Taking On Tiger
Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
122Trip End Ongoing
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
We head over to Mama's No.1, and meet our companions for the minibus ride to Tiger Leaping Gorge - James, Kate and Jo - all teachers from the UK working in Bangkok. Just to make sure we survive the trip, Mama gives us all an extra helping of breakfast and we leave wondering if the extra weight in our stomachs will be our downfall in the gorge.
The minibus to the gorge was quite a scenic trip, and the roadside sellers of strawberries looked so tempting! But we pressed on and arrived after about 3 hours at the start of the walk at Qiaotou
We had passed two local guys with their horses not to far into the trail and they had decided to follow us. We had heard that it is common that they follow people in the hope that someone will require their assistance at some stage. We stated our claim - "no horse" in the hope that they would give up, but by the look of us, they probably thought they had a good chance - the steepness was breaking us out in a sweat. Each time we stopped for a breather, "horse" would be piped by one of the riders. Trying to convince them between breaths that we weren't going to use their services was to no avail.
Christie was feeling the strain climbing, along with a backpack packed with provisions for at least 4 days with clothes to survive rain, snow and freezing conditions. But it was quite hot, and although a little cloudy, we still had the famous 28 bends to go (also known as the 24 bends - the number becomes irrelevant after a few). To make sure that Christie made the distance, Glenn offered to take her bag, and he saddled up with bags front and back, much to the amusement of the horse riders
After a hot and sweaty two hour climb, we made it to the Naxi Family Guesthouse and we unloaded our gear and marvelled at the view from their guesthouse - the magnificent snow mountains in the background, surrounded by green valleys behind. We stopped here for a break and had an amazing lunch - so fresh and tasty - easily one of the best meals we have had since returning to China. All refreshed and full, we had a quick visit to their toilets with the funny drawings of Chinese faces indicating males and females - and what a view! We had heard that the Halfway Guesthouse had a view from their toilet, but this one set the benchmark!
Leaving the guesthouse and waving goodbye, we stepped out to see the horse men waiting for us, after having a chuckle we all continued on the path, the horse men occasionally pointing out the correct way to go as we fumbled with maps. We soon approached the 28 bends as the steepness of the climb increased as if to signify that this was the start of the bends climb. We started to count the bends, but we soon reverted to counting footsteps as we willed our bodies up the mountain. Glenn helped out Christie again by "being the horse" and after insisting again that we didn't need a horse, and already halfway through the steep section, our friendly horse men decided to give up on their pursuit and we waved farewell
Just to add a bit of spice to the bends, it started to sprinkle with light rain, and upon reaching the top we had to pull out our rain coats. Our friends, having reached the top before us continued on and we stopped to catch our breath. In front of us, next to a lady selling goods to weary travellers, was a platform over the edge of a cliff with an awesome view of the snow mountains in front of us, but with each second that passed the view was enveloped by fog and clouds and we could hardly make out the mountains. Pretty sure that the lady was charging for the view from the platform we joked that we couldn't see a thing! Feeling a little disappointed as though we had missed the magnificent rewarding view after the climb, we now started our descent, but to our amazement we were greeted with a rainbow across the gorge! This was definitely an amazing sight and was the icing on the cake after our climb. Unfortunately the climb down was through thick bamboo and we couldn't get a decent shot of it - so this memory lives on in our minds - for the rest of you - you'll have to do it yourself to see this!
The path was now much easier, and the five wanderers happily trekked along, soaking in the amazing views - the clouds allowing spotlights of sunlight to highlight the surrounds - really a dramatic sight
Hiking on, we were keeping an eye on the markings along the path from the guesthouses as to how far we had before reaching the next guesthouse. We made it to Tea Horse Guesthouse about 6pm, quite tired and ready to put the feet up. Our friends were keen to make it to Halfway Guesthouse for the night and we deliberated for a while at the turn off what we were going to do.
In the end, we decided to try the path a little to see if it was steep and turn back if necessary. We still had about 4kms to go to the Halfway Guesthouse and although concerned that darkness would beat us there, we continued on.
The path continued on and at one stage we lost the path - we ended up on a road that wound down to a village. Trying to continue on we were met with a dead end. Trying to get help from the villagers they pointed us down, but we were supposed to be still remaining high for a while longer. Backtracking, we managed to find the path again and climbing back up to it made the longing for reaching the Halfway Guesthouse all the more stronger.
Further on, along a steep incline down to the gorge below, up climbed a little dog, and although quite wary of us, it decided to follow us. It was only a puppy, and we tried to discourage it from following us, but he was determined stick with us.
As the sun dropped lower we suddenly found elation at a sign that Halfway Guesthouse was only 300m away! We finally made it, and again, the guesthouse had a spectacular view, but night was beating in fast. We grabbed a room and settled in for a hearty meal. Not quite the Naxi Family Lunch, but we were happy for a feed. After dinner, Glenn decided that he needed to have a shower, and with the thoughts of steaming hot water - the signs advertised 24 hours hot water - the reality soon hit when the water was cold! Running the water for a while did no good and interpreting that the heater showed 25 degrees, he managed to turn the heater unit on. Except now the lights dimmed - the whole electricity for the guesthouse was being pulled low trying to heat the water. A patter of feet outside and click - the electricity to the hot water unit was cut off. Hmmm.... A cold shower... Still, Glenn managed it somehow.
Back to the room, we sought warmth from the bed doonas and while reviewing the photos - click - the electricity was turned off. Ok, time for bed, we get the hint...
Day 2, we had a filling breakfast and after checking out the view from the famous toilet with a view, we followed the trail again
Christie wasn't looking forward to climbing down and up steep cliffs and ladders to see the river and she was relieved when Kate also decided to give it a miss and they set off by road to Walnut Grove. James, Jo and Glenn decided to give it a go, and on advice from Tina's they headed down towards Teacher Zhang's guesthouse to a path winding down the mountainside. The other option was a near vertical ladder down. Greeting us near the start of the path down was an old lady collecting fees for using the path that they maintained. Who could refuse an old lady? , and we decided that a few photos of her would justify the fee
The path down to the middle gorge was quite steep and narrow, but stunning. There were some great viewpoints of the whole gorge down this path and this made it much slower than we had predicted (photo stops!). Reaching the middle rapids, the river was quite wild. The gorge was quite narrow at this point and the surge of water passing through created quite a sight. Talking to the locals, we established the place where the tiger was supposed to have jumped (and collected a goat in its mouth as it did so). However, landslides have brought down the rocks at the top of the gorge and although the fallen rocks can be seen below, the now much larger gap between the gorge makes the story much harder to swallow. Still, the local explanation still gives some possibility.
Making our way back up, we opted for another route - the steep way up to get back to the road quickly. This steep way involved a steep and tiring climb up the cliff with the aid of wire rope to help us climb. Soon we came up to a ladder that we had heard about - about a 100m climb almost vertically up the cliff face. Being so high up already, the thought of a slip meant that the climb up was quite nerve racking. Slow and sure footsteps meant that the climb was extended and avoiding the look down until the top, made this one of the more nervous climbs that Glenn has done.
Over the cliff face, the path to the road was much easier. Following the road towards Walnut Grove, we again paused many times to soak up the view. Reaching some houses we saw Christie and Kate waving to us from Sean's Guesthouse.
We stopped for some tea, and were warned from the girls that Sean was not that friendly. Indeed talking with him really put us off spending too much time at his place - a great contrast to the other guesthouses we had stopped at. Enquiring where walnut grove was - this was it. The magical place called walnut grove that the guidebook had described did not really exist. Our plan to spend an extra day around here was put off quickly from our options - stay at Sean's (no thanks!), or hike back to Tina's. We decided to get the bus back to the start and then another bus back to Lijiang. But of course, things are not always that smooth. There was a "Farmer's Revolution" strike on that day and the entrances were being blocked and not many vehicles were getting through. Another group at Sean's had organised a mini van to pick them up, and they were still waiting. Deciding to flag down a vehicle for a lift, it ended up being the minibus for the other group. We organised for the driver to come back for us - an estimated hour longer.
The hour passed, and with the last bus back to Lijiang leaving at 6pm, we were approaching 5pm pretty fast and getting worried that we would in fact be spending the night in "Walnut Grove". We managed to flag down another vehicle, but Sean talked them out of taking us as the other driver was still coming (we hoped)
Luckily, it wasn't long before the driver returned and we made it back to the start and headed to the bus stop. There were a few minibus drivers hanging around and after we reached 6pm and no bus, we opted to pay a little extra for the minibus to make it back to Lijiang. Trying to explain where to be dropped off, didn't help and we finally stopped in unfamiliar territory. Thinking we recognised the path that we left for the gorge, we followed it and some time later, with the help of locals, we finally found our way back to Mama's Guesthouse.
Back at Mama's, and worried about getting a room, Mama insisted "eat first". Trying to explain that we wanted to make sure that we had a room, we were met with the response, "dinner, you eat now!". Ok, Yes Mama! And what a feast. A great way to end the trip, beers, reminiscing and Mama's food. Oh... and of course, Mama had a room for us too, with a nice hot shower. We love this place.