Dutch policy advisor on sustainable development, Guido Van Enckevort, has completed a two-week cycling tour of Bhutan. Van Enckevort had an extraordinary desire to visit Bhutan after seeing a picture of his economics teacher’s tour to the country during his last high school class. His journey began on March 25, 2022, and he cycled into Bhutan on February 21, 2023, coinciding with the birth anniversary of the King.
Van Enckevort’s goal was to learn from Bhutan’s sustainable development policy and bring back lessons to his country. He said that Bhutan is the only country left on the planet that has good environmental preservation policies and is a carbon-neutral country. Guido said he researched Bhutan and even read the book “The Raven Crown” to learn more about the country.
While in Nepal, Van Enckevort met some people from Kathmandu, who gave him the phone number of the Prime Minister of Bhutan. He then contacted the Prime Minister and explained his motives for visiting the country. After a long journey of discussion, the Prime Minister allowed him two weeks to travel freely within Bhutan. Guido said, “It was a huge gift, free to go, stand, and cycle wherever I wanted, without a guide and obligation to stay overnight in government-designed hotels and waived off Sustainable Development Free (SDF).”
During his cycling tour, Guido chose to spend his time at homestays and guest houses to help the community members he visited make a profit. Guido said that the most special part of long-distance cycling is the connections he made with Bhutan’s fresh environment. He added that with each mile he cycled, he could feel the wind, gradient, and surface of the road, immersing himself in the environment.
When asked which places piqued his interest in visiting Bhutan, Guido said that Bumthang was the most sacred place in Bhutan that he wanted to visit, followed by Punakha, Paro, and Gantey. He made it to these places and exited from Phuentsholing on March 7.
Guido expressed his fascination with Bhutan’s untouched, pristine, and beautiful forests. He said that in his country, only one-fourth of the forest is left, which gave him new energy to go back to the Netherlands and fight for climate change.
Guido said that he had written letters to the Bhutanese government for the past two years, and after so much preparation, his long-awaited cycling trip to Bhutan was finally fulfilled. He decided to travel to Bhutan by bicycle because he wanted to learn from other countries, such as India, Nepal, and Pakistan.
Guido said that everything seemed to come together, and he felt honored and privileged. After months of sending letters, talking, explaining, consulting every contact, trying every entrance, he said, “It finally paid off.” He thanked everyone who had helped him during his journey, including the Allen family, Vianney and Ayshanie, Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering, Secretary Lotey Tenzin, the efforts of honorary consul Phuntshok Chhoden, the tips of Jan Knaapen and family, and the divine intervention of Kali.
Guido said that the cycling tour was a unique and immersive experience that took him beyond the tourist hotspots and into the heart of local communities. With its rich culture and unpolluted environment, Bhutan inspired Guido, and he wants the people of Bhutan to continue their sustainable practices and teach the world.
Nidup Lhamo and Sangay Rabten from Thimphu