Sunday, 26 October 2008

Bhutan Photo Expedition: Taktshang

Photograph © Tewfic El-Sawy/All Rights Reserved

Yech! Britain has now switched to Winter Time, and it'll get darker earlier from now on. The weather forecast calls for it'll be a miserable Sunday. Perhaps it's a message from the gods that I ought to stay in and start reviewing my thousands of images from Bhutan, process them and put Lightroom 2.1 through its paces.

Here's a photograph (a postcard view) of Taktshang Goemba, also known as Tiger's Nest, near Paro. Taktshang is probably the most famous of monasteries in Bhutan. It literally hangs on a cliff at over 10,000 feet. The legend behind the monastery is that Padmasambhava (or Guru Rinpoche) flew there on the back of a tiger. The only way to the monastery is by foot (or on mule-back), and the trek takes about 2 hours depending on one's fitness, and on the condition of the trail.

On nearby cliffs, I noticed other smaller structures and buildings, and was told that these were meditation abodes, where lamas and high-ranking monks come to meditate for varying lengths of time. It seems that some remain in meditative seclusion for 3 years, 3 months and 3 days.

We trekked up the trail, and were rewarded with this incredible view of the monastery. The trek was arduous, especially on the way down as it was raining and the going was very slippery in some areas. At the start of the trek, an enterprising elderly Bhutanese was selling poles he had hand-fashioned from branches, and they sold like hotcakes. Mine came in very handy on more than one occasion, and a member of my photo-expedition liked his so much that he took it home to the US. I've bemoaned the appearance of souvenir vendors at the foot (and beyond) of the trail, but the pole seller was really offering a useful service.