Tiger Leaping Gorge Day 1: an early start to the day.. we left Mama Naxi’s Guesthouse in Lijiang at 7:30 in a minivan shared with 5 other hikers after one of Mama’s huge breakfast sandwiches. We arrived at Jane’s Guesthouse in Qiaotou just after 10, ready to start our hike. Unfortunately, Robin slipped on some concrete steps at Jane’s and hurt her shoulder… but she was willing to try hiking so we set off.

The beginning of the hike wasn’t that interesting. We were walking on the "high road" through the back ways of Qiaotou town, passing by a couple of schools and then a field of ponies for rent. A couple of the pony renters followed us in case one of us wanted a ride. This actually worked out well because Robin was having trouble carrying her bag because of her injury, so she paid a pony guy to carry the bag to the top of the 24 bends path, the highest point of the hike.

Once we left Qiaotou, things got more interesting and more scenic. We made plans to meet for lunch and I left the group, wanting to hike as quickly as possible (for the fun of it… I enjoy expending energy on silly pursuits.) I arrived at Tea Horse Guesthouse, ate lunch, and read my book while waiting for the others.

After lunch it was easier going. We had already covered 2/3 of the day’s distance and most of the climbing. Robin decided she was able to carry her own bag now, so we did the hike to Halfway Guesthouse together and arrived before any of the others.

TLG Day 2: we got going fairly early again. I stayed more or less with Robin until the turnoff to the big waterfall, an optional side trip that only I wanted to do. After that hike (another fun climb,) I ate lunch at Tina’s Guesthouse then did the walk down to the river to see Tiger Leaping Stone. This is what gave the gorge its name – according to legend, a tiger once leaped the whole gorge from this stone to the other side!

After that, I climbed back up the same way and met up with Robin at Tina’s. We organized a group of 5 heading back to Lijiang and set off in a minivan. The drive back was via the "low road", which was under intense construction to widen it and allow bus tours to visit the gorge. This made for a very bumpy ride and an interesting stop. There was a section of the road that was being widened, and this was being done by a group of about 10 men at the top of a scree slope digging out and throwing down boulders. Most of them bounced down the scree slope, across the road, and down into the gorge, but some stayed on the road. We all watched from a safe distance for about 20 minutes, then our driver blew a whistle to get the workers to stop. They did, and the drivers of all the waiting vehicles all rushed into action picking up all the boulders left on the road and throwing them over the side of the gorge. Then into the minivan and off we went!

We had to change minivans at Jane’s guesthouse. Our driver paid another driver to take us from Jane’s to Lijiang. This woman was quite the piece of work. She wouldn’t let any of us sit in the front, and then she stopped in Qiaotou town to pick up 2 more passengers… or tried anyway. A couple of the people we were with spoke fluent Mandarin, and argued with her that no, she couldn’t do this. We had paid for the whole van at a much higher rate than the "per seat" price, so there was no way we were letting on two more people unless they paid us. Surprisingly, we got our way.

Then in Lijiang, more driver drama.. the woman claimed not to know how to get to the old town and wanted us to take a taxi (at our expense.) OK, so your job is driving tourists back and forth from Lijiang, and you don’t know how to get to the most touristy part of town? Clearly she just didn’t want to do the work. Luckily, our Mandarin-speaking friends saved the day again and gave her directions!

We arrived back at Mama Naxi’s Guesthouse in time for dinner. I’ve mentioned this before, but the dinner was amazing. Buffet style traditional Naxi food, more than any of us could eat even after a day of hiking, for the equivalent of $2.50! What a great way to end the day!

TLG photos are here – Gorgeorific!

(Robin and I hiked through Tiger Leaping Gorge on May 4-5, 2010)