Trip to Bhutan – May 2009 – Paro – The Climb to Tiger’s Nest & The Road Trip to Haa Valley

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i was looking forward to the second day at Paro, cos it involved climbing to Taktshang Monastery, also called Tiger’s Nest, since it was apparently created when a holy man flew to the location on the back of a tiger! its impossibly perched on the edge of a mountain, and i was told that the climb would take around one and a half hours, this meant i would take 2! i was ready for the challenge tho, i had been wanting to climb up mountain paths, especially in that glorious weather. my friend couldn’t handle it too well tho, since the height also meant lesser oxygen than one is used to at sea level, so i pretty much did this on my own, just followed the path, it was quite easy. you can see it in this photo taken at the start of the climb, the white structure in the distance.

since i was not used to climbing, and the air a bit more rarified, i had to keep stopping each time there was a particularly steep section. there were other tourists doing the climb, one group of malaysians even had an old couple who used a walking stick and had guides holding an arm, but they were unfazed and continued to climb. once i reached the top and could see the monastery straight across, i hadn’t bargained for the steps! stone steps cut into the hillside run round the cliff to the monastery and after that climb, make your legs feel like they are in a torture chamber. in most parts the steps don’t have any safety railing, and there’s just enough room for one person to pass through. i was a bit jittery in this section, wondering if i would fall off the cliff without anyone knowing! until a group of Indian army jawans came up behind me, and they made it look so easy, that i made the rest of the steps with renewed effort.

on reaching the monastery, i was asked for a permit by the armed guard. i didn’t have any! the guide was still with my friend, i had gone on ahead and i didn’t even know about this. he looked flummoxed at my answer and said, ‘pati kidhar hai, baccha kidhar hai’ and i had to try hard to not laugh – what kind of a qs is that! after some persuasion, and emotional lines like, ‘i walked for so long’, he let me in so i got to see . the monastery was lovely, explored some parts of it, wondered how the monks who live here go up and down constantly, had a talk with the jawans who were stationed in Bhutan for training for a few months… and then headed down. overall this was the best day of the trip!

we set off for Thimphu the next day, it’s actually only about an hour and a half from Paro, but we were taking a different route. its a detour to Haa Valley, a not so known part towards the south that we got to via the Chele La, the highest motorable road in Bhutan. had loved the trip to KhardungLa in Ladakh, so wanted to see this. well, it wasn’t quite as scenic as that, but pretty all the same. there’s nothing to do at the top except stop for the view, which is lovely. There’s no rest stop or anything. prayer flags adorn the hills and on clear days (usually in winter) the Himalayas are in full view. my friend was sick through the trip, the winding roads didn’t agree with her. at one point we were about 100 kms to the Indian border at Phuentosholing, so i suggested she make a run for it! but she said knowing her luck she would land in naxal territory and get caught, strangely clairvoyant in a way considering what’s happened in Bengal lately. along the route we also saw all the destruction caused by the Aila cyclone, the rivers had washed away some bridges and parts of the road. Haa itself is a very small town, some parts of which we could not see as the roads were blocked by rocks, that happened during the cyclone too. this trip took about 5 hours to Thimphu, and i loved every minute of it. also saw a yak for the first time! if you don’t want to spend so much time on the road, there’s the shorter Paro Thimphu route.

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  1. Brave girl you are!:) I went many yrs ago to Bhutan and saw Tigers next from below roads and marvelled at its structure hanging onto the mountain literally like a cliffhanger if u will pardon the bad pun!! But nver had the courage to climb the trail! Finally we made it thr their the Indian Army CO's kindness and bevvy of armymnen in the car. What a stunning view if ever! And calm pristine surrounds.

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