The bump of the car against the rough road heading away from Paro town woke me up. We had now started our journey towards the starting point of the hike to Chumophug Nye (Nye- sacred site). A Nye is simply a rock with some patterns or maybe none, which could seem nonsensical for some but for an enlightened being it’s very sacred. The visibility of houses thinned as the blanket of the green forest thickened. My father, uncle, two sisters and I started the hike at 9:20am, each wearing hats for protection against the scorching sun. With packed lunch in hand, bearing backpacks we walked up the narrow trail leading to our destination.
The first 2 hours of the journey to Chumophug Nye was a gradual ascent from 2308m. Walking along the gushing turquoise Pa chhu with the dark green leaves of the forest and the birds chirping; I fell in love with nature again. The trail leading to the Lhakhang (Temple) was filled with many Nyes of Guru Rinpoche and Dorji Phagmo. On peculiarly shaped rocks we viewed the foot and body prints of Guru Rinpoche, Dorji Phagmo and Khandro Yeshi Tshogyal (The spiritual Tibetan consort of Guru Rinpoche). We were blessed to see the multiple Ters (hidden treasures) and also the holy sites where Guru Rinpoche subdued demons. But the most sacrosanct Nye to witness was the meditation cave of Dorji Phagmo. From the roof of the cave dripped holy water due to the immense blessed value it holds.
Devotion is of paramount importance in Buddhism. There is a story where a son took a dry tooth of a dog to his mother and told her it was Buddha’s tooth. The mother believed it. Her tremendous devotion to this tooth led to a miracle where holy water dripped from the tooth. Devotion rids one of doubt. It’s also said that Buddha’s body is a big cube and for ordinary people this is difficult to comprehend but that is what sets an ordinary person apart from an enlightened mind.
The last hour was a steep hike towards the temple. It was a fascinating journey and we got to the temple at 12.30pm. From 2308m we had now ascended 783m. The white temple and a few meditation homes enveloped with the vast green hills seemed majestic. Chumophug Nye lies at an altitude of 3100m above the sea level. After lunch, we saw the main relic of Chumophug Nye—the floating goddess, Dorji Phagmo (Vajravarahi). It was an astonishing experience to visit this sacred relic, a reward after the long tiring journey. This bronze, brass statue built in the 17th century lay 4-5mm off its base, floating. The story behind the name Chumophug (Chumo-rice and phug- Hill) is that grains of rice are hidden in the form of a Ter on the large rock below the hill. It is prophesied that famine will strike and during that time this Ter will be rediscovered making food available again.
Bhutan is a paradise of options for the adventurous traveler. Many come for trekking as Bhutan is home to ruggedly beautiful terrain – and to friendly and knowledgeable guides who can lead travelers over mountain passes, through remote villages and past alpine lakes. Shorter or day hikes are equally possible, including the hike to the popular “Tiger’s Nest” (“Taktsang”). This sacred monastery appears to hang precariously off the side of a cliff overlooking the Paro valley. Prayer flags, strung along the path to the top, flutter in the wind and frame the memorable and photogenic views.
Cycling is another great way to enjoy the mountains and landscapes of Bhutan. Mountain bike tours, some crossing the country, are becoming increasingly popular. Residents are also picking up the cycling habit. The Fourth and Fifth Kings are even rumored to enjoy it – if you are very lucky, you might catch a quick glimpse of one of them speeding by!
Less active visitors will also find much to enjoy in Bhutan. A tour by bus or car offers spectacular views of the snow-capped Himalayas at every turn of the road. Ponies are available to help those who want to enjoy the beautiful path to Taktsang but do not relish the prospect of a steep hike at altitude.
We walked five minutes away from the temple to see the lake at the base of the waterfall where Guru Rinpoche bathed in. The lake wasn’t large in diameter but it seemed rather deep. We went down a different route and were once again faced with many more Nyes along the way. But on our way back the umbrellas we had tucked away in our backpacks saw light. It rained very heavily and after three hours we got back to the car, drenched and exhausted.
We headed back to Thimphu with memories of the beautiful hike and pictures we took along the way on our devices. Truly blessed and sated after the visit to Chumophug Nye we got back home. That was a good day!
In the Footsteps of the Madman
The Great Escape (The Road to Bhutan Starts Here)
The Food Chain
Reasons Why Bhutan Should Be on Your Bucket-List
City in the Sky