Sakten Wildlife Sanctuary
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Yak Dancing with NomadsThe trek into Merek is a two day suffer-fest taking you over an 11,000 foot pass, across log bridges and into the roadless, remote world of Eastern Bhutan. It's the first leg in a 60 mile jaunt that seems all uphill. Ten travelers made it in during 2013, so it's not exactly accessible. All the more reason to go.
If you're lucky, the nomads will be in a festive mood and create a little party during your stay, complete with local yak cheese and "arra," a sake-like liquor they home-brew with available grains. The dancing and drinking starts in the afternoon and stretches through wonderful food and into the night.
Merek is perched at 10,000 feet in the heart of the Sakten Wildlife Sanctuary. Trails in range from creek beds to yak paths in places. Stupas, the iconic storerooms of the Buddhist faithful, are still intact and found all across the landscape, along with the occasional prayer wheel. Other smaller outposts spring up along the trekking routes and their welcoming locals are as foreign as it gets.
Only 56 outsiders have ventured into the area since it opened to tourism in 2010. The snowstorm in April during the climb over the 13,500 foot Nyakchung La pass could have made the way to the town of Sakteng, impassable. The valley after the pass had hillsides painted in red blooming rhododendrons. Think long and hard about becoming the 57th visitor to the Sanctuary. Our guides from Outlander Adviser know the territory. Make the commitment, it's bound to change you forever.