left yaksam which lies at 1800m at 8.30 and headed north towards the Khangchendzonga nature reserve, as we walked through the village, we passed the sacred Kathok lake, which was surrounded by large Alnus nepalensis, Englehardtia spicata and red-flowering Rhododendron Arboreum ssp arboreum, just past the lake on our right was a large area cleared for growing cardamom, but on the left of the path there are small plants of Rhododendron niveum and a Hydrangea spp, as we pass through the back-end of the village, lots of wild plants start to come into play some of them i recognise, Ficus roxburghii, what seems like Eriobotrya elliptica and a Albizzia spp but with the vast majority i’m at a loss, all of the plants as we make our way up would not be hardy in our country so identification is a problem, as we leave the village there are more and more signs of the recent earthquake, we have to cross massive landslides which have sheer drops down into valley below, we cross several bridges, before our guide(Dawa) tell us its time for lunch, the sight hes picked is next to a very small stream which has Mahonia napaulensis growing next to it, the area is very boggy and all the mahonias are about to flower, as we head towards our final bridge of the day i see my first Rhododendron grande with many near it damaged from a landslide from here we climb for 4 hours, from the bridge to Tsokha we pass giant magnolias globosa (im told), Toona ciliata, Rhododendron arboreum ssp arboreum, at Bakkim(2750m) there are large Rhododendron grande growing near the trekkers huts, as we arrived at Tsokha, i could see large Rhododendron falconeri with its wonderful large leaves with thick rust coloured indumentum underneath and Rhododendron arboreum ssp arboreum growing together, there was also Rhododendron barbatum, Pieris formosa, several Magnolias and some Berberis concinna/hookeri?
Saw several good sized Daphne bholua as we climbed towards our first proper Rhododendron forest, we are aiming to reach Phedang trekkers camp(3550m) for lunch, the Forest is full of Rhododendron falconeri, Rhododendron hodgesonii, Rhododendron barbatum, Rhododendron triflorum, large Magnolias and Abies spectablis which has a masses of various epiphytes growing on them(ferns, rhodos), seeing my first forest was amazing with all the wonderful twisted trunks with there red/brown peeling bark, as we reached Phedang, we saw our first Rhododendron thomsonii, Rhododendron lanatum and a possible Rhododendron campylocarpum, plus many wild rosa spp, after lunch we continued up to Dzongri (3950m) passing masses of Rhododendron thomsonii, Rhododendron lanatum, Primula sikkimensis and several battered Sorbus spp, after awhile Rhododendron fulgens took over with smaller Rhododendrons like anthopogon, nivale and lepidotum as ground cover.
spent the day acclimatizing and looking around the camp for anything different, there was the same Rhododendrons that we passed on the way into camp plus lots of Primula ssp, i also found Gaultheria hookeri with its wonderful blue berries growing underneath Rhododendron anthopogon, ive been told by my guide that anthopogon is used as incense, im not surprised as the smell of the foliage is wonderful.
the trek today is mostly straight and then after an hours decent into prek chu valley for lunch we head gently up until we reach Thangshing(4000m), we passed masses of dwarf rhododendrons plus Juniperus recurva with Primula ssp all around, Rhododendron fulgens continued to dominate with the gnarlled Sorbus ssp showing its autumn colouring, i saw Bergenia ssp with its lovely red autumn leaves growing just in from the pathway, soon we reached the valley which leads down to the prek chu river Rhododendron fulgens gives way to a massive forest of Rhododendron hodgesonii, seeing all the trunks all twisted and peeling was mind-blowing, there was a small amount of Rhododendron cinnabarinum , Rhododendron lanatum and Rhododendron anthopogon var album, after lunch we made our way to Thangshing, the forest mostly contained Abies spectablis, Sorbus species with the forementioned Rhododendrons, as we approached thangshing the dwarf rhododendrons took over again with Gaultheria hookeri and several other alpines
headed towards Simati lake(4200m), all the usual suspects, Rhododendrons fulgens, anthopogon, nivale, plus Rosa spp one with a lovely canary yellow flowers, as we reached base camp a shrubby Potentilla ssp(fruticosa var rigida?) took over, after lunch had a good look around found lots of primulas and many of the already seen rhodos, saw blue sheep for the first and only time
After a day retracing our steps down to the prek chu camp, we set of early morning through the forest of Rhododendron hodgesonii, we also see Rhododendrons thomsonii and triflorum with what looks like a natural hybrid, there is also , Abies spectablis, Betula utilis and Acer campbelli both of which are rather sorry looking whenever we come across them, the forest goes on for what seems like a lifetime mile upon mile of twiated peeling Rh hogdesonii trunks, we have lunch at phedang and then down to Tsokha
Return journey to Yaksam, i awoke at 5.30 to the beautiful sight of the sun lighting up the mountains, have breakfast and leave, we pass all the wonderful plants that we saw on the way up plus this time we managed to see a group of white monkeys playing in the trees, the journey down is as hard as it was on the way up and by the time we reach Yaksam i am shattered, its good to be back to a hot shower, shave and a change of clothes but im already missing the forest and its amazing plants,theres still so much more to see and i’m already planning in my mind my return trip
I would like to thank Dawa my guide from Hidden Paradise Adventure Tours for his advice and understanding, the cook whose name i was never given for his outstanding culinary skills, all the porters who grafted and made my life easier