Jan 4, 2012

Tiger Leaping Gorge: New Years

Tiger Leaping Gorge - New Year 2011/2012 from Andrew Dye on Vimeo.

New Years weekend was our first three day weekend in forever and we took advantage of it. We flew to Lijiang in Yunnan province (south west of Chongqing). We got the 9:30pm flight out of Chongqing which allowed us to take the bus from school and have some time for dinner in the city before heading to the airport. Elong is a great online travel agency for flights and hotels in China. The Olive Tree Inn which we booked through elong had a van waiting for us at the airport when we arrived. This was grand as it was close to midnight and Lijiang old town is a walking only very confusing place. The driver dropped us off right at the hotel all for a hassle free 80rmb. The hotel was quaint, our room simple but clean and free breakfast of Mantou, rice porridge, warm drink and fancy buns all for 90rmb. We decided not to wake up very early Saturday morning and rush to the bus to get to Quiatou early and begin the trek. We were tired from the week and didn't actually know where the bus station was and most importantly we wanted breakfast!

After breakfast we made our way to the "new bus station" south of old town and caught the 10am bus to Shangrila which let us get off at Quiatou! We arrived in Quiatou at about 12:30pm, had some lunch of expensive but tasty egg and noodles (tourist prices!) and then headed for the trail. We had to pay the 50rmb park entry fee and walked along the newly paved road until we saw the sign for the high way mountain hike! The turn off took us on a smaller paved road until you reach a guest house. We managed to miss the turn off the first time around but eventually Andrew figured it out and we got back on track. The trail is marked with red, green or yellow arrows found on rocks, tree trunks and buildings. The route is fairly obvious but at some intersections it is best to check twice to make sure you are still on the correct path. Luckily it was off season for hiking the Gorge and we happened to land the most beautiful weather without the masses of people! It felt like about 20C during the day in the sun and about 2 degrees at night. We manged to get to the Tea Horse Guest House at about 5pm and chose to call it a day there. The guest house had about 20 rooms. The more expensive rooms at about 120rmb had private washrooms and looked very nice. We opted for the cheaper rooms at 60rmb with public chinese (sans doors) washrooms. The washrooms were ghetto but the room was decent. The guest houses serve food as well. This guest house was run by the children and they cooked up a great meal for us of veggie curry and rice, naxi bread and tibetan tea. It was my first experience of Tibetan Tea... interesting taste..there is a lot of fat and oil and it fills you up quite quickly.... I finished my cup but won't be lining up for seconds too quickly.... We hit the sack nice and early as we were tired and wanted to wake before sunrise to start the trek under the stars in the morning!

Sunday morning we woke at 7am and were on the trails by 730am. We walked about 1 hour to the Halfway guest house and stopped in for breakfast. We had terribly made yunnan coffee and tasty fried noodles and rice. The Halfway guest house was quite cute but much bigger than the Tea Horse where we stayed. We continued down to Tina's Guest House by the low road, poked our heads in.. It is and International Hostel, nice but not quaint looking like the others. We paid our 10rmb fee and walked down the sky ladder to the Tiger Leaping Gorge Rock by the middle rapids. Took some pictures and then walked the Ray of Sunshine route out towards Walnut Grove. The Ray of Sunshine route also costs 10rmb. We managed to hit these sections before any other tourists and saw some folks heading down as we were heading out. We didn't see a soul until lunch at Woody's Guest House at the end of the trek. We took the lower less travelled route to get to Woody's and I have to admit we thought we were lost for a bit there as the track wasn't very worn in and we couldn't see where it was going to lead us. We managed to eventually climb back up and found ourselved in front of Woody's Guest House. Here we had to make the choice of taking the 4pm bus back to Lijiang or risking the unknown and head to Daju. We opted for the adventurous choice over lunch of interesting veggie pizzza, naxi sandwhich and some better but not great Yunnan coffee.

After lunch we walked along the road until we saw a flag for the ferry. It was a steep descent back down to the river. It was lucky timing as we saw folks walking down to the ferry from the other end! We hurried to what we thought was the ferry dock but as it turned out we were off by about 100m and had to find our own way down through the rocks. We managed to jump onto the ferry and enjoy the ride across the river. The gorge looked beautiful from the river view. I love having the opportunities to enjoy views from mountain peaks and the waters below. We got off the ferry (30rmb each: pricy but worth it) and had to climb back out of the gorge once again. Once we reached the top we were greeted by a long twisty paved road. The road was quiet and we just started walking. It was about 8km to Daju. Luckily for us about 2.5 km into the walk a nice local lady drove by, stopped and picked us up. She dropped us off at the Jinh Sha River hotel, run by an older chinese woman. The chinese woman was excited to have us and was kind and helpful. Our room was the cheapest yet at 50rmb but the shower and toilet situation was definitely rustic! We had a chilled out  evening taking pictures, eating freshly cooked chinese meals and enjoyed a walk around town. The wind was howling that evening and I was sure we would wake up without a roof over our heads. I was gladly proven wrong in the morning. We woke up nice and early to ensure we would catch the first bus (7am) back to Lijiang. The nice lady made us fresh mantos for breakfast and made sure we got on the bus (conveniently the bus stop was right in front of the hotel!).

The road out of town was twisty and high. We travelled over 3000m in altitude. Once at the top an unexpected surprise greeted us. We did not know we would be going through a national park and the guards wanted us to pay 185rmb each to drive through. Thankfully, we argued our way out of it and agreed not to get off the bus until we arrived in Lijiang. We drove through Yulong Mountain National Park.. pretty backdrop but very chinese in that they created a concrete resort with fake lakes and golf carts.... oh China!

Once in Lijiang we made our way through Old Town which is a maze of pedestrian only cobble streets, shops, restaurants, hotels etc.We hunted down an old lady carrying some tasty looking food and had an adventure trying to find door 88 The Restaurant from which the food came from. We managed to eventually find it, eat and then catch the airport shuttle back to the airport. Unfortunately, the adventure did not stop there, our plane landed two hours late which meant we missed the buses home from Chongqing. This mishap tested our bargaining skills as we had to agree on a price with a taxi cab to get us home... To finish this long tale, we made it home before midnight, relieved and beaming from the great weekend in the mountains!

more pictures here

live, love, laugh,...DREAM!

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