Journey to the Tiger Leaping Gorge
The air in Lijan was cold and fresh as we arrived at 0630 with the sleeper train. For the first time in China, we had to get our puffer jackets out to keep warm. A lady from Tibet Guest in Tiger leaping gorge came to pick up up and took us deep into the world famous gorge.
1 hour into the drive we stopped for breakfast along the roadside. Eggs and steamed bread buns never tasted so delicious as they did this morning by the wood burner in the fresh morning air. I also had my first taste of Yak butter tea which really does taste of salty butter and nothing like the tea I like.
The road into the gorge snakes its way along steep cliffs and narrow paths. In some parts recent lands slides had left giant boulders on the road and some parts of the road had fallen into the abyss of the gorge. I closed my eyes and tried not to think about it. 2 hrs later we arrived safely at the traditional Tibetan style guesthouse in Walnut Village in the Middle Gorge.
The fresh air, quiet and breathtaking landscape all around and the outside space next to our 2 bedroom accommodation made it a perfect place for us and the kids to relax and hang out for th next few days.
Once settled in we discovered that there are surprisingly few descriptions of the possible walks and trails here in the guidebooks and no information available at the Guesthouse.
As all the guesthouses here are located by the only road through the gorge there is nowhere to just go for a wander or stroll. However, with the space just outside our room, this set up suited us quite well as the kids got stuck into schoolwork everyday and some serious lego building.
Deceiving walks in Tiger Leaping Gorge
Due to the lack of information available the 2 walks we did here were both deceiving and surprising but also very rewarding.
Up and up to Walnut Grove
Day 2 we decided to wander up the mountain to a Walnut Grove Guesthouse for lunch. The previous day we had spotted a sign by the main road, 20 min form our guesthouse pointing up saying 45 min, so we though that would be a perfect little morning walk.
The winding concrete road up was very steep and took us higher and higher up. When after 45 min walking we spotted another sign saying Walnut Grove 30 min we started to worry about the real length of this trail. 2 hrs later after much wailing and many bribes at 4 o’clock we finally arrived at Walnut grove.
The land lady cooked us a delicious lunch with vegetables freshly picked from the garden while the kids entertained themselves cracking walnuts with a wooden stick. For Scott this simple tool made the long walk well worth it.
1.5 hrs walk back down again and we were ready for a cup of tea some honey babas and sleep.
Middle Gorge, a walk on the wild side
Our next walk through the Middle Gorge turned out to be even more deceiving than our first walk even though we were prepared for the unexpected by now. We followed our landladies advice and took the path just opposite the guesthouse for the Middle Gorge walk. I doubt if she herself has walked this path recently….it was slippery with dry gravel, steep, narrow and almost completely overgrown. Ingrid was happy to march on and on but Scotty who normally gets a carry every now and then was getting quite tired.
Here, there was no option for Paul or me to carry him at all as the trail was too dangerous. One slip and you would be down at the bottom of the gorge in the roaring Yangtze river. One hour into the walk there was still no sign of a bigger path and were starting to wonder if we were on the right track at all. We found out later that there is a short easier walk and a long harder walk, of which we did the later ofcourse
Eventually our overgrown path joined the more commonly used trail carved into the bare rock face 500m up along the wall of the gorge. This path want on for another hour before we finally reached the very bottom of the gorge. The locals have set up 2 iron gates along the way where you pay a fee of 15Y to pass or have to turn back the way you came….
There is another 10y payment to cross the suspension bridge at the bottom – a must do for the brave. A coke and a packet of biscuits later we looked up the see steep path and stairway to heaven we would have to climb to get out of there.
Again, Ingrid and Scott bravely soldiered on as there was not alternative or option not to.
There are not many safety features along this path and had we know this in advance, we would not have taken the kids here. Luckily, they are both very fit and sensible and had the experience of the trails in Nepal which helped us all a lot in getting back upto the top.
1.5 hr climbing and we we’re almost at the top so Scott got a well deserved horseback ride the last 15 min which made it all worthwhile.
Upper Gorge visit
Our third day was filled with schoolwork and a skype session with Linda, the teacher, so this day we just managed a shorter afternoon visit to the Upper Gorge view point where you get extremely close to the roaring river. There is a plain but long stairway of 600 steps to that take you down to the bottom and all the way up again. The walkway and viewing platforms here are extremely well made and safe for all to enjoy.
The final side trip in Tiger leaping gorge was to the Tibetan Monestry of the way back to Lijiang where Scott kindly donated some of his lego to a little orphan monk the same age as him.
This is a beautiful place with many young orphans taken in after the last big earthquake in Tibet.