On to Tiger Leaping Gorge
May 1, 2005
The four of us did our very best to get up early and make it to the Bus Station in time for the 8:30 bus to Qiautou, the town where we could start our trek along one of the deepest gorges in the world. Nevertheless by the time we arrived all the tickets were sold out until 1.30pm. Not wanting to wait we ended up taking a microbus instead and set off immediately.
Upon arrival in Qiautou we were offered discounted entrance to the gorge. Unable to see any catch we agreed and found ourselves being whisked through the entrance gates in the back of a black car with darkened windows. The guy then left us at the trail head with four blue tickets entirely in Chinese and disappeared back into town.
Once we had covered ourselves with Factor 50 we started our walk towards the gorge along a dusty track following yellow signs daubed on rocks along the way. We stopped for brunch at the first eating place we found and as we were tucking in to Egg Fried Rice we saw the crowds from the 8:30 bus pass us by. The Chinese holiday makers were laden with such big bags and technical equipment that we wondered whether we were prepared for whatever the 3 day trek held in store for us. We needn't have worried!
One of the last people to pass us by was Jason, the Canadian guy we first met in the Hump in Kunnming. He joined us for lunch and our party of four became five. Jason's name by the end of the day had become Gupta - reason unknown.
After lunch we walked for another hour or so to the start of the hardest part of the trek called the 24 bends, a steep narrow ascent to the highest part of the trek at 2670m above sea level. This was truly exhausting and first Sarah, and then I gave in and hired one of the many horses along the route to carry us to the top.
The first day trekking along the gorge was hot and dusty, the trail was very busy - May 1st is a Bank Holiday in China and marks the start of the Golden Week when everyone is on holiday.
At around 4pm we came across Tea Horse Guest House. Sarah nipped in front of a group of Chinese tourists and nabbed the last room for the five of us to share. The facilities were basic, the toilets no more than a trough and the room was bare save for five beds jammed in one after another but this was all more than adequate. There was a view over the gorge and down in to the Yangtze River below and after sunset the stars were beautiful overhead.
We got chatting to a Canadian family and 9 of us ordered a huge meal for us to share. The table was heaving with deicious food washed down with Dali beer. We followed this with an order for 6 apple pancakes. After a long wait six plates of two banana pancakes arrived, by this time our Canadian buddies had retired to bed and the lion's share of food fell to Danny and James. Not one to be defeated Danny ate at least 5 pancakes and then spent the rest of the evening grumbling that he had eaten too much.
When we eventually made it to bed it felt like a ten year olds sleepover - we were all jammed together like sardines, James feet smelt really bad, an anonymous party was laying eggy smells left right and centre and Dannny's stomach was groaning from overeating. We were laughing and joking for a long time before sleep fell upon us all.
Day 63 complete