Friday, 17 May 2013

The Rhododendron Trail, an Arduous Hike worth a Hike.

This is a time when all the passes all over Bhutan are adorned with the blossom of rhododendron. Bhutan herself being a home to wide diversity of rhododendron, with species list as high as 46, the passes of Dochu la, Pele La, Yotong La, Thrumshing La, etc are the paradise of Rhododendrons. While such passes are in clear glimpse of every traveler, Bhutan has many ancient trails that are now least used, linking every valleys, and these trails too are offers a scenic glimpse of the glow of different rhododendrons, and one such trail is Khebethang-Rukha ancient trail in Wangdi Phodrang.

It was the third phase of remote camera trapping for tiger survey in Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park and our team was to station around eleven plots starting from Khebethang (13 Km from Phobjikha) towards Taksha following the Khebethang-Rukha ancient trail. It took us 10 days to station cameras in all the plots in an arduous hike of as many as 31 kms a day. However, the beauty of Rhododendrons that were in full blossom helped us relieve the pain that our leg endured and fatigue that our muscles borne. Even the beat of torrential rains and hailstones appeared blessing as we sit beneath the dropping branches of rhododendrons, hearing the splashes rain and hail but sighting the petals of rhododendrons fall.

Khebethang is located at an elevation of 2713 masl, and as you ascend upward for four hours, you will finally reach a pass at an elevation of 3669 masl, after which we have to again descend. It is in this range of elevation that the following rhododendrons species were found blooming.

  Rhododendron thomsonii,
Rhododendron arboreum,

 Rhododendron barbetum,


Rhododendron falconeri,

Rhododendron kesangaie,

Rhododendron hodgsonii,

Rhododendron cinnabarium

Rhododendron glaucophyllum.

There might be few others but not in blooming stage. With such diversity of rhododendrons, the trail has a potential to turn into an exciting eco-trail. However, the path being too steep and non-availability of water is a biggest constraint. For our team, besides successfully setting the camera traps, it was a wonderful expedition to be cherished from the spring of 2013.

So rightly, the Royal Botanical Park at Lampelri has also celebrated the first ever rhododendron festival in the country from 11th-13th May 2013.

P.S. The quality of photographs are poor as i used my cell phone to snap it. I tried to identify Rhododendrons at my best but if there are errors in naming the type of flower, kindly comment for rectification.

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