Hello Family and Friends nice to have you here again,
This post is about a fairly big trek we did in the Yunnan Province. Nothing overly crazy happened so the following is a bit of an account of the hike but the pictures are amazing as it was an astonishingly rugged and beautiful part of China. If anything look at the photos. If bored, read the account haha. Note – it was so hard to pick photos for this… Nearly all of them were stunning as it was just that sort of place. Remember you can hover for captions and scroll in our slider pictures with the arrows.
While in Yunnan Province, we heard about a “Breathtaking” hike we could attempt while up near Lijiang. We both thought it would be pretty cool to do but to be honest I was having my own doubts about it. Not to mention the fact that we were both pretty exhausted (we were blaming the altitude but having since rested up for a week in the historical city Chengdu, we realised altitude had nothing to do with it!). In fact, the day prior to the trip I dropped asleep in seconds when just laying my head for a moment on the bed in the arvo.
Sheree though was pretty adamant that we were going to do this hike and I am so glad she pushed me to do it. It seriously was one of the sickest hikes that I have done.
Matt’s Geography Lesson (All credit to Wikipedia)
Correct Name: Tiger Leaping Gorge (Chinese: 虎跳峡; pinyin: Hǔ tiào xiá)
A bit about it: Tiger Leaping Gorge is a canyon on the Jinsha River, a primary tributary of the upper Yangtze River. It is located 60 k’s north of Lijiang (where we posted from). The Gorge’s maximum depth is approximately 3790 meters from river to mountain peak. This means Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest and most spectacular river canyons in the world. The inhabitants of the gorge are primarily the indigenous Naxi people, who live in a handful of small hamlets (and love weed – not from wikipedia). Their primary subsistence comes from grain production and hikers and they always seem pretty happy and chilled (ha ha).
The hike was going to be around 23 km and we decided to do the trek over 2 days! Bloody hell Sheree what did you get me into! The first day was a big one and was going to be about 17km long and mostly up hill. We climbed approximately 1,000 m in vertical altitude along the way too! It was fairly brutal, especially for two people who have been enjoying plenty of food and not really a lot of exercise except for lots of walking (mostly flat ground though!). The altitude may also have played a part as did our daypacks which we packed with supplies!
Typical West Aussies, if you go for a hike you take all the supplies with you right? Water, food, first aid kit, wet weather gear (Sheree had this but I had forgotten). Well turns out on this trek there are Naxi people all along the way selling supplies; food, water, weed, pipes, tea, coffee. We felt a little silly with our packs, all the more so when we met a Melbourne guy of Chinese descent who went past the other way with no shirt on! just shoes, pants and a bandana. Having said that though, it was pretty good to have plenty of water and food with us.
We met some nice people along the way on the trek and also at the Halfway House, where we stayed overnight (This wasn’t really halfway but I think it is a clever name because mentally, everyone wanted to get to “Halfway”. Everyone we met were headed there and I think they do well). Out of all the guesthouses we saw we think this was the prettiest, with jaw dropping views of the Mountain on the other side and, famously, has one of the most scenic toilets in the world. It was used by Michael Palin, when trekking for his book Himalaya and he called it the “Loo with a view”. I used it and I can say the view was pretty good, but the toilet itself wasn’t much chop (I will spare you the photos of me using it and may just keep those private).
Loo with a view
It was used by Michael Palin, when trekking for his book Himalaya and he called it the “Loo with a view”
The following day we set off relatively early thinking that the final 4 km would be easy and that it would be a fairly chilled day. Our bodies couldn’t handle much more uphill! It was fairly cruisy (except for when we lost the track and climbed down a near vertical section haha) and we arrived to Tina’s Guesthouse, on the main road, feeling extremely proud of ourselves! We had finished! So we thought. “Tina” informed us that a van can take us down to Middle Gorge, where the fabled Tiger was said to have jumped across the gorge from a rock, escaping his hunters. We thought “Sweet”, no more walking woohoo! We got in the van, which drove us for about 300m and dropped us off at the start of a path that led to the gorge. At this point we were so high up, the mighty river looked like a creek! Shit! But we thought we aren’t going to leave until we have been right down next to the river that we could hear pumping the day before.
The walk down was difficult but boy was it worth it. This was probably the highlight of our trek. the path wound down the gorge and took use right along the side of the cliff where the Naxi people had literally cut into the rock to form it. It was insane. You could see the people below next to the river. The raging river made them look tiny!
The final little bit to the river wasn’t too much drama and standing next to the river you really felt the raw power of this thing. Not surprising that over time it has cut such a deep gorge!
Now to get out though. We had paid a Naxi person $3 dollars to help maintenance of a ladder out of the gorge. 60 rungs, near vertical at the bottom to completely vertical at the top. And we were already bloody high even at the start of the ladder! I’m not scared of heights usually but this one made me a bit sick. And I was legitimacy scared on the climb up. Especially so when Sheree says “oh my good look at the old ladder!” Which our ladder was tied to. A little bit of wee came out at this point. Getting to the top we were both shaking. Adrenaline was running that high. But we had done it!
Now for the rest of the bloody climb out. We rested several times on the way, had a red bull at one point and then caned the last hundred vertical metres. It was hard going but so so worth it. I’ve never seen such raw power as I felt down next to the raging Jinsha.
The Tiger Leaping Gorge is an extremely accessible and breathtaking hike that if you do visit the area, you must do. We met people of all ages doing it and nothing should stop you. So far it has been the utmost highlight in China for both of us!
Thanks for reading as always!