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China: Tiger Leaping Gorge

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Tiger Leaping Gorge | China | Asia

[Visited: December 2007 and January 2008]

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.

Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): Tiger Leaping Gorge: Yangtze River flowing under the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

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.

Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): Deep Tiger Leaping Gorge in the late afternoon

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!

Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): Terraces of Walnut Grove and Tiger Leaping Gorge
Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): View from a bridge: looking into the Tiger Leaping Gorge
Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): Wild Yangtze River running through a narrow stretch of the Tiger Leaping Gorge
Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): Tiger Leaping Gorge seen from the north-east, dominated by the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain range
Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): Jade Dragon Snow Mountain range and Yangtze River: the beginning of the trail at Qiaotou
Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): Looking south-west into the Tiger Leaping Gorge
Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): Narrow Tiger Leaping Gorge: high walls on both sides
Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): North-eastern side of the Tiger Leaping Gorge: morning sunrays filtering through the clouds
Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): Haba Snow Mountain range and Yangtze River near Daju
Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): Near
Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): Morning light falling on a peak of the Haba Snow Mountain range
Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): Green terraces just above the Tiger Leaping Gorge at Walnut Grove
Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge (China): Sunrays falling on the landscape around Daju at the end of the Tiger Leaping Gorge

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