Suddenly, we looked straight into the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Deep into the gorge, that is - and there were no more trees to protect us from the height we had reached in the last hours of climbing. Far below us, water thundered through the narrow opening between the granite mountains rising above us on all sides. Here, the gorge is nearly 4,000 metres deep; we felt completely dwarfed. And wondered if that powerful yet relatively small river had actually managed to scrape its course through these mountains. From this point, it was not far to the top of the infamous 28 bends, from where the hike further into the gorge became pretty level and easy. The sun was still casting its last rays of light into the Tiger Leaping Gorge when we arrived at the well-known Half Way Guesthouse where we stayed for the night.
We had had a false start in the morning: our bus driver did not care to explain where we had to get off, and we had to backtrack to Qiaotou to start the hike through the Tiger Leaping Gorge. The first hour or so were easy, walking uphill, with good views back over the Yangtze River, on the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, and the brightly green terraces and small villages. After Nuo You village, though, it started. It: the 28 bends we had read about; a steep uphill climb which eventually took us to around 2600m altitude. To be honest, it was not all that bad, and we advanced pretty fast. Since we were protected by the trees around us, the sun was burning surprisingly fiercely on our backs, considering it was end December. Just before we reached the top, a path leading into the gorge took us to a fantastic outlook. From this point, we could clearly see the rocks in the middle of the Yangze river. The name of the gorge, by the way, comes from an old legend which claims that a tiger escaped his hunters by jumping over the river to escape on the other side, using one of the big rocks. We realized we were actually looking at the Tiger Leaping Stone from this very ledge. After a pleasant night at the Halfway with superb views over the dizzying wall of a mountain right across the narrow valley of the Tiger Leaping Gorge, we descended to Walnut Garden and decided to leave our bags there and explore the vicinity for the rest of the day.
Without knowing it beforehand, we ended up doing the most spectacular stretch of hiking in the Tiger Leaping Gorge here. The sun just started peering over the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and its rays were falling deep into the canyon when we walked across bright green agriculture terraces to descend into the gorge. At a certain moment, we followed a path hacked out in the rocks, with a truly spectacular view down to the wild waters of the Yangtze - this stretch is not for the faint-of-heart. We descended to the river itself, and came very close to the enormous power of the water pushing itself through this narrow stretch of the Tiger Leaping Gorge. came across another stone claimed to be the Tiger Leaping Stone, and instead of climbing the home-made sky ladder out of the gorge, continued walking. We soon had to climb a steep path which ultimately took us back to the road, and eventually to Walnut Garden. The only nuisance on this path was the plethora of people claiming we had to pay extra to cross a bridge, use a ladder, walk on a path. The next day, we left early and hiked to the end of the gorge with sublime views over the other side. Clouds had rolled in and diverted the sunlight into powerful beams shining on the majestic landscape. Overall, it was an easy walk to the old ferry, which took us across the Yangtze to Daju. From there, it was an exciting bus ride back to Lijiang. After hiking for three days, it was strange to hear the noises and walk in the dense crowds again!
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Tiger Leaping Gorge (China). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Tiger Leaping Gorge.
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