Sunday, 20 April 2014

-| Paro |-

Bhutan fact list
Area  - 38,394 sqkm
Population - 7.42 lakh
Language - Dzongkha
Currency - Bhutanese Ngultrum 

altitude - 2200 mts
temperature - 10deg C / 2 deg C

Arrival to Paro was splendid and the airport nothing like what I have seen before. Also getting a sim card connection was very fast and simple, very much  unlike what we had read on other  blogs.
We were greeted by our driver,  Jamyang Chophel, outside the airport. There was an expression on his face which by the end of our trip we had come to recognize quite easily and it said the unspoken words - just the two of you?!?! Yes, Bhutan is an extremely safe country for females to travel,  it is just that these people are used to seeing tourists in large groups and very rarely just two girls without a guide!

After freshening up and from our experience in kolkatta about darkness descending us thick and fast by 6 PM, we started out to Rinpung dzong. After a couple of wrong routes (which were very scenic), we reached our spot. I had seen images before but I was not prepared for the scale of the structure. There was stillness and yet an energy which soothed all senses.

Our evening stroll on the Paro streets was filled with nods and smiles to the locals. At a coffee shop, the hostess asked us to carry bananas and chocolates (both of which I dislike... urghh) for our trek to Taktshang Lhakhang. Ah well, we were ill prepared but it was a shock when our tour operator called at nine and asked if we are up to trek alone without guide to Tiger's Nest (Lhakhang) which is situated at 3120 mts (around 1120 mts hike). After frantic web search about this trek,  we were filled with doubts and questions. Do we really want to do this? People generally hike on their last day so that body is acclimatized,  what are the heck are we thinking trying to go there on our second day?!? Are we prepared for it in terms of water, food etc? We decided to check this out the next day.

To say that we were proud and a little ashamed of our selves will not do justice to our trek. Proud - we did it without a guide,  on our second day and ashamed - my body is not fit!

(above two images are on route to base of Tiger's nest) 

On our way up and down,  we realized that Bhutanese are an amazing set of helpful people with a ready smile for all. The trek itself can be divided into three parts. The first one is a trail surrounded by pine trees, steep cliff on one side and deep valley on the other where one couldn't see the monastery from any point. It was embarrassing to see fitter people move ahead of me while I was panting and huffing my way up. And not to forget the envy I felt when I saw people on horses trot ahead while though I was sweating my fingers were so so cold.  The first stop did not come too soon and it has the only restaurant on this route. The view from here was amazing and filled me with conviction to reach there no matter what!

( base of Tiger's nest) 

(above two images are on the first leg) 

I cheated and forced Yash to take up horse from first stop to the second pit stop. It was a good decision as we couldn't have otherwise reached the Lhakhang before closing hours. Nimpida with my horse Tinea and Yash's Tenzing walked fast and gracefully. In no time we reached the second stop. I forgot to mention that we saw the colourful prayer flags all throughout our trek and the density increased as we approached our destination. We sat here for a while trying to capture the beauty and mentally preparing ourselves for the last leg which consisted of about 850 steps.

(above three images are from restaurant) 

(Nimpida with Tenzing and Tenia) 

Since the steps are hugging the mountain side and the sun rays didn't reach this zone, it was getting colder with each step. Upon reaching the Lhakhang,  we had to hand over our bags and camera. The policeman who took our details was skeptical of two girls traveling all the way up without a guide. After showing our papers and followed by some coaxing, he let us in! I can only say it was worth the effort and am very glad we did not give up at any point.

Apart from the fact that this monastery is situated at a breathtaking location,  the spaces inside are also very sculpted. Maybe it is the rock on which it is situated and hugging on one side. Later, Yash and I sat outside on the baggage counter cliff lost in our thoughts. We didn't realize we were the only tourists left behind until that policeman started chatting with us. We were at the Lhakhang for about 2hours and didn't feel like leaving,  yet we had to as the way back was  loooong. After bidding our goodbyes with the policeman we started back.

Thankfully, we caught up with one large Thai group as we missed the track in the second leg and at last we reached the restaurant. Oh god,  we were so hungry! We feasted on chilli cheese and red rice. Though of the guides said it can be better prepared, we were enjoying and relishing it.

Our last part of the trek was surprisingly fast as we made friends with one Thai who wasn't just interested how beautiful India is but also it's political, economic  scene. The conversation was very refreshing.

At last we reached the parking lot and Jamyang was relived to see us alive!!! Not bad, we completed the five hour hike in 8 hours.

The first city/ town had amazing surprises and we were looking forward to the others. 

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