Tiger Leaping Gorge

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September 18th 2018
Published: September 19th 2018
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We started the journey south from Shangri-La towards Tiger Leaping Gorge the following morning. The route was on very windy and narrow roads. We passed many landslides / rock falls. We stopped in a tiny village after about an hour and a half to give our driver a rest. The local people from the village seemed intrigued (/ disgusted) by my white legs.

About 2.5 hours after we left Shangri-La we arrived at Baishuitai water terraces. The water terraces are the birthplace of the Donghba religion of the Naxi minority. Apparently the Donghba shaman still regularly hold ceremonies on the terraces.

From the car we had a short walk up the hill before we reached the terraces. Along the way we walked past some tacky new ticket office building and concrete replicas of the terraces which the government are using as a way to increase the extent of the travertines. I'm sure the concrete terraces will look nice in a few years once they are covered by the calcium carbonate.

The terraces aren't as extensive as Pammukale and are unfortunately turning brown (possibly as a result of increased sediment transport due to the unusually high rainfall this year). The view was still nice, however the government will need to restrict development in the hills surrounding the terraces if they want to retain the appeal of the area.

We had lunch at a restaurant at the bottom of the terraces (eggplant, water spinach and a melon type vegetable which tasted like potato) before continuing our journey south towards Tiger Leaping Gorge. The roads were still quite windy but they became less so as we got closer to the gorge.

After about 2 hours we stopped a little way up the hill from Tiger Leaping Gorge to admire the view. We walked part way down the hill then hopped back in the car and continued into the gorge.

Tiger Leaping Gorge is a narrow canyon on the Jinsha River (one of the main tributaries to the Yangtze). The canyon is approximately 3,790m deep making it one of the deepest canyons in the world. Either side of the river steep tree covered mountains rise up to heights of 5,596m (Jade Dragon Snow Mountain) and 5,396m (Haba Snow Mountain). The gorge got its name from a legend which says that in order to escape from a hunter, a tiger jumped across the river at the narrowest point (which is between 14m to 25m depending on which source you consult).

Tiger Leaping Gorge is home to one of the most famous hikes in China. The approximately 22km long hike is typically done in two days. Many guest houses are scattered along the trail making it quite accessible as not many supplies are needed.

We began our hike from the half way point as there is apparently some construction happening along the first half at the moment. We also heard that the first half is the most difficult as it's mostly up hill and the scenery in the second half is supposed to be more beautiful.

Our trek began on the side of the roads. We hopped out of the car, grabbed our overnight bag and then made our way up the zig zagging roads which leads to Tea Horse Guesthouse. The views over the Gorge and surrounding mountains made the walk enjoyable despite the steep climb.

After checking in to the guest house we grabbed some drinks and ventured to the rooftop / viewing platform to admire the scenery and relax. The clouds cleared so that we had an excellent view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

Eventually we headed downstairs to order dinner. As we were waiting for our food to be served we watched the sun set. At one point the mountains glowed orange which was really spectacular.

The following morning we set off at around 9am. Initially the trail was a concrete road, but after walking a little way it turned to a dirt track. The scenery was wonderful and the track was quite easy. We had a little break at Half Way guesthouse (which isn't actually half way) before continuing on along the trail.

The trail was a little narrower after Half Way guesthouse. We passed a few waterfalls and attempted to make friends with some goats (the other trekkers who stopped for a snack had more luck befriending the goats; although they also got sneezed on so maybe we were lucky they weren't that keen on us).

There were a few steep sections of the trail (up hill and down hill) but it was mostly flat or a gentle incline. We reached the end point (Tina's guesthouse) a little under 4 hours after we left Tea Horse guesthouse. We really enjoyed the trek as the scenery was beautiful and the walk was quite easy. Initially I'd been a little hesitant about doing the trek as I'd read that it could be quite precarious during the wet season (which usually ends in October) however we were lucky with the weather so had no issues.

After lunch at Tina's guesthouse (lamb and potato, eggplant, green vegetables and shredded potato) and a traumatic bathroom experience (open latrines! what is wrong with cubicle doors?!), we hopped back in the car and set off towards the narrowest point of the gorge.

A huge tourist complex has been set up at the narrowest point of the gorge with board walks which lead from the road level down to the river level. After checking out the view from the highest viewing point we made our way down the stairs to the river level. Due to the heavy rainfall this wet season the water level was very high; as a result the river was incredibly turbulent. The power of the water was incredible.

We gradually made our way up the stairs again and back into the car. We then headed towards Lijiang which is about 1hr 45mins south of Tiger Leaping Gorge. Not long after we left the narrow point of Tiger Leaping Gorge we passed a recent (and extensive) rock fall in which had killed two people. As the road straightened our we weren't all that sad to be leaving the narrow land slide prone road behind (even with it's incredibly scenery).

Additional photos below
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19th September 2018
Baishuitai water terraces

Stunning terraces

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