ACCF Black-Necked Crane Festival & Trek

Challenge Highlights

  • Visit mystical, inimitable and exquisite Bhutan - the land of Gross National Happiness
  • Explore Thimphu and the ancient capital, Punakha
  • Discover the ancient Dzongs of Central Bhutan
  • Cross high mountain passes to the Gangtey Valley, to celebrate the annual Black-Necked Crane festival, a colourful & vibrant event
  • Immerse yourself in the culturally rich, medieval town of Paro
  • Climb high above the city to Taktsang 'Tiger's Nest' Monastery
  • Fully supported 4-day camping trek from Paro to Thimphu
  • Spend time at ACCF projects and meet the girls and women your fundraising supports
  • Discover Bhutan - the Land of the Thunder Dragon - and help ACCF protect girls and women with cervival cancer

Overview

Imagine a kingdom where happiness is paramount, where culture and tradition remain intact and where Buddhism has predominated since the 7th century. This country is Bhutan, the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ and this is an invitation to step inside a mystical kingdom high in the Himalayas, a place often romantically referred to as the Last Shangri-la.

Join our 14-day journey to experience the highlights of this remote and culturally rich kingdom. Discover the sights and sounds of the capital Thimphu and drive across the Dochu La to explore the beautiful Punakha Dzong. We continue to the isolated Gangtey Valley to celebrate the annual arrival of the endangered and graceful Black-Necked Cranes into Bhutan from Tibet - a colourful and vibrant festival. Return to the medieval town of Paro and walk up to the mystical Tigers Nest (Taktsang Monastery). Early the next morning we set off on the 4-day trek along the famous “Druk Path”.The trail passes through forests of blue pine, oak, rhododendron and juniper to high yak pastures and panoramic views of the snow-clad peaks on the Tibet-Bhutan border. The trek concludes in the Kingdom’s capital Thimphu where we will be met and transferred to Paro to celebrate the end of an unforgettable journey.

Challenge Grade

These adventures involve trekking for up to 6 or 7 hours a day at a steady pace. These trips may spend successive days at altitudes not generally exceeding 4,500m and are usually between 10 and 15 days in duration. You will need a good level of fitness and be in good health.

* Suggested preparation: 45 minutes of aerobic type exercise, three to five times a week for the three months leading up to your trip. Hill walking with a pack in variable weather conditions or road cycling is also recommended depending upon the activity you plan to undertake.

Itinerary

After all the planing and preparation the wait is finally over! Please make your way to your Australian gateway airport for your flight to Bangkok on Thai Airways, where we need to overnight at airport hotel for our early morning flight to Paro. Flight details will be sent once you register.

Meals:  Nil

Make your way to the Druk Air check-in counter at Bangkok Airport for your early flight over the Himalaya to Paro. The dramatic descent is one of the most technically challenging landings in the world. As we slip through a narrow gap in the mountains we enter the broad and stunningly beautiful Paro Valley. The crystal-clear waters of the Paro Chu flow beneath the dramatic Paro Dzong (fortress), which towers over the valley. The elaborately decorated airport terminal is like no other in the world and provides a taste of things to come!. Once on the ground, you'll receive a big Kuzuzangpo la! (Hello and welcome!) from your Bhutanese guides and local drivers. From Paro Airport, we'll drive to Thimphu, Bhutan's capital which is home to the government, royal family, and head offices of international organizations. After freshening up at the hotel, join your guide in the lobby for an introductory briefing, followed by an optional walking excursion through the streets. In the evening, we'll enjoy our first dinner together as a group. Overnight Thimphu: Riverview Hotel (or similar)

Meals:  L,D

This morning we'll drive over the Dochu La Pass, at an elevation of 3100m. On a clear day, it offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Himalayas and Gangkar Puensum (7570m), the world’s tallest unclimbed peak. The pass is home to 108 chortens built by the Queen Mother to pay tribute to the visionary leadership of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. If you walk a little way up the mountain and into the forest, you'll stumble upon a cluster of moss-covered meditation caves. By midday we'll arrive at Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan. The surrounding valley is dominated by the impressive Punakha Dzong, which sits at the confluence of the Mho (female) and Pho (male) Rivers. If time permits this afternoon we will visit a local school. Overnight Punakha: Kyichu Resort

Meals:  B,L,D

It's a half-hour drive from Punakha to Wangdue Phodrang. We follow the road back to Metshina and drive 1.5km to Lobesa and our base to visit Chimi Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to Drukpa Kunley, a national figure known as the “Divine Madman." Kunley, a Tibetan Buddhist monk and poet who lived from 1455 to 1529, worked overtime to spread enlightenment through sex. You'll learn from our guide about this unconventional monk, the inspiration for the country's omnipresent phallus symbol. The walk to and from the monastery is about 45 minutes, with time to poke around the local shops. Inside the monastery, you'll find a book filled with notes of gratitude from hopeful but childless visitors who were later blessed with offspring. Back in the vehicle we'll descend into Wangdi and Punakha Valley, after passing through the town of Wangdiphodrang. The road continues to the beautiful Phobjikha Valley, a stunning glacial valley on the western slopes of the Black Mountains deep in central Bhutan. It is also one of the most important wildlife preserves in the country and the winter home of the rare Black-Necked Crane, which come to this serene valley in late Oct and stay until March. We may also be lucky enough to see muntjaks (barking deer), wild boars, sambars, Himalayan black bears, leopards and red foxes – all native to this region. Gangtey Gompa, established in 1613, sits on top of a conical hill in the middle of the valley with the small township nestling at its feet. Overnight Gangtey: Dhangsa Resort (or similar)

Meals:  B,L,D

The Annual Black-necked Crane festival is celebrated in the courtyard of Gangtey Gompa (Monastery). The festival is an occasion for the locals to rejoice and celebrate the arrival of this endangered and majestic bird which becomes an inseparable part of their daily lives during the winter months. The annual Black-necked Crane Festival is organized to generate awareness and understanding on the importance of conserving the endangered Black-necked Cranes, to strengthen the links between conservation, economic welfare and the sustainable livelihoods of the local community, provide an avenue for the local community to renew their commitment to conservation of the cranes and to showcase their cultural heritage and skills. The festival includes cultural programs such as folk songs and dances (some with Black-necked Crane themes), masked dances performed by the local people, crane dances and environmental conservation-themed dramas and songs by the school children. The program usually starts by 9:30 am and lasts till late afternoon. The festival is organized by the Phobjikha Environment Management Committee (PEMC), a local group composed of elected local leaders (with a strong female component), Government representatives, business community representatives, monks and Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) representatives. Overnight Gangtey: Dhangsa Resort (or similar)

Meals:  B,L,D

Today we will retrace our path back to Thimphu for an overnight. We have a range of activities and ACCF project visits planned across the next two days in Thimphu. These include: School - Jigme Losel, Hospital - Thimphu Hospital. Ability Bhutan and a VIP afternoon tea. Details will be confirmed nearer the time. Overnight Thimphu: Hotel Riverview

Meals:  B,L,D

Apart from our scheduled ACCF activities, there are many interesting places to explore in and around Thimphu. The country's seat of government, the Tashichho Dzong, is an impressive Buddhist monastery and fortress. The dzong is surrounded by lush gardens and overlooks the Wangchhu River, which flows all the way down into India and Bangladesh. If time permits we'll visit the Buddha Dordenma, a gigantic gilded statue of the Buddha built to commemorate the centennial of the Bhutanese monarchy. There is also the Memorial chorten built in the memory of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, 15 century Changangkha monastery, and Motithang mini zoo where we can see the rare "Takin" national animal of Bhutan. Late afternoon return to Paro. Overnight Paro: Kyichu Resort

Meals:  B,L,D

This morning we'll visit one of the most iconic and venerated Buddhist monuments in the Himalayas. The walk to Taktsang Monastery—the Tiger's Nest, set into a cliff face at 3120m above the Paro Valley—will be challenging but very rewarding. The sacred site takes its name from a mythical journey made by Lord Padmasambawa (Guru Rinpoche), in which he flew on the back of a tigress in order to meditate for three months and convert the valley to Buddhism. Since then, many of Buddhism’s most influential figures have visited the monastery. The full hike, which includes dirt paths and stone stairs, takes about two hours at a moderate pace. The main building of Taktsang was badly damaged in a fire, but a major restoration was completed in 2003. The view from the teahouse is well worth the climb, but a further 45 minutes of hiking will take you all the way to the Gompa (monastery). Tucked among the shrines there is also a slim crevice in the rock for the more intrepid. After slipping through, you can descend a set of wooden ladders into the stone cave where the nest itself—and its tiger—are said to reside. We'll take our time descending from the Tiger's Nest. We will have lunch at the restaurant just beneath the monastery so there will be time for as many photos of this extraordinary site as you wish. Our last afternoon in Bhutan is yours, to relax in the hotel or visit the market. We can also take in an archery match - the national sport of Bhutan. Enjoy our final dinner with the non-trekkers at the hotel and for those who dare, a traditional hot stone bath in the Paro River. Overnight Paro: Kyichu Resort

Meals:  B,L,D

After an early breakfast, we'll drive to the village of Damchena and the starting point for our trek. The trail meanders past a Mani wall, gradually climbing for about 2 ½ hours through a forest of blue pine and silver birch. Just above the tree line we reach an alpine glade and the Jili La (3580m) where we gain fantastic views back down the Paro Valley. We will visit the Jili Dzong, an impressive fort cum monastery with panoramic views. In the vicinity of the Dzong there are many prayer flags hung from commemorative poles that reflect the ancient Buddhist beliefs that extend across the ridge tops of Bhutan. This afternoon we continue walking along the wooded crest high above the Paro Valley through conifer and rhododendron forest while numerous orchids, ferns and wildflowers line the trail. To the north we can see the snow capped peak of Chomolhari. Today we also pass through a number of yak herders settlements who, like their counterparts in Southern Tibet, live in woven yak wool tents throughout the summer months. Our camp at Jangchulakha is also used as grazing grounds by yak herders and is a fine location overlooking the valley which separates the Paro and Thimphu valleys. Camp overnight.

Meals:  B,L,D

This morning is a strenuous climb for about 2 hours until we reach the ridge top and continue north. En route we cross a series of small passes at around 4050m with each marked by a stone memorial and an abundance of prayer flags. From the passes there are also fine views of many of the peaks that form the border with Tibet. We keep walking along the ridge through the afternoon until Jigmelangtsho comes into view. We descend gradually for an hour or so, at first across alpine meadows and then through rhododendron and conifer forest to this wonderful campsite by the side of the lake. The lake is famous for brown trout. Camp overnight.

Meals:  B,L,D

The trail today ascends through juniper and dwarf rhododendron forest before traversing a series of grazing meadows. It takes around 3 hours to reach the secluded encampment of Janye tsho (3950 m) where we'll have a break. The trail continues with short ascents and descents until we make it to another beautiful Simkotra Tsho with views of Jili Dzong and the ridge-line you trekked along a few days earlier. We continue trekking through what is truly a pristine environment, ascending and descending until we reach Labana, another yak herder’s campsite. There are a few lakes around and we can see the trail that goes up to Pumola, the highest point on our trek. Camp overnight.

Meals:  B,L,D

This morning we climb up to Pumola (4100 m), crossing the pass which leads towards the Thimphu valley. En route we pass a number of yak herders settlements and alpine lakes before reaching the Phume la (4200m), the highest point on our trek from where we appreciate the vast sprawl of the Thimphu valley. We continue our descent to a campsite near Phajoding Goemba (3650m). This is a beautiful Buddhist monastery and an important pilgrimage site for the Bhutanese people. From Phajoding the trail descends steeply passing through mixed forest for a couple of hours. We keep walking until we reach the valley floor in Motithang, the land of pearls. Our vehicle will be waiting to transfer us back to Paro for overnight. Overnight Paro: Kyichu Resort

Meals:  B,L,D

After breakfast transfer to the airport for your morning flight to Bangkok. Connect through to Australia. (Note: a minimum connection of 4 hours is required)

Meals:  B

Meals:  Nil

What's Included

  • ACCF representative
  • 11 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 11 dinners
  • Return international airfares from Australia to Bangkok
  • Return regional flights Bangkok to Paro on Druk Air
  • Unique and comfortable accommodation on a twinshare basis throughout
  • Expert bilingual guide throughout
  • Private internal transportation throughout
  • The use of a World Expeditions trek pack which includes a quality sleeping bag, down or fibre fill jacket and insulated mat valued at US$500
  • Souvenir World Expeditions kit bag
  • Pack animals to carry all your personal equipment 20kgs
  • Sightseeing & sight entry fees as listed
  • Airport transfers in Paro
  • Group medical kit
  • Bhutan Government visa and sustainability fees
  • Facebook group page to chat with your fellow supporters

What's Not Included

  • Bottled water
  • Aerated and alcoholic drinks
  • Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, laundry, etc.
  • Tips
  • Airport & departure taxes
  • Travel insurance

What You Carry

  • In your daypack you will need to carry extra warm clothing (depending on the altitude, location and weather), a rainjacket, water bottle, camera, valuables and personal items such as sunscreen, lip-eze etc. Porters and mules carry all group gear and your trek pack.

Fundraising Impact

Your fundraising target will vaccinate and protect 30 Bhutanese girls against cervical cancer.

Every two minutes, somewhere in the world, a woman dies of cervical cancer, a preventable disease. In Bhutan, cervical cancer kills more women than any other cancer.

In Australia, girls between the ages of 11–13, and now boys, receive the HPV vaccination free of charge. We believe that all women, regardless of their nationality, have the right to be protected from cervical cancer. With your help, ACCF can continue to provide free cervical cancer vaccines to Bhutanese girls.

By vaccinating one girl in Bhutan, her risk of developing cervical cancer is reduced by 80%.

ACCF, in partnership with the Bhutanese government, implemented the first National HPV Vaccine program in a developing country. This means all 12-year-old girls in Bhutan are now able to receive the cervical cancer vaccine. We need your help to eliminate cervical cancer in Bhutan. Facilitating the safe arrival of the vaccination in country and the vaccination process itself, is time-consuming and costly. Your help enables ACCF to continue our life-saving program in Bhutan

Travel Dates

Other Challenge Costs

Optional Single Supplement:USD$140 
Minimum Charity Donation/Fundraising:USD$1600 

Fast Facts

Trip Dates: DepartReturn
 8 Nov 202019 Nov 2020
Duration:14 Days
Activities:Trekking
Adventure touring
Charity projects
Grade:Introductory to Moderate  Click for more information
Trip Code:AF21
Registration Fee:USD$200
Travel Cost:USD$200

The Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation has one clear goal – to eliminate cervical cancer. Through their programs in Australia and the developing world, they’re helping women and girls access the protection they need to avoid this deadly disease, while enabling treatment for those already affected and facing related health issues.