Trip of a life­time to Bhutan

The Tribune (NZ) - - TERRACE END -

When Trav­els­mart owner Michele Gullery was in­vited on an ed­u­ca­tional trip to north-east In­dia and Bhutan she imag­ined she would be well out­side her com­fort zone. But in­stead it turned out to be the trip of a life­time and one she can’t wait to re­peat.

Michele, who owns Trav­elS­mart at Terrace End, was one of 12 travel agents from around New Zealand in­vited on the trip.

The group started their 12-day tour by fly­ing into Kolkota which, with a pop­u­la­tion of 16 mil­lion, was some­thing of an eye-opener.

Beau­ti­ful tem­ples pro­vided a stark con­trast to the poverty of the peo­ple.

Vis­it­ing Bhutan was a real high­light of the trip for Michele.

‘‘The peo­ple of Bhutan are known in­ter­na­tion­ally as the hap­pi­est peo­ple in the world and they are a very re­laxed and happy peo­ple.’’

The coun­try­side has plenty of lush veg­e­ta­tion and clean, clear rivers that flow down from the Hi­malayas.

‘‘Sur­pris­ingly Bhutan is cleaner and greener than New Zealand.’’ Paro Tak­t­sang, also known as Tiger’s Nest, is a prom­i­nent Hi­malayan Bud­dhist sa­cred site and the tem­ple com­plex lo­cated in the cliff­side of the up­per Paro val­ley in Bhutan. It’s an 8-hour round trip and those wish­ing to visit, need to book in ad­vance. It was a breath-tak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for the group.

‘‘You can’t just turn up and walk to the tem­ple. Be­cause it is at 3150 me­tres you have to al­low a few days to ac­cli­ma­tise as al­ti­tude sick­ness is a real con­cern,’’ says Michele.The group also vis­ited the world’s largest statue of Bud­dha in Thimpu and the sa­cred Khecheopalri Lake which is the high­est lake in the world.

‘‘It’s a very sa­cred place and very calm­ing. You could feel your stress just slip­ping away.’’

Michele is look­ing for­ward to es­cort­ing a tour back to Bhutan next year which will also take in Nepal and north-east In­dia.

‘‘This tour was one of the most en­light­en­ing ones I have been on and I can’t wait to go back.’’

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