Tiger Leaping Gorge

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Where I stayed
Half Way Guesthouse
What I did
Tiger Leaping Gorge

Flag of China  , Hunan,
Monday, September 12, 2011

In Dali I had planned to meet up with Gary to hike the Tiger Leaping Gorge today. I tried emailing him twice to confirm but got no reply, regardless I was heading that way. The routine entails arriving at Qiaotou, depositing your bags at Jane's Guesthouse and then starting the two day hike from there. The Lonely Planet advises for females to not hike alone and with no sight of Gary, I was happy that there were three Israelis from the van who we all started together. Shortly thereafter, I met up with Phillip, an English guy carrying all of his gear and walking at a quicker clip than the Israelis, we took a wrong turn and followed some more than confident Germans at least 40 minutes out of the way. With the Germans out of sight Phil and I were at a lost. Luckily, we came in contact with a local who informed us that we were headed in the wrong direction. We hitched a ride in a tractor back down to the Naxi Guesthouse where a blatant red arrow had us back on track.

The five hours of hiking to the Half Way Guesthouse, our destination for the night was ok, but nothing in comparison to the beautiful terrain down to the gorge and back. The trek was more about deciphering the arrows to make sure we were still on track and coming across some locals selling everything from water to red bull to ganja. We pulled into Half Way at about 5:00PM which means we made really good time. Sure enough who do I see lounging and taking in the view but my buddy, Gary. As promised in the Lonely Planet the view from the public toilet is not to be missed. The guesthouse looks out onto the snowcapped peaks as if in arms reach. The night concluded with everyone gathered on the rooftop, happy after a hot shower, ready for dinner and sharing stories about their travels.

It was the next day that was so rewarding. Gary, Phil, another German woman and I made the trek down to Tina’s Guesthouse but since the guys were spending another night in the gorge we parted ways there. At which point I joined up with Kim from Korea and her two French companions for an adventurous descent down to the famous Tiger Leaping Rock. For a fee of 20 Yuan there is a maintained route with a couple of scary 90 degree ladders that lead you down to the gorge. This is when the hike became exciting. As we got closer and closer to the viewpoint, the rush of the water was intense and you can only imagine why it is that some stupid tourists have died here. Meanwhile I wonder more how it is that some Chinese tourists are making this trek in loafers or wedgies as I am grateful to have on my Chacos with good traction for handling the slippery rocks.

Trying to capture the nature in all its glory, we played on the rock for a fair amount of time before heading back up to catch the bus. The path back was a loop and even more beautiful than the descent. We were challenged with climbing a few more sketchy ladders, passing caves and walking through corn fields all the while mesmerized by the sight of the snowcapped mountains above in contrast with the rushing gorge below and the green fields ahead of us.

Exiting at Woody’s Guesthouse we were conscious of the time. We needed to get back to Qiaotou where I had stored my bags before catching a bus to Shangri-la. Aware that the last bus departs around 4:30PM we were pressed for time to eat and catch a ride from this point. Woody’s Guesthouse arranged a lift to Qiaotou but from there we were on our own. After two full buses passed us by, Kim and I worked the old thumb trick. I’m finding hitchhiking in China to be easy and often a much more pleasant experience than public transport.

We got lucky when a nice young man and his mom stopped to clear out their backseat for us and drive us all the way to Old Town Shangri-la. He even pulled over at one point just outside of Shangri-la to enjoy the beautiful poppy fields. It was a perfect ending to a great day!
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