Wednesday, May 5, 2010
May 4 – The Trip to Tiger’s Nest
One of the “must do” events on any trip to Bhutan is the visit to Tiger’s Nest, a monastery perched high in the mountains above Paro. There are two ways to travel there, either to walk all the way or to rent horses part way and walk the rest of the way. To the traveler, there are three important stages on the journey. First is the cafeteria, about half-way up, where most of the horse trips end. The second stage is the view point across a valley from Tiger’s Nest, where you can go by horse if you pay extra for the ride. This is as far as anyone can go by horseback. The third stage is a walk down about 300 steps to the valley floor and then back up another 300 steps to the monastery itself.
We set out with a hose led by one of the horse handlers in front. I was second with Wangdi leading my horse. I think John was behind. Namgay had arranged an English saddle for him. The rest had the pack saddles, boards covered with blankets. There were two stirrups and two wooden pieces, like large Popscicle sticks sticking out in front to hold on to. Early on, I fell into the real lesson of horsemanship: keep your center of mass over the horse’s. If he goes up, you lean forward; if he goes known, you lean back. Sometimes it was necessary to compensate rather rapidly to the horse’s change in position, especially when he came to some log steps that had been placed on the trail. I was always happy when my hose stepped to the flat trail next to the steps.
The hoses ware really surefooted, as if they had been doing this all their lives (which I’m sure they had), and we continued to progress at a moderate pace. As I grew accustomed to the horse, I realized that there probably was no way I could have kept up that pace for the whole trip.
Back up on the hoses and up the hill to the view point. Finally, about two hours after mounting the horses, we reached the end of the line. We walked around and all took pictures. I started down the stairs to get some different angles and take some other pictures. I reached a landing, took some pictures, looked across and decided that since I couldn’t take a camera inside any how that I had as good pictures as I was every going to get. I told Robin, who had come with me and he agreed with my suggestion. It was only after I was mounting the approximately 50 stairs to the view point did I realize that had been a sound decision.
I have written this segment out of sequence to make sure that I remember all the details. I’m now in Bangkok waiting to board my plane home. I hope to fill in a few gaps and add some detail that I left out in previous posts.