I looked out of the window of a chilly hotel room in Bumthang and there I saw what I was hoping I wouldn’t see: it was raining heavily.

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Photo credit: tourofthedragon.com

We had come to the town of Bumthang, at just under 3,000 metres of altitude, a few days earlier. Bumthang is right in the middle of the small mountain kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalaya mountains. The country is famous for trying to achieve ‘Gross National Happiness’, and if you ever have a chance to visit this country, I would fully recommend you to do so. When visiting Bhutan as a tourist, you have to engage with a travel company that will organize your travel, transport and hotel bookings, for a fixed fee per day, set by the Government.

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photo credit: bhutantreksandtours.com

We had come to Bumthang from Thimphu, the capital of the Kingdom, over a treacherous road through the mountains. This would be exactly the route we would use during the race, but then in the opposite direction, so I tried to pay attention and remember all the details of the road. I was trying to remember every site where there were roadworks, but after a few hours I gave up, as there were just too many. There were long stretches of dirt road, with many potholes.

“I really hope it doesn’t rain”, I was thinking, “that would turn the road in a mud bath”. But there it was, the morning of the start: rain. We would start at midnight; the rain stopped around midday, but there would be no time for the roads to dry up anymore.

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A glimpse of race day, photo credit: tourofthedragon.com

It had been dry the few days before, with the sun shining and a really pleasant temperature. The organisers organized some visits for the participants on our bikes to a temple and some other touristic sites. It was a real fun outing, and a chance to get to know some of the fellow competitors.

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Sightseeing, the Prince in white in the middle, photo credit: tourofthedragon.com

Really cool is that the Prince of Bhutan is a keen mountain biker and he took us around to see these sites, on his bike as well. He was riding a Specialized, specifically designed for him, with some cool “Bhutanese” markings, including a dragon. He would not be riding the race this year, but we would see him once in a while along the way, fully supporting the race.

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The Bike of the Prince, photo credit: own photo

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And here is my Specialized, ready for the race (but without any dragons ;-)), photo credit: own photo

Below a little more information on the race, keep on the lookout for my next post on the race itself!!!!!

The Tour of the dragon
The Tour of the Dragon is an annual MTB race (held around September) in the exotic country of Bhutan in the Himalaya region. The 268mkm race starts in Bumthang, central Bhutan (2610 m, 8560 ft), and takes you to Thimphu across 4 mountain passes. There are many numbers floating around in regard to the total elevation, but I think it is around 4,000 meters. Expect to do a lot of climbing on extremely long, gradual climbs, with amazing views, in a magic landscape.

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For more information: http://www.tourofthedragon.com