Vertigo and The Tiger

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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What I did
Visit to Tiger Leaping Gorge

Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rain. Dreary. Packed our waterproofs in our day bag for the trip. We are heading off with others - some doing 2 or 3 day hikes starting at Quiatou, but we are doing a mini trek of the Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge. The journey is winding and bumpy in places intersecting an early turn in the Yangtse river and plenty of construction along the way. It appears as if a train route will soon bring this rural delight ever closer to the masses. After 3 hours we pull into Quiatou (spelling is probably wrong) and most of the group jump off. The driver pulls away and 300m down the road someone notices a bag and walking gear in the seat in front of us. It appears the English woman ahead of us just thought we were stopping for a toilet break, and left her stuff behind (Note - never leave your stuff anywhere, you never know where it may go - in the words of the bad guy, Donovan, in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade' - "Trust No-one Dr Jones").
I stop the bus driver and he pulls over and then makes a quick phone call and esentially does nothing. He just sits there and lights up a fag.We sit and sit. To prevent any further hold up I take the woman's bags and run back up the hill to find a fuming Brit unaware that this was the start of the walk, and pretty much blaming the country of China for her not paying attention. She's grateful for me bringing the bags back, but I think her anger is more a case of embarassment than anything.
Hero status achieved, I then become a wilting daisy as the bus begins it's Italian Job style drive through the gorge. Immense (not that I know anything of it). Sheer walls of rock stretch up either side of the brown river in turmoil below. The road snakes the upper reaches of the gorge with a white line providing the protection to a violent seatbeltless (not that it would make a difference, but this is what goes through my head) end. Kate loves it, gripped in her seat, nose pressed tightly against the window trying as hard as she can to join with the window. I consciously feel the need to press against the other side to balance out her eagerness. As an Engineer I understand that if everyone goes onto one side of the vehicle as all the keenies had done, it was more than likely very unstable!.
Every turn feels like the end as the bus rocks around the curves and the driver is completely non-plus.


I cringe, I falter, I feel weak all over and just close my eyes till it's over. The bus pulls to a halt at Middle TLG and I crawl out feeling like I've been through a thorough ordeal. A test of manliness and heroism and I've failed miserably. I am barely able to stand.

From the stop we walk to a hostel who have been maintaining paths to the lower gorge and the waters edge, so we have to pay for the privilidge of using their through-way. From this point, the other side of the gorge is closer than the bottom of the gorge which provides some gravitas to the steepness of the paths. The path winds, turns, dips, steepens and then you pass some horses (How the hell did they get down here?) and then you have to climb down a homemade ladder - wasn't keen on that. Legs shaking from the walk, the base is something quite outstanding and unmissable. From Tiger Leaping Stone, you can take in the tumultuous waters while being in awe of the sheer sided mountains, the top of which you cannot see.

Although more tiring going back up, I find it vastly easier as I only have to look at rock in front of me. The poorly fixed railing at shin height provides comfort at points if no real security is offered. My keeness to ascend means we cover the distance in about the same time as our descent, soaked in sweat and barely able to walk once again. But what a sight, staggeringly worth it.

A car in the ditch on the way home reminds me my fears are real and my vertigo will not leave me anytime soon.

Back to the hostel and dinner. To bed early for our 7 plus hour hard seater journey to Kunming. In our guidebook Lijiang promised a "Gorgeous town cut with waterways, decorated with local architecture and populated by the friendly Naxi minority". As our only real foray into the countryside, it did nothing but deliver.
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