Young Bhutanese Birders from Thimphu trek to Jumolhari to explore the Himalayas
At the peak of spring this year, a group of 24 students from Druk School, mainly members of the school’s Young Bhutanese Birders (YBB) club, embarked on a trek to the base camp of Mt. Jumolhari to experience an exhilarating and unforgettable exploration of the Himalayas.
Jumolhari (7315 meters) is the second highest unclimbed peak in the world. It straddles the Tibetan border of China and the Thimphu district of Bhutan. The mountain is considered sacred to Buddhists who believe that it is the abode of a female protector goddess that protect the lands, the Buddhist faith and the local people.
On the journey to the Jumolhari base camp, the young explorers walked continuously for 2 days through thick conifer and rhododendron forests, stopping to spot birds and notice the many wonderful species of plants and flowers. “I had only ever seen a red rhododendron in my life. I never realized that there were so many different kinds of rhododendrons in Bhutan”, said Tshering Lhaden, a grade 11 student who joined this trek to venture out of Thimphu and experience a new environment. The group also excitedly marveled at their first-time sights of yaks, marmots, and cordeyceps, a unique and exotic mushroom that only grows at altitudes between 4000 to 5000 meters above sea level. However, the pinnacle encounter for the entire group was seeing the exquisite and rare blue poppy for the first time. “The highlight of the trek was seeing our national flower up close. I will never forget that sight for the rest of my life”, said Tshering Wangchuk, an avid member of the Druk School YBB club.
During their 2-day stay at the base camp, the young explorers continued to experience a number of unprecedented and breathtaking sights that completely captivated them. “The long and tiring trek up to the camp was worth everything because for the first time in my life, I saw snow-capped mountains, glacial lakes, beautiful big waterfalls and experienced a true sense of peace”, said Tashi Namdrel Tobgay, a grade 11 student who decided to join this adventure with the goal to challenge his aversion for walking long distance. After returning from this trip, Tashi and other students from Druk School organized a clean-up of the trekking route to Takstang (Tiger’s nest monastery) and participated in many other similar cleaning campaigns.
A smaller group of students also ventured further to visit Lingzhi Primary School, a school located in the remote village of Lingzhi, to gift a donation that was collected from the students and faculty of Druk School. The donation comprised of stationary, warm jackets, caps, footballs, track suits, and sanitary pads. This was initiated by the school faculty to encourage students to practice compassion in their daily lives.
Sonika Rai, the club coordinator of Druk School’s YBB club and one of the two teachers who organized this trip expressed that she was stunned at how motivated the students became after the trip to Jumolhari. She said, “The first thing that I noticed was that they aren’t on their phones as much as they were before the trip. Many of them also participated or organized different cleaning campaigns around Thimphu on their own without any instruction or encouragement from the teachers. We had organized this trip to allow our students to connect to nature but we did not expect it to inspire wonderful changes in their personal character”. Sonika believes that outdoor activities like this trip are a great way to expose young Bhutanese children to the pristine nature that surrounds them and in effect elevate their level of awareness and connection to the environment.
Druk School is planning a second trip this October to visit the Jumolhari Mountain festival.
Young Bhutanese Birders (YBB) is a youth bird-watching program started by WWF Bhutan in 2016 to encourage young Bhutanese children to connect to nature. WWF Bhutan has launched 10 clubs in the country so far. The Druk School YBB club was the first club to be launched.
Morning's silence broken by chirping birds on the first light
The glazing starts, and the gleaming sky made me love the night
The unyielding journey taught us what we could take
By seizing this mountain and shoring the giant lake
We came back changed and content, longing to go back again
- Tshering Wangchuk, YBB club member, Druk School