Asia | China | Yunnan Province | Lijiang – Tiger leaping gorge
The only accurate fact I found out about travelling in China is that there is no way to find accurate facts. For the past 2 days, my sister and I have gone to every tourism office and bus station in Lijiang to find information on trekking in the Tiger Leaping Gorge, and each gave us its own version. Some of them told us two days would be plenty, some said we should allow at least three days. Some said hiking in the rain is no problem at all, others said we might be buried by a landslide. For two mornings in a row, we were held back with our backpacks ready to go by our worried parents who thought hiking in the gorge, whether rain or shine, was committing suicide.
A taxi driver approached us outside the inn yesterday and said that there is a road connection Qiaotou, a town at the beginning of the trek, to Walnut Grove, a stopping point about halfway along the trek. So we came up with a plan that would save us time and energy. The driver would take us to Walnut Grove, then my sister and I would hike back along the trail back to Qiaotou to meet up with him.
As usual, it rained in the morning. But the rain had no signs of stopping when we arrived in Qiaotou. Our driver changed his story here and said that the road to Walnut Grove was too dangerous. In fact, he had never driven on that road. The ticket booth attendants assured us that the road was fine and that the trek to Walnut Grove would take only 6 hours to complete. The vendors also gave us mixed opinions about trekking possibilities ahead.
Unwilling to wait for us while we hike, the driver wanted to take us back from the upper gorge, where most tourists admire the rushing water for 20 minutes before heading back. But we decided that we had come too far and paid too much to just stay for 20 minutes. If someone said that it was ok to trek, then it was fine for us. Both of us balked at the driver for not following our agreement, and told him that we would walk the 28km back and forth from upper gorge to Walnut Grove if he didn’t take us and he would have to wait even longer that way.
The paved road ended 200 yards ahead, and the driver became visibly more nervous on the gravel road, especially when passing a big rock fallen from the slopes above us. Guilt crept up, but we were too proud and the road was too narrow for him to turn back. Looking at the waterfalls lacing the black and yellow cliffs and hearing the waves crashing beneath us, we were enchanted by the scenery and scared to death that a sudden brake or another loose rock might take all of us to the bottom of the cliff.
A waterfall gushing down from the slope on our left had washed away the road, and there was no way this little sedan could cross it. We took off our shoes and walked ahead for 20 minutes and scenery only got better. Swallows glided agily over the river, unintimidated by the mad water below them. Stunning peaks floated above the clouds. The Yangtze River had become a legend in ancient Chinese literature and it’s no wonder why it had created so much inspiration. The rain was getting heavier, and we were worried that we might be stuck here as more road got washed out. The trail on the other side of the river seemed to be in good condition. We returned to Lijiang, deciding that it’s too good a place to miss. We would come back tomorrow to trek the whole trail on foot.