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Published: August 29th 2017
Geo: 26.875, 100.238
Tiger Leaping Gorge is regarded as one of the most beautiful and best hiking areas in China. Consequently I decided it was definitely worth checking out, especially as people had assured me that it was actually hiking and not just climbing up steps! So myself, the Korean girl and a French-Japanese girl got in a car and set out on the 2.5 hour drive to the starting point. The driver didn't want to pay the toll fees so we went off-roading for most of the way before picking up some ransoms and then detouring to drop them off somewhere else. Eventually (3.5 hours later!) we begun the hike. We were followed by two men on donkeys/horses who assured us that although the beginning was easy, the later parts were difficult and we might succumb to a horse ride. I was a little bit confused as to why they were following us and not the elderly couple in front!
The beginning was indeed fairly easy. A gentle upwards slope surrounded by millet fields (is this the correct term?!), pumpkins, eggplants and corn whilst looking down at the river, several new dams and rolling hills. We soon ended up hiking with
a British couple and their local guide. This couple have been living in Kathmandu for 18years and before that were based in Thailand, Pakistan, India and Baghdad so they had some really interesting stories to tell which definitely passed the time as we scrambled over rocks and tried not to fall off the narrow paths. A quick lunch break and a snickers stop and it was time to attempt the '28 bends';a series of steep bends going straight up a cliff face at high altitude and definitely the hardest part of the trail. I was already feeling pretty sick and so I made it to the top with pretty frequent 'I'm going to throw up' breaks! The view from the top was definitely worth it though - jagged mountain tops and a steep gorge into a thundering river. Then we moved towards the hostel which is where it really became fun.
The hostel was nice but quite basic. We stayed in little wooden rooms with the bathroom being a 100m sprint away. I was feeling really really ill by this point with what we thought was altitude sickness (it put paid to my plans of climbing Everest!). So I tried
to eat a little rice and it soon became clear that I actually had food poisoning and altitude sickness and I don't remember a time when I've felt so ill! They gave me some Chinese medicine which usually works but this time did nothing but make me worse and then the British woman gave me some anti-nausea tablets which kind of worked. They then carried me to the room (at this point walking/climbing steps was far beyond me) and it was a long long night! The following morning I felt weak but so much better. Everyone at the hostel, even people I'd never met, were asking how I was and offering me hot water/crackers. It's amazing how kind and caring strangers can be. I'm never going to see these people again but I could not have asked for more in how well they looked after me.
The following day was a fairly easy 4 hour descent towards the finishing point -28km from the start. We did a lot of scrambling over rocks and stopping to admire crystal clear waterfalls. We passed a Tibetan temple carved into the side of a mountain, farmers trying to take care of their corn, a
woman building a pretty elaborate water filtering system on the side of these mountain and admired the beautifully blue skies. Finally, we made it to the end and took the bus back to Lijiang. We had dinner with the British couple's guide (they'd gone on to another place and he'd come with us on the bus). He took us to a delicious hot pot restaurant when again we ate the seemingly obligatory cow stomach and pig brain. This time we also ate huge chunks of meat which you have to gnaw off the bone and then use a straw to suck out the bone marrow - I promise you it's more delicious than it sounds! Also, in Lijiang there are two types of police- the normal police and the old town management department. Apparently they are not particularly good friends. We saw some street sellers (illegal but everywhere!) quickly grab their wares and run down the road after a tip off from the normal police who then stalled the city managers so that there sellers could get away without having their things confiscated/fined. This was just after we'd seen a city manager destroy a fruit venders cart, kick him and
throw his scales across the street.
Today is a relaxing day, we're going to visit another small, traditional town soon and then tomorrow morning I'm taking the train to Dali.
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