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Sunday, 30 June 2019

Climbing to Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan - Page 3

Written by Dale Fehringer
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From our hotel in Paro, it’s a short drive to the parking lot where the hike to Tiger’s Nest begins. Even at 8:00 AM there is a lot of action: vendors setting up souvenir stands, women leading horses (which provide an alternative as far as the café for those who can’t hike), guides getting their groups organized, and locals carrying supplies. We walk through it and start our ascent.

The way up is on a dirt trail, shared by hikers and horses. The weather is chilly, but eventually the sun breaks through the clouds and it warms. We start at around 8,000 feet, and climb up another 1,000 feet, stopping often to catch our breath. There are other hikers on the trail with us from all over the world, and we are all excited. After about two hours we arrive at a small cafe, where we sip tea, and stare up the hillside to Tiger’s Nest.

Taktsang Lhakhang (Tiger’s Nest), is Bhutan’s most famous landmark. It is also the country’s most religious site. It dates from 1692 when legend has it that Guru Rinpoche (the second Buddha of Bhutan) flew on the back of a tigress and meditated in a cave in the side of a mountain. After three years, the Guru began the process of converting the people of Bhutan to Buddhism. On that spot a temple was built, and despite some fire damage over the centuries, it stands today, perched on the side of the mountain. The cave and the temple are now considered sacred sites, and most people from Bhutan and religious figures from around the world come to meditate there.

As we resumed hiking the air grew even thinner, and we frequently stopped and gasped for air. Tiger's Nest grew larger and clearer as we got closer, and we could better see the scope of the temple clinging to the side of the mountain. As we drew near, the trail began to descend, heading down a ravine, then turned into a final uphill segment to the entrance. That last uphill portion was a challenge, but as the goal drew near we pushed on.


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Security at Tiger’s Nest is tight, and we had to leave our cameras, cellphones, bags, and shoes in lockers outside. The complex consists of three temples, each filled with religious icons. We climbed up and down several levels within, admiring the colorful details and gasping at the amazing views back down the mountain. We walked to a spot deep inside the temple to see the cave where the Guru meditated. It was cold, and there was a sense of spirituality and peace.

Nom Gay told us about the people who built the temple (carrying the supplies up the mountain), and the deities and saints represented inside, and we watched as other visitors prostrated themselves and prayed in this holiest of shrines.

There is something special about spending effort to get to a sacred place. We had studied about it, and anticipated it, and as the arrival date got closer, we worried it might not live up to its hype. But the minute we entered the temple we were awed. There is an aura about Tiger’s Nest; a sense that it is not completely of this earth. We’re not Buddhists, but we felt comfortable – cleansed, and purified. And we felt certain that it will always be there; always a place to leave one’s troubles behind and connect with a higher power.

After our tour we headed back down the trail, proud of making it to the temple, fascinated by what we had seen, and purified. The trip down was much easier than the one up, and we stopped in the cafe for lunch and discussed what we had seen. We now knew why Tiger’s Nest is such a popular tourist site. It’s one of the most difficult to get to and one of the holiest places we’ve seen. As we headed back to our tour van we knew we had been changed. It was an amazing experience we will not forget.


© Dale Fehringer

(Page 3 of 3)
Last modified on Monday, 01 July 2019

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