On your travels sometimes it’s not about the destination where you end up finally, but the mishaps and memories you create along the way. Those (mis)adventures actually become your best travel stories! And so i recollect today an unforgettable trek during our Bhutan visit a couple of years back. A sojourn in Bhutan — or Drukyul, the Land of the Thunder dragon as it is locally known — is a memorable experience for any traveller. Our week long tour of the western part of Bhutan had taken us around some famous ‘dzongs’, gompas and breathtakingly beautiful natural vistas. (Just a note here: most tourists do this circuit ~ Thimpu, Paro, Haa, Phodrang, and Punakha since it is the more developed part of the country as opposed to the lesser explored, ‘wilder’ eastern districts.) The highlight of our stay at Paro was to be the trek to Taktsang, also known as Tiger’s Nest or Tiger’s Lair. All our friends who had been to Bhutan had urged us to keep it on our must-do-in-Bhutan-list and so we had dedicated one day for it.
It was the month of October and as per our local guide the weather was unexpectedly chilly for that time of the year. Paro is situated in the valley of Paro Chu (i.e. Bhutanese for river or water) with a pretty high altitude of 7000 feet and Taktsang is located on a precipitous cliff another 3000 feet above. Our guide also told us that Taktsang is considered one of the holiest sites in Bhutan. According to local legend, Guru Rinpoche (also called Guru Padmasambhava and revered as the ’Second Buddha’ in Bhutan) arrived here in the seventh century on the back of a flying tigress, a form assumed by his consort to help him subdue the local demon. He took shelter in a series of caves where he meditated for three years and then spread Tantric Buddhism among the Bhutanese. They say when the monastery was first built, it was anchored to the rocky precipice by the hairs of celestial beings. (Believe me when you actually see it so precariously perched on that rocky outcrop you can’t help but wonder if some other-worldly power built it there!!). Historians tell you that the buildings we see today have been re-built many times over since the first monastery stood there, the last re-construction dating to 2005 after the previous structure was gutted in a fire in 1998. All this still does not take away from the awe Tiger’s Nest inspires.
Armed with all this and a host of other information, the four of us (my husband and me and another couple friend) were all excited about the trek we were to undertake.
(The morning of the trek and the rest of the story…for tomorrow!)