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The big day has arrived: we're hiking to Paro Taktsang, the iconic Tiger's Nest.

The day has dawned misty, as usual.


But pretty.


There's our hotel.


Jean gets better WiFi on the porch.


We've almost reached the starting point for the hike, but heavy construction blocks the way.


Well, that didn't take long.  Now we're crossing the river.


And now we're ready to start up the mountain.  There'll be a bazaar under those awnings when we get back -- a gazillion trinkets, none of which I would want.


But for now, let's just spin some prayers and be off.


Don't litter, Road Scholars.


Part of the challenge of this hike will be dodging the horse poop.


And we're off.


That's where we're going, up there in the mist.  The telephoto lens makes it look close.  It's not.


It's not even that close.


But you can't visit Bhutan without walking to the Tiger's Nest, so off we go.


The path is steep and rocky and muddy.  And long.


Follow the horses and watch your step.


It only looks like it's getting close.


But it's still way up there above the tea room.


Let's spin some prayers for universal compassion.  And maybe throw in a couple for the strength to do this.


It's reassuring to see all the prayers around.


But with no wind to flutter them, it looks like they're not going anywhere.  Bill's happy anyway.


Ah, the tea room.  This is where some people decide the altitude is too much for them and they just spend the day here.


Most of us would press on, but ... sorry, Jean.  Still, it seems clear you made the right decision.  If you're turning blue you really ought to have another cup of tea and wait all this out.


It's still way, way up there.


This Chinese tourist brought some style to the hike.


Not my fashion choice, but it looks good on him.  I guess.


Yikes, is it still way over there?


I like lichen.


Can you believe Tim gets cell reception up here? He's talking to Sonam and they're keeping track of the group.


Oh look, a nice little shrine.


There's a picture up there.  Maybe I'm supposed to remember who she was, but I don't. I can enlarge this snapshot, though, so let's see what the sign says:  "The Late H.H. Je Khenpo Geshey Guenden Rinchen was born in Fire Tiger year 1926 in this cave to father Kunzang Dorji and mother Chokey.  And now we know.


Bill has reached the lookout.


See Bill smile? See Bill trying not to think of the 750 steps he's about to traverse...twice.  And another thing, Bill.  If you've really lost 50 pounds, why the belly?  Too much red rice and ema datshi for the past two weeks, I suspect.


There's a nice little bridge: we must be getting close.


I mean, there it is, right there.


There's a great view from here. At least there's that.


So why aren't we getting closer?


Still not there.


It's way over there.


And there are steps.


Oh, those steps.


Got to go down the steps to get back up there.


But Bill is undeterred.


He's come this far.


And it's almost within reach.


Just up there.


This picture I found on the internet shows the waiting area below the monastery, the place where they confiscate all cameras.  Darnit.


We can look up there, but we can't take our cameras up.


Not to worry: I've found a few more pictures on the internet.


You can almost see inside.


And now you can.  This pic is a rarity -- you won't find many taken inside Paro Taktsang. Nice, huh? My biggest regret is that I didn't get some video and audio in the little shrine where we sat cross-legged with monks while they beat the drum and blew the dungchen and the kangling and clashed the cymbals and burned the incense and chanted mumble mumble mumble MUMBLE mumble mumble...  It was great.


But soon we were back on the steps.


Bye Tiger's Nest.


Bye pretty view.


It's been great.


But we really must be going.


So long.




That's Nina on the bridge.  See the blue hair?


See the smile?


Don't get wet, Nina.


Ah, the view.


Ah the steps.


The 750 steps.


There are so many.


And every one seems to go up.


And up.




I really do need to go back and weed out a bunch of these Tiger's Nest hike pics.


No, wait, I'm going to keep the pictures and use them as an opportunity to tell you why they call this place the Tiger's Nest.  You want to know, don't you?


According to legend, back in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche flew to the site as the fiery Dorje Drolo, one of his eight manifestations, on the back of a tigress, a form assumed by his consort Yeshe Tsogyal, to subdue the local demon, Singye Samdrup. After that, he meditated in a cave for three months. It is said that when the monastery was first built, it was anchored to the cliff by the hairs of khandroma (female celestial beings).  You can read all about it here.


But how did they get all that way up there, you ask?  According to Tim, nobody really knows just how they managed to build the first one.  What we do know is that the Paro Penlop, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye, built the first monastery in 1692 around the holy cave in which Guru Rinpoche meditated. However in 1998, a fire destroyed the main structure and all its contents. Previously, it had suffered a fire in 1951. It was reconstructed in April 2000.


And it still has a nice view.


From every angle.  Hey...there's Sonam!


And Nina!


And Sonam and Nina!


And Bill!  He just looks bushed, but he's not really.  Promise. He's just taking a moment to wonder whether there might be an easier way to make this hike.


The Tiger's Nest is still there.


And so's the long hike back.


Bye Tiger's Nest.


It's the view from the tea room again.  Bill's looking, but he can't find any Road Scholars.  He thought he'd find a bunch here.  Guess he'd better keep on going down.  He knows he's not going to be the last of the group down the mountain because Sharon and Tim are still behind him.  He's pretty sure.


Horses.  That means civilization.


It also means "watch your step."


Because the path is steep and rocky and muddy.


Oh no...Bill doesn't even want to contemplate having to cart supplies up that hill.


He just wants to get back to the bus.  Watch your step, Bill.


It's over!  Bill wasn't the last of the group down the mountain (thank goodness) and he's rejoined everybody but Tim and Sharon.  We've had lunch at a nearby restaurant (the food at the tea room, apparently, isn't up to Road Scholar standards) and Leslie has made some new stray dog friends.


And now some in the group will go shopping.  Bill, on the other hand, just wants to get to his room.


But he doesn't want to climb those stairs.



We're having our final dinner.  How can this be?


Sweet Charlotte has presented every one of us with a treasured stone of turquoise she acquired on another trip in Lhasa, Tibet.  So nice.  Thanks, Charlotte.


Our driver and our guide and our friends, Sonam and Tim.  We hate to say goodbye.

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