A Tibetan baby is born during the 8th cycle of the Year of the Pig. The year is 1455 and his name is Drukpa Kunley – a precocious child by all accounts – eventually arriving in Bhutan with his ‘Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom’. This is ‘The Divine Madman’ and he shows the Bhutanese how to square one's karma and attain the blissful state of Nirvana.
His days and nights are busy, striking down demons and sleeping with willing young ladies who pay him with beer in exchange for his blessing.
The Bhutanese take the stranger to heart, even though a conservative lot and loathed to show affection in public. They paint penises on their homes to protect them from evil spirits, and to promote fertility.
I trudge on towards the temple, where I'm told a monk holds a symbolic penis and sanctifies the faithful.
Approaching a fairytale house I acknowledge an ancient creature bent under the weight of a bundle of firewood and years of hard labour. She turns stiffly towards me, and scowls from deep within a weathered face. The toothless mouth is tightly clenched, her nostrils flare and sunken eyes stare downwards.
She's disgusted with my choice of hiking gear and I’m wondering at the inconsistencies of a people that find hiking shorts offensive – shorts that cover my knees – when a mad marauding monk is considered a saint.
The woman doesn’t move, but I feel her cold stare follow me as I tread a timeless path by the house, and wonder what curse I have taken on board.
At the end of the house I turn a corner, still struck by that vehement look, until I'm soothed by the sight of a rhododendron forest tumbling off to one side; on the other there's a whitewashed wall, complete with 2m upright flying phallus painted in gaudy pink, poking through the coils of a circling dragon.
There's movement up ahead, a young woman carrying water. I blush, but it seems the Divine, the mad and the young are above the earthly emotion of embarrassment, even with me in my bare-legged state.