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Hiking to Tiger's Nest (Taktsang Monastery)

August 17th, 2009 by Pauline Ranieri, UW Alumni Tours

For years I’ve seen photographs of a monastary way up in the sky,  tightly hugging a cliff, usually photographed surrounded by mist.

The Monastery in the Sky

The Monastery in the Sky

It looked so mysterious and exotic that I immediately wanted to know where it was located because to me it spoke of traveling to faraway destinations. Upon hearing it was in Bhutan, a country I knew little about, it seemed even further away than I imagined and I certainly never dreamed that one day I would actually hike the hillside to reach this very special place.

Frankly, I can’t come up with the right words to describe the experience of arriving at this monastary by foot. I can’t say it was an easy experience as you have to hike up a continual incline, beginning at approximately 7,500 ft., all the way to 9,000 ft. up in the sky. Just getting to the first viewpoint was an exertion and my years of having a desk job seemed to have caught up with me.

The Final Stairs

The Final Stairs

I began the second half of the hike with good intentions but after taking a few breaths and finding myself struggling to breathe, I announced to my travel companions to go on ahead without me. After they continued, I decided I would keep taking  slow steps and would see just how far I could go. Step-by-step,  walking more slowly than I can ever remember, I kept moving ahead, stopping often.  Suddenly, I arrived at the second viewpoint and there was a startling close view of the Tiger’s Nest – it seemed like I could almost reach out and touch it.

To reach it, I still had to walk down many, many narrow stairs, across a tigers nest -hikersbridge (with mist from the waterfall kissing my face), up another flight of stairs, through a wooden gate and finally – the entrance. To my surprise and the surprise of my companions, I had made it to the monastary in the sky!

Every single step and breath were worth this wonderful accomplishment. I will always cherish this day.

TigersNest1

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