Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kingdom of Bhutan, Hike to Tigers Nest

Our guide waited for us to finish breakfast and after packing a lunch provided by the hotel we started off. We had heard from other group members who had done the hike on the first day that it was not a 'walk in the park'; it took us over 2 hours up drive to the starting point of the hike and we still wanted to go past the airport to fetch someone's hiking boots and Dietmar's mini iPad, both of which were left in the aircraft.

The airport was packed with people, long queues, luggage and more people everywhere. How to get to our aircraft? We had no pilot license, no papers, nothing with us... what to to? We had no choice but just walk, and that is what we did. With a brisk step we passed all the queueing people, walked past the passport counter who were busy checking other people's passports... we walked past security checks and metal detector frames which chimed and sounded, we just walked... One aware airport staff lifted a hand in an attempt to say: what are you guys doing? Where are you going? I had our aircraft key in my hand, with a keyring in form of an aircraft attached, it was a sort of an instinct reaction and all I said was "Private Plane" and we just walked on... We walked through the counter where they checked boarding passes, we simply went behind everybody's back, and we reached the door to the apron, saying 'private planes' and we were out... Johannes, Wolf, Sigi and myself.

We don't know how this was possible but it did happen. We still are amazed we could pull this through.
Soon we had hiking boots and iPad under our arms... now, how to get back out? We saw a local pilot walking thru EXIT and followed him, telling him we are the pilots of those mini aircraft outside and we had no IDs with us, and we are asking him to help us getting back to the street side of the airport. He answered "well, he would have to sign out, and he can not see this working..." IT DID! He signed out, showed passport, as this now was International Arrival, we squeezed past mumbling something about 'private pilots and plane' and UNBELIEVABLE but TRUE, we were out. We never stopped talking about this... we need to digest this experience.

There was plenty of time on the Hike for that. The route took us one way only, up up up, and in the end 200 steps down and another 200 steps up, altogether 900 m, the guide told us. The trail took us past prayer wheels, stupas, wonderful sights up and down, Buddhist Art Work, plenty of prayer flags, it took us over bridges and past waterfalls.

And it did not want to end... 4 people had enough and stopped by a Tea House and wanted to return back down, 4 people persevered and in the end we were on top, a Monastery called  'Tigers Nest', build into a wall.

We were able to walk in and once more we were blessed with Holy Water. The way down was equally strenuous, the guide decided to use a shortcut which is even more steep and propably not worth the saving in length. But here we are walking and walking, now a time restraint came in also, we had to get back before sunset. All worked out and we arrived at the hotel just after 7pm, in the dark and very hungry. I had given half of my sandwich to the guide and than discovered the other half was soaked by some stuff they had packed into my pack and that half was fed to the dogs. I only had the tiniest piece of Brownie and water.

My Dinner was the best!!! After that early night. Plan for the next day: we would drive out with a van loaded with 8 bicycles, look at the Himalaya Mountain Range and cycle back through the National Park, 'mostly downhill' we were told. Dietmar booked a Motorcycle for the coming day.

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