Day 28: Bumdra Trek Descent and Taksang (Tiger’s Nest)


Our day started very early as we had set our alarm to catch the sunrise. Perhaps a little too late to hike up to the pass to see the magnificence of the reveal, ( It was -5C after all!) but we did get an awe inspiring look at the mountain tops at sunrise nonetheless!

Our campsite at dawn ( about 5:45 am). A thick frost lay on the ground – temperature around -5C!

Our night was pretty good all things considered. The temperatures drop very quickly in the mountains when the sun goes down around 5:30. When we left for our tent after dinner, the waiter brought us a couple of hot water bottles that we could put in our bed. That made a world of difference, those and the most comfortable mattress we had slept on in Bhutan plus a myriad of thick blankets made this a surprisingly comfortable night!

Us in the morning after a quick glimpse at the sunrise. We pretty much wore everything we had to bed!!! ( save our very dusty pants!)

We had an early hot breakfast (6:30), and by the time we had finished up and got our gear in order we were ready to hit the trail back down the mountain by 7:30 am. A cold morning meant lots of layering as we began our descent, but we knew as we neared the valley we would be getting into the mid 20C range. The temperatures here have been surprisingly warmer than when I looked back home. (Our guide explained this by saying that all of their weather stations were at the top of the mountains and reported drastically colder temperatures than the reality of valley life!)

Our tent was the furthest to the right, top row. The camp is just starting to get going for the morning, and the cook’s are busy making sausage and eggs, rice (every meal here – like bread in most western countries) and toast. We even had peanut butter!!!!!
Dan and I ready to hit the trail! The thick frost is just starting to dissipate!

Today our descent would take us down about 1,250 M, including an up and down staircase at Tiger’s nest of around 1,000 steps in and out of this sacred place. I had been very worried that we would be going down very steep rock all the way as pictures of Tiger’s vest are nothing but sheer cliff. I was pleasantly surprised!

Kenchu on the trail. Our porter from the day before was going down the way we came up, so dear Kenchu volunteered to take our pack for us! The path down started out quite wide! Kenchu was not in his Gho as it was easier to trek the first part in regular clothes. He would change at the first temple!
Dan managed to catch a shot of Kenchu and I descending! The forests were very old and moss covered. Fortunately, the path was not!
Lots of dust and tree roots to contend with, but the vistas were always worth it. Just remember to stop before you look up!
Many of the tallest trees we walked past were Brown Oak and covered with Spanish moss!
We kept heading down. At this point, we have descended for about an hour. On the centre peak you can just make out white prayer flags at the top. That is just in front of our camp from the previous night.
We soon came to the Temple where we took a slight rest and Kenchu took the time to change into his Kira. (This is mandatory that all Bhutanese wear traditional dress when visiting any temple or government building)

From this point, we only had about a half hour to go before we could see the Taksang, or Tiger’s Nest series of temples. This site is one of the most important sites in Bhutan because it is believed to be the site where the 2nd lord Buddha rode on a flying tiger ( one of his consorts transformed into a tigress) to flight and subdue a demon who had ruled the valley.

You can just see Tiger’s Nest clinging to the cliff side beyond the tree!

As we got closer, we came to a look out and the infamous steps!

The look out for Tiger’s Nest. Only 1000 steps up and down to reach the first Temple!

When we arrived at the lookout, I could see the steps ahead of us. My biggest worry was that these were cliff clinging steps with no guard rail that went straight up. As it turned out, when the Temple complex was ravaged with fire in 1998, the country decided to rebuild the Temples and also redid the steps so that they were wider and had a secure railing both up and down. What a relief!

At the very top of the photo you can see the Stupa beside the lookout point. Now follow the winding path as it descends – and you are only half way to the Tiger’s Nest complex of temples!
At the division of up and down steps, was the most beautiful of waterfalls! Complete with the ever present prayer flags!

And soon we began to ascend up to the Temples.

Steps were relatively wide, allowing for two way traffic on this busy pilgrimage site.

The temples themselves were amazing. We saw 4 of the 7 temples on the site. The first was dedicated to the 2nd lord Buddha and contained a door to the cave where it is said he meditated after conquering the demon of the valley. The next one that we saw was dedicated to the manifestations of the 2nd lord Buddha; the third was dedicated to the spoken lord buddha. At this one we saw a statue that had supposedly come from Punakha and ha pointed towards the Paro valley and then spoke to a monk that it should be brought to this place. Interestingly, when the fire ravaged most of the temple sites in 1998, this statue was untouched. It was considered so precious that it should be removed and brought back to Punakha, but every time it was planned to be moved, the skies opened up, the weather turned very bad, and the move had to be delayed. It is said that this statue remains where it was placed because of these ill effects of trying to move it! The fourth Temple was one had a large natural hole in the floor where you could see the image of a large Kila or knife used to subdue demons. It is said that there is a complex of caves build below and behind this 8 century site.

Tiger’s Nest. This beautiful Shangri la is indeed a miracle to behold!

Once through the complex, it was time to descend to the car. We expected about another 2 hours of descent before greeting Penjor, our driver!

The small bridge crossing the waterfall we saw earlier. Also an excuse to steel myself for the long uphill climb to the lookout point!
If you look in the very centre of this picture, you can see a green roofed building. To the left of this is the car park where we were to meet our driver!

So here’s a conundrum for all you Fitbit users. How come it was a 270+ staircase climb up the day before when we had 750M elevation climb, and only 48 staircase climb when we had a descent of 1,250M? The stairs up and down from the lookout to Tiger’s Nest account for the 48+ stair climb! Oh well, we did it regardless of tracking mechanism!

The way down was dusty and at times steep ( as one would expect!). We came across this rhododendron tree (ubiquitous in these forests) that was marked to be 108 years old!

Now if that’s 108 years old, goodness knows how old they were in the various other hikes we did, where they towered over us like maple trees!

When we got to the bottom of the hill we looked up to see the image of the wrathful lord buddha. An image that was imprinted in the side of the mountain, and looking like an exact replica of the three eyed wrathful image seem in the temples.

The image of the wrathful 3 eyed buddha is seen behind the Tiger’s Nest Temple complex.

As we travelled down we saw a number of pilgrims trekking up to the Temple complex. I felt for them, particularly a couple of those with young children, who after climbing for 1.5 hours still had that much to go again before they faced the 1,000 steps! Some people clearly didn’t realize the true pilgrimage it was to get to this most sacred of complexes.

When we reached the car park we felt thrilled to have made this trek. If it wasn’t for our persistent guide taking us on progressively harder and more diverse hikes throughout our stay, I dare say we would not have made it!

But enough of that! Our guide Kenchu promised us a special meal tonight where we could all dine together. It was time for us to get back to the hotel, get showered and packed for our next day’s trip to Kathmandu, and then ready for supper!

Our guide had chosen a local homestay where they had received many good ratings from guests. It was a wonderful family affair, with all products served, cultivated and grown in their own farm. From a pumpkin soup with their own wild peppercorns (trust me, I wanted to take some of these home!) to a grand assortment of dishes for the main course, it was a feast to remember!

Our main course feast!
The daughter of our host and her 3 month old son. ( Babies here travel everywhere on mom’s or grandma’s backs as they do their work!
Dan’s storytelling is entertaining our guide Kencho and well as our driver Penjor!

At last it was time to say goodnight to our hosts, and then sadly to our guide and driver. We would see them once again in the morning for the drive to the airport. All good things must end, but not before a great scenic shot as shown to us by our guide!

A sight of the covered bridge leading to the Paro Dzong (fort) and further up an old watch tower which has been converted to a museum!
Categories: Himalayas: India, Nepal and Bhutan 2019

2 comments

  1. Superp photo of you two and Tigers Nest and the one with Tigers Nest alone.

    Like

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