This is how I Hiked to Tiger’s Nest!
I always say this that I enjoy small trails, village walks and several kilometers of walking in one go but trekking isn’t my cup of tea. I am more of a city person who has an eye for luxury and lifestyle. Thus, I call myself a comfortable traveler. If you ask me to walk for 5-6 kilometers to explore the city for its places to visit and hidden gems, I will be up for it but if you suggest me to do a trek, I might give up right there. Well, here comes an honest confession-The idea of trekking has always looked strenuous to me and that is why I have never tried attempting it. Second, I never owned an athletic body, so I never ventured into these adventure trails. And now after my ankle fracture, I have feared failure too. Thank God, my first hike happened in Bhutan and it helped me overcome many myths and fears of my mind.
Just out of engineering college in 2007, I had done my first spiritual hike to Mata Vaishno Devi in Jammu and it was quite a successful attempt. But after that, my travel itineraries have never consisted of any kind of trekking. A 5-kilometer hike around Sursingdhar near New Tehri was the last thing that had inspired me in 2015. But soon after I had fractured my left leg. All my aspirations to go on a trek that year went in vain. So when the 10-day trip took me to Bhutan last year, I was excited and nervous. I had read about Tiger Nest. I had seen its amazing pictures and I had a true desire to climb to its top. Of all these things, I also knew that it was not going to be easy.
My First Hike!
To prepare myself, I started gathering information. Every blog that I read suggested that I must trek to the most sacred monastery- Tiger’s Nest. I became all the more curious. While they mentioned it wasn’t very difficult, almost all of them said it was not going to be a cake walk. Many Indians preferred doing it half-way while others opted for horse rides. Some grabbed lunch at the cafeteria and returned back. The most tedious part was climbing the stairs. There were more than 700 steps to overcome before reaching the main temple at the top. Honestly, I was scared of that bit more than anything else.
Till the last day, I was unsure of completing it successfully. This looked like an exam to me. I was jittery. I was anxious about my fracture pain. I discussed strategies with my friends. Lastly, I even bribed God and promised to offer laddoos to Him for making me complete the trek without any ankle pain. Thankfully, everything worked out and I successfully completed it.
You may borrow my ‘Helpful Notes’.
Don’t take up this hike on the first day of your visit to Bhutan.
Light and easy breakfast is the key to success.
Carrying some chocolates, energy bites and drinks helped for sure but don’t make a heavy backpack.
Start as early as possible.
Wear a hat. Keep your sunglasses intact. It helps. I had forgotten to carry both.
Maintain your own pace but don’t be too slow.
I stopped to catch my breath whenever I was tired but I did not sit anywhere on the way.
The best part was hiking with my travel pals. While each one of us had a different speed, we ensured to encourage each other whenever needed. And we always had company.
This is where Buddhism first came to the country!
The trek base is situated nearly 6 miles north of Paro town. Tiger’s Nest Monastery is located on the side of a Himalayan mountain at 3,120 metres (10,240 ft), about 900 metres (3,000 ft) almost straight up. The city of Paro is already located at 7000 feet, so this makes Tiger’s Nest at 10,000 feet above sea level.
The monastery is the most sacred place in Bhutan because of two beautiful and spiritual stories connected to it. Guru Rinpoche “the Lotus-Born”, flew from Tibet on the back of a Tigress (wife) to take refuge. It is also said that Padmasambhava aka Guru Rinpoche had meditated in this cave for 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, and 3 hours. Guru Padmasambhava is famously known in Tibet as one of the founding fathers of Tibetan Buddhism. In many countries. He is also worshiped as the ‘
This is how I made my way…
Our car provided by Bhutan Bookings dropped us at the trek base. This is where most of the people start walking from. While the driver parked the car on the right, I could see a mini market of handicrafts and tricklets. I curiously walked to check it out but shopping was definitely not on my mind. The main focus was around hiking. I was looking for a walking stick and I easily found one for Rs. 50.
All geared up, it was time to start the walk upwards. The initial climb did not appear difficult but gradually it took the form of a steep trail.
In the first hour, I was absolutely fine but soon the huffing and puffing did begin. The beautiful views were absolutely motivating and soothing. On and off the monastery appeared and disappeared as we hiked through the twists and the turns. The glimpses added to our enthusiasm. The internet may have thousands of its pictures floating around but when you see it in real, it is a different feeling altogether. On the edge of the cliff, it looks like a nest indeed. And the feeling to see it in real is nothing less than surreal.
As the sun became stronger, it was difficult to move on with the jacket. I began to sweat. Soon I tied it around my waist and continued with the rest of the climb. The path was a combination of rock-strewn patches as well as sand and gravel. There were few tricky points too but overall I would rate this hike moderately difficult.
Moreover, when you have a camera in your hand and you run a travel blog, it is extremely difficult to focus only on the hike. First, the camera is heavy and second you can’t resist appreciating the beautiful surroundings. Honestly, the most tiring aspect of the ascend was stopping every now and then and clicking pictures. I tried but I couldn’t keep a check on this.
When the signboard read cafeteria, we knew we were half done. Though many people started walking towards it, I did not have an urge to stop. I continued to walk further. I found the remaining patch better than the one we had just done. There were many smooth sections in it. Another one hour of walking and finally we were there at the photo point. I was hit by an instant jolt of happiness to see it right there and the top most picture of the blog describes that ‘high moment’. The happiness was short-lived because there were nearly 700 steps which still separated us.
To avoid hurting my ankle, I maintained a slow pace on the stairs. The sun was already at its peak and it was draining me of all my energy. At some points, one had to be very careful while going on to the next step else it could be dangerous. But if keep watching your steps, it isn’t that taxing. Soon came some relief and cool breeze from the waterfall on the way. I wished to stay there for more time but since the temple closes at 1 for a short interval, we wanted to be there before it closes for an hour. Don’t worry, it reopens again at 2.
When I looked at the spiral of stairs from the other end, I really felt proud of myself. Once we reached the main gate, we were expected to put our shoes, cameras, cell phones and other electronic equipment in the lockers. I couldn’t wait to explore the most interesting bit of the journey. Spiritualism always intrigues me and I love discovering about it more and more.
Taktsang is said to be the most sacred site in Bhutan and one does feel overwhelmed in its proximity. The feeling of being at the edge of cliff and its precarious location gave me goosebumps. As I explored the temples, spirituality, faith and aura of the place touched me in many ways.
We stayed at the monastery for nearly an hour where our guide and friend Sonam took us around and explained us the stories connected with them. At the end, I can only say places of worship always help to form new perspectives. And they always lend peace to mind and soul. I felt beautiful from inside.
The descent was as lovely as the ascend. In fact, I walked faster because I couldn’t wait to reach the cafeteria. After lunch, we started our journey once again. By this time, my ankle had begun to hurt. The last part did become difficult for me but I was not alone. My friends ensured that they walked slowly along with me and supported me all through the last phase. No doubt, I was eager to see the car and my legs were begging for mercy but altogether it had been a very enlightening day. When I finally made it to the car, I felt extremely happy. It was one unique day of my life and I was happy to take in yet another overwhelming experience for myself and for my blog.
Tiger’s Nest – One thing that I would like the authorities to take care of is that they must have some clean washrooms there.
For this lovely experience, I can never thank Tourism Bhutan and Bhutan Bookings enough!