Sunday – We left early, taking our bus to the trailhead (2600m/8525ft) for Tiger’s Nest monastery (3120m/10240ft). It was a steep climb (8.4km/5.2 miles round trip – 521m/1715ft elevation gain) so I hired a horse, which may or may not have been a good idea. The saddle was loose so it wasn’t easy to stay on as it went straight up the trail, led by its handler.

At the halfway point, the horse ride ended at a small cafeteria (2895m/9498ft). We gathered the group there, and trekked on another hour or so until we stopped at the shuttered Tashi Tashi Cafe for lunch. For some reason involving permit problems (just like in the good old USA!) they were closed, but we were welcomed by the family when we stopped for lunch, taking over their terrace. Two students from the culinary school were with us and unpacked a nice picnic they had made for our meal on the sunny deck overlooking the valley.

From there it was a slog, to the highest point on the trail, looking across to our destination, so near yet so far. The lookout was followed by another steep descent to a bridge below a high waterfall spilling down the gorge. Here there were colorful prayer flags hung everywhere.

Then came the final climb to the monastery itself. After the long trek the time we spent exploring it seemed all too brief. There was a nice moment sitting in the room adjoining Guru Rimpoche’s cave where a nun gave each of us amulets. Of course there was the old “no pictures” rule inside the monastery, here with a guard who required us to check cameras and bags. Still it was a spectacular and inspirational place which I’ll remember as long as those memory cells keep firing.

Walking down, we stopped to make video interviews, as I had offered to work on Kutira’s next promotional video for this trip. Positive reviews! For a while, it looked like it might rain, but fortunately it didn’t. We finally arrived at the parking area, tired and happy.

On the way back, the bus stopped for an audience with another monk we had met at the Bumthang airport, Jigdrel Teshe. He is considered the reincarnation of Dudjom Dorjee.

We encountered this friendly young monk who is noted as one of the four greatest meditation teachers today. He was identified as a reincarnate when he was only 3 years old, and installed in a ceremony in Nepal which Winna attended. From then, his life has been in training, and now he is beginning his career as a teacher. He also is a music fan! Although tired from the day’s walk, we were glad he took the time to meet us.

After that we arrived at the culinary school where Dasho and Ashi awaited us with parting gifts of ceramic face masks. They really are the most generous and gracious people I’ve met in a very long time, and it was quite touching that they had made the journey from Thimpu and waited for our return. It was hard to say goodbye, it was like they were telling us, “y’all come back, now!”

Following another great meal at the culinary school, it was early to bed…such an incredible trip, it all went by so fast…