“Life has many twists and turns – similar to trails old and new.”

The earliest records of the traditional trail linking together what is now the Kingdom of Bhutan, dates back to the 16th and 17th Centuries. Likely the trail existed long before that, weaving it’s way through deep river valleys and over mountain passes. Over generations the trail has been used for many purposes. Religious leaders brought Buddhism to the region. ‘Garps’ the legendary messengers of the Dzong Dak Route, raced along the trails day and night. Armies and explorers, pilgrims, traders and tax collectors utilized the track. And generations of Monarchs regularly travelled the country visiting Dzongs and meeting with the people. For hundreds of years, the trail was a connector and symbol of National Unity.

In the 1960’s and 70’s the trail was replaced by the National Highway, and a treacherous journey that could take weeks, was reduced to a few days. During this process about 1/3 of the original route was subsumed and much of the rest became overgrown and un-walk able. For many, this is very unfortunate. Though Bhutan is keen to become a more developed nation, there is a strong sense that heritage and tradition are also important. And so, there is now an exciting initiative afoot to rejuvenate this trail.

The Bhutan Canada Foundation, Chaired by Sam Blyth and several senior Bhutanese leaders are very much in support of this project. My husband, Stephen Couchman and I were invited to support the initiative in catalyst capacities. Our job is to provide guidance by way of best practices and personal experience. We will be working closely with the National Steering Committee and local teams to further develop trail standards, stewardship, communication, promotion, education and sustainability.

We arrived into Bhutan early October and have hit the ground running! We are so excited about this initiative and are truly honoured to be involved. To date, we have packed up our lives in Canada and settled into our new home in Thimphu (the capital of Bhutan). We are extremely grateful for the warm welcome we have received here including from the Tourism Council of Bhutan; which is housing the project. We have met with several stakeholders and a three-month work plan has been developed which will get us started on a journey with the intent of starting a robust travel schedule for November to meet local leaders, stakeholders across the 355km of the trail.

A website will be up and running in the next few months. In the mean time, please contact me at catherine@bhutancanada.org if you would like to learn more about the project and/or get involved!

For travel information about Bhutan please log onto www.goodkarmatravels.bt