Notes from Paro, Bhutan from Kirsten Louy Nasty, Asia Transpacific Journeys’ Operations Manager
We awoke early to a cool, still morning. The sun had not yet peered from behind the mountains. After basic morning ablutions, we headed to the dining area where we had requested an early breakfast and more importantly, an early coffee. We picked up a picnic lunch consisting of cheese momos, emma datse (cheese and chilies sauce) with rice and vegetables, grilled chicken and hot tea, from a local restaurant. After parking our Land Cruiser at a monastery just above Paro town, we adjusted our pack straps, tightened our hiking shoes, checked our belongings and remembered to dab on sunscreen before the rays began to cut through the thin mountain air onto our skin.
Our posse of 5 intrepid hikers followed a windy one-lane hiking trail up, up, up through brush, branches and moss-covered trees. We quickly rose above the layers of incense and wood fire smoke from below, and above the townspeople preparing for their busy day in the fields, at the market or business. We could not hear them; the air was quiet. We ascended above daily life on a pilgrimage; a mission to find the famous Taksang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) by a path less traveled, swooping in from behind and sneaking up on it, as if on the back of our very own winged tigress.
After ascending 3,000 ft in 3 hours we came upon a high meadow with views of the Himalayan peaks and the valleys below; the layers of valleys extending far beyond. Our picnic lunch was our body’s fuel and the breathtaking view, our soul’s reward. We paused to take it all in. The furry-faced yaks with clanking neck bells turned to watch us. Then onward down, down, down we continued until a turned corner revealed a gem of a structure clinging to the side of a cliff wrapped, as if a precious gift, in bands and strings of colorful prayer flags. Its gold paint glimmered in the morning light. A Tiger’s Nest it was, and we had landed. It looked as if a strong wind or one move from the mountain and earth could hurtle it into the crevice below, but for over 300 years the monastery has strongly held its precarious position on the side of the mountain; a testament to the faith and vision of those who built it.
Our small group witnessed that day of the beauty of friendship, of the land, of humanity and of history. We stopped to say hi to the inquisitive yaks, to spin prayer wheels and to let peace soak in. We walked on the earth and shared stories while breathing the air deep into our lungs. We enjoyed food and drink together and we viewed an awe inspiring structure which continues to sacredly store spiritual stories and, which conveyed to us, the meaning of Bhutan.