Bumthang, Bhutan

19 March 2024

Altitude 8600

Yesterday, following the Lateral Road from the west, we entered Wangdue. It is one of three roads one drives here. (Actually, there is only PNH One, the other 2 lead to ?)

As of 2020, Bhutan’s road network has a total road length of roughly 11,100 miles, of which 61% are farm roads, around 15% are national highways, and about 11% are district roads. The National Highway system began linking rural districts in 1960. Using the labor of Indian and Bhutanese, mountainous roads were built mostly by hand and, even by modern standards, incredibly fast,. The building of these roads is a story in itself.

On our exit from town, we again drive the Lateral Road going east to Tongsa and, ultimately, Bumthang, some 125 miles away. In the meantime, we cross 3 passes, see more green trees, steep mountainous, steeper cliff-side drops, pristine and cold rivers, unbelievably scenic view, and about 6 hours of twists and turns. My guide describes it as “spectacular winding road.” I say #&@%?


Wangdue, Phodrang Valley, Bhutan

18 March 2024

Altitude 4420

108 Chorten at Dochula Pass

Today is a drive over the 10,200 ft Dochula Pass, and weaving along the narrow two-lane Thimphu-Punakha Highway. Possibly I will suffer fewer than 1001 curves. The mountains and endless pines climb one side and some rather precipitous drops line the other. There is quite a bit of evidence of earlier landslides and wash-outs. There is no evidence of our road being straight for longer than a minute. I am happy for that left-lane driving as my side of the van is against the mountain. 


Exploring Thimphu, Bhutan

17 March 2024

Elevation 7590

Be still my heart! There are pedestrian crossings and Bhutan’s drivers stop for me! I hear no honking. No cows stroll the streets. A dog passes, held firmly on a leash. Not a traffic light is seen. Kids play soccer in the square and apologize when the kicked ball narrowly misses a passerby. The architecture represents traditional Tibetan/Bhutanese building all accented with colorful windows, doors and eaves. Green tin roofs dominate; government buildings designed with red roofs. The King’s picture is everywhere. I’ve entered another world.


En route to Thimphu, Bhutan

16 March 2024

Altitude 7590′

This day will be long, sweetened by the drive through the spectacular Bhutanese countryside. Destination is Thimphu, the nation’s capital. The distance is about 110 miles but will take from 5 to 6 hours. If I thought the roads so far were twisty and carsick-worthy, they have only been a teaser. In Bhutan, nothing is straight. 

Weather is warm, in high 70s. However, we will be experiencing a rise in altitude of several thousand feet. I expect we will have relief from pollution and heat.


Phuntsholing, Bhutan

15 March 2024

We reboard our van for another road trip. Today is a “box lunch” day. It’s also a day for multiple ginger pills to calm my stomach. Highway 12 is two-lane and twisty, twisty, twisty. Reaching Highway 10, we turn southeast.

It will be a long day of driving south along the Teesta River, past countless hazy View Points, between endless forests and mountains. The surroundings are magical. Mists cling to the peaks; countless bridges pass over rivers and flood plains. Signs of October’s flash flood are everywhere.


Kalimpong, West Bengal, India

14 March 2024

Altitude 3970′

North is Mt. Kangchenjunga and Tibet. Northeast is Bhutan. The lofty Himalayas surround us, which have been continuously blotted out by haze. Unable to pass thru the mountains , we drive south and retrace much of our route. Nothing is straight here. Our route represents one hairpin twist after another. Best news is my ginger pills work.