|That little speck is the Tiger's Nest Monastery|
See that little white spot up there? That's Taktsang, or the Tiger's Nest Monastery in Paro
, the most sacred site in all of Bhutan. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, the Indian saint who spread Buddhism across Bhutan, flew to the top of this cliff on the back of his consort, who took the form of a tigress. A monastery was built at the site in the 17th century. It hangs off the rockface dangerously at more than 3100m above sea level, and I demand to know why it's not a wonder of the world!
Trekking up to the monastery is one of the holiest pilgrimages that a Buddhist can undertake. Even if you're not spiritually inclined, it's an experience of a lifetime.
The trek will take a good part of a day, and I'd be lying if I said it's easy. But seriously, if I (lazy, unfit, somewhat asthmatic) can do it, literally anybody can. The first and last half hours are the hardest - the first is just starting trouble, and the last involves about 700 very steep steps. The rest of the time, you kind of settle into a comfortable pace. Ponies are available to take you up about one third of the way, but better avoided because they are not completely safe. Hiking poles are useful, and you can rent one at the base. We did the trek on the last day of our stay in Bhutan, so we were well acclimatized to the altitudes.
|One of the easier stretches of the climb|
About 1-1.5 hours into the climb, the cafeteria appears in the distance like an oasis! It's the only place in the trail where you can stop for refreshments or even a meal:
|That cluster of shacks is the cafeteria|
As you trudge on, you are treated to breathtaking views all around, and you can see the monastery slowly getting closer.
|This lucky cat lives in the cafeteria|
Sometimes, you can see it clearly, past the greenery:
|Past the greenery|
Sometimes you see it through the prayer flags:
|Through the prayer flags|
If it's spring, you can see it past the rhododendrons:
|Beyond the rhododendrons|
|Rhododendrons in full bloom|
Through the gaps in pine trees
|Through the gaps in pine trees|
Sometimes, very faintly, through the clouds
|Through the clouds|
At times, it seems close enough to touch
And then, finally, you make it! Photography isn't allowed inside the monastery, so I cannot show you what it's like inside, but it's incredibly spiritual and serene. It's the site Guru Rinpoche chose, to meditate for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours, and you're right there! Just the thought is amazing :) After making a wish at his altar, we began the long descent, which is harder than you'd think. Some parts can get very slippery, and keeping your balance can hurt your toes quite a bit. It was bittersweet - an absolutely beautiful trip was ending, but in the best possible way :)
|Holy water cascading down just before you reach the monastery|
Labels: Bhutan, Buddhism, Buddhist, Climb, Guru Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche, Hike, Himalayas, Kingdom, Paro, Pilgrimage, Shrine, Taktsang, Tiger's Nest Monastery, Travel, Trek