Chukha is the powerhouse of Bhutan where numerous glacial rivers originating from the Himalayas swiftly flows down through varied topography to provide the optimal condition for hydroelectricity generation. Chukha Hydroelectric Plant is thus the first and major hydel power plant in Bhutan constructed under Indo- Bhutan treaty in the Chimakoti village on the banks of the Wang Chhu. It has a perennial supply of water with the joining of tributaries from Thimphu, Paro and Haa Valley.
The plan to visit Chukha was again to make a good use of our extra day that we unwillingly saved again on this trip. (Read my previous post to know how we saved a day.) Our Bhutan trip was our first such planned trip that suddenly went unplanned and thus became even more beautiful and memorable. I too believe that unplanned trips turn out better than the planned.
Chukha power plant is located on the way to Phuentsholing, towards the Southern part of Bhutan. So this can again be an opportunity to see the southern part of the country and experience the low altitude environment with the topography and the wildlife. We could not manage to make to the central and eastern part of the nation so this can be a little saviour.
We started from Paro and drove through the Chuzom towards the Phuentsholing road. Here we were stopped by traffic police to inform about the Indo-Bhutan car racing competition on this road. He said in case of any rash driving or any untoward incident the driver will be tracked and penalised. So our car and the driver details were noted and then he instructed us to carry on, prompting “gelo bejo” (go slow).
No sooner I heard about the car racing I kept my eye wide open focusing on the road to catch a glimpse of the racing cars. I was in excited as well as terrified to think of car racing in such narrow, winding roads without disrupting the normal traffic flow. I salute the adventurous spirits of the car races participating in this event. The starting destination was Phuentsholing and the final destination was Thimphu.
After a long way we suddenly encountered a Mahindra Scorpio followed by a Chevrolet Tavera racing towards Thimphu. They had the stickers of Indo-Bhutan car racing attached to their cars. Supposedly they would be the first and the second position holder as we did not see any other car for a long.
Meanwhile, we drove through low altitude forest region and sighted many birds and continuous chirping and tweeting all through the road. Some waterfalls and unnamed stupas were also seen beside the road. We also saw the bridge under construction that would cut short the journey time from Haa Valley to Phuentsholing by 4 hours.
Thus through the green curves, we reached the main gate of the Chukha hydel city. There was a check post and our car was stopped. Our guide went to show our existing permit that was only for Punakha, Bumthang and Haa region. He requested the concerned person to allow us within the city and narrated the details of our unplanned trip as the reason of not having the permit for Chukha.
Even after a lot of persuasions, we were not allowed entry within this high-security area. He instructed to go beyond the hill from where we can get a view of the city and the power plant. This is when we again spotted few racing cars trying to complete the competition. I could manage to click the shot this time. It seemed to be difficult for these participants to cover up the huge distance to overtake the two that we left behind many many kilometres behind.
As instructed we drove to the other side of the hill. By then the bad weather has turned worse on this side of the nation. There were heavy thundershowers, we rushed to a restaurant nearby. The visibility was lowered to a bare minimum and we could not drive any further. This again provided us with an opportunity to stop for lunch in the restaurant which had the view of the hydel city of Chukha separated by a deep wide gorge with the river bed.
Peeking down from the wide windows to the farm below gave us the opportunity to spot many species of birds but the heavy rain played a spoiled sport. The birds quickly disappeared within the shades of the thick foliage. The clouds and the lowered visibility neither allowed us with a good view nor good pictures.
The weather looked precarious with streaks of lightning lighting the dark sky. We decided not to drive further but return back towards Paro. On our way back we were blessed with luck by the sight of the rare Tarai Grey Langur. A big family with infants in tow were forging on a big tree by the road.
Our guide spotted them first and informed about the local belief that sighting of these Tarai Grey Langur brings good luck and thus we were blessed by good luck while we ended our unplanned trip to Chukha.