First sighting of the river of golden sands

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Asia » China » Yunnan » Qiaotou
May 21st 2007
Published: August 7th 2007
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Next stop on our way north was going to be Tiger Leaping Gorge, known to many Brits after it was visited by a certain M. Palin in "Himalaya", which can be hiked from either of its 2 endpoints at Daju and Qiaotou. It seemed like Daju was going to be more inconvenient and expensive to get to, plus would be a less useful place to leave our main luggage from the point of view of an onward journey to Zhongdian, so we took a slow minibus through mountainous landscape to Qiaotou.

Once at Qiaotou, many people opt to hike for a couple of hours to the Naxi Family Guesthouse, partly to chop a bit of time off the next day's hike and partly because the sunrises there are supposed to be magnificent. However we wanted to stay in Qiaotou in order to find a couple of daypacks as we had none. Unfortunately the minibus driver clearly had some affiliation with the Naxi Family Guesthouse and, via the translating abilities of a no doubt well-meaning fellow passenger, attempted to persuade us to go there. This was one of those situations where breaking down the language barrier only made things worse. We eventually just grabbed our bags and walked off.

Unfortunately Qiaotou proved to be deficient in outdoor stores, but the guesthouse kindly loaned us a small daypack for free. Our room had 3 beds, an apparently 1W bulb in the overhead light, a lightswitch in the least convenient place possible, a shared shower with lukewarm water, and a shared toilet that was spattered with vomit by the end of the evening courtesy of a large group of locals who'd been eating (and, more to the point, drinking) in the guesthouse restaurant. The owner was extremely helpful, providing us with a map of all the relevant places along the hiking route.

Fortification for the hike the next morning consisted of a bowl of instant noodles I'd bought previously then some toast and marmalade ordered from the guesthouse. The 2 unbuttered slices of toast were of doorstop and tabletop thicknesses respectively, and the marmalade was some strawberry-flavoured gunk - only the thinner of the slices passed my lips. We then strode forth into Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Dull but possibly useful info
Getting there: Take a bus from Lijiang to Qiaotou (there are several - we took the last one at 1:30PM), costing 15 yuan and taking about 2 hours 15 minutes.
Stayed at: Jane's Tibetan Guesthouse (where the bus will probably terminate). Cost 40 yuan for either a double or twin. Owner was helpful and you can leave your luggage for free if hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge, but the place was a fly trap, there are only shared facilities, and the "hot" water was warm at best. Would stay here again, simply because I don't think there are any better alternatives.

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