The 33-km route links Bumthang to Lhuentse through the old route

Tshering Namgyal | Lhuentse

Should there be trekkers wishing to explore and experience the spectacular old traditional east-central route from Lhuentse to Bumthang, the Rodongla trek is ready now.

Lhuentse dzongkhag has revived the approximately 33 km trekking route, perhaps the longest and the most exciting route. It is one the most prominent tourism products the dzongkhag developed as part of the tourism flagship programme. To make the old route pliable, the dzongkhag has installed 35 log bridges over streams, in marshy areas and some attached to rocky slopes with a smaller path.

Along the route are also four canopies at Tsaenkharpang in Tang gewog, at the top of Rodongla, at Gaphabsa and the last one at Sisingbrak near Ungar in Maedtsho gewog. A signboard welcomes trekkers at the entry points from Lhuentse and Bumthang. A 1.5km water source has also been developed at Sisingbrak in Ungar.

After the survey conducted some nine months ago, the route development work was awarded to locals of Maedtsho gewog through the community contract worth Nu 1.1 million.

Lhuentse dzongdag, Jambay Wangchuk said Rodongla trek is important for economic and cultural reasons. He explained that the trek will not only benefit locals, but also revive age-old traditions. “During the old days, this route was politically and economically important because most of the political figures were from the east: Lhuentse, Trongsa and Bumthang, and it was the only traditional highway that connects east to west. So, we wanted to revive it.”

The trekking route is divided into three segments at Thogmey, Primey and Ungar, from Bumthang to Lhuentse and each segment has a distance of 11 to 12km. The travelling time between each point is expected to take an average of six hours. The whole trek would take about three days.

Dzongdag Jambay Wangchuk said that the dzongkhag is thinking in terms of the post Covid-19 pandemic. “We will ready the product in advance and want to offer our tourists an exciting piece of experience of the scenic beauty of nature and the kind of life our forefathers experienced,” he said.

Rodongla pass is about 4,150m above the sea level and a concrete staircase that was built and used in the old days can be still visible today along the pass.

In relating to the steepness of the slope, there is a local saying which roughly translates to, “Rodongla is fair in making all equal. The master and the servants have to dismount their horse and walk   (Kidu Nyompey Rodongla, Gom Penyog meypa saley dro).” The steep climb starts at the base call Gaphabpsa where people riding horses dismount given the steepness of the climb. Dzongdag, Jambay Wangchuk said the trekking is one of the most spectacular and would provide an exciting and enriching experience.

Meanwhile, the two dzongkhags are working out on how to operate the route so that the benefits trickle down to local communities of two dzongkhags while keeping the service sustainable. Geographically, Gaphabsa is the border, according to election delimitation. However, dzongkhag officials said there should be a proper understanding developed between the two dzongkhags and in particular between Maedtsho gewog in Lhuentse and Tang gewog in Bumthang so that equal benefits are shared.

“We have asked the two gups to work out and to draw a certain memorandum of understanding. We’re also planning to work closely with the Tourism Council of Bhutan to ensure local tour guides, cooks and mules are employed for sustainability because maintenance has to be done every year and the beneficiaries must be bestowed with the responsibility,” dzongdag Jambay Wangchuk said.