, on how often they decide to stop for photographs etc. - however there is never any rush in this beautiful country. Generally things run to plan, but when they don’t it is always fun in Bhutan. There is no porter culture in Bhutan and all our luggage will be transported by animals, either by ponies and mules, or at higher altitudes yaks.

 

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Mt Chomolhari, Bhutan

Trekking camp, Bhutan

 

By law we have to use a Bhutanese trekking company. The company Martin has always used is well established and very reputable, with many years experience in running treks and tours to Bhutan, Nepal and Sikkim. They will provide us with a local tour guide who will be very well qualified and experienced. Invariably the guides are very informative and speak very good English, as do most of the population. The crew will also include a small staff of helpers and a cook. The food has always been very good and the hygiene practised is excellent.

 

Martin Curtis’s experience in running trips to Bhutan began in 2004 when he organised a small group of New Zealanders to trek the classic route to the isolated and unique village of Laya in the northwest.    Following this in 2006 he organised a trip for another small group of kiwis to tackle the famous “Snowman” trek in northern Bhutan, reputedly the longest and most isolated trek in the entire Himalaya. They were one of the very few groups to complete the trip that year and with everyone in the party 60 years of age or more, they became rather famous in Bhutan as being the oldest party ever to successfully walk this classic route.

 

Since then Martin has organised three more trips to this magical country of “Gross National Happiness”. In 2012 he ran a trip to a very isolated part of the country to see Gangkar Punesum (7541m) the world’s highest unclimbed peak. From what they saw of the mountain’s south east face, it is a worthy holder of the title. The mountain was attempted in the 1980’s but is now out of bounds, as are all the other peaks in the country, as they are considered sacred to the Buddhist religion. For the entire trek from Bumthang, the Kiwis to Bhutan group saw no other Europeans at all, just yak herders and army personnel, and they were the only trekking party to visit that valley in the whole year.

 

Bhutan Highland Desert2

Bhutan Snowman Trek 002(2)

Gangar Punesum

Snowman trek, Bhutan

Richenzoe La, 5200m, highest pass on Snowman trek, Bhutan

Southeast face of Gangkar Punesum, Bhutan

 

Then in 2014, Martin took a large group of friends and relations back to Bhutan, where they trekked part of his original route into Chomolhari base camp and on to Lingshi. They then travelled across the country as far as Trongsa on what is known in Bhutan as a “cultural tour,” looking at birds, flowers (it was the rhododendron season) and visiting one of the famous religious festivals whilst there.

 

In 2015 he led a slightly different trip to the country – a Nature and Wildlife tour to have a closer look at birds, trees, flowers and other natural phenomena, of which Bhutan is richly endowed. He hired a specialist naturalist guide and travelled much further east than the groups had done before, visiting both the Black Mountain and the Thrumshing La National Parks.   The tour also included two short treks which were classified as easy – the Haa trek and the Gangte trek, and included a visit to the Black Necked Crane tsechu, a really unusual festival on the Bhutanese calender.   The trip included several days looking at Bhutan’s unique culture, dzongs and interacting with the friendly local people. 

 

 

In May 2017 Martin will be organising and leading another Naturalists and Culture tour to the east of the country.  It will be based on the successful exploratory tour in 2015, but with the difference that it will be late Spring when the abundance of flowering rhododendrons, and hopefully many more birds and flowers than in late Autumn make it an ideal time for this type of tour.  We have already booked the same naturalist guide we had in 2015.   Travel will be in an 18 seater bus. There is no actual trekking on this trip, but plenty of opportunities for optional long or short walks.   In the more isolated parts of the country we will still be camping, but the crew will be travelling with us in a truck and will have the camps all set up by the time we arrive each afternoon.   The trip will also include visits to several of the magnificent dzongs we will pass, and also a day at the famous Ura tsechu (festival).

 

In November 2017 he is planning to return to the world’s highest unclimbed  mountain Gangkar Punesum and repeat the 2012 trek to the original South East base camp.   This is a 12 day trek classified as moderate and is subject to getting enough participants interested in seeing this isolated unclimbed mountain.  Although this time of year is late Autumn, it is the season when the air is at its clearest and the weather is usually fairly settled.

 

In order to secure seats on either of Bhutan’s two airlines, bookings need to be made well in advance of departure dates, so for full details of cost, dates and itineraries of these two trips, please contact us as soon as possible if you are interested.

 

You can contact Martin at:

Phone (Within New Zealand): 03 4438152

Phone (International): (64) 34438152   

Email: martincurtis(at)clear.net.nz

Note: as an attempt to prevent spam, the @ has been replaced by (at). You will have to change this when sending an email.

 

Martins Mountaineering & Guiding CV

 

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