As you walk …

As you walk, what do you see?

kerb and courthouse

Are you so busy thinking ahead …

courthouse and carillon

That you overlook the details …

machattie park from the drinking fountain

They’re there. They’re always there.

drinking fountain and ochres in machattie park

Especially on a quiet autumn morning.

When the rain has eased.

And the light is soft.

drinking fountain detail and leaf

Patterns. Textures. Colours in every crack.

machattie park details

machattie park gazebo and fallen leaves

These are the colours of my town.


This morning.

begonia house in autumn

Do you see what I see?

margaret hogan sketch machattie park


    Is the hike to Bhutan’s Tiger’s Nest as hard as you think? And did she get to the top?

    I’d been working myself into a sweat about this before we’d even left Australia – physically and mentally. The Tiger’s Nest … that iconic, ridiculously photogenic monastery wedged ridiculously high on a ridiculously sheer cliff in Bhutan, had become my Rocky Balboa moment (in my mind’s eye) and I was determined to a) get to the top b) not embarrass myself in front of the family and c) conquer my paralysing fear of heights.

    So a couple of months prior, finally accepting that I needed a firm hand (ideally holding a whip), I engaged the help of a personal trainer. Many squats later, I believed I was ready to take on Taktsang Lhakhang as it’s known and revered by the Bhutanese.

    Our trip to Bhutan was just a week and the hike was scheduled for our last day, so it sort of loomed over us me for the whole visit.  “How high is it?” “How steep is it?” “How sheer is the drop when you cross the bridge under the waterfall at the very top?” (I had imagined this for months as an ancient, see-through, rocking, fraying, ropey suspension bridge with nothing below it but a frightening 900 metre drop to the valley floor.)

    The week had been warm so we planned to leave early at 6am. It was a great decision. We were first out of the gate and we had the mountain, the mist and the resident dogs to ourselves.

    Walking to The Tiger's Nest, Bhutan

    We often talk about how certain scents can transport you back to a time or moment decades earlier. The Australian bush has that effect on me, especially after rain. But walking in the Bhutanese mountains was completely unfamiliar. It was aromatic, damp and mystical and I could imagine it weaving its way into the hearts of the Bhutanese.

    Nature is the source of all happiness

    Normally from the carpark you can see the monastery high above but not this morning. The mist shrouded the valley and we tramped a quiet, firm, dirt path through the forest, the only sound a little stream making its relieved way through the valley, having survived the deadly drop up top.

    The beginning of the walk to the Tiger's Nest

    Prayer flags and stream at The Tiger's Nest

    Initially the path was gentle but after just 5-10 minutes it moved up a gear. We quickly found ourselves zigzagging our way up the steeper parts and pushing off from our heels under the instruction of Penjo, who takes month long treks into the distant wilds of Bhutan.

    I’d put up my hand the day before when he asked if anyone wanted walking sticks. That was a good decision too. Apparently they reduce the stress on your knees by 25% on the descent. They were great on the way up as well, helping you feel secure in unfamiliar territory.

    An hour later we paused for a picnic breakfast and just as we finished, the mist lifted and there she stood, the Tiger’s Nest, in all her impossible loftiness.

    Breakfast stop to The Tiger's Nest

    Up, up, up. Steeper and steeper. Still we had the mountain to ourselves. No death defying drops or vertiginous stomach lurches as the path was surrounded by forest on either side.

    Darcy in the forest

    And then all of a sudden it wasn’t. Cue the fear. Cue the panic. Cue the stomach lurches.

    The rock ledge of nothingness

    Dogs overlooking the Tiger's Nest

    By all accounts the view was fabulous. I was glued to the rock face admiring the minutiae of the grassy hillside.

    You want me to walk that!

    Step by step. Step by step. You can do this Marg. You can do this.

    And I did.

    A final down.

    And then a final up.

    glimpses from the tigers nest

    The Tiger's Nest, Bhutan

    And there we were at the entrance to the Tiger’s Nest.

    First through the door. In a little over two hours. Da dahhhh!

    Marg at the top of The Tiger's Nest

    A tour of the monastery. A marvel of engineering and craftsmanship. It burnt down in 1998 and was completely rebuilt seven years later. I talk about it in more depth here if you’re interested.

    The crowds started to arrive and it was time for us to go. We had had the best of it. The sun was getting up and the heat of the day upon us.

    A last look with clear skies.

    I climbed that! :)

    The Tiger's Nest, Bhutan

    Hot stone baths later in the day for all.

    Enjoying a traditional hot stone bath scented with sprigs of valerian.

    Enjoying a traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath scented with sprigs of valerian.

    A glass of red. Or three.

    Gantey Palace

    And a final night with friends of old.

    Steve, Pek, Kinley and Marg

    We had waited over 30 years to make this trip. She did not disappoint. The Land of the Thunder Dragon has left an indelible mark on us all.

    As for the walk? Yes, it was challenging. There were a number of people we passed on the way down who were pulling out, happy to enjoy the view from the halfway cafe. But they were significantly older and it was quite hot by then. Go early, take some walking sticks and you’ll be fine. Maybe throw in a whip.

    And the bridge? Heavy, wooden and wide. Not a shredded bit of rope to be seen anywhere.

    Steve shot some GoPro footage right at the end of the walk. You have to watch the last bit with your head on the side but apart from that it great, puts you right there in the moment :)  Hit the little cog on the bottom right and watch it in HD.

    That’s it from Bhutan.

    For now (she says dreaming of future visits).

    Hope you’ve enjoyed the posts. x

    If you’ve landed here and would like to see the previous posts I’ve done on Bhutan here are the links.

    Bhutan and a tale of walking a Himalayan tightrope. (a longer piece that reflects on the whole visit and the reason the trip had been over 30 years in the planning)
    Nearly not getting into Bhutan
    Punakha, Bhutan aka seventh heaven
    Bhutan and the Thimpu Drubchen Festival

    The Bhutanese airline, Druk Air is the only airline that flies into Bhutan from a number of hubs in Asia. We flew in from Bankgok and out to Kathmandu.

    You have to travel with a guide in Bhutan. We used Yudruk Tours and Treks. They organised our flights and itinerary.

    Every visitor pays a tourist fee to visit Bhutan. That fee, depending on group numbers, translates to between $200 and $250US per day and while that might sound expensive, especially for a family (which it is), it does cover everything – your guide, transport, accommodation, food and entry fees to all facilities. When you take into account that it also includes a $70 contribution to community projects it is not unreasonable. The only thing you have to put your hand into your pocket for is alcohol and gifts. Students are entitled to significant discounts and it is worth talking to different tour companies to try and negotiate the best rate because as we discovered, talking to other travelers, the discount varies dramatically from company to company.

    Hope that’s useful. If you have any other questions please feel free to ask.


      Paddock to plate … literally

      Can I take you on a little food journey?

      It begins at The Zin House in Mudgee at their annual Farm Forage.

      zin house farm forageWith pink peppercorns a plenty.

      pink peppercorns at the zin house

      Not so lucky though with the yabbies and farm prawns. They’re there, all three of them, heads and tails smashed and sautéed in butter and drizzled over scrambled eggs laid by the girls this morning. Pass some of Kim’s freshly baked bread please. So much yum in one little dish.

      scrambled egg with yabbie and egg

      Borage and chive flowers. Rocket. Freshly pulled onions pickled in a little vinegar and sugar. Local cheddar foraged from Kim’s fridge.

      rocket and borage salad

      Autumnal prettiness, Zin style.

      scales and quinces

      Brown Hound and Chief Raspberry Thief. Yes we’re on to you Louie.

      brown hound

      Roasted apples, crab apples, feta and hazelnuts washed down with a sangiovese rose – if I remember rightly – but please don’t quote me. The courses kept coming, six in all. And so did the wine. Say no more.

      Crabapples, apples, feta and hazelnuts

      Good mates and kiwis both. Kim Currie with Guest Chef and Chief Forager, Jared Ingersoll.

      Kim Currie and Jared Ingersoll

      Fast forward to Friday, to a Food Styling and Photography Workshop with 2013 Australian Blogger of the Year, Sney Roy of Cook Republic fame.

      Who says you can’t play with your food?

      Sney Roy Food Photography and Styling Workshop first exercise

      I love these days. When you work by yourself so much, it’s wonderful to be surrounded by so many talented and inspiring girls, a number of them nutritionists setting out to get people on the right track with their food.

      Sney Roy Food Photography and Styling workshop

      Lots of playful exercises.


      a Food Styling and Photography workshop.

      And group. (I came home and did a bit of post on the shots I took and added some text just to see how it might play out.)

      bok chou with writing

      I’ll leave you with a little dash of wabi-sabi from Sneh’s kitchen to finish with. She wanted to fix it and I said no, I like it just as it is.

      whatever you are, be a good one

      What ever you dooo this week

      have a good one.


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          Hi I’m Margaret Hogan, an Australian based designer, writer and artist.
          A sprinkler of creative magic.
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