Tiger Leaping Gorge
Trip Start Mar 15, 2008
71Trip End Ongoing
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Jane's Guest House
Among the scenic eye-candy we were privy to on this bus ride: lush farmland with colors running the gamut through all shades of green, patches of lavender interspersed among the brick-red earth, and for the definite highlight, a cluster of enormously imposing, granite faced, snow capped mountains peeking out from the more verdant, smaller peaks surrounding, shortly before our Qiaotou destination
We had shared the minibus ride with the usual mix of local villagers and one other white guy, undoubtedly on his way to Qiaotou for the trek as well. Unsurprisingly, we were the only ones getting off in Qiaotou, and discovered, again not too surprisingly, that we were all headed to the same guest house (Jane's)... the only one deemed acceptable after perusal in LP. We half walked/wandered, hoping we were going in the right direction, and pretty soon, were stopped by a seemingly random guy on the side of the road demanding a 50RMB entrance fee for the gorge. We momentarily thought we were being scammed, but the price was confirmed in the book and by a woman coming out of an even more random looking "ticket office" on the side of the road. One note for paying the perpetual entrance fees in China: "student ID cards" seem to get you significant percentage discounts on many tickets, and I've come to learn that anything even remotely resembling an ID card, ie: driver's license, will do the job. This is something I'll have to test out when it comes time to pay the ridiculously high entrance fee for Jiuzhaigou reserve. Anyways, after getting our "tickets", we were off, (being intercepted by a really high-strung, somewhat manic Australian woman running out of the Gorged Tiger Cafe, yelling something about having dinner ready soon) and soon at Jane's, a very short walk up the road
This guest house was really chill, the view and air quite scenic and relaxing. It felt good to be away from it all for the moment, with a handful of people all eagerly anticipating the same journey ahead. The guy we met on the bus, an American from Seattle, Jesse, and I had a pretty low-key night, with dinner at Margo's (the nice but somewhat "off" Australian who owns the Gorged Tiger Cafe) and a lot of sitting around and chatting... and later in the evening, some Irish guys arrived, who'd had a considerable amount of travelling experience, and who Jesse ended up talking to for hours.
Anyways, the next morning, we were up pretty bright and early, stepping out into unexpectedly chilly air. Being in the mountains was apparent in the crisp cleanliness of it as well, and after a decent breakfast, we packed our day packs, stored our bags, and were off. The American guy, Amos, started out with us for a short time in the beginning, but ended up heading back to Jane's as a result of a change of plans to await his girlfriend in Qiaotou. The trekker's path along the gorge was the "high road", elevated in order to avoid the new low road/highway that had been built in the recent past to shuttle tour buses back and forth between Qiaotou, several scenic overlooks, and some other villages up the way along the gorge..
Jesse ingested something funny for the second time on this China adventure so far, and promptly started experiencing stomach troubles not too long into our climb. High elevation equals a fierce sun, from which we stupidly had zero protection (save for sunblock). And strong sun combined with a weak stomach leads to compounded effects of dehydration... bad news. The gorge trek very early on proved to be none too easy. The first day is the most difficult, taking up the bulk of the journey and the climb to the top, but we really started having trouble early on. This led us to our greatest mistake
Although in hindsight, we should've just continued on to the more certain Naxi Family Guest House, Old Horse was set in an incredibly charming little place called Nuoyu Village, and it gave us access to one of the most spectacular mountain views I had ever seen. The tidy dirt courtyard, from which our seats were elevated and life-savingly shaded, faced Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in all its full glory
After about three hours of rejuvenation, we decided to tackle the trail again. We had no intention of backtracking to Naxi Family House, as we were almost certain there was a shortcut back to the main trail from this little village. In answer to our question, the lady running the place pointed toward a place which didn't look too far in distance, but made up for it aplenty in the sheer ascent it would take to reach it. She kept pointing to a house on top of an incredibly steep hill, and with a sinking feeling, I realized, however much I was reluctant to, that that was the house we would have to climb to, to even reach just the very beginning of the 28 bends, the most difficult part of the trail. Attesting further to her kindness, she offered to climb up with us to the "path" that would take us up to the house, and Jesse and I set out behind her, on what would be one of the most difficult fights against gravity on the entire trek. This had to do, not with the distance we went, but the sheer speed at which this tiny woman who had to be at least in her late 40s/early 50s, sprang up the hill
There was no doubt Jesse and I had started our trek before any of the people now on the trail, as most people start the trek after the hours long bus ride up from Lijiang (something we thought would've been stupid to do, as the desire to tackle a two day long trek after a bumpy bus ride about three hours long, isn't high up on our wish list). At any rate, it was something of a relief, at least to Jesse, I'm sure, to see not only more people, but more people actually using the horses provided by the locals as well
The bends actually turned out not to be SO bad... the mad dash from Old Horse halfway up the steep ass hill toward the house had been so difficult, that relatively speaking, the bends were easier than we'd anticipated. However, we went at it SLOWLY... with frequent stops, basically whenever we chanced upon shade, and there were a few nerve-wracking moments when Jesse thought he wouldn't be able to make it (it just kept going up... and up... and up...)... every local with a horse, donkey, mule, etc... that passed us thought they had a sale in the bag, seeing Jesse's weary steps... but alas, we were able to enjoy his victory over the extreme desire to just jump on four legged help.
Upon reaching the "summit", we were greeted with "YOU'RE DONE!!"... or something to that effect. From that point on, it was all pretty much down-hill. Most trekkers call it a day at Bendiwan/Halfway Guest House (some unbelievably hardcore ones get all the way to Walnut Grove)... but we threw in the rag at the first place we came to... Tea Horse. A thoroughly relaxing homestay with a new wing of rooms and spectacular views, all the laggers on the trail who couldn't haul ass to Halfway House had congregated there. No shame on our parts. It hardly seems to make sense to even want to get all way to Halfway House, and Walnut Grove even more so, as covering that much ground hardly leaves any distance to cover on day two
Incomparably easier, and with continuous grandeur in the way of views. The second day brought level walks on narrow trails on cliff edges and around bends that stored surprise after surprise... mostly more amazing views of the gorge and the river flowing way below.. and further on, there were a couple cheeky waterfalls to walk through as well. These brought welcome drops in temperature... which was, incidentally, not as high as day one, but something to welcome relief from nonetheless.
We were thoroughly done when we arrived at Tina's Guest House, forty minutes short of Walnut Grove. There were minibuses waiting here to drop people back off in Qiaotou, and as soon as we amassed a group of people to split the ridiculous 80RMB fee with (eight of us trekkers), and, not to mention, after some AMAZINGLY tenacious haggling, we were off once again, views along the trekker-free low road back to Jane's. Sated, but a little sad to say bye to the amazing gorge.
Definitely one of the highlights of Yunnan.