Tiger Leaping Gorge

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Apr 30, 2011

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Where I stayed
Tea horse trade guesthouse

Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Saturday, April 16, 2011

We left Lijiang in the morning on a minibus heading north to Tiger Leaping Gorge. From the raging waters of the Jinsha River to the snow-capped mountains at the top, the gorge is 3900 metres deep making it one of the deepest gorges in the world. Travelling with us on the minibus were a really nice couple from New York, Andy and Tara, who have been travelling for nearly 2 years!

After a couple of hours we reached the village of Qiaotou, where we were able to leave most of our bags at Jane's Guesthouse for a small fee. From here we walked to the head of the gorge to start the two day trek along its length. Straight away we began to climb slowly up giving us increasingly spectacular views along the gorge and up to the snowy peaks of Haba Mountain and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. After a couple of hours we reached the notoriously steep 28 bends. Getting up the bends was strenuous but we took it slowly and steadily and were rewarded with sublime views when we eventually reached the top. The path then slowly descended through woodland and after an hour or so we came to little Yacha village, an idyllic collection of stone farm houses perched above small terraced fields used for growing wheat and vegetables. Here we stopped at Tea Horse Trade Guesthouse, a lovely little place which was empty when we arrived but which soon filled up with other trekkers as evening approached. After a simple but tasty meal followed by apple pie we bedded down in a basic but clean room. We had opted for a cheaper room without private bathroom which turned out to be a good choice as going to the loo in the night was a surreal and atmospheric experience as the bathroom was a little way off and the views of the mountains in the moonlight were quite magical.

After a filling breakfast of banana pie and Naxi sandwich (locally produced flat bread filled with goat's cheese, red onion and tomato), we set off early. Unlike yesterday, this part of the trail was flat although a little scary as above us were forbidding looking rock faces and below was a sheer drop down into the depths of the gorge. Often we were able to see all the way to the bottom where the distant river was tumbling through a series of fierce looking rapids. At one point we moved across to let a herd of goats pass. We also came across a dead baby goat which looked like it had only recently fallen from the cliff above. Poor little thing. Towards the end of the trek we passed under a pretty waterfall before begining the descent to the road at the bottom.

Here we met some other trekkers who had arranged a lift back to Qiaotou so we jumped into the minibus with them and soon arrived back at Jane's Guesthouse where we enjoyed a yummy lunch of stir-fried shredded potato, and stir-fried peas with peanuts. I thought it would be difficult being vegetarian in China but for the most part (if you don't mind finding the odd bit of minced pork in your veggies!) it has been easy as menus always contain a large selection of really good vegetable dishes.

We had planned to stay the night here but as it was only early afternoon, we decided to continue north to Shangri-La, where Yunnan enters the Tibetan world.
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