Taktsang Lhakhang - The Tigers Nest

2007/08 Asia Trip Itinerary | Home Page 2 of 2 | Page Up

Our last day in Bhutan dawned gloomy and unpromising for our ascent to Tigers Nest but as we approached the sun broke through


We commenced our climb at 7.00am, at that time only Bhutanese were on the path.  Many were climbing with children and babies strapped to their backs and even younger babies in their arms.  Others were hauling up luggage as they would be making a retreat at a monastery even higher up than Tigers Nest

View from the teashop

Three minutes later
Tigers Nest is the most recognizable of Bhutanese monasteries.  It clings to a cliff at 10,300 feet above sea level and 2,500 feet above the Paro Valley.   The original monastery was built on this amazingly inaccessible site in 1692.   Three hundred or so years later it was devastated by a fire started by a lightning strike or an overturned butter lamp, nobody knows for sure.  With government help the  restoration began in 2000 and it was consecrated in March 2005

Sitting in the tea shop part way up the mountain we should have had our first good look at Taktsang Lhakhang, it's up there somewhere.   Over a cup of tea with biscuits we discussed the climb.  Barbara decided to go no further,  I was going for sure and Raine was desperate to go too.  Although she has been a hiker for many years in the rarefied air of Calgary she has asthma and this would be a challenge for her 

Three minutes later Tigers Nest hove into view and we set off


This little wayside chorten is built over a cave

Someone had thoughtfully provided a ladder so the faithful could post offerings through the window
The path was very hard going, we had to climb above our goal to get around the gorge, then a long flight, 498  steep steps with no handrails down to a bridge across a waterfall.   Only to be faced with 254 more going back up and yes I did count them

Slowly but surely we climbed.  Forty five minutes after leaving the tea shop we reached this lookout point above the monastery  

It is spectacular and truly lived up to all the hype,  although it is hard to accept what lay before us was so recently re-built

Some of the later starters had caught us up, some took their photos and headed back down, another item crossed off their bucket list  

But we were determined to continue, we had come that far, we knew we could do it

This photo of a hermitage and Shelkar Zar waterfall is my last picture before we descend

When we reached  the monastery we had to leave our cameras at the gate.  I had hoped we would be able to take photos in the outside areas but alas no

We removed our shoes and entered, to discovered 102  more stairs over multi levels 

We visited several temples and a cave where Guru Rinpoche. who brought Tantric Buddhism to Bhutan is said to have meditated

In our final temple we received a blessing from the gentle Abbot

Time to head back, the steps winding around and up would take us to the path down thorough the pine forest.  I can't say the prospect of another 752 steps was very enticing especially as almost 500 of them were going up.  But once we dealt with the steps it was quicker going down than coming up'

Bhim and I back at the overlook.  Our lovely patient Bhim who would take some teasing from the other guides over the length of time his party took to complete the hike.  Five hours and 34 minutes,  it may be a record. We know this because Bhim had timed us on his cell phone, even here we can't escape them

While these monks cheerfully modeled monastic headgear they told us it is the dream of every Bhutanese to visit Taktsang Lhakhang once in his lifetime.   It was a privilege to be able to join them
Back where we started, in the woods with the prayer flags, the sounds of running water
And the constant turning of the prayer wheel housed in this chorten in it's woodland setting.
Later the indefatigable Bhim led the way to Drukyel Dzong, The Fortress of Victory

Built to commemorate  the victory of the Bhutanese over a combined Tibetan and Mongolian army.   It once contained the countries first armoury but in 1951 yet another butter lamp was responsible for the gutting of yet another dzong.  What remained of the ancient armaments were move to Ringpung Dzong
Next morning we said goodbye to the eccentric legacy of The Divine Madman and headed for the airport where once again we contrived to be first in line at check-in for the  flight to Kathmandu..  Sitting in our window seats on the right hand side of the cabin we enjoyed being up above clouds alongside 4 of the 5 highest peaks on earth
2007/08 Asia Trip Itinerary | Home Page 2 of 2 | Page Up