– Joaquim Magalhães de Castro
In 1627, Estevão Cacela leaves for Shigatse, where he arrives in November of that year. “We decided to make this change because we think that all the favors of Lama Rupa were tricks to prevent us from our mission,” writes the Portuguese priest. Shortly thereafter, in December or early January, it is João Cabral’s turn to head to Shigatse, having reached that location on January 20, 1628. It is not known which route the two priests used.
One possibility is that they followed the Chagri Valley to Longzhi, through the Yale La Pass, where there is still a fortified monastery. Another hypothesis is that they have chosen the most usual route, from Paro to the Tibetan city of Pagri, via the Chumbi valley. Along the way, a visit to the Paro Taktasang, better known as the “Tiger’s Nest” monastery, the main postal card of Bhutanese tourism, ten kilometers north of Paro, is almost a must. Taktasang was built in 1692 on the face of a steep cliff and is perched about 1,000 meters above the Paro Valley. The climb is steep and the hiker usually takes about two hours to complete without special physical preparation being required. The lazy can always rent a mule or a pony and halfway there is a cafeteria to rest for a while and admire the breathtaking scenery that stretches as far as the eye can see.
The “Tiger’s Nest” is a sacred place for all Bhutanese, as it is believed that from Tibet there miraculously flew, on the back of a fabulous tiger, the venerated Padmasambhava, father of Buddhism in Bhutan. This saint – also known as Guru Rinpoche – meditated there “for three years, three months, three weeks and three days.” Masters who once visited this place include the well-known Tibetan poet Jetsun Milarepa. The monastery is a series of buildings erected on the dizzying slope of the rock, and seven of them are open to the public.
Thomas Manning, the first Englishman to arrive in Lhasa, resided in Pagri between late September and early November 1811, and characterized the housing conditions in the city as follows: “Dirt, grease and smoke. Much misery, but mutton is good.”
Pagri was to become of military importance after its occupation by the British troops led by Francis Younghusband in 1904. Apparently the dzong (fortress monastery) there was of little use to the Tibetans. We are talking about a hinge point between Tibet and Bhutan, where travelers were staying in traditional houses made of stone or wood like the ones we still see scattered in the alpine steppe of good water resources and abundant pastures, the ideal place. for cattle breeding. However, because of its geographical location, Pagri is prone to natural disasters, whether it’s summer flash floods, mudslides or snowstorms, which could have weighed negatively when Cacela and Cabral’s decided to start their way.