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Published: September 11th 2011
Lijiang – The Tiger Leaping Gorge
My next stop in China was Lijiang within the Yunnan province, the main purpose of my visit was to trek the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Legend has it that a tiger jumped the gorge at its narrowest point to escape a hunter, hence the name. The city of Lijiang itself is very peaceful and quite beautiful with its quaint old town complete with canals and numerous street vendors. I only spent one evening here but still managed to get involved with a bit of traditional street dancing before setting off on a two hour bus journey to the gorge. Sadly on the day of departure it was raining very heavily and it’s strongly advised not to trek the gorge in the rain, so a change of plan was needed. In Lijiang I met up with Steffi and her friend Bianca who I initially met in Yangshuo, we decided to head to Shangri-la and sadly for the others this meant they could not do the trek because they did not have time, I decided I would attempt it on my way back from Shangri-La and I’m so pleased I did. I will talk about Shangri-La in
another blog but after three great days there I headed back to the gorge to commence my trek, sadly again it was raining heavily and I was really pissed off to say the least. I got off the bus and was very down hearted thinking I will never get to complete the trek, but after paying my entrance fee to the national park the very friendly guy at the ticket office assured me it was safe to trek and I decided to take his word for it.
After leaving my big bag at Jane’s guest house I got underway, time was going to be tight to reach my first guesthouse on the trek before I lost day light. It was still heavy rain but I was going no matter what. When the guide book says the route is difficult to find they are not wrong, after walking through what appeared to be a building site and then a school I finally found the path and after one hour of hiking I knew I was in for something very special, with every half kilometre the views just got more spectacular as you continued to ascend the gorge. I reached my
first nights’ accommodation before nightfall and relaxed soaking in the sublime backdrop and noise of the gorge below at the Tea Horse Guesthouse. It truly was one of the most perfect locations to spend the night before retiring to my room for a well-deserved sleep.
The following day the sun decided to shine for me and made the trek to the middle rapids a real pleasure, you simply spend the whole time torn between taking in the views or looking where you’re going and not tripping up over a rock and ending up at the bottom of the gorge. I will confess I tripped a few times but thankfully in relatively safe areas.
As I’m sure the photos will show the gorge and the surrounding mountains are one of Chinas most spectacular destinations for hiking and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Because I had a spare day I decided not to do the usually end to the trek and finish at a place called Tina’s guest house, instead I decided to take the advice of my fellow travellers who said I must stay at the Tibetan Guest House, they said I would be treated like a member of
their family and would probably be the only person there and would have the best experience. Well it turned out they were not wrong, after hiking for a further 2km I was thinking is this really worth it, how good can it be? At this point the most adorable little boy ran down the road towards me shouting hey mister, hey mister. I didn’t know what to do except high five him of course. It turned out he was the son of the owners at the guest house and as I approached the guest house with my new friend in tow he kept tugging at my rucksack until I finally let him carry it, he was so happy to have me at his home and by this time I knew I was going to be in for a special experience. After meeting the two sisters who ran the guesthouse and all their children I sat down with a Naxi chicken sandwich and tucked in. My new friend stayed by my side trying to pick the lock on my bag for about two hours just continually smiling, I didn’t tell him the code but he was not going to give up.
I then decided I wanted to look around the local area and waved goodbye, he looked so disappointed but after trying to explain I would be back he soon cheered up. There was not a great deal to do in the area because it was so remote so I headed back to a warm welcome at the guesthouse and sat with my iphone playing “cash machine” until my little friend returned and wanted to see what I was doing. He had no idea how to use the iphone but after approximately 5 minutes of watching me that was it, I didn’t see my phone again until the battery ran out and the smile on his face dropped because I think he thought it was broken. Thank god for an external back up battery to bring the warmest smile back to life.
I spent the rest of my evening attempting to talk to the family in sign language and body language, we didn’t really know what each other were saying but it was a joyful night of smiles and laughter that I will never forget.
I left the following morning to return to Lijiang where I would spend a
couple of nights before my flight to Chengdu. My trek in the gorge was simply out of this world and a must see/do for anyone visiting china, trust me you will not regret it and it’s worth the wait if the weather is bad. If you have the time you really must spend a night at the Tibetan guest house, it was like nothing I’ve experienced in China so far and somewhere I’m already longing to return, I just hope my new little buddy isn’t pestering his mum for an IPhone because I think it might be a long while coming when my stay there complete with food, drinks and transport came to £12.
All in all another incredible part of my journey and a real highlight of my time in China, I never thought I would say this on day one in Beijing but I think I’m going to miss China, it has really grown on me.
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