The Champagne Backpacker: Michael's Round the World Trip 2005-2007-- The Adventure of a Lifetime travel blog

First Hour Into Tiger Leaping Gorge

My First Night In The Gorge Was Spent At Naxi Family Guesthouse,...

Toby And Martin From Munich, Germany

Chinese Tourist By The Busloads Visiting The Gorge Below

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Jade Dragon Mountains

On The Trail With Anna (UK), Stephanie (Belgium), And Caroline (Belgium)

Looking Back Into The Gorge From Near Tina's Guesthouse

End Of Trek Dinner At Tina's Guesthouse (l-r: Me, Holger, Alke, Anna,...

THURSDAY, AUGUST 3, 2006. TIGER LEAPING GORGE, CHINA. I caught a 1:30 pm minibus (Y15) to Qiaotou, about two hours north of Lijiang and the starting point for the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek (Y60). This 16 kilometer gorge is one of the deepest gorges in the world, where the Yangtze River (here called the Jinsha River) surges between two mountain ranges, the Haba and the Jade Dragon Snow mountains. From the top of the mountains to the river waters, it's a staggering 3900 meters. On the bus were five other travellers that I would eventually meet and travel with through the gorge and back to Lijiang: Holger (Berlin, Germany), Alke (Germany), Toby (Munich, Germany), Martin (Munich, Germany), and Yuki (Switzerland/Japan). I left most of my stuff back at my guesthouse in Lijiang, carrying only my daypack. As I didn't get to the trailhead until 4 p.m., my plan was to hike two hours to Naxi Family Guesthouse following the high trail along the Haba mountain range. The dirt trail was well worn and marked with arrows painted by several of the guesthouses near the end of the trek. The weather was fine, making for an easy hike to the guesthouse. As I hugged the trail along the Haba mountains on my left, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountains towered above me to my right, with the brown Jinsha river raging a thousand meters below. It was great to be in the mountains, alone and away from all the Chinese tourists.

Very few Chinese venture away from the safety and security of group tours. Individualism and privacy are not highly valued in China. In terms of privacy, for example, at many bus and train stations most toilets are of the squat variety with two waist high walls and no doors separating the stalls. I'm frequently asked by Chinese if I'm travelling with anyone. When I tell them I am travelling alone, they usually give me a look of astonishment, probably wondering why anyone would want to travel alone. On the trail, I did meet a couple of Chinese guys from Guangzhou doing the trek. They planned to stay at Naxi Family GH too. When we arrived at the GH (Y15 bed), they were the only Chinese guests--Everyone else was a Westerner.

At dinner, I met Holger, Alke, Toby, Martin, and Yuki. They all arrived shortly after me and the Chinese guys. During the evening, we swapped travel stories and itineraries. Holger and Alke were traveling China while Toby and Martin were traveling in Vietnam and China. A few days before, Toby met Yuki, and she decided to travel with him and Martin.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 4, 2006. NAXI FAMILY GUESTHOUSE TO TINA'S GUESTHOUSE, TIGER LEAPING GORGE, CHINA. I hit the trail with Martin while Toby and Yuki remained back at the GH to wait for a horse for Yuki. Martin and I would meet them either on the trail or at Halfway Lodge for lunch. The initial climb through the so-called "24 bends" was the toughest part of the trek--a switchback trail with a large elevation gain. Once past "24 bends", it was a relatively easy trek to Tina's Guesthouse. Along the way, we passed several small villages, waterfalls, and landslides. We could occasionally hear and see the roaring river below us. For lunch, we stopped at Halfway Lodge, with a spectacular view of the Jade Dragon Snow mountains from its restaurant terrace. After lunch, I hiked alone the remaining two hours and reached Tina's Guesthouse at about 4 pm. Although the trail continues on, I was tired and ready for a beer. I decided to stay at Tina's and return to Lijiang the next day; Everybody else decided to do the same. We ate dinner and organized transport back to Qiaotou the next morning.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 5, 2006. LIJIANG, CHINA. As our group heading back to Lijiang was nine persons, we split into two groups. I went on a later bus with Stephanie and Caroline. In Lijiang, I had a reservation at First Bend Inn, where I stayed earlier. I showed Stephanie and Caroline the inn, and they decided to stay there too. In the evening, Holger and Alke met us at the Inn and we proceded to Ma Ma Fu's restaurant for an excellent Chinese meal.

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