Our final adventure in Bhutan was most fittingly the most amazing. Monday morning we woke and had a hearty breakfast of fried rice and eggs from Chuniding Resort, and departed shortly thereafter, trying to get an early start on the day (Monday) for our hike up to Tiger’s Nest, located outside of Paro.
Thimpu behind us, we arrived at the parking lot far below Tiger’s Nest, having spotted the monastery clinging to the cliffs above some time before we even reached it. Dordgie had managed to secure a horse for Merrill, and Jean strapped Eleanor on her back, despite her bronchitis. We began our hike in a pine forest, though from the humidity it felt as if it should be a rain forest. We hiked up past the phallic fountains, up and up and up into the muddy switchbacks. Our little troupe marched along, Merrill astride a horse, our horsemaster leading her, and we dealt with the flies and poop from the horses as we pushed up through the forest, glimpses of Tiger’s Nest giving us a peep of our destination through the moss, the vines, the ever-increasing dense jungle.
We made it up to the cafeteria, and Jean, Amy and Merrill peeled off for a tea break while Kate, the boys, Eleanor and I pushed on up to Tiger’s Nest. Our quarry, in sight from the Cafeteria, was the Monastery of Tiger’s Nest, “Paro Taksang”, to which legend says a monk flew on a tiger, meditated for three months without food and water, and then drove out the demon who dwelt there before building (having had built? No one specifies whether these were subcontract jobs, highly suspect!) the Monastery that stands there today. This is nigh unbelievable; could you meditate for that long? What did the tiger (we’ll call him Hobbes) do while he was meditating? I bet it was hungry. And why did the demon stand by idly? Maybe it was like the Borg and didn’t consider him a threat. Anyways, monk Picard was able to alter the frequency of his mind phaser and drive this guy out. Done and done.
So while Jean, Amy and Merrill rejuvenated themselves on tea, Kate, Eleanor and the boys and I hike on up through the forest, moss hanging from the trees. We reached what felt like the top, and after a short traverse, we came to the edge of the gorge that separated us from Tiger’s Nest. A beautiful drop off was set with winding steps and a meandering path, allowing the intrepid traveler to pick their way down (now with railings!), cross a bridge in front of a beautiful cascade, and mount the steps on the other side to the Monastery. We snapped a few photos and continued.
The journey across took a good 20-30 minutes, and once Dordgie found out our pace, he urged us to hurry, as the monks’ lunch hour was 12:00-1:30, and it was almost 12 now. We made it up there around 11:45, and the guard took issue with Kate’s style of dress (shorts), so once she got changed and was approved, he promptly told us it was lunch hour. (!) Fortunately, Dordgie was able to convice the lot that a 30 minute lunch break would suffice, and we were able to tour the inner rooms. Ultimately, it was not worth it (waiting 30 minutes with rowdy boys), I mean really it was another statue, another bowl of water, but I can say I’ve been to Tiger’s Nest. I’m culturally calloused to these temples now, having been in Nepal for a year…it was the outside of the monastery that was the most beautiful to me, clinging the rock face like a lichen.
We descended shortly after entering, and made our way back to the other side of the gorge, down to the cafeteria, where we met Jean, Amy and Merrill (they had turned back at the gorge, hearing about the lunch break conundrum). Again, more Bhutanese food, and some of the spiciest chili peppers in cheese sauce I’d had yet! Then down to the parking lot and collapsing into the van. What an amazing hike!
We checked into our hotel that afternoon, had a brief respite, and then went to dinner at Hotel Zhiwa Linga where we met Lhaba and Lenny, and had an amazing meal. I even managed to score an excellent Weiss beer named “Red Panda.” After dinner, and a random photograph with the oldest tourist to visit Bhutan (an elderly German woman of 102 or so), we said our goodbyes and thanked L&L for such an amazing trip. Back to the hotel and the next day back to Kathmandu.
Adventure Bhutan was a success!