Bhutan – we’re introduced to the city and culture by Rinchen


Reflections and memories of Bhutan – sharing scattered days of my amazing trek in Bhutan with Team Black Dog Institute: Waking up for our first full fay in Bhutan. I was shattered from a huge few days of travel and had gone to bed at just 8pm! We felt back to ourselves and ready for a big day. We packed our trekking bag and prepared for a short acclimatisation walk at 3200m and above today!

We were met by Rinchen our lovely guide and taken first to the city centre . Our first stop the Bank of Bhutan, we needed Ngutrum the local currency but it was also a fascinating experience seeing how day to day operations run.


Nic Newling and Rinchen practice selfies.

Then off to buy some essentials for our trip at a local supermarket, always a novelty. Our last local activity was the fruit and veg market. Unlike many other markets we had been to in other countries, this was calm and relaxed. We strolled around observing the local fruits and vegetables and smiling at the stall holders. We purchased some apples for our trek and then watched a presentation on sanitation by school children from a nearby school – beautiful!


On to the bus and we drove out of Thimpu valley along windy cliff teetering roads. We enjoyed the valley views and chatting amongst the team, quickly getting to know one another. We arrived at Dochula pass, 3150m.


We were amongst another beautiful sight, the Druk Wangyel stupa with more than 108 stupas built by the Queen Mother in 2002. We stood on top of a lookout and were greeted by a wonderful circular restaurant, Druk Wangyel Cafeteria. Our team rested with tea and coffee while admiring the spectacular views.

Time to trek! We walked up into the forest and continue on up, up, up for another 40 minutes. It was good to have this warmup and feel what it’s like to be at altitude. It certainly isn’t the same as walking at sea level and we gave ourselves some grace for being a little tired. The good thing is, while you stop to rest you can marvel at the forest surrounds, endless valley views and prayer flags flapping in the wind. We started at 3200m and at the highest point we reached 3500m.

The descent was certainly easier and we really soaked up our environment. If the area we will do our trek in is even half as beautiful as this one, we’re in for a spectacular six days! We reached the Buddhist stupa again and returned to the restaurant for another incredible meal! We then headed back to Thimpu in the afternoon sunshine again getting to enjoy such wonderful views.


In Thimpu we saw the king and his cavalcade of cars drive past. Quite a thrill. We then went for the second attempt at the Dzong Fortress. We made it in this time and were so glad we did. Beautiful brightly coloured paintings of Buddhist stories, incredible architecture and a wonderful setting in the heart of the valley. We attended a chanting ceremony of the monks in the temple of 1000 Buddhas and in the shadow of another giant golden Buddha. So spectacular.


I also decided my goal at the temple was to get the guards to have a cheeky smile and laugh with me. Come on guys! Look on the bright side! So I posed or waved with many of them – it was really fun and they had a good giggle too.


The afternoon was filled with shopping! Some people buying local outfits and traditional dress. Then onto a long strip of stalls and markets selling beautiful handicrafts. The items are so unique and truly Bhutanese that it was easy to quickly spend our cash. But so worth it to take a peace of this peaceful country home with us. Some haggling and joking made it a fun experience with the locals.

On then to a special cultural show organised by our wonderful local tour company. We go swept away into the culture and history of Bhutan as these women and men danced and sang so effortlessly before us. It was almost as If they were miming stages because we could not believe that these beautiful sounds could be coming from the people before us. We clapped loudly after each dance and were welcomed to join in on the last one, a spectacular experience.

Again the weary travellers had had an enormous day of activity. We went back to our hotel for a meal and stumbled across a Sweet 16th birthday party in the restaurant. We were invited to join in and sang to the birthday girl, enjoying the delicious birthday cake. Just another example of the beautiful nature of the people of Bhutan


Tomorrow, we begin our trek! The trek to happiness!! But to be honest…. We found it the moment we landed here.

This was Day 3, 10th October 2015, of our Inspired Adventures Bhutan Trek for Happiness, raising funds for Black Dog Institute.

This is an excerpt and my own images and note. Read the full blog at Inspired Adventures. 

I’m not Wonder Woman. Some days I have doubts. 

There are days when I doubt. Truly doubt what I am capable of. Am I doing the right thing? Is this my path? Why do I do what I do? 

Yes! This is a regular existential crisis I face. Because you know what, despite all my achievements and activities. I’m not Wonder Woman! 

art of the brick – DC Comics Lego Exhibition at Powerhouse Museum

I’m human. Humans are flawed. We are complex. We are beautifully messed up and complicated. And some days, I doubt!

I saw this quote the other day and it really helped me to put things in perspective and to remember that I can make a difference… Even in a small way. 

As R. Buckminster Fuller said:

“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.”

When I was in Bhutan, I had a beautiful your guide, Rinchen. His attitude and approach to life was refreshing! He said “be good and be kind”. This was his summation of Buddhism. Be good! 

You don’t have to be great, amazing, fantastic, and spectacular! You can be, and go for it!! Good on you – reach for the stars! That’s what my motto is all about this year. But most importantly, be good! 


“Believe in something bigger than yourself”
But believing in something bigger and greater, doesn’t mean I have to be SUPER DUPER amazing all the time!

   Bhutan, #trektohappiness with Black Dog Institute
As Rinchen said, we need to be good! Being a good person is actually an amazing thing. We must strive to be good, to ourselves, to our friends, and to the world – because there are so many things bigger than us.    Rinchen also posed the question we all went to Bhutan in search of answering “what is happiness”. We all leaned in …. What is it!!! 
 (Rinchen the wise)

“Happiness is making others happy. If you can make others happy. You will experience happiness. You must share happiness. This is what will bring you happiness in life”
 (Emma at the Tiger’s Nest Monastery)

As tears streamed down my face, these words sat with me and rang so true. This doesn’t mean I must forsake all self care and dedicate my life to others, but it does mean that I will “believe in something bigger than myself”.    (Rinchen sharing his beautiful Bhutan)
I can find happiness in the joy of giving and sharing with my fellow humans. It’s not all about me.

These words stay with me and in my moments of doubt, I will remember them. I am just one, but I can make a difference. I can make 10 other people smile, I can share my love and I can be happy. 

 (Tiger’s Nest monastery)

I hope this helps you too and in your moments of doubt, you can remember that you’re never alone and you are part of something greater and bigger.

If you are in need of support as you feel that your problems are bigger than you, speak to a friend or reach out to a service such as Black Dog Institute. I hope by sharing some of my own truths, fears and doubts can help others.

Be good, be kind, be happy. 

Emma is trekking to Happiness with Black Dog Institute

It’s time for me to take on another challenge! This time for a cause so close to my heart, Black Dog Institute – raising awareness about mental health.From the 8th-19th October, 2015, I’ll be embarking on the Black Dog Trek to Happiness through Inspired Adventures to raise funds for Black Dog Institute.

emma black dog
In 2005 I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which soon led to depression. It’s hard to think back and image how low, dark and sad my days were. It’s like slipping into a black hole and not knowing any way out. I was so fortunate at the time to have the love and support of my family, access to quality health care professionals through my school and a wonderful local GP who understood mental health. The Black Dog has come back to sit with me a few other times but after gaining skills and knowledge on how to manage my depression, I know that for the future, I will be ok and I can take this path to happiness.
It’s not like this for everyone. Some people don’t understand what mental health is and when they are in that black hole, don’t see the help they can receive to find a way out of the darkness. The wonderful work of Black Dog Isntitute is helping those in need and educating our community on mental health. With their support, individuals and families can learn how to cope and live with mental health.
I trekked to Machu Picchu with Black Dog Institute in 2012 with an amazing team raising more than $60,000. I met a fantastic guy on that trip, Rory Hayward who was passionate about mental health and the work of Black Dog Institute. In January 2013, Rory sadly passed away from a heart condition. In signing up for this trip, I used the motto his friends have formed “What Would Rory Do? (WWRD)”. I tribute this Trek to Happiness and my fundraising efforts to the memory of Rory.Each year, Black Dog Institute aims to advance the understanding, diagnosis and management of depression and Bipolar Disorder and improve the lives of those affected by these mood disorders. Please help me in my cause by donating through my page.

Thanks so much for your support of this wonderful organisation and yet another of my CRAZY adventures!

In October 2015, I will travel to Bhutan to Trek for Happiness! I will be personally raising $3500 for the work of Black Dog Institute. I wish to support those living with mood disorders and to break the stigma that surrounds mental health. Each year, Black Dog Institute aims to advance the understanding, diagnosis and management of depression and Bipolar Disorder and improve the lives of those affected by these mood disorders. Please help me in my cause by donating through my page.

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