We are entering the final week of our itinerary around Bhutan. In the highest valley in the Bhumthang district we overnight in the remote, high altitude village of Ura, where we are the overnight guests of a local family. The people in this remote rural community are mainly sheep and yak herders, and believed to be the descendants of Bhutan’s earliest inhabitants.
As the tiger flies (in Bhutanese lore, tigers do more than their fair share of flying) the distance between Jakar, capital of the Bumthang district in central Bhutan and Mongar, gateway to the eastern part of the country, is approximately 35 miles. For humans however, the only option is a 125-mile, daylong roller-coaster road trip that includes a steep ascent to Bhutan’s highest pass, Thrumshing La.
It’s only 80 miles from Wangdi to Trongsa, the geographical center of Bhutan, but the drive takes a solid five hours of hairpin turns up and down a narrow and improbably steep road. Trongsa Dzong, the largest fortress in Bhutan, is built on a spur overlooking a deep gorge of the Mangde River. From here, the view goes on forever, from the sky-high mountain range to the bottom of the gorge, a striking reminder of the dzong’s original strategic purpose.
Wedged high in the eastern end of the Himalayas, Bhutan is one the most isolated countries in the word, and the last remaining Buddhist kingdom. Today we leave the capital, Thimphu, to start our journey eastward deep into the country’s heartland.
The flight into Paro, Bhutan’s only international airport, has to be one of the most spectacular in the world. We get an eye-level view of the Himalayas gleaming against a robin-egg blue sky, including Mounts Everest and Kanchenjunga and the sacred mountain of the Bhutanese Buddhists, Mount Jomulhari, before floating down into a layer of puffy clouds. When we emerge below the cloud cover, the plane is wending its way along a deep tree-lined valley dotted with farmhouses clinging to its slopes. I understand why only the handful of Druk Air pilots are certified to fly into this airport.
I board the Island Spirit in Peterburg, a small fishing community of the Alexander Archiplago of Southern Alaska. We leave port on the evening tide, sailing up Frederick Sound at a leisurely 10 knots per hour. Within minutes, any hint of human encroachment disappears. All that’s left is pristine Alaska immensity. Distant snowy peaks sparkle in the clear dusk light.
In Cappadocia, or “Land of Beautiful Horses” in the language of its Bronze Age Hittite settlers, history is hewn into the rock, by the elements and the various human waves that have inhabited it since pre-Hellenic times.
I land at Istanbul Atatürk Airport and immediately find immersed in the mystique of the millennia-old oriental city. Fortunately for visitors, successive dynasties of Byzantine kings, Roman caesars and Ottoman sultans conveniently settled themselves within and on top of their predecessors’ seat of power, in the Old City neighborhood of Sultanahmet.
I was barely in my teens when travel became a driving force in my life. Now as a travel writer and photographer, I have visited over 45 countries in some of the most photogenic corners of the planet, taking tens of thousands of pictures along the way. With my work, I thrive to capture the natural… and cultural uniqueness of each area I visit. Get to know me better…