Today was both a difficult day physically and mentally but also highly rewarding. We walked up to the famous Taktsang Monastery aka Tigers Nest Monastery. It sits around 1000m above the valley floor and is at an altitude of around 3000m, the altitude is what made the walk a challenging one.
We started off in lovely forested woods with a steady incline before the steepness hit. A couple of times I was shown a shortcut, which was basically a steeper but shorter track. I refused most of them, as it was really starting to hurt and breathing was difficult. The walk is done in legs so the first leg is about half way and stops at a restaurant for views of the monastery. I managed to get there and slowly sipped on a cup of coffee. The views were shrouded in cloud. My head was hurting and I really thought I should not continue. I know I’m no male model, but always thought I was relatively fit, but this walk was testing me.
I decided to continue on without sharing my doubts. The second part of the walk continues up to well over 3000m of altitude and above the Tigers nest, then a traverse to a high lookout. Now for the thousand steps down to well below the Tigers nest, past a waterfall and back up again. The steps were not too bad, the inclines were manageable and steps were not too big or small. When I finally made it I realised the return journey was going to be a lot easier.
Inside the monastery are various temples and caves, none of which can be photographed with strict entry conditions. I needed to wear my polar fleece to cover my arms, and I could carry nothing but my wallet (I assume they hope tourists will donate money to Buddha). I suggested to Noel it’s a false economy, the locals pay little taxes, but donate a lot at temples, and some of that money goes to the government. In some ways its great because they are happy to donate it and then the government doesn’t need to tax as much.
We walked back down and up the steps and that was the hardest part left, unless you hate descents, which can be a knee/hip killing exercise. We stopped at the restaurant for lunch and a well earned rest, before we continued on the steep descent, via the Bhutanese escalators aka short cuts. At the bottom, I decided to not buy a 1kg brass dragon, even though I so desperately wanted it.
We then visited the Paro Dzong, which I asked for the quick tour with no temple visits as I’ve seen a few in my week here. Meanwhile Noel decided to take a kip outside but was sleeping too near the flag and was asked to move on by the guards. Luckily it is not a serious offence in Bhutan! I also have to make use of capitals in my blog post as Noel so helpfully pointed out last night.
We finished the day wandering Paro looking at brass dragons and deciding not to buy them. One last thing, I felt like I was in one of my favourite TV shows Monkey Magic, with our guide Tenzin being the ever spiritual Tripitaka, I naturally was Monkey cause he has a staff and so do I and monkeys and I are very similar. Noel can decide if he wants to be Piggsy or Sandy. Although whistling for a cloud clearly does not work even in Bhutan, another case of TV making things up ☺ For the memories https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAbE36IBTZY