Hiking in the Tiger Leaping Gorge

Trip Start Jan 16, 2009
Trip End Nov 20, 2009

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Flag of China  , Yunnan Province,
Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hiking is nice. As long as you don’t get lost. We started the hike in the awesome Tiger Leaping Gorge by the Yangzi river on Thursday evening about six o’clock (yes, it was raining the previous day in Shangri-la so we ended up drinking beer all day of course, and didn‘t get up and moving too early), planning to reach a guesthouse to stay in in a couple of hours and finishing the trek the next day. Our plan for the first day worked almost perfectly and we got to the guesthouse in time before sunset, admiring the sunset-lit mountain tops. It was the morning the next day when we got it all wrong. We went off the track by accident in the very beginning of the day, ending up climbing almost vertical gravel trail. We did realize that we are not where we should be but the hand-drawn map we had got from a café didn’t help much. “We’ll eventually reach the top of this mountain and find the trail, because the map says the trail goes to the top, right?“. It was only when we ran out of water and the gravel turned to a next to impenetrable bamboo forest when we decided to head back down. We finally reached the place where we started, both of us tired and frustrated as this useless odyssey took us 5-6 hours.

Needless to say, we were too tired to continue the trek and decided to go back to the place where we started. The fact was that Aapo was running out of time as he had fixed a meeting in Laos for Tuesday and it was already Friday (the distance doesn‘t look too long on the map, but with those roads, it is.), so he took a bus to Lijiang the next morning and further on to Kunming, whereas I was determined to hike the gorge anyway. The second try was better as I found the right path, which was quite a lot of easier than the one we tried the day before, and eventually I hiked the path quite quickly though my feet were a bit sore in the end.

After the trek I also took a bus to Lijiang (Aapo was already on his way to Kunming), where I stayed one night. It was written in one guide book, that Lijiang is one of the most visited places on the earth - a place that I had hardly heard about before. If the Chinese beer called Snow was the best selling beer in the world last year (http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSTRE52U60B20090331), I guess Lijiang can as well be one of the most visited places. What is Lijiang all about then? Well, it has a big and renovated old town full of guest houses, restaurants and souvenir shop. Actually it reminded me of Brugge in Belgium. Lijiang was indeed crowded and tourist buses started running there from the early morning hours. I didn’t especially like Lijiang and considered that one night over there was enough so I was ready to continue to another place crowded by backpackers and Chinese tourist groups, Dali.

Dali appeared much nicer to me than Lijiang, it felt less crowded and orientation was easier on the straight streets inside the city walls, compared to the maze-like narrow streets of Lijiang. Sandwiched between mountains and Erhai lake, Dali also has nice surroundings for cycling and trekking. Due to the ongoing recovery from Tiger Leaping Gorge, I didn’t even consider trekking, but I hired a bike for a day and cycled to a town of Xizhou, 18km away from Dali. Unfortunately again, I don’t have enough time to do much else in Dali, as my bus to Kunming is departing soon. From Kunming, I’ll catch a Guangzhou-bound train the day after tomorrow and continue to Hong Kong.
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