Climbing Up To Tiger's Nest

Previous page - The Thimphu Markets

 

A night of worry and fear

Boy did we have to get ourselves organized smart quick this morning.

This is where we will be going to Tigers Nest

We had to meet Kinga (our guide) and Dorje (our driver) at 7am. We did it within time.I didn’t eat any cooked breakfast as I was very stressed out thinking about going up to Tiger’s Nest and how narrow the path would be and scared stiff I would be useless with the horses. I had stewed about it all night and really didn’t sleep well. None of us are horsey people and I'm ashamed to say that in my whole life I have never touched a horse let alone ridden on one.

 

 

 

Background of Tiger's Nest

Tiger’s Nest is located ten kilometres north from Paro and it is perched precariously high on a cliff, 900 metres above the Paro Valley. Tiger’s Nest is also known as Taktsang and it is one of the most sacred and special places for Buddhist worshippers.  Guru Rimpoche (Buddha’s right hand man) is said to have flown there on the back of a tiger in the eighth century and meditated inside a cave there for 4 months. In 1692 a temple complex was built at the site. This is what we are going to visit.

 

 

On the way to Tiger's Nest

The car park where the riders, handlers and horses Car Park at the bottom of the climb

It took about 30 minutes to drive from Olathang Hotel to the drop off point for Tiger’s Nest. We passed lots of horses and donkeys, who were being led up the road ready to meet the people at the drop off point. It was quite cold and we wore our jumpers and you could easily see our breaths.

 

Mounting the horses

Dorje helped gathered up the horses. The handler seemed to study each of us in turn and he then selected which of the three horses suited each of us best. We had to stand on a big rock so we would be up high to start with and then carefully get onto our horses with the horse handler helping us to mount them (ha-ha!).  Ian got the largest horse. I was the last to get on my horse so it gave me chance to photograph Jeremy and Ian on their horses. For some reason Jeremy and Ian’s horses both had blankets over the saddle but mine didn’t. Perhaps the handler figured I had enough padding on my bottom already.

We get underway on our horses Off we go

 

Horsey Rules

Prior to getting onto the horses I heard another guide say to his group that they must not stand behind the horses in case the horse kicked them! He also said not to attempt to take photographs whilst on the horse as it may startle the horses. No need to tell me these things twice. I wouldn’t dare do anything other than exactly what I was told. I was too terrified to do otherwise!

 

 

Off we go

With a bit of a lurch we got underway. I was petrified and I think my knuckles would have been white had I cast my eyes down to look at them. The swaying of the horses scared me to start with but I quickly got used to it. My horse was in the lead, with Ian behind me and Jeremy bringing up the rear. My horse continually stopped to nibble greenery, to smell the other horse’s poo and also to stop for no apparent reason at all! The agility of the horses is incredible. They climbed so easily amongst difficult rocks. Ian and I were quite nervous when our horses kept venturing right over to the edge of the cliffs. If the edge had crumbled even slightly the rider and horse would have gone to their deaths far below. I didn’t like it when the horse headed down a slope as I felt I would tumble off head first. I was far happier heading up the hill as opposed to downhill.

Ian’s horse kept farting and poo’ing. Jeremy reckoned the handler had selected the perfect matching horse for his father! With Jeremy bringing up the rear he copped every single horse fart and saw every poo. He was close to the handler who was shouting in his ear the whole time (at the horses) and he even felt the handler’s whip on his shoe a few times!

 

The smoke approaching the cafeteria

The Cafeteria

We got off our horses at the Cafeteria which is the halfway point. It gave the horses chance to rest plus we were able to have a toilet break, cuppa and biscuit. The toilets were already well used so they weren’t in an ideal condition when we got there - if you get my drift. Ian was waiting to use the toilet after me when a Japanese lady totally pushed past him to get in there first. Ian told her off in no uncertain terms! He doesn’t often get cross but this lady certainly copped it.

>There are thousands of steps at Tiger's Nest We're nearly there

 

 

Blood spatters

We got back on our horses and set off once again up to the final area the horses are able to go to (they can’t climb the stairs at the end). From there we had to walk uphill and climb up and down literally hundreds of steps.

Towards the monastery we started to notice red splotches on the paving stones in front of us. We all thought it must be from the red berries that many locals eat and quite frequently spit out. Another guide who was walking past overheard us and told us that it was actually blood spatters from other visitors whose body’s/noses were unable to handle the climb/altitude.

 

We arrive at Taktsang

Eventually, with much puffing and panting, we got up to the monastery entrance . We had to deposit our cameras, mobiles etc, at a small office. We were then frisked by a policeman looking for tobacco, drugs and explosives. We toured around inside the monastery for half an hour or so, finding the air in certain rooms quite heavy with an incredibly intense smell of burning incense. At times Jeremy and Ian both had to put their hands over their mouths just to filter the air.

I entered only a few of the rooms as I was so exhausted from the climb. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so I get pooped easily and I needed to sit down outdoors. Judging by Ian and Jeremy’s comments upon their return, the statues and stateliness of the rooms were absolutely exquisite.

 

An even higher climb is possible Jeremy and Kinga climbed even further up

Climbing further upwards

Jeremy and Kinga went further on to a higher prayer room where Guru Rimpoche’s partner also flew there on the back of a tiger and meditated for 4 months. Jeremy said that climbing up to this prayer room was the most physically demanding thing he has ever done in his life. The staircases were very small and made from clay bricks. The incline and difficulty of this staircase was so great that Jeremy and Kinga were both on all fours trying to climb the stairs. Towards the top it became even more difficult because the stairs were narrower, slimier, wetter and covered in moss. It is truly a wonder the pair of them came back from the climb at all. Neither realized what it would be like beforehand.

 

Next page - Coming back down from Tiger's Nest

 

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