The e-book that was such a joy to write, I was sorry to finish it.
This book has been unavailable for a little while due to sad circumstances beyond my control, but here it is again on Amazon, iBooks and all major retail sites. If you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it, my day will be complete.
Journey in Bhutan: Himalayan Trek in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon takes you deep into the Himalaya, in the tiny Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan, walking beside me along a 100 mile trek through surreal landscapes and knee-wrenching passes at 5,000 metres.
Herders in high summer pastures make cheese from yak’s milk, tinkling prayer wheels are spun by waterfalls in remote gorges.
We climb to Taktsang, the spectacular Tiger’s Nest of temples atop a 1,000-metre cliff. Visit ancient Kyichu Lhakhang to absorb the sanctity of centuries in the haze of incense, glowing butter-lamps and chanting monks. Then hold tight along precipitous hairpin bends to Thimphu and Punakha to witness monastery rituals, and meander through shops offering the world’s most exquisite weaving and carving.
The travelogue is illustrated with 20 of my original colour photographs. It was hard to choose which ones to include, but I share others with you here in this series of posts about Bhutan. And for those who like to delve more deeply when they travel, I added an Appendix with a Glossary of Dzongkha words, a History Time-line and a Survival Guide to Bhutanese Buddhism.
The Bhutanese call their country Druk Yul – Land of the Thunder Dragon.
Why ‘Thunder Dragon’?
About a thousand years ago, several different schools of Buddhism developed in Tibet, but the most significant was the Drukpa Kagyupa sect. Its founder, Tsangpo Gyare, who had already established the prestigious Ralung Monastery in Tibet, was travelling from Lhasa to a place called Nam, when he had a vision. Nine dragons flew into the air roaring like thunder while white petals floated to the ground. He took it as an auspicious sign and established his Dharma – his centre of learning – in that spot. He named his sect after the Tibetan word for ‘dragon’ – druk.
The Drukpa sect was later brought to Bhutan by Buddhists fleeing religious persecution. The most important of these was Ngawang Namgyel who established fortified monasteries – dzongs – and was the first to unify Bhutan, becoming the Shabdrung, the Supreme Leader. The Drukpa Kagyupa became the dominant sect; his followers became known as the Drukpa, and their country they named Druk-Yul – Land of the Thunder Dragon, now a Kingdom.
Here are a couple of excerpts from Journey in Bhutan: Himalayan Trek in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon
A visit to the ruined Drugyel Dzong (a fortified monastery and administrative centre), built in 1647 at the head of the Paro Valley to protect Bhutan’s western border with Tibet.
Standing in this quiet spot, listening to birds singing and leaves crinkling in the breeze, it is hard to imagine these hillsides echoing with the thunderous clatter of war horses and the deadly whisper of arrows, but since at least the seventh century, various Tibetan war-lords and rulers have tried to expand their influence into the favoured valleys of Bhutan. Over the same period, waves of refugees from cycles of political chaos in Tibet have migrated and settled here.
From my journal on the third day of our trek, written at the top of a hill overlooking our campsite near the base of Mount Jhomolhari:
Our blue tents nestle below like a patch of gentians in the scree, faded slightly in weakening sunlight. Streams meander back and forth across the valley floor mimicking the silver traces of a snail. In this high, exposed spot the wind is terrific. The prayer flag cracks out its mantras in a staccato chant – half worn away with its piety, its role to calm the unpredictable earth spirits.
There are ten posts on the blog about Bhutan, each on a different theme. You will find them all under the category ‘Bhutan’.
Journey in Bhutan: Himalayan Trek in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon is available from Amazon UK, and Amazon USA and all major e-retail outlets for a range of devices.