I had heard that the Five Fingers Guest House was a good place to stay so we walked past the Halfway House and ran into one of the brothers that runs the Five Fingers. When we got there, we sat down and had some tea and waited to see the rooms. One very important thing that he failed to mention was that the shower had broken that day so there wasn't a working shower in the place. After some 8 hours of hiking, the only thing on our minds was a nice hot shower, a beer and some food. I hate back tracking, but we headed back to the Halfway House with "24 hour hot showers". Unfortunately, we were just about the last people to arrive there around 7:30pm and all the hot water was gone, but at least they did have water. After some food and beer, it was pass out time. We slept in 'til about 8am and started back on the trail the next morning around 10 after breaky. The hike to Tina's seemed like nothing and only took about 2 hours. Walnut Garden was another 30 minutes away so we decided to go down to the Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge Stone. It was definitely worth the walk down. Down on the river you could feel the immense power of the river. Unfortunately, after a full day and a half of walking it was now time to climb back up almost vertically via the 'ladder trail'. It seemed like you climbed 1500M up in the horizontal distance of maybe 500M. I figured I was entitled for a few rest breaks along the way until this 70 year old Chinese man passed me on the trail. I really couldn't let that happen so I struggled on and made it to the top a scant few minutes ahead of him
. I was wiped out by the end of it and well over heated. Fortunately, my friend had an ice cold coke waiting for me when I finally managed to make my way back up to the top. From there it was only a 30 minute walk down the road to Walnut Garden. We stopped at Sean's GH, but they had very basic rooms and we were looking for something a little nicer with a better view. Another 5 minutes down the road we found Chateau de Woody right on the edge of the cliff. They had en suite rooms for just about no money with a nice view of the Gorge. After 2 sunny 'gorgeous' days, it started to piss down rain so we decided that it was time to head back. The only problem is that when it rains in the Gorge, it causes landslides that block the road and make it real dangerous to try to get out. Apparently, several people have died in landslides trying to drive back to Qiaotou or on to Daju. Our driver scouted out the roads in both directions and decided to take us to Qiaotou. The strange thing is a group of Belgian tourist, with a tour guide that didn't speak any Chinese, still went on to Daju even though there were rocks falling in that direction. I saw them again in Shangrila so I guess they made it. Our driver constantly looked up at the cliff side to make sure rocks weren't gonna hit us on the hour long ride out. On the way out we passed the tourist bus stop viewing point and realized why we had decided on a 2 day trek instead of taking a tour of the Gorge.
* Travelers Note If you do get there for a late morning start, it's probably best to either stay in Qiaotou and get an early start the next day or just go to the Tea Horse Guest House the first day and take 3 days to travel to Walnut Garden if you have the time. There are plenty of areas to explore if you have the time. I've heard rumors that there is a hot spring at the end of one of the "wrong" trails, but I couldn't find it. The Halfway House is a good place to meet others at night and an easy walk to the Middle Stone and Walnut Garden on the 3rd day.
In the past 5 years, Tiger Leaping Gorge's high trail has transformed from an experts only trek into something of a must do for tourist and travelers alike in the region. Trails were poorly marked if at all and people got lost more often than not. The low trail has been turned into a paved road full of tour buses so even the common man can take a look at the beauty of the Gorge. We didn't get started until about 11:30 so we had the hardest part of the trail to do on our first day. We made it to the Naxi Family Guest House around 1pm for lunch and hit the "28 Bends" around 2pm. This was steep switchback climb to the summit. Unfortunately, the summit is short lived and you barely notice that you've reached the top before you start descending again. But the hike on the high trail was beautiful. You can clearly see the level where vegetation stops growing on the sheer rock faces of the 4000+ meter Jade Dragon Mountain. After walking for about 7 hours we passed the "halfway" point.