Thursday 29th October - ENTER THE TIGER LEAPING GORGE
Very quiet dusky morning, was kinda creepy walking up the alley way to the main road, dogs barking at us from every direction. Was lucky enough to catch a cab as soon as we reached the road and got us to the bus station in plenty of time. In fact, they were in absolutely no rush here whatsoever. Picked up a pita bread and boiled egg each to eat on the bus for breakfast - do like the locals do! TASTY. Got to our desternation rather surprisingly quickly, well due to some of the long journeys we've faced anything under 5 hours is quick to us now. Tried to get into the national park of Tiger Leaping Gorge using our student cards, but they wouldn't have none of it, said we had to be under 21, how annoying, but I guess it is only about £5 each to get in, can't really complain when you can trek for 2 days here, plus think the money goes to the park to keep it looking as lovely as ever.
Jane's hostel was mentioned to us for leaving our bags, so we can trek with just an overnight bag. Found the hostel no problem but still a little unsure as to whether Jane is in fact a lady or a man, either way a very friendly kind hearted person and a great guesthouse. Shame we didn't stop there, but was eager to get going as we had 5-6 hours to trek to our next guesthouse, where we planned to stay the night.
WOW!! This place is out of this world extraordinary, from start to finish there was a consistent surrounding of beautiful scenery, which for £5 to see just seemed unbelievable. The first section was quite simply, flat and enjoyable in the sunshine, although we did have the irritation of a group of Chinese travelers who felt the need to sing ridiculous songs and muck around at every given opportunity, plus the constant dinging of the bells around a couple of horses necks, of which locals were trying their dammed hardest to sell horse rides to us at every turn, even though we said no, they decided to join us on our journey along with the Chinese group. In the end we had to let them all pass way on up in front, just so the noises would disappear.
Found a nice spot to stop for lunch, a little guesthouse called Naxi guesthouse, not too far on our journey. Was only going to grab a water, but the place seemed very popular and the menu was relatively cheap so opted for a pumpkin on rice to share, was delicious and just what we needed to continue our journey.
Personally, I found the so called 28 bends up hill in the heat of the sun, very hard work and had to keep stopping to catch my breath, no doubt chewing Ad's ear off as I went. Ad seemed fine, unless he was just keeping quiet and pretending to be super fit, I'm not quite sure you know. There was defiantly more than 28 bends though and once we'd reached the top, my thunder thighs felt liked they'd doubled in size. Was surprised to find a local lady near the top, with a little shop, guessed she must stay there, surely she didn't clamber up here everyday, even if she did have a horse to one side, that's hard work. Even more surprised when she offered us something to smoke - to help with the climb she said, too funny, think I would've gone straight over the edge on that stuff.
Lots of surprises on this route, not only with the selection of goodies to buy but a short distance further we came across a granny - must have been in her 80's bless her, asking us for money to see a view. To be fair we had been told about this and was happy to pay as it was only a small fee and she looked like she could do with the money, but couldn't help but wonder, what this poor old lady would have done if we had said no and just gone to see the view for ourselves. It was a long way down, so didn't want to take the chance.
WHAT A VIEW!! Well worth the fee, that's all I can say, we sat there for ages, taking it all in. Was a little scared hanging over the edge for a better view to the bottom, but just sitting back and taking in the snow capped mountain tops and water miles down below, it was breathtaking. Met a Belgium couple, who were already resting there and enjoying the view. Took pic's for each other and got nervous every time Ad got dangerously close to the edge for that extra special shot, he's such a naughty boy at times, I'll be surprised if I don't have a heart attack before this trip ends. Enjoyed chilling there in the sun, chatting to the couple about the many adventures we had both experienced so far. Lots of tips were shared. Thought we'd better get on, still a way to go before reaching the guesthouse and they had a little further to get to theirs.
Many more twists and turns and we finally arrived at the Tea-Horse guesthouse that had been recommended to us from our Aussie friends Cheyne and Scott who had done this trip a few weeks ago. The guesthouse was in the perfect location and for the equivalent of £5 we got a double room, looking out over the mountains. Sure we had a shared bathroom, with very basic facilities, but who cares, it was the most amazing view I think I've ever had from my own room window. Couldn't ask for more. Went straight down for a shower before the sun disappeared.
Came out to find Ad chatting to a couple from Holland and a Swedish guy who had been trekking with them. Seemed like a great bunch and as soon as I'd sorted myself out, quickly joined in with a beer. Another lady from Holland came to join us and a Swish French couple. Before we knew it we were all sitting in candle light at a table conveniently placed over the toilet block LOVELY!! Luckily it didn't smell so it wasn't all bad. A number of dishes were chosen by us all and we enjoyed a real feast well into the night, followed by many more beers, music on play from the ipod and a whole lotta chatta, all good fun.
Friday 30th October - A GUIDE DOG TO TIGER LEAPING GORGE
What a view to wake up to, just wish I could wake up to that every morning - B E A UUU TIFUL!! Brekky was interesting, I was clearly having my typical sweet tooth morning and went for a Chocolate pancake and hot chocolate, which everyone found quite funny, but Ad couldn't help himself and decided to try the local stuff. The Naxi bread I admit was very tasty, but would never wish to try Tibetan tea again, it was a thick warm cheesy taste, very strong, NOT NICE!! Nobody liked it, was extremely foul tasting.
Onwards and upwards, we had a fair few miles to cover today and all decided to walk together. Never expected to be stopped in our path by a carpet full of goats, taking up the whole path around the bend, just simply had to step in between them, luckily they didn't move to much, was a little concerned considering the drop on the other side was a LONNNNG way down. Many more twists and turns, views that would blow your mind and even got to see a rainbow within one of the waterfalls we had the privilege of passing, this has defiantly got to have been one of the best treks I have ever completed.
4-5 hours later and we reached Tina's hostel, there was another hostel about 30mins or more away, but we were done. Very hungry and a tad tired now, so we stopped here for a cool drink and some food. Yet another feast between us all, was delicious. Not over the moon about trekking more, but as we had come this far, thought we might as well do the last few hours trek down to the gorge, where myth has it that a Tiger was once seen leaping across the river onto a large rock there, hence the name Tiger Leaping Gorge.
On our way down, people were heading back puffing and panting looking very sweaty, not exactly encouragement to make me want to do this, but pushed ourselves to go and couldn't help but giggle at the hostel dog who took it upon himself to guide us all down, clearly he had done this many times and seemed quite happy to be up front, tale wagging and very excited. Took about 30mins to get down, was really cool. The rapids were very powerful and when Ad decided to get a wee bit too close to them, he got told off by the security guard, to be honest we probably shouldn't have been clambering over the rocks in the first place, but you know what we are like, gotta get that pic.
Why is it whenever you go down you always have to go back up and there never seems to be an easy route, it was much harder and boy were we tired on the return. All good though, managed to get a really good deal on a minivan to Lijiang between us all, just had to make a stop at Jane's guesthouse on the way to pick up our bags and off we went. Managed to sleep some of the way, but while wizzing along the side of the gorge couldn't help but gaze at it the whole way past, it still amazed me at how spectacular it really was.