Tiger Leaping Gorge

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Where I stayed
Tea Horse Inn

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Our dear friend Emily visited China some years ago and just loved Tiger Leaping Gorge, so I thought it was a good place to go and looked forward to it.  Little did I know that I was once again signing myself up for a mountain trek.  And that part of it would be a horrendous uphill climb.  Travis only fed me morsels until just before we left, and even as we started I didn't think the 24 bend path would be THAT bad.  Really, it wasn't, but I don't like climbing and I generally like to complain to Travis about our trekking. 

Mama Naxi had a bus take us to the trek's starting point.  A two hour drive ended up being three hours and we didn't actually start trekking until nearly 1 in the afternoon.  That put us behind schedule to begin, but we still started off eagerly. 

The first climb was relatively flat and took us over fields and through the ends of Qiaotou village.  Across the river we could see the greens and yellows of the vegetable fields.  Already it was a beautiful picture, and we weren't even in the gorge.  The first ascent was slow, and the Yangtse was the same dark turquoise as it had been in the Three Gorges.  I was determined to cut down the two hour time estimate to our lunch point, so we hauled right through.  We ended up doing 1 hr 40 minutes, but it would have been more enjoyable if I'd just relaxed and looked at the scenery.  To our right hovered a range of snow-covered Himalayas, and the land above the river was undulating in lovely green hues.  On the side of the river where the path was, the land was not so steep as to prevent building and grazing of animals, so every now and again we would see a house or some animals.  Across the way there seemed to be nothing but plants able to survive the steep hillsides. 

Just before the 24 bend path (which is actually more than 24 bends and very steep) we stopped for lunch at Naxi Family Guest House.  It was totally delicious, and we ended up stuffing ourselves for only a few dollars.  Unfortunately that meant that I would have to climb on a full stomach, which is not so comfortable.  We took it very slow, and were followed almost all the way to the top by a man with a horse, just waiting for me to give up.  I might have done it, but then Travis reminded me that I'm too stubborn to take a horse...and he offered to carry my bag for a little while.  At the top was a little lady selling drinks, fruits, and chocolate.  We wandered out onto the promontory over the first set of rapids and she continually admonished us to be careful.  It was a very beautiful, but precarious spot, and we made our way back down the little path gingerly.  I think it would only be really dangerous if you take stupid risks, which Travis and I generally do not. 

After this the going got easier, but the gravel underfoot was not exactly unmoveable, and after expecting to lose my footing all the way down the hill I finally did.  I really do enjoy trekking (mostly), but with two ankles apt to roll and be sprained and a lack of grace it's not really my sport.  I got a little grumpy after the fall.  Because we'd started so late it was already getting dark, and we wandered over the hills above the river admiring the mountains and the trees and listening to the rush of the rapids beneath us.  We decided not to press on to Halfway Lodge and stayed the night at Tea Horse Inn. 

Again we had another delicious meal (ordered from the neatest menu EVER) and played with the little flop-eared puppies.  A cat that was too shy to be petted still cried for attention through the meal, and at dark we crawled into bed.  We fully intended to wake up for sunrise

When the alarm rang the sunlight was already peeking through the curtains.  Travis scampered out to take some photos while I finished packing up.  We set off before breakfast, as Travis is of the opinion (and I agree) that it's best to get a little trekking in before you eat so you don't get slouchy on the trail. 

As we walked along the sun was still hiding behind the mountains, and beautiful streams of light burst over the mountains peaks.  It was absolutely beautiful, and the clouds rolled over to make an even more beautiful picture. 

After breakfast at Halfway Lodge we began our descent.  This part of the trail seemed to have more guest houses and people on it, and at one point we walked right through a herd of goats.  They were being yelled at for wandering too high up the hillside.  The rapids of the river continued to rush below us, and the hills undulated.  We walked through a couple waterfalls, and I was sure we'd get wet, but we didn't.  Travis was appalled by the shoddy engineering of a waterpipe that followed us down the trail.  For a little while we walked through a pine forest and came across a few men harvesting trees.  It smelled very pretty. 

Eventually we emerged into grassy hillside once more and truly began to descend down to the road.  I saw a little goat on top of a rock bleating for help and waited till it hopped down and scampered off to join its friends.  It was a very cute sight, that little goat. 

Down at the road we had a decision to make: walk all the way down to the river or go back to Lijiang.  I thought the trail down the Tiger Leaping Rock would just be a jaunt, but Travis informed me that it was more of a 3 hour haul, and that put me off it a bit.  Then we discovered that the price had been upped from 10 kwai to 50 in one case and 40 in another.  I didn't think it was worth it, and I guess Travis sort of agreed because he didn't press me to go down.  The story says that the stone is where the tiger for which the gorge is named leapt across the river, but given that that story is ancient Travis pointed out that someone probably just picked a nice rock and called it that.  This point also drew some of the fun out of it for me.  We decided to go have lunch.  It was an excellent lunch at Sean's Guesthouse, also recommended by Emily. 

I must say that I'm particularly glad we took this last two kilometer jaunt to the village where Sean's is, and I will tell you why.  The whole trek I enjoyed the scenery, but the gentle (sometimes less gentle) undulation of the hillsides wasn't exactly what I had in mind when thinking "gorge."  I still had the picture of the vertiginous sidewalls of the Three Gorges in my head, and I think a little part of me was disappointed.  Then as we made this two kilometer walk a sheer rockface appeared and grew in front of us until it was too large to take a photo of.  It was stunning, awing, and exactly what I was looking for.  Travis exclaimed, "That's the biggest rock I've ever seen!"

After lunch (during which we sat and stared at the giant rock wall) we made our way back to Lijiang and Mama's.  We were back in time for dinner, which made me very happy, and took a last stroll through the old town at night.  Baba got us tickets to Kunming for the next day. 

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